The daily commute has become a bit crowded for some riders on Capital Metro’s MetroRapid buses. They report severe overcrowding at some points, with buses even passing stops because they’re too full to pick up any more passengers.
The issue has become particularly acute since classes resumed at UT, Cap Metro says.
“In general, we’re seeing very full buses, which is not necessarily a problem for us, we like to see full buses,” said Jenn Golech, director of bus operations and service coordination for Cap Metro. “But we have seen some incidents of overcrowding. Basically, a couple of trips on the 801 in the mornings are overcrowded, and a couple of trips in the afternoons and the evenings on the 803 are overcrowded.”
The agency is examining data to figure out how best to address the crowded buses, looking at issues of spacing and capacity. Although both the 801 and 803 have a number of stations in common downtown and along the UT campus, they travel on different routes outside that corridor.
That makes the issue of simply adding more of the 60-foot, accordion-style buses to the 803 route more complicated, because it generally has lower ridership than the 801.
“That’s something we have to look at very, very closely,” Golech said. “We don’t want to take one of those off the 801 route and put it on the 803 route, solve the problem on the 803 and create another one on the 801.”
More buses and better spacing would only go so far, because there are few dedicated transit lanes along both routes. That means the buses get stuck in the same traffic as everyone else. Transit advocates said the crowding issue is another reason light rail should be a priority for the corridor.
“Bus rapid transit has a limited capacity,” said Andrew Clements, with the Austin Coalition for Transit. “We can get to the point where there’s one bus following another bus, but that light rail would probably be three times as effective as a bus following a bus following a bus.”
Dedicated transit lanes are part of the proposed Project Connect. The MetroRapid lines, particularly the 801, would be in the Orange Line corridor. Cap Metro plans to make a decision in the coming months about which of the Orange or Blue lines will be bus rapid transit and which will be light rail.
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