The Capital Metro board has approved a major overhaul of its bus system, affecting more than half of all routes in the area. The vote was 6 to 2.
While some buses will run more often, other routes will be eliminated. The changes will go into effect June 3.
Cap Metro has held a handful of public meetings and webinars, as well as posted information at bus stops, since September.
But some regular riders, like Veronica Nelson, didn’t know that proposed changes were on the table. Nelson catches the Route 5 bus on Speedway Avenue to commute from her apartment to her job downtown. Under the new plan, the 5 would be moved off Speedway and onto Lamar Boulevard.
Cap Metro notes that riders have others options nearby, like the Route 7 bus on Duval Street. But for Nelson, that means a longer walk.
“If I go take the 7, there’s no guarantee that I’m going to be able to catch it on time because I have to walk over to it,” she says. “But also it makes, I guess, more popular stops through campus. It generally takes longer.”
The plan also proposes eliminating 13 bus routes, two of which would not be replaced with any alternative service. Todd Hemingson, Cap Metro’s executive vice president of planning and development, says the goal is to make the system more efficient and grid-like, with an emphasis on more frequent service.
“By that, we mean routes that operate every 15 minutes, or better, essentially all day long, seven days a week," Hemingson says, "and that’s a pretty big change for us.”
He says the changes would mean fewer buses twisting and turning through neighborhood streets. According to Cap Metro’s own analysis, most people would still live a short walk away from a stop.
“What we found is that 97.6 percent of current riders will still be within a five-minute walk of service if the board approves the plan,” Hemingson says.
What’s not certain is how the new plan could affect MetroAccess, an on-demand ride service for people with disabilities. Cap Metro’s latest reports show that every weekday, more than 2,000 people use the service. Hemingson says his team will introduce a plan that would incorporate those services, though he can’t disclose the details just yet.
We’re going to propose something that we think will address most, if not all, of the concerns we’ve heard,” he says.
This post has been updated to reflect the board's vote.