Capital Metro’s 10-year Plan: More Frequency, More Connection

August 31, 2016 by Kate Harrington

Capital Metro has released its draft transit plan for the next decade, and it includes proposals for rapid transit with dedicated lanes, a greater number of high-frequency routes, and an end to the premium fare.

The draft plan is the results of the Connections 2025 process, a review of the transit system that Capital Metro conducted with planning consultant Transportation Management and Design, Inc. (TMD).

According to Capital Metro, the biggest takeaways from Connections 2025 have been a call for greater bus frequency and the need for transit service not only around the Central Business District, but around other job clusters like The Domain, Mueller, and Tech Ridge.

Austin’s growth and different land use patterns also mean different types of transit will be needed to provide effective coverage. Capital Metro is looking at six different types of service to cover everything from the high-density central core of Austin to more rural, car-dominated suburban areas: Rapid transit – which could include true Bus Rapid Transit running in dedicated highway lanes; MetroRapid; Frequent service that reaches major transit corridors; a local network to extend the main service network; community circulators to connect riders with a final destination and a transit stop; and Express bus service for longer-distance travel on highways.

The draft plan proposes augmenting Capital Metro’s current high frequency route network, bringing the number of routes traveling every 15 minutes or less from the current six routes up to 17. The agency estimates that would put more than half a million people within walking distance of a frequent route.

The plan also calls for more east/west routes, with two new MetroRapid lines going east/west and nine frequent routes running every 15 minutes or less.

Other highlights include:

  • One flat fare for all routes (except for the reduced fare for riders with disabilities, which would remain in place).
  • 24-hour services on MetroRapid lines
  • A true Bus Rapid Transit line that would run on future I-35 Express Lanes
  • Using the new MoPac Express Lanes to run more reliable Express bus service, making transit an option for more people in growing suburbs.
  • More transit priority lanes and signal priority to help buses move faster, and more curb extensions to increase pedestrian safety.

If the Capital Metro board approves the draft plan, some of those changes could happen quickly, including the use of the new MoPac lanes for Express Routes 982, 985 and 987 and two new routes, 980 and 981. Route 983 would be retired.

Other changes, like the BRT lanes on I-35, would take much longer to implement. Those lanes can’t take shape unless the proposed I-35 renovations in Central Austin take shape.

The public will have a chance to give their input on the draft plan: Capital Metro is holding an open house from Sept. 6 to 16, and also has an online survey. The agency will use that input to create a final draft plan that will then be presented to the board.

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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.