New MetroRapid Line Now Running

August 27, 2014 by Kate Harrington

The second of Capital Metro’s MetroRapid lines opened last weekend, running from The Domain in the north to the WestGate shopping center in the south and hitting stops along the fast-growing Burnet Rd. and Lamar Blvd. corridors along the way.

The 803 route, like the first Rapid 801 route, runs every 12 to 15 minutes during peak rush hours, and every 20 minutes during non-peak hours. The buses make fewer stops along their routes, which means they make it across town faster than their Route 1 and Route 3 counterparts.

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Capital Metro and city officials are hoping the service will be an effective tool in combatting the city’s traffic problems. With a sleek design, free Wi-Fi, more seating on some buses, and a new app that allows riders to check for arriving buses and buy tickets, the Rapid buses have features that could draw in more riders. And true to advertising, both routes do transport riders much more quickly than the MetroBus lines.

MetroRapid buses have some dedicated transit lanes downtown, and also come equipped with signal-changing technology that can hold a green light. But critics point out the system is not true Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which would require dedicated lanes and boarding platforms for the entire route to earn the name.

Some have also voiced disappointment that the Rapid 801’s ridership numbers haven’t been higher. When the 801 route launched, it replaced two existing routes, the 1L and 1M, that ran on the same stretch of road. “Comparing average weekday ridership between those two routes and the MetroRapid route (and an additional feeder route) in the spring months between the years 2013 and 2014, ridership has actually fallen 11 percent,” notes a State Impact NPR article.

Public transportation counterparts in other cities say that successful transit projects have required a fair amount of upfront investment in order to get routes that offer frequent and comprehensive coverage, something Austinites haven’t been keen on in past years. This fall residents will have a chance to vote for another, larger, system, a light rail line that could eventually expand to serve the wider Texas region.

Do you plan on using the new 803 route? What are your thoughts on the MetroRapid system thus far? Leave your comments below! 

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Written by Kate Harrington

Kate is a former reporter, most recently for the Austin Business Journal, where she covered real estate, economic development and transportation. Since 2010 she has been running Thumbtack Communications. Thumbtack provides writing, editing and marketing services. Before moving to Austin in 2002 Kate lived in her native New England, which she still visits often to escape the Texas heat.