Alternative Commute Options Growing in Austin

December 14, 2016 by Kate Harrington

Between more bike share stations and a new app-based shuttle provider, Austin commuters are seeing more alternative commute options.

The bike sharing nonprofit Austin B-Cycle will add 18 stations and 125 bikes around Central Austin over the next 18 months. Some of those stations will go in parts of Austin not yet served by B-Cycle, including the South Lakeshore Boulevard area, Clarksville, and Lake Austin Boulevard west of MoPac.

When Austin B-Cycle launched in 2013, it was part of a wave of bike shares in cities around the U.S. While there were plenty of skeptics – despite a hard-core group of bicycle commuters, many still see Austin as a car-centric city – B-Cycle has proven a success story, with a steady ride in rentals over its three years here.

B-Cycle has seen bike rentals climb continually, including 9 percent jump this year and record-setting bounces during events like SXSW.

B-Cycle estimates that its bikes will be used for about 200,000 trips by the end of 2016, a quarter of which the organization says have replaced car trips.

In a city that’s facing increasing mobility challenges, the presence of a robust bike share system is an added mobility option that can get some commuters out of cars. Many transportation experts see bike sharing as less of a bike commute option and more of a transit option, because the bikes can bridge the “last mile” gap between a transit stop and a commuter’s final destination. And that may sway would-be transit users who were deterred by a long walk from a bus stop to try making transit part of their commute – which in turn means more single-occupancy cars off the roads.

Austin is also getting a new commute option: San Francisco-based Chariot, a crowd-sourced shuttle, has started operating its first routes in Austin. Users can vote for a route on the Chariot app, and use the shuttle as an alternative to driving, or use it as a last mile option between transit and work.

Chariot ride share Austin

The first Chariot routes are running in neighborhoods around South Lamar and Riverside Drive, and taking commuters to Downtown Austin. Chariot has said that it plans to expand its fleet in Austin as riders request additional routes.

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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.