In June, Capital Metro implemented its largest systemwide bus route overhaul, eliminating underperforming routes, adding new routes, increasing frequency and rerouting some routes.
The result meant a few areas of Austin were left without bus service, said Tony Lynch, a demand response planner with Capital Metro. On Oct. 22, three of those areas will have free access back to Capital Metro’s system through a partnership called MetroLink with RideAustin, a local ride-hailing company.
“We heard complaints and concerns from the public that they have to walk 3/4 of a mile or mile to the bus stop, Lynch said. “We’re trying to find more efficient ways to get customers to transit.”
The service will operate in three areas: the Springdale/Johnston Terrace neighborhood between Springdale Road and US 183 and north of Airport Boulevard; the Springdale/Rogge area between Springdale and Manor Road and north of East 51st Street; and the area near St. David’s North Austin Medical Center north of Park Road, including the shopping centers on either side of Parmer Lane at MoPac.
To use the MetroLink service, riders will need to download the RideAustin app and add a credit card. When they would like to make a trip either to or from the select service areas, they book a trip through the app.
For customers without a smartphone or credit card, they can call 512-369-6200, and Capital Metro will book a trip. If a customer needs an accessible vehicle, they should also call the number, Lynch said.
A RideAustin vehicle will pick up the rider in front of his or her home and drop them off at the closest bus stop, as shown in the maps above. A rider may also request a ride from select bus stops and be taken into the three MetroLink zones. The goal is to provide a ride within 15 minutes between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., although Lynch said the service will operate from 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
“We want to make getting on transit more efficient and easier,” Lynch said. “These select stops connect to frequent bus routes and prevent unnecessary free trips.”
Capital Metro has been experimenting with alternative forms of transportation for areas where a standard 40-foot bus might not make sense for demand. In 2017, the transit agency piloted its Pickup program in the Mueller area and in 2018 launched a similar service in the Exposition area after Cap Remap eliminated a couple of bus stops.
Lynch said Capital Metro could decide to make the MetroLink service permanent in the three areas if the response is positive. The agency could also experiment with the service in other areas. He said Capital Metro has enough funding for the pilot program through the first quarter of 2019.