On Feb. 26, Austin FC entered into its second season, and the team's partnership with Capital Metro continues despite the recent shortage of bus operators.

The driver shortage has affected Austinites in areas such as Riverside, but as the buses transport fans to games in the North Burnet area, fans have accommodated for the shortages as Capital Metro faces the labor shortage many companies are facing in the wake of the pandemic.

With Capital Metro Route 803 buses—which run along Burnet Road—packed with Austin FC fans, Austinites Brett and Julie Hopkins said they chose to ride the bus instead of drive.

“I feel like just how bad it would be to try and park around there is a good reason to ride the bus. We did actually try to park at The Domain, and it took us a long time to get in and out of there, and it was a long walk. We just prefer the bus,” Brett Hopkins said.

For Aaron Gavila and his wife, they said taking the bus is the only way to go with kids since they cannot park at the stadium.

Tawaun Cole, media representative for Capital Metro, wrote in an email that starting in late 2023, fans will be able to utilize the new MetroRail McKalla Station at the stadium as an alternative mode of transportation. Currently, MetroRail stops at the Kramer Station, requiring fans to walk over half a mile to the stadium.

“Fans and customers will have a much shorter walk from the rail station into the stadium,” Cole said.

Concerning the recent shortage of bus drivers that has been impacting certain parts of the city, Cole said the labor shortage that is happening all over the country is one of the contributing factors.

“The operator shortage is not just an issue for CapMetro," she said. "A lot of transportation agencies across the country are still dealing with the impacts of the pandemic, and the labor shortage is a big one. Fewer buses are being used this year, but we have been able to make adjustments, and it helps that most of the games occur outside of our typical peak service times."

For the Hopkinses, they said they will plan for the potential shortages accordingly when it comes to game weekends.

“I don’t think it’ll impact us; we’ll just plan in advance. You know, obviously the game doesn’t start until 3 p.m., and it’s 1:40 p.m., so we’re planning for that delay or change as necessary,” Julie Hopkins said.

Gavila said he uses the bus regularly but has not seen the routes he takes be impacted by the shortage.

“I’ve not experienced [routes being impacted] since things started reopening again. These buses seem to run quite a bit,” Gavila said.

Even though Gavila said he has not experienced shortages on Route 803, Brett Hopkins said there might still be people affected by the labor shortage.

“Unfortunately, if it affects anybody, it might be folks outside of this route where they tend to pull drivers to facilitate all the people going to the game," he said.

Cole said Capital Metro is hiring bus drivers and mechanics, with rates starting at $22 an hour for drivers and $31 for mechanics and a signing bonus of $3,500 for qualified candidates.

“The goal is to make sure everyone has safe public transportation to get to wherever they need to be across the area,” Cole said.

Even without the incentives from Capital Metro, Julie Hopkins had other ideas for supporting the public transportation system.

“Personally, I hope that Austin FC is supporting CapMetro and maybe offering them funds to help encourage them to keep up the buses,” Julie Hopkins said. “I hope it’s mutually beneficial. Austin FC is certainly making enough money they should kick it back to CapMetro, in my opinion.”

Kaitlyn Wilkes is a reporting fellow for a Community Impact Newspaper and University of Texas at Austin partnership with a focus our growing and diverse neighborhoods. The project is supported by the School of Journalism and Media’s Dallas Morning News Innovation Endowment.