Public Transportation

Screenshot/Youtube

From Texas Standard.

The City of Arlington has replaced its existing fleet of buses with vans operated by Via, an on-demand ridesharing service. Arlington is the first city in Texas to take this step, and it’s among the first cities in the country to try eliminating buses. Supporters of the idea say it is more cost-effective for the city and more efficient for riders. Critics wonder whether all of the city’s bus riders will continue to have access to public transit.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Capital Metro is moving ahead with plans to build a signature station at the MetroRail stop near the Austin Convention Center. The $22 million project will include upgrades to shade passengers waiting at the Fourth Street commuter train stop. 

That got us wondering about the 2,649 CapMetro bus stops that may not be getting this kind of attention. Anyone who has ever waited for the bus in the summer knows it can be a torturous experience. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

City leaders have been hosting a series of open houses to inform Austinites about CodeNEXT, the proposed land development code that will shape Austin for years to come. The process has brought up different issues in different council districts.

Courtesy of Capital Metro

Austinites taking public transportation will see a hike in bus and rail fares next week. Starting Jan. 11, fares are going to go up on Capital Metro mass transit.

For bus-goers, what cost just fifty cents six years ago will now cost $1.25. Capital Metro is increasing the base fare for rides on local bus routes this winter, a 25 percent increase. Fares are also going up for what the agency calls its premium buses, like MetroRapid, to $1.75 per ride. Additionally, a trip on the Metrorail Red Line will now cost you $3.50 each way, up from $2.75.

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.

Jon Shapley for KUT News

The Austin Police Department will be monitoring the roads extra carefully this weekend, and enforcing a "no refusal" mandate; law enforcement will be able to quickly obtain a warrant to test the blood-alcohol level of any suspected drunk driver who objects to a Breathalyzer or blood test.

Fourth of July revelers who don’t think they’ll make fit drivers this weekend will have their pick of get-home-safe cards.

1. Capital Metro has some late-night options, including year-round Night Owl buses that run until 3 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Night Owl services travel five different routes between popular spots on 6th Street and city neighborhoods.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Have you ever been denied a cab ride in Austin?

After last week's deadly crash on Red River Street, there's been calls for more and better public transportation and taxi service.

But during special events like South by Southwest, it seems like more and more Austin taxis refuse to take riders for a variety of reasons. Carlton Thomas with the City of Austin’s Parking Enterprise says the most common reason is that "drivers are not interested in taking the short trips."  

He should know, because all complaints about cab drivers come to his department.

Update: Starting today, it’s going to get even tougher to get around downtown. That’s because the music portion of South by Southwest is now underway.

The City of Austin is closing off several exits from I-35 to downtown. Starting at 10 a.m. on Wednesday:

  • The I-35 NB and SB exits at  Cesar Chavez will be closed.
  • The I-35 SB exit at 8th Street will be closed.
  • The I-35 NB exit at 6th Street will be closed.

Original Story (March 6, 2014): SXSW provides a great opportunity for people to see bands, films and hobnob with bigwigs in the tech industry.

But road closures in downtown Austin may pose a problem for some travelers.

Reddit user KidOmni

Disclaimer: Capital Metro is a sponsor of KUT.

Capital Metro's new MetroRapid bus service launched on Sunday. And with the new route came additional service changes some say give short-shrift to existing riders on Cap Metro's most popular lines.

MetroRapid line 801 travels from Southpark Meadows to the Tech Ridge area in North Austin. Its route through the urban core – along South Congress Avenue and Guadalupe Street – parallels Cap Metro's 1L and 1M bus lines, the routes with the highest ridership in Austin. And another route – the 101 Express – traveled largely along the same line. (Read more about service changes.)

UT Shuttle
Image courtesy Cap Metro

Tight budgets could leave some UT Austin commuters without a bus line in the upcoming semester, according to Cap Metro. 

The Wickersham Lane (Route WL) shuttle will be eliminated this semester and the Cameron Road route (Route CR) will be shortened this semester, renamed Route Camino La Costa (Route CLC) and then eliminated after the spring semester.  

