Cap Metro Turns Toward a 2020 Vision
Plan suggests moving buses off Congress
What will Austin look like in 10 years? If history is any guide, its population will be about 50% larger, and the area will need a transit system to accommodate that.
On Monday, the Capital Metro board of directors will consider Service Plan 2020, a 370-page analysis of the Cap Metro system and recommendations on how to improve it.
The very detailed plan gets deep into the particulars, down to recommendations for individual routes, but also includes overarching suggestions for the system as a whole – including implementing a network of high-frequency bus routes, moving most Downtown routes off Congress and over to the Lavaca/Guadalupe corridor, and adding new commuter service to Manor and the south and southwest; in the longer term, it suggests capital projects including new park-and-rides, improvement of Downtown bus stops, and possibly a new transit center Downtown. Also, in areas where fixed service isn't viable, the report suggests adding "flexible service" – smaller vehicles that could pick up passengers by appointment.
Using a formula called a Transit Competitiveness Index, the report analyzed areas in and near the Capital Metro service area, both those currently served by the agency and not, to determine which areas would be most likely to need and utilize Cap Metro's services.
The move off of Congress Avenue would affect the majority of the system's riders, as well as auto drivers trying to negotiate Downtown traffic. The report, prepared by the Seattle-area firm Perteet Inc., says that the inability of buses to pass each other on Congress, the small loading areas, too-frequent stops, and community events on Downtown's main street result in an average scheduled bus speed of 4.5 miles per hour – "a small step up from walking speed," and much slower than the systemwide average of 12 to 14 mph. Moving over just a few blocks and switching from a stop on every block to every three or four could increase the number of boardings and possibly allow construction of a Downtown Transit Center. Simply moving the routes is cost-neutral, Perteet says, but to fully realize the corridor's potential would cost some capital – and as followers of Capital Metro's recent travails know, money is currently in short supply, so the transit center and sidewalk widening will undoubtedly be on a wish list for the future.
Also on that list would be a consolidation of the Highland Mall and North Lamar Transit Centers, possibly near the new Crestview Station MetroRail stop (but not at Crestview Station itself, which would be inadequate and inappropriate for a park-and-ride facility). Other park-and-rides are suggested for the Oak Hill Town Center (replacing the current one), Manor, South I-35, South MoPac, and Southpark Meadows.
Several routes are suggested for deletion or consolidation, including the Enfield and Lake Austin UT shuttle routes, which would be replaced by new general-service Cap Metro routes.
In 2013, the new MetroRapid "bus rapid transit" service – buses with few stops and signaling equipment that would change red lights to green – is scheduled to begin, with the 101 North Lamar/South Congress Express route and the No. 3 Burnet routes being replaced with BRT, with buses coming every 10 minutes during the day and early evenings. Another BRT line would reach from the Mueller development to the airport, along Riverside. This would be complemented by more frequent service on other routes – every 13 to 15 minutes during the day.
"Overall, I like what I see," says Norm Chafetz, who represents the Williamson County Commissioners Court on the board. "It's making a concerted effort to produce a more cost-effective service. I really like the MetroRapid implementation. I think that is going to do a lot for helping mobility on the north-south corridor."
The entire report may be downloaded at www.capmetro.org. The Cap Metro board meets at 3pm Monday, Feb. 22.
Major Recommendations of Service Plan 2020
• Implement a network of frequent bus routes, including bus rapid transit. (see map)
• Move most through routes in Downtown from Congress Avenue to the Guadalupe/Lavaca corridor. (see map)
• Add commuter service to Manor, South I-35, South MoPac, and Highway 71 corridors.
• Add "flexible" (not fixed-route) service to Tarrytown, East Austin, and Northwest Austin. (see map)
• Eliminate or consolidate underperforming or redundant routes, including replacing some UT shuttles with regular fixed-route service.
• New capital projects, including upgrading Downtown bus stops, building new regional park-and-rides, and a Downtown Transit Center.