Updated Feb. 24
Capital Metro’s board is nearing the finish line on a more than yearlong process to update the agency’s transit service plan for Austin.
The goal of the 10-year plan, called Connections 2025, was not only to increase ridership but also look for ways to help residents access Capital Metro’s bus and rail services. Capital Metro also seeks to have a financially stable plan as the agency’s main source of revenue—sales tax—has seen a slow-down in growth, said Todd Hemingson, Capital Metro’s vice president of strategic planning.
Increasing the frequency of bus service is the agency’s top priority and will likely be achieved by consolidating low-ridership and duplicate routes, reallocating money for increased service in areas with more demand, and adding new MetroRapid bus routes that will eventually operate on a 10-minute frequency.
“In a world with many mobility choices we need to be competitive and have an attractive service, and frequency is the best way to do that,” Hemingson said.
The board will vote on the Connections 2025 plan during its Feb. 27 meeting.
Further feedback needed
Hemingson said approval of the plan does not equate to approval of the service changes. He said the plan is to be used as a framework for making future decisions on service changes, and each proposed change would require an additional six-month study that includes public input.
“It’s a two-step process: the first is the plan approval to provide guidance, and the second step is the service change analysis and a second board action,” he said.
Public input meetings are expected to begin this summer and continue through September at which point the board would have to make another vote to finalize any service changes. Implementation of the plan will begin in spring 2018.
Lawrence Deeter, Connections 2025 project manager, said resident input would be used for determining stop locations on new routes and how bus stations might look.
Part of Route 1 and all of Route 3 would be eliminated under the proposal and absorbed by MetroRapid routes 801 and 803.
Deeter said station spacing would go from every quarter-mile on routes 1 and 3 to about every one-third mile on the consolidated routes after new stations are added or existing stations are relocated.
He said Capital Metro’s goal to have transit service within a half-mile walking distance.
“A half-mile is still within walkable distance,” Deeter said. “The traditional thought is people are willing to walk up to three-quarters of a mile.”
In areas where service might be eliminated—Route 19 in Northwest Austin, Routes 21/22 in West Austin, part of Route 30 near Rollingwood and part of Route 333 in Southwest Austin—Capital Metro could create innovation zones to study alternative transportation options when a standard fixed-route with a 40-foot bus is not adequate.
Options would include ride-hailing companies or on-demand service such as Chariot, in which users request shuttle service via a smartphone app.
Some residents have been critical of proposed changes, namely route eliminations.
Rosewood resident Heidi Ross said she opposes eliminating Route 21/22 in the Tarrytown area because her son and his friends take that route to school. She said she is pleased to know Capital Metro would not eliminate any service until other options are proposed as part of the innovation zone concept.
“I urge you to support that solution where there’s no loss of service along the corridor,” Ross said.
Great Hills resident Cindy Hintikka said she wishes the board would increase service west of MoPac instead of eliminating routes.
“This is simply going in the wrong direction,” she said. “We must get people out of cars and into buses.”
Zenobia Joseph has repeatedly told the board about her displeasure with the proposed elimination of Route 392 in North and Northwest Austin in favor of more service on routes 383 and 323. She said the changes would also reduce the number of routes—from five to two routes—making stops at the Lamar Transit Center at Lamar Boulevard and US 183.
“It would be an injustice to the people of North Austin to consolidate those bus routes and put them into the middle of five lanes of traffic,” she said. “You will force all of the individuals who normally exit the bus at North Lamar Transit Center onto the streets.”
A map of the draft plan is available at www.connections2025.org.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to provide more accurate information on stop spacing on routes 801 and 803.