The transit authority attributes the cutbacks to a persistent lack of funds from UT's Student Services Budget Committee.

TexPIRG

Austinites are driving less and using public transportation more.

That’s a finding in a new report [PDF] by the Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG), a nonprofit research organization.

According to census data, the proportion of Austin workers that commute by private vehicle fell by 4.5 percent from 2000 to 2011. That’s the third largest decline in the country for an urban area.

Update at 6:50 p.m. ET. Speeding Into Curve; A Mile Or More To Safely Stop:

A commuter train headed into New York City was traveling at 82 mph Sunday morning when it entered a curve where the speed limit was supposed to be 30 mph and derailed, National Transportation Safety Board investigators have concluded. Four people on the train were killed and at least 60 others were injured.

KUT News

Chances are if you drive to work, you spend time in traffic every day.  Over the past five to ten years, Austin's traffic issues have just continued to worsen. And with real estate experts estimating more than 100 people move to Austin every day, it’s a problem that needs a solution.

A group of researchers at the University of Texas is hoping to change that. They’ve been awarded a $1.4 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to study traffic and transportation in Austin.

The center hopes to collect data that can provide immediate solutions for transportation problems in Austin and other cities across the country. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Update: The final Sunday of ACL's second weekend has been canceled due to weather.

For more, including information on refunds see: Heavy Rains Soak Austin, Central Texas; ACL Festival Cancels Final Day  

Update (Oct. 11): Traffic could be a bigger problem in the Austin area for weekend two of the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Road closures around Zilker Park and Republic Square Park will be in place just like last weekend (see below). But the highways may also be packed.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Road construction that will result in bus-only lanes on Guadalupe and Lavaca streets could begin as soon as next week.

The “transit priority lanes” are part of the MetroRapid project by Capital Metro. Capital Metro will prohibit cars on the right-most lanes of Guadalupe and Lavaca Streets between Cesar Chavez Street and MLK Jr. Boulevard. Cars will be allowed to use the bus-only lanes to make right turns.  

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Austin’s new MetroRapid buses don’t just hold more passengers – they hold traffic lights. 

"As the [buses] approach intersections – and if they are behind schedule – the traffic signal will remain green for up to seven seconds to give these buses additional time to cross the intersection," Capital Metro’s Joe Iannello said today. The group held a press conference to show off the new vehicles.

Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Update: Capital Metro’s MetroRail Service is back up and running this morning. But trains are running behind schedule because of a technology problem earlier this morning.

Capital Metro says the first train will depart from Leander at about 6:50 a.m.

A Capital Metro spokesperson says crews will work hard this morning to get back on schedule.

Original Story (6:22 a.m.): Capital Metro’s MetroRail Service is down this morning because of a technology problem.

Courtesy of Capitol Metropolitan Transit Authority

You may have to dig out another quarter to board a bus in Austin.

Capital Metro Transit Authority met today to hear a proposal that could bump up fares over the next two years.

Though the transit board won’t approve anything until September, the possible move to raise rates by 25% could net as much as $2.2 million annually. 

Callie Hernandez, KUT News

Reducing morning traffic congestion is just one of many ideas that will be discussed Friday at the Texas Lyceum conference in Austin. The non-profit, non-partisan statewide group is hosting a summit on transportation.

Among the featured speakers is Dennis Christiansen. He’s director of the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University. Christiansen says more roads aren’t the only answer.

Austin Ranks 31st in Walkability

Apr 3, 2013
flickr.com/austins_only_paper/

It’s official. Austin’s not very walkable.

In fact, it’s no walker’s paradise, according to a national survey.   

According to the Walk Score national survey, Austin garnered only a “car-dependent” 47 percent ranking out of 100 -- ranking 31st out of the 50 biggest cities in the U.S.

Some of the highest scores were found around the 40 Acres – West Campus, North Campus, and the UT campus itself ranked in the top five most walkable areas of town.

KUT News

Capital Metro is celebrating the recent passage of a federal highway bill. The bill authorizes $105 billion for spending on transportation projects nationwide over a two-year period

The new transportation law is called "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century" or MAP-21.

