More Capital Metro bus route changes could address concerns over lost, reduced service

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Updated 3:25 p.m.

Since Capital Metro overhauled its bus system in June by making changes to more than half its routes, staffers have been gathering feedback from riders to adjust schedules and routes as needed.

The agency’s board of directors approved several changes Monday that will go into effect Jan. 6 in an effort to address issues from the Cap Remap bus overhaul changes. These include adding service to high ridership routes, extending service hours later in the evening and adjusting route schedules to improve transfers or on-time performance. Routes affected include 2, 4, 7, 10, 17, 20, 50, 214, 233, 237, 300, 335, 337, 339 and 350.

“We’ve seen some initial items we need to address, and we need to look at things that have caused overcrowding; we have on-time performance issues,” said Roberto Gonzalez, Capital Metro’s director of service planning. “We’ve also heard some comments from the public regarding additional tweaks they want to have in the service. We’ve incorporated those into the changes.”

Other changes include eliminating several low ridership routes on MetroExpress bus routes and adding a couple more to high ridership routes. The agency will also realign two routes in Southwest Austin because of the closure of the Austin Community College Pinnacle campus. Lastly, several changes will affect routes at the new Westgate Transit Center in South Austin that opens next spring.

For a full list of changes, visit www.capmetro.com/january2019.

A need for more buses

Several changes implemented in June through Cap Remap have negatively impacted students in both Austin ISD and at The University of Texas.

UT student Grace Edwards makes the 50-minute trek to campus on the 670 bus every day because she said she cannot afford to live in West Campus. Route 670 travels from the Pleasant Valley area along East Riverside Drive and I-35 to get to campus.

“There’s upwards of 50 people at the bus stop at any one time,” she said, adding she is concerned for the safety of riders because of the overcrowding.

Gonzalez said Capital Metro is aware of the overcrowding issues on Route 670 and how long it takes for the UT shuttle bus to get to campus.

“I-35 is just not able to work for us to get to and from campus using those shuttles,” he said.

On Oct. 25, Capital Metro officials announced they have added four additional trips in both the morning and afternoon to address overcrowding.

Also in East Austin, students at Eastside Memorial Early College High School have been having a harder time getting to and from school because of changes to routes 4 and 17, said Ofelia Zapata, vice president of the Parent Teacher Student Association and a grandmother of three at Eastside.

Zapata said Route 4 no longer stops in the Montopolis neighborhood where many students live, and Route 17 does not use streets in Montopolis that are accessible for students, parents and community members to use. Neither route makes regular stops at the school, but in August, Capital Metro reinstated stops from Route 4 during pick-up and drop off times for the school year.

Overall, the changes have resulted in students sometimes having to walk a mile to get to the bus or to school from a bus stop, she said.

“[This has affected] student tardies, attendance, internships and students are no longer able to stay for after school sports or activities or tutoring,” Zapata said in an email. “Parents and community [members]are not able to attend meetings or to volunteer because it is too far to walk to get to our campus. Our students already come with many barriers.”

Zapata and other members of the Eastside community are meeting with Capital Metro President and CEO Randy Clarke at 5 p.m. this evening at the school to discuss their concerns.

“The routes should be restored to drive through the neighborhoods streets where the families can better access the bus without danger,” she said. “With the current changes students are left at dangerous and very high-traffic stops.”

Capital Metro did launch a new pilot program Oct. 22 that provides free rides to Eastside from the closest bus stops. Students would have to request a ride through ride-hailing company RideAustin to use the service.

Zapata said she would like to see a representative from AISD be a member of the Capital Metro board.

“It is important that AISD be included in that board so any changes that may impact our school’s academic success is part of every conversation happening with the decision making body,” she said in an email. … Access, and safe access, to public education should be a priority and supported by our public transportation.”

Editor’s note: This post was updated with new information from Capital Metro regarding Route 670.

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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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