Eastside Parents Want Bus Routes Back
Reduced service in Montopolis, Johnston Terrace bad for students, activists claim
Eastside parents are calling on Capital Metro to restore routes that served students at Eastside Memorial Early College High School and Allison Elementary. The changes to routes 4 and 17, enacted in June as part of the transit agency's sweeping Cap Remap project, removed stops in the Johnston Terrace and Montopolis neighborhoods, both of which the parents say were widely used by students attending the two schools.
At a Cap Metro board meeting last week, Eastside Memorial PTA Vice President Ofelia Zapata told the board, "Access continues to disrupt the education of our students and community ... Public education should not suffer because of public transportation." In a conversation with the Chronicle, Zapata said the changes have impacted extracurricular activities (Eastside Memorial staff could not provide data on student participation in these programs by press time) and made it harder for parents to be involved in the school lives of their children. "I'm appalled at how slow [Cap Metro] has responded to our outcry," Zapata told us. "If it's going to be too expensive to bring back those stops, what can they do instead?"
Cap Metro officials say they are listening – but they're not backing down. Planner Roberto Gonzalez justified the "Remap" as a strategy to build overall transit ridership that went through an extensive planning process with community feedback. And "we found, consistently, that ridership in neighborhoods around Eastside Memorial were low," Gonzalez said. "We were seeing mostly empty buses throughout the day in those areas." Cap Metro has retained service at the start and end of classes at Eastside and partnered with nonprofit RideAustin to provide "MetroLink" rideshare connections to and from nearby stops in Johnston Terrace (and three other Austin neighborhoods). The agency's data shows that MetroLink zone has seen the least use of the four; Gonzalez noted that only two individuals accounted for the 10 trips taken in Johnston Terrace last week.
Cap Metro board Chair Wade Cooper told us that the agency's concern "is making sure the right tool is used to address the right challenge"; Zapata said the Eastside Memorial and Allison Elementary communities remain unsatisfied with Cap Metro's response. "They have to find a solution, because this is not acceptable. They are counting ridership, but I'm talking about investing in equity."
Eastside Memorial Principal Miguel Garcia issued a statement saying, "We will continue to work with Capital Metro to find the right solution and increase awareness to the MetroLink service. Students who need support in connecting with Capital Metro services can find information in the front office."