Public Transit

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

It’s been a few years since East Austin resident Bonnie Hauser sold her car. The librarian's commute is short enough that she usually bikes or walks to work with the Austin Independent School District. When she has a meeting downtown, Hauser takes the No. 17 bus from her neighborhood.

Colin M. Lenton

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Amy Hill Hearth, journalist and author of Streetcar to Justice: How Elizabeth Jennings Won the Right to Ride in New York.

Hearth talks about Elizabeth Jennings’ refusal to leave a segregated streetcar in Manhattan, how the African-American community of New York came together to fight segregation in public transportation, and how a future president represented Jennings in court.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Priscilla Jove, 19, sat cross-legged on a bench at a bus stop on the corner of West Oltorf Street and South Lamar Boulevard. A student at Austin Community College, Jove was heading to a biology study session. She said she’s not just curious about the human body, but also human behavior, and that's one reason she rides the bus.

“All different sorts of people ride the bus,” she said. “It’s a great way to learn about them, to see how they behave, how they interact with other people.”

Pavel Mezihorak for KUT

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. 

Pavel Mezihorak for KUT

The Capital Metro board of directors on Monday unanimously approved a plan to overhaul its transit service. Cap Metro says Connections 2025 is designed to improve rider experience by creating a 24/7 transit system and expanding service.  

Spencer Selvidge for KUT News

Capital Metro has released the first draft of its Connections 2025 project. It’s an effort to redesign Austin’s public transit system over the next 10 years.


Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Mass transit is a very small slice of the Austin transportation pie. On average, only about four percent of people in the greater Austin area use transit to get to work. In Portland, it’s three times that. And Austin's transit use suffered a significant drop last year. So what can Capital Metro do to turn things around?

Let's start with the bulk of Capital Metro's system: the bus.

"I think we are on the cusp of making a significant step in the right direction," says Todd Hemingson, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Development at Capital Metro. The agency has laid out several goals for the years ahead, and one of them is adding frequency to some of the city's most popular bus routes.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Earlier this year, Austinites got a warning from their mayor: Pass a proposed light rail line, or face certain doom. There was no "Plan B," voters were told. 

"Here's the basic equation," Mayor Lee Leffingwell said in his State of the City address, "Rail or fail." 

Austin voters chose the latter option this election, saying "No" to a billion-dollar light rail and road improvements proposal by a wide margin, 57 percent voting "No" and 43 percent voting "Yes." The proposal garnered a lot of interest, with 15,000 more Austinites voting on it than on the race for Mayor of Austin.

Contrary to what you might have heard, this was technically the first time a rail plan has been voted down within city limits. So what happened? How did a supposedly progressive, typically bond-approving city electorate shoot down something so strongly?

Spencer Selvidge for KUT News

Claudia Teran is late for class. She's waiting at the corner of 45th and Guadalupe streets for her bus. She's studying media at UT and the bus is her main way of getting around.

Her bus – the 1, a local route – is running a little late today, so she's late. But what if she could've known her bus was late? What if she could look up on her phone where her bus is right now? What if

Online, real-time bus tracking is one of a few improvements coming to Cap Metro buses that aim to keep drivers out of their cars and on public transit.

Project Connect

Some die-hard public transit supporters say Austin’s 9.5 mile, $1.38 billion urban rail proposal is misguided, too expensive, and follows a poorly traveled route

"Why would a city our size put in something that is so pricey on a very weak route?" former Capital Metro board vice president Lyndon Henry says. "This is insane."