In an effort to improve downtown connectivity, in January, Capital Metro will start relocating bus routes that use Congress Avenue over to Guadalupe and Lavaca streets.
The timing of the route relocations will coincide with the rollout of the agency's MetroRapid bus rapid transit service, which also will use Guadalupe and Lavaca streets on transit priority lanes.
"For many years we've been talking about transitioning our services over to another corridor, and with the help of the city of Austin, we are right now in the middle of outreach efforts to tell the community what our next step is," said Roberto Gonzalez Jr., Capital Metro's manager for service planning, during an Aug. 26 board of directors meeting.
The first route of MetroRapid will primarily use North Lamar Boulevard and South Congress Avenue with the second route using Burnet Road and South Lamar Boulevard. The two routes will intersect downtown and circulate on Guadalupe and Lavaca streets between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Cesar Chavez Street.
The transit agency will relocate bus routes in two phases. Routes 7, 17, 20 will relocate in January, and the remainder of the 15 routes that run on Congress Avenue will relocate next summer. Route 17, which now uses Brazos Street and Congress Avenue to circulate, will run along Cesar Chavez, Red River, Eighth, Guadalupe, Third and San Antonio streets. Capital Metro could decide to keep Route 100 Airport Flyer, which runs from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to downtown, on Congress Avenue, Gonzalez said.
By moving routes to Guadalupe and Lavaca streets, riders will easily be able to transfer to the MetroRapid service using stops at Fourth, Eighth and 12th streets. Capital Metro tested relocating routes to Guadalupe and Lavaca streets during South by Southwest in March and during the United States Grand Prix events last November.
"From our operations group perspective, they feel like it worked a whole lot better than had they chosen a different avenue," Gonzalez said.
Moving the routes also will mean fewer detours during special events located in downtown.
"Every event that occurs in downtown, everyone wants to march up and down on Congress, which is fine, but it disrupts our service," Gonzalez said. "It seems like every week or every weekend our operations staff is having to develop detours."
Capital Metro worked with the Downtown Austin Alliance for planning the transition. Thomas Butler, transportation program director for the DAA, said the group is supportive of the transition because it will make public transit more efficient and will connect to other modes of transportation such as the bike share program. Although Butler said the transition does not have any downsides, there are tradeoffs.
"We do have a lot of destinations on Congress, but the [routes] are not moving so far away," he said.
Jace Deloney, who chairs Capital Metro's Customer Satisfaction Advisory Committee, said he is concerned about some of the sidewalk facilities on Guadalupe and Lavaca streets being smaller and having a greater incline than on Congress Avenue.
"I'm worried about the corridor with riders who do not have full mobility," he said. "I would like to see the city and Capital Metro work together to improve it."
Gonzalez said the city of Austin is already extending sidewalks near the Eighth and Guadalupe streets intersection by the Faulk Central Library as part of its Great Streets program for street design standards.
Other service changes
The relocation of three routes from Congress Avenue are part of Capital Metro's regular service changes, which it implements three times each year.
Other changes coming early in 2014 include the launch of the first MetroRapid Route 801 to replace Route 101, which has limited service on North Lamar and South Congress. Gonzalez said Route 801 will offer more service frequency, added capacity and extended hours.
The new feeder Route 275 will serve North Lamar from the Tech Ridge Park & Ride to the North Lamar Transit Center at US 183.
Capital Metro will eliminate Route 1L because of duplicate service but keep Route 1M and rename it Route 1. Route 1 will offer more local stops. Bus service will be every 30 minutes on Route 275, every 10–12 minutes on Route 801 and every 26 minutes on Route 1.
The transit agency has several changes planned for other bus routes and for shuttle service at The University of Texas. A full list of proposed changes is available at www.capmetro.org/spring2014. The board of directors will approve the changes at its meeting Sept. 23.