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Archive for the ‘planning’ Category

0021-Brio PhotographyCapital Metro’s new MetroRapid Route 803 fleet will hit the streets of Austin in full force on Tuesday, July 15, in preparation for the launch of the second line of MetroRapid service on August 24.

The field test will take place from 4:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and will cover the entire 15-mile length of Route 803. The distinctive red and silver vehicles will travel along North Burnet and South Lamar from The Domain to Westgate Mall via UT and downtown. Although the vehicles will stop at all stations (12 shared downtown with Route 801), passengers will not be able to board.

Destinations along the future route? The UT Research Campus (JJ Pickle), The Domain, Central Market North, Seton Medical Center, the museum district, ACC Rio Grande, downtown Austin, the University of Texas main campus, the State Capitol, Barton Springs/Zach Scott Theater, Seaholm and Westgate Mall.

Route 803 will complement the existing service on Route 3, providing more frequent service to the same area, and convenient connections to MetroRapid 801 service and other bus routes downtown. Features of the service include covered and well-lit high-tech stations offering real-time arrival information, and upgraded vehicles with enhanced interiors and free onboard Wi-Fi.

MetroRapid Route 801 North Lamar/South Congress began service Jan. 26, 2014 and operates using 60-foot vehicles.

For more information about MetroRapid service, its amenities, route maps and more, visit capmetro.org/metrorapid.

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June2014-Proposed-Service-Change-Web-BannerBy Celso Baez, Community Involvement Specialist

We’ve recently heard some feedback from our riders about our proposal to move MetroBus routes currently operating on Congress Avenue onto the Guadalupe/Lavaca corridor. Most of us have experienced congestion on Congress Avenue, whether on a bus or in a private automobile. Sometimes it’s faster to walk to get through downtown due to all the traffic, especially during a special event.

Why are we considering route changes on Congress?

Congress Avenue has several challenges that hamper safety, bus operations, and the comfort of our customers. Our goals for improving downtown service are based on Service Plan 2020, our long range plan for improving service.

Angled Parking

Angled parking and chronic congestion along the Congress Avenue corridor make it challenging for our vehicles to operate safely. Safety is our number one priority at Capital Metro, and moving most MetroBus routes off of Congress Avenue and onto Guadalupe and Lavaca streets would make service safer for our customers by reducing collisions with private automobiles.

june-atstopFrequent Stops

Many of our customers have experienced the high number of stops on Congress that make it difficult for our vehicles to pass—leading to a wall of buses slowly moving down the street. By moving all remaining routes, except Route 100 MetroAirport Flyer, from Congress Avenue, Colorado and Brazos streets onto the Guadalupe and Lavaca corridor, local service will be able to move through downtown Austin several minutes faster, utilizing the transit priority lanes. In addition, transfers would be made easier while improving connections with MetroRapid and MetroRail.

Ridership

Approximately 13,000 bus passengers travel to downtown Austin on a daily basis. About 80 percent of those passengers transfer to another route. Downtown Austin is the final destination for the remaining 3,200 daily passengers (20 percent), with about half of those coming from commuter or flyer routes. A large number of commuter and flyer route customers walk from Guadalupe Street / Lavaca Street to Congress Avenue. A large number of routes through downtown Austin are “through-routed”, i.e. they do not terminate in downtown but continue from one end of downtown to another. Approximately 3,600 daily passengers travel through downtown on a through-routed bus. Moving most MetroBus routes onto the Guadalupe/Lavaca corridors would make the majority of downtown trips easier for our customers. We realize that for some, walks would be made longer; however Capital Metro has tried mitigating the impact by realigning routes 7, 20, and 17 to better accommodate our riders. With projects like Austin B-cycle, which provides a network of 24 hour/day, on demand bicycle stations to the urban core and the City of Austin’s Great Streets initiative which aims at improving the quality of downtown streets and sidewalks, walks to Congress Avenue from Guadalupe and Lavaca streets and vice versa are much more pleasant.

Special Event Detours

We all know how congested Congress Avenue becomes during a special event. Special event detours significantly disrupt transit service for our customers who rely on our system to get to work, school, and other priority destinations. Operating all local routes on the G/L corridor would reduce special events detours; alleviate congestion on Congress Avenue, thereby making service more efficient. This was evidenced by how successful service operated during SXSW and Formula One, when Capital Metro moved most MetroBus routes on the G/L corridor.

Stop Amenities

Historic and landmark preservation measures on the Congress Avenue corridor prevent Capital Metro from enhancing our existing bus stops. While the sidewalk is wide, there are no additional passenger amenities we are capable of providing. Moving most MetroBus routes onto G/L would allow us to add amenities such as benches and shelters otherwise not possible on Congress Avenue, providing a better customer experience for our riders.

forumHow to Share Your Feedback

Please keep giving us your feedback and commenting on our proposals—we want to hear from you! All riders are encouraged to participate in our public involvement opportunities listed below. Capital Metro will conduct a series of public meetings, and a public hearing. See our service change webpage for schedule details. Become involved, join the conversation and comment on specific proposals in efforts to provide effective services that meet the Austin area’s transportation needs!

View the recent webinar:

Share your comments and send any questions to feedback@capmetro.org.

Upcoming Public Involvement Dates:

Public Meetings

March 4, 12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m.

Capital Metro Transit Store, 209 W. 9th | Served by all downtown Local bus routes, MetroRapid 801

March 5, 12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m.

Capital Metro Transit Store, 209 W. 9th | Served by all downtown Local bus routes, MetroRapid 801

March 6, 3:30 – 6:00 p.m.

Capital Metro Transit Store, 209 W. 9th | Served by all downtown Local bus routes, MetroRapid 801

Online Discussion Forum

ideas.capmetro.org

Email

Feedback@capmetro.org

Social Media 

Facebook | Twitter

Public Hearