North Lamar Transit Center upgrades near completion — but there are still no public restrooms
Capital Metro is putting the finishing touches on a half-million-dollar renovation of the North Lamar Transit Center. The facility was built as a Park and Ride in 1986 — one year after CapMetro was founded — near the intersection of North Lamar Boulevard and U.S. 183.
The rehabilitation project is intended as a short-term fix for a facility that could eventually see more than $100 million in upgrades. Both of Austin's light-rail lines are expected to terminate at the NLTC when they begin operations near the end of this decade.
For now, the NLTC serves as a connecting point for CapMetro's local bus routes 1, 323, 350, 383 and MetroRapid Route 801.
The renovation included:
- repairs to the pavilion roof
- new lighting
- two new Capital Metro bus shelters
- additional benches and trash cans
- removal of a brick wall obscuring a clear view through the pavilion
- ticket vending machine and ePaper digital message sign
Capital Metro still plans to install a sign on the pavilion, add security cameras and put in additional lighting. When complete, the project's cost will total about $570,000.
People commuting through the transit center mostly seemed to appreciate the improvements.
"It's a lot better than it was," said Douglas Curtis, who had just gotten off a bus. "It was real bad."
"Out of 1 out of 10, I give it a 7," commuter Aldric Yett said. "It used to be a 4."
Other riders said they wished the agency had heeded longtime calls to add public restrooms to the NLTC.
"We of all people need a restroom, because we can sit on the bus for up to two hours sometimes to get somewhere," Nellie Elizabeth Moore said after disembarking.
"Whenever you don't have public toilets and it takes you an hour-and-a-half to get anywhere in town, people are going to have to pee," Keiarra Ortiz said while waiting for a bus.
A small standalone restroom at the NLTC is locked and requires a badge to access. The facility is restricted to use by bus drivers and other agency employees.
Capital Metro told KUT that while it has not included public restrooms at transit facilities in the past, the agency is considering it.
"We have presented public restroom consideration to our board over the years, and we are working to identify how they could be incorporated into our facilities in the future, particularly as part of Project Connect," CapMetro said in a statement.
The NLTC remains a focal point for Project Connect, the $7.1 billion transit expansion approved by voters in November 2020. The signature feature of Project Connect — a pair of light-rail lines — will both start at the NLTC, head south and diverge at Republic Square in downtown Austin.
Early plans call for the light-rail platform to be installed next to the NLTC in the median of North Lamar Boulevard. A current focus of planners is how to connect that center platform with the bus services in an area designed to prioritize vehicular traffic.
"They present some challenges for pedestrians and cyclists," Jana McCann, an architect and urban designer contracted by CapMetro to work on the project, said at a community design workshop to gather public input.
Construction of the light-rail station is still years away, but is expected to usher in big changes.
"The North Lamar Transit Center Station is probably going to be well over a $100 million station investment at some point," Capital Metro CEO Randy Clarke told board members recently. "You're talking a major regional transit center."