Capital Metro says the law provides much-needed stability. Capital Metro officials say MAP-21 gives a stable source of funding that's necessary for projects like bus and facility improvements.

Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News

Capital Metro’s Red Line will start running late into the evening on Fridays and Saturdays. Austin City Council voted 6-1 this evening on this resolution directing city staff to finalize the deal with Cap Metro. Kathie Tovo was the only council member to vote against the proposal. 

The new schedule will see commuter trains run hourly from 7 p.m. until midnight on Fridays. On Saturdays, they'll run every 35 minutes 4 p.m. until midnight. That schedule takes effect Friday, March 23.

Photo by KUT News

Austin’s public transit agency has known for a while that its fledgling commuter rail service could see a lot more riders if they let people take the train on Friday and Saturday nights. Back in May, we reported on how Capital Metro broke ridership records when they did that during the Pecan Street Festival.

But the problem was always money. Six months ago, the cost estimates were around $1 million annually for Friday and Saturday night service.

“That’s arguably a million dollars we don’t have,” Cap Metro Board Chair and Austin Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez told us in May. The head of Cap Metro, Linda Watson, said the agency was in talks with the city to secure funding.

Fast forward to the present, and costs estimates are now closer to $2.7 million per year, but it appears the city is willing to pay for it.

Daniel Reese

As if awaking from a two year hibernation, a sub-committee of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) held its first meeting this afternoon with a new leader and new members. The Transit Working Group (TWG) was restored in time to prepare for Austin’s soon-to-come vote on an urban rail system.

The working group was first established in 2007 under Austin Mayor Will Wynn. He decided the city needed an urban rail or street car system. But nothing really came out of it. Now, Mayor Lee Leffingwell is leading the TWG.

“The big difference between this group and the one of that before is our focus is going to be regional,” Leffingwell said.

Image by Transit Authority Figures

Update (June 17, 2014):  This story from 2011 is enjoying a second-life on the Austin Reddit page. After being posted there it inspired a discussion with over 160 comments. For more on a potential Austin subway, see this report from StateImpact Texas: Why Texas Doesn't Have Subways.

While there are no plans for a subway, Austin's plans for Urban Rail are proceeding rapidly. See KUT's combined reporting on Urban Rail here. And read our latest reporting:

Original story:  A piece of wall art making the rounds online depicts a subway system for Austin that would put this city’s public transit system on par with densely populated cities in the Northeast. The creation is produced and sold by Transit Authority Figures, based in Northampton, Massachusetts.

The poster had many people wondering aloud why Austin couldn’t just go ahead and build a world class subway system. We called up Capital Metro’s vice president of strategic planning and development Todd Hemingson and asked him ourselves.

KUT News: Why can’t we have an amazing subway system like this in Austin?

People got a chance to climb aboard the possible future of Austin's mass transit system on Thursday. Kinkisharyo, a Japanese-based streetcar manufacturer, is taking its new prototype on an American tour.

The streetcar runs on a combination of power from batteries and overhead wires, storing energy when the train brakes and eliminating the need for overhead wires in parts of the route, Kinkisharyo project manager Bill Kleppinger said.

Image courtesy flickr.com/loudtiger

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced $2 billion worth of funding today to expand high-speed intercity rail travel.  $15 million of that is coming to Texas.

We can quibble about the accuracy of this tool, but it definitely an interesting way to visualize public transit data. French software developer Stefan Wehrmeyer invented a Google Maps mashup that shows how far you can travel by public transit or on foot from any given point on the map.

Go here and just drag the marker to any place, then use the time slider in the bottom right to adjust the size of the blotch.

Here's their video explaining the concept. 

Capital Metro bus in downtown Austin
Photo by KUT News

Capital Metro is holding another public hearing tonight on a proposal to increase the price of taking public transit. The hikes are intended to help Cap Metro balance its FY 2011 budget. Most of the agency's operating revenue comes from local sales tax. Cap Metro says that's an unreliable source of income because of fluctuations in consumer spending.