Updated 12:45 p.m. Nov. 11 to include information about Adult Transition Services students lobbying to retain bus route at Nov. 16 Capital Metro meeting
Westlake-area resident Sheryl Westwick said she has relied on the Capital Metro Route 30 bus for the past 25 years.
Westwick is visually impaired, does not own a car and said she depends on the Walsh Tarlton Lane at Bee Caves Road bus stop to get anywhere, especially to the downtown Austin programs where she is a volunteer.
In its Connections 2025 plan, Capital Metro is proposing to delete a section of Route 30 that runs from the Barton Creek Square Mall to the South Congress Transit Center, cutting out the Walsh Tarlton bus stop, spokesperson Melissa Ayala said.
“[My family] picked this neighborhood because of its excellent schools, sidewalks and very good bus route,” she said. “[Route] 30 has been my constant companion all these years. Its [elimination] will greatly diminish my life.”
Connections 2025 is a long-range planning study that is updated every five years, with the 2010 plan responsible for the agency’s Metro Rapid service and additional routes downtown, Ayala said.
“It’s time to look at service again and see what’s most efficient,” she said.
The draft plan was presented to Capital Metro’s board of directors in August, and she said the agency has held community meetings and reviewed resident surveys on the proposal since then. Revisions to the proposed plan based on citizen feedback will be presented to the board Nov. 16, with the agency’s directors slated to vote on the plan Dec. 14, she said.
“The idea of the plan is to add in as much frequency, reliability and connections as [participants suggested] in the community meetings,” Ayala said.
She said citizens were polled as to whether they would prefer more frequent bus service or better coverage of areas “because it is a challenge to offer both with the agency’s resources.”
“Frequency was the priority,” Ayala said. “There are some trade-offs.”
The Connections 2025 proposal for Route 30 would increase frequency and reconfigure the route to connect Barton Creek Square Mall, Zilker Park and downtown, she said.
Superintendent Tom Leonard, on behalf of Eanes ISD, submitted a letter to Capital Metro on Oct. 24, requesting the agency reconsider its deletion of the Walsh Tarlton bus stop.
“We specifically purchased land on Walsh Tarlton because that is the only access point for public transportation in the Eanes School District,” said Molly May, the district’s executive director of special education.
EISD’s Adult Transition Services facility—which opened in 2012 to assist adult students with disabilities to focus on work, community involvement and continuing education—is within walking distance of the stop.
“Our students not only use the stop to get to job placement, but once they get to the downtown hub, they can transfer to any Austin Community College campus,” May said.
On Nov. 16, ATS students will travel via Bus 30 to the Capital Metro board of directors meeting at noon to lobby to keep the route.
The stop is also within walking distance of three EISD campuses as well as auxiliary departments such as the district’s transportation building.
May said district employees use the bus stop to access school district jobs located nearby.
“[The public bus stop] is not only a benefit for students but employees,” she said.
May anticipates the district will continue to pursue its request to retain the Walsh Tarlton bus stop prior to Capital Metro’s meeting in November.
“It is really important to remember [the Connections 2025 plan] isn’t a done deal yet,” Ayala said.
Patrons dine on Las Palomas Restaurant-Bar patio. Owner MariCarmen Dale said the proposed alleviation of the Walsh Tarlton bus stop would have a “serious” business impact.[/caption]
Westlake businesses possibly impacted
Westlake native Sarah Trivitt said she remembers riding Capital Metro’s Route 30 bus to the Austin Public Library downtown with her family when she was a child.
Now, as chairwoman of the board for the Westlake Chamber of Commerce, Trivitt has stepped up to support the group that is taking a stance against the public transportation agency’s proposal to eliminate the Walsh Tarlton Lane/Bee Caves Road bus stop from its route.
“The Westlake Chamber is very disappointed in Capital Metro’s decision, and we believe eliminating this bus stop will be detrimental to our businesses and citizens in the community,” she said.
A small-business owner, Trivitt said she has seen a multitude of riders use the bus in the local retail district.
“Knowing how many employees work in the West Woods shopping center and the Westlake Market—seeing how many get on and off the [Walsh Tarlton] bus—it will devastate the chamber,” she said.
Las Palomas Restaurant-Bar, 3201 Bee Caves Road, Ste. 122, Austin, celebrated 33 years in its West Woods shopping center location adjacent to the bus stop.
Owner and General Manager MariCarmen Dale said six or seven of her 35 employees—about one-fifth of the establishment’s workforce—use the Walsh Tarlton bus route to get to their jobs.
“[The elimination of the Walsh Tarlton bus stop] would seriously impact our business,” she said. “The irony is the employees who take the bus are never late. Their standards are very high. They depend on the bus.”
Dale said these employees—including bussers, dishwashers and servers—have told her they would need to quit their jobs in favor of a new job close to a bus stop.
“[The lack of a Walsh Tarlton bus stop] will certainly make it more difficult for us to hire employees,” she said.