Follow That Bus: More Changes at Cap Met
An additional MetroRapid route and an end to buses on Congress planned
Capital Metro initiated a big change in January, when it rolled out its first MetroRapid bus rapid transit service. Now it's planning two more major service changes: the end of buses on Congress Avenue, and its second MetroRapid route, linking the high-growth corridors of Burnet Road and South Lamar.
This week began the continued push to move buses off Congress and Brazos, scheduled to be complete in June. At their March 24 meeting, Cap Metro's board of directors voted to relocate 11 routes off the city's central artery, instead running them north on Lavaca and south on Guadalupe. Cap Metro planner Roberto Gonzalez explained that, between parking slots and left turns, the buses really only have one usable lane on Congress, so moving operations west should speed up travel for all passengers. He said, "Guadalupe/Lavaca were viewed as corridors where we could work with the city in order to protect and dedicate our operations." Aside from accessing the dedicated bus lanes between Cesar Chavez and 11th, these buses will also use larger stops with more amenities: an important improvement, since most passengers at these stops are passing through – rather than visiting – Downtown.
The route transfer process has been complicated by extended street and sidewalk repairs along Eighth Street, as well as resurfacing on Lavaca. However, Gonzalez said, "By the time we [move] everything over, we should have everything in better shape." While there will be similar corridor improvements in the future, Gonzalez said the city is considering ways to make the process less disruptive – such as splitting projects into smaller stages, or not having multiple diversions and lane restrictions in place at the same time. He said, "They're going to be a lot more sensitive to how that affects our operations, and automobile and bike and pedestrian infrastructure."
Yet before this round of route changes takes effect, Cap Metro's board will vote on the next big shift: this fall's introduction of the second MetroRapid route – the 803 – and changes to existing routes 3 and 10. Originally, as part of its long-term Service Plan 2020 project, the agency intended to simply replace the 3 with the shorter 803 route, and add a 203 circulator on Manchaca. But according to Gonzalez's colleague in planning Lawrence Deeter, that proposal was scrapped after consultation with stakeholders on the Burnet/Manchaca corridor. Partially, Deeter said, the reversal came because the 803 is "not an exact overlay" of the existing 3; it will also allow faster connectivity between UT's main campus and the underutilized Pickle Research Center. But most importantly, Cap Metro is keeping the 3 because at either end, Burnet and South Lamar are two of the fastest-growing sections of Austin. In addition to the 50 new apartment complexes between North Lamar and the Domain, he said, "I live off South Lamar, and there's 2,000 new units coming online and another 200-plus units that could be coming up in the next year or two."
The other big proposed change is to the southern end of the 3 and 10, which will now loop around the new H-E-B at Southpark Meadows. Deeter said, "H-E-Bs are our number one generator, and we consider them always critical to serve."
Lessons have also been learned from the rollout of the city's first MetroRapid route, the 801 Guadalupe/Lamar: Not least that riders may not be happy. That last route change took heavy criticism for using a premium service to partially replace the existing 1L/1M, dumping those local lines for the less regular 1. Vice President of Marketing and Communications Dan Dawson explained that the decision followed national best practices, and that "the rapid service becomes the star, but you still want to have that local service." He understood rider resistance to the switch and said it was only to be expected. "It's always a challenge when you introduce something new, especially for people who have been riding for years and years." However, he argues that the numbers speak for themselves: The 801 had 110,000 boardings since it launched in January – roughly 2,000 a day – "and that included several days when we had that really bad weather, when we either had to start service late or change service."
Changes Effective June 2014
Local Route Changes
The following routes will move off of Congress, traveling northbound on Lavaca and southbound on Guadalupe between MLK and Cesar Chavez: 1 Metric/South Congress; 3 Burnet/Manchaca; 5 Woodrow/South Fifth; 10 South First/Red River; 127 Dove Springs Flyer; 142 Metric Flyer; 990 Manor/Elgin Express.
The 122 Four Points Limited will take Red River, rather than Brazos, from Cesar Chavez to Seventh.
The 4 Montopolis, 21 Exposition, and 22 Chicon will take Fourth and Fifth Streets through Downtown, rather than Sixth and Seventh.
The 483 and 486 will move from Congress and Brazos to Guadalupe/Lavaca.
The 485 will travel up Lavaca to 11th, rather than heading east on Seventh.
Proposed Service Changes, Fall 2014
New: MetroRapid 803 Burnet/South Lamar
Cap Metro will introduce its second MetroRapid route, complementing the 801 on the Lamar/Guadalupe corridor and following the existing 3 Burnet/Manchaca for much of its route. It will use shorter buses than the 801 (40-foot rather than the 60-foot bendy buses), but will have the same amenities, such as free wi-fi, and use the Downtown bus-only lanes. It will run every 10-20 minutes on weekdays, 5am-11pm; and every 20-30 minutes on weekends, Saturday 6am-10pm and Sunday 7am-9pm.
Extended and Altered
3 Burnet/Manchaca: With the 803 providing express service to much of the route, the 3 will drop from every 22-30 minutes to every 30-40 minutes. The route will now extend to Southpark Meadows.
10 Red River/South First: End of route moves to Southpark Meadows; stops west of South First will be eliminated.
The UT PRC shuttle will be replaced by the 803. UT staff and students will still be able to use their UT IDs to reach the Pickle Research Center.
Public Feedback Calendar
April 8 5:30-7pm, St. John's United Methodist Church, 2140 Allandale.
April 9 Noon-1pm, Capital Metro Transit Store, 209 W. Ninth.
6pm-7:30pm, Faith United Methodist Church, 2701 S. Lamar.
April 10 Noon-1pm, Capital Metro Transit Store.
5:30pm, Capital Metro Headquarters, 2910 E. Fifth.
April 11 Noon, webinar.
April 14 Noon, public hearing, Capital Metro HQ.
April 23 Noon, Capital Metro HQ. Board of directors meeting and approval of changes.