State 'Security Upgrades' Create Cap Metro Headache

State Preservation Board wants to remove what might be busiest bus stop in all of Austin from south side of Capitol grounds

State 'Security Upgrades' Create Cap Metro Headache
Photo by John Anderson

So it turns out Gov. Goodhair and the other members of the State Preservation Board don't really view Capital Metro bus riders as a terrorist threat. Rather, the board's reason for wanting to remove what might be the busiest bus stop in all of Austin from the south side of the Capitol grounds (see "Taking the Capitol Out of Capital Metro," Jan. 4) is that it interferes with the traffic engineering of the board's planned "security upgrades," which still makes it no less of a pain in the ass to Cap Metro and the approximately 1,400 people each weekday who board a bus there. (The State Preservation Board is the caretaking body for the Capitol building and its surrounding grounds.)

Governor's office spokeswoman Allison Castle explained that the new security plans call for all vehicles to enter Capitol grounds from 15th Street and exit to the south on 11th. The upgrades will include retractable bollards at both entry and exit, which will be tied in to the city's traffic signal system.

"If there are buses stacked up there or trying to turn there [and thus blocking the 11th Street exit], they need to not have the concern for the safety of the bus riders or the people exiting the Capitol grounds," Castle explained. "Once those bollards go back up, the cars need to be moved through."

One imagines Capital Metro route planners are royally pissed at having to re-engineer what is the hub for nearly the entire system – 27 different routes directly use the stop, and another 20 pass near enough to make it a transfer point for them – but Cap Metro spokesman Adam Shaivitz chose more polite ways to say it. "It is going to be a significant task to look for alternatives," he said matter-of-factly. "The priority is to come up with a plan that causes as little disruption as possible to passengers. Obviously it's a very highly used facility; in fact, it's our busiest stop Downtown and one of the busiest in our entire system."

Asked if there is any anger at the transit agency at having the change thrust upon it, Shaivitz was rather Zen about the situation: "Our facility is on state property, so certainly we don't want to stand in the way of state security efforts, but certainly we feel for our customers, because we don't want to have to disrupt their service. ... Since it is the state's property, we are certainly going to work with the state as well [as] the city to do what we need to do to honor the state's request."

Might Austin's legislative delegation enter this fray on behalf of bus riders? "I expressed concern about where the people who use that bus stop would be able to access Capital Metro buses, and my office is working with both Capital Metro and the State Board of Preservation to ensure that Capital Metro riders who use that bus stop are not inconvenienced too badly," said state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, who said he played a role in getting shelters put over the stop's benches. Naishtat sounded dubious of the necessity of the move: "I'm not aware of the need for enhancing security on and around the Capitol grounds. ... I'm not saying that security measures don't need to be enhanced or beefed up; I'm just not aware of why at this time measures are on the verge of being instituted which will clearly inconvenience Capital Metro riders."

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Capital Metro, State Preservation Board, Capitol building, Elliott Naishtat

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