New Capital Metro program aimed to ensure people who can least afford public transportation fares are not paying the most

Capital Metro has introduced a pilot program to cap fares for customers who purchase fares ride by ride. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Capital Metro has introduced a pilot program to cap fares for customers who purchase fares ride by ride. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Capital Metro has introduced a pilot program to cap fares for customers who purchase fares ride by ride. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Capital Metro offers riders who use public transportation frequently a discount if they buy a pass rather than paying ride by ride.

On local service, including buses and the University of Texas shuttle, someone who takes the bus twice a day on five days a week would pay $50 in a month for those commutes if paying for each ride. If that person bought a 31-day pass, the cost would be $41.25.

Similarly, riders who take the MetroRail or a MetroExpress route from outside of town into the city for work would pay $140 in a month if they paid for each ride, but that total cost goes down to $96.25 for a 31-day pass.

The system rewards riders who use public transportation frequently and encourages commuting using public transit by offering a discount. However, it also creates a barrier: Those who are not able to afford the upfront cost of the pass miss out on the discount and ultimately pay more to use public transportation than those with the means to afford the pass.

A new pilot program from Capital Metro is aimed at addressing that inequity. The program, which started in October and runs for six months, will track customers' rides and automatically cap them daily and by month. That means if a customer takes a third ride on public transportation in one day, it is free, because that individual has already exceeded the fare for a day pass. Also, if a customer pays by ride and hits the cost of a monthly pass within a 31-day period, they will ride for free for the rest of the month.

Participants can sign up online at Capital Metro's website for the initiative if they are already enrolled in certain public aid programs. After the initial program ends, Chief Financial Officer Reinet Marneweck said the public transit organization hopes to expand the program to wider use.


"We will have up to 200 participants, and we will get their input towards designing the future program," Marneweck said.

Some other cities have put similar initiatives in place. For example, Houston gives unlimited rides starting with the third trip of the day. Portland gives a day pass to anyone who spends $5 in a day and a month pass to anyone who spends $100 monthly, and Indianapolis caps fares at $4 daily and $15.75 weekly.

In addition to the fare-capping system, Capital Metro has added new technology for customers who do not have a credit card or do not want to use one to load their account with cash and use the app. Those individuals can find a network of retail stores on the app, such as 7-Eleven, CVS, Dollar General and Family Dollar locations, where they can pay cash, present a bar code at the register and load the credit onto their app.

The two new initiatives, which cost $133,230, according to Marneweck, are part of a $30 million investment in technology systems Capital Metro plans to make over the next four years as part of Project Connect—the $7.1 billion transit plan voters approved Nov. 3.

Marneweck said future planned initiatives include smart cards customers can reload, as well as onboard fare readers that allow customers to tap their credit cards without having to download the app or use cash.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at jflagler@communityimpact.com


MOST RECENT

Tacodeli co-owners Roberto Espinosa and Eric Wilkerson opened their first location in 1999. The seventh location for the local chain in Austin will open this summer in Circle C. (Courtesy Tacodeli)
Tacodeli to open a Circle C location this summer

The new location will be the seventh in Austin for the locally based chain, which first opened in 1999.

The shop specializes in unique popsicles. (Courtesy La Autentica Michoacana NB)
La Autentica Michoacana NB is now serving up ice cream in New Braunfels

The ice cream shop offers handmade treats made with fresh fruit.

The city of Kyle's vaccine clinic is planned for May 16, and a second-dose clinic is scheduled for June 13. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
City of Kyle to host mass vaccine event this weekend

The city of Kyle's vaccine clinic is planned for May 16, and a second dose is scheduled for June 13.

Photo of a girl weariing a mask and backpack
Austin ISD: mask policy to remain after new CDC guidance

The district said it would continue to require masks at least through the end of the current school year.

The Pfizer vaccine, which can now be administered to people age 12 and older, is the main shot offered by Hays County. (Courtesy Adobe Stock/Graphic by Justin Howell/Community Impact Newspaper)
Vaccine clinics planned in Hays County, ages 12 and older eligible for Pfizer vaccine

The Pfizer vaccine, which can now be administered to people 12 and over, is the main shot offered by Hays County at vaccine clinics, which do not require appointments.

I-35 delays
Early morning I-35 delays expected May 15 as TxDOT finishes demolition of US 183 ramp in North Austin

TxDOT will close mainlanes on I-35 in North Austin early in the morning of May 15 as it demolishes a ramp.

Pflugerville ISD administrative building
There will be no recount in tightly contested Pflugerville ISD board election, Aguirre wins place 1 seat

David Aguirre has been elected to serve on the Pflugerville board of trustees.

Fettuccine with chicken alfredo, a house salad and complimentary bread are some of the food items offered at Milano Ristorante. (Megan Cardona/Community Impact Newspaper)
Italian restaurant opens up in Round Rock

Italian sit-down restaurant Milano Ristorante opens on E Palm Valley Boulevard.

Lake Dunlap dropped an estimated 14 feet after a spill gate failed in May of 2019. (Courtesy Larry Johnson)
Contractor given the green light to begin work on Lake Dunlap dam two years after spill gate failure

Two years after a spill gate failure nearly emptied Lake Dunlap, contractors are now at work building a new dam with the goal of reviving the lake.

Mayor Mike Snyder brought up the idea to appoint city council members on the Economic Development Corporation, or EDC, and made a motion to appoint himself to the board. (Megan Cardona/Community Impact Newspaper)
Hutto City Council to consider appointing council members to boards, commissions

Mayor Mike Snyder said it could prevent months of back and forth over economic plans.

Javier Ambler's Law is heading to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk. (ALi Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)


lack man who died in Williamson County Sheriff’s Office custody in 2019. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Javier Ambler's Law moves to Gov. Abbott’s desk

If signed, the law would ban state and local law enforcement from contracting with reality television shows.