DATA: Capital Metro ridership shows signs of trending upward after years of losing riders

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After years of decline, ridership on Capital Metro’s transit services is starting to trend upward, according to the latest numbers released in mid-January.

In December, systemwide ridership on bus and rail services increased by 5.4 percent compared to December 2017, a number that is noteworthy given the drop in gas prices and more inclement weather days, said Todd Hemingson, the agency’s senior vice president of planning and development.

“If you would have looked at all those things and guessed what ridership would have done, you would have thought it would be flat or gone down,” Hemingson said.

Across the board, ridership increased in nearly every type of service, including on Capital Metro’s fixed bus route system, which increased by 2.8 percent in December compared to December 2017.

Hemingson attributes the change in trajectory of Capital Metro’s ridership to Cap Remap, the systemwide overhaul of transit services that occurred in June. For Cap Remap, the agency eliminated underperforming routes, added new and more frequent service, rerouted some routes and tweaked the schedules of other routes.

“We started 2018 in the first five months in a row we had less ridership in 2018 than we did in 2017,” he said. “From June to December we had six of the seven months where ridership increased from the prior year. Only September was down slightly relative to 2017.”

Two services that have continued to exceed expectations include MetroRapid, which saw a 17.3 percent increase in ridership in December compared to December 2017, and MetroExpress, the commuter bus service.

Ridership on the Express service increased by 27.4 percent in December compared to December 2017 and was up 32.4 percent in June-December 2018. In January 2018, Capital Metro expanded the number of Express bus routes and trips on existing routes as well as rerouted the routes to the new MoPac express toll lanes, resulting in faster service, Hemingson said.

Weekend bus service also is on the rise, Hemingson said, due to Capital Metro growing its network of frequent bus routes that operate about every 15 minutes. For Cap Remap, the agency expanded the number of routes in the service to 14 and extended the hours to every day.

“We’ve seen a huge boom in weekend ridership, which has been good because people don’t just work 9-5, Monday through Friday anymore,” he said.

Capital Metro also made minor tweaks Jan. 6 to several routes based on customer feedback from Cap Remap. A full report on the first six months of Cap Remap will be presented to the Capital Metro board at the Feb. 25 meeting. Hemingson said the one-year analysis of Cap Remap will be released in late summer.

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  1. I get so sick of being stuck behind the buses going up and down lamar or burnet…just a soon as ya pass one, there’s another one tying up a lane…Why they don’t have pull off lanes is beyond me……

  2. Neil Feiereisel

    I wonder what the population increase was for the Austin area for 2018. That might account for most of the gains.

    • Neil, you say that like population increase is a force for increased ridership. Most likely, it’s the opposite (and is probably one of the major factors in CapMetro’s years-long decrease).

      Even if Austin had a higher transit mode share of like 10% (and it doesn’t), tens of thousands of additional Austinites each year would be tens of thousands of additional SOV drivers. Each increasing the congestion on Austin’s roads, slowing down transit, perversely making it less competitive with driving, and acting to depress transit ridership.

      The fact that CM is seeing ridership gains while dealing with so many more drivers (probably 99% of the population growth, if not more) makes it _more_ impressive, not less.

  3. I HATE, LOATHE, and DESPISE the change to Route 5. Will NOT ride it now. Have friends and relatives that cannot ride it because it no longer goes south on Speedway below 38th Street.

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Amy Denney
Amy has been reporting in community journalism since 2007. She worked in the Chicago suburbs for three years before migrating south and joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2010. Amy has been editor of the Northwest Austin publication since August 2012 and she is also the transportation beat reporter for the Austin area.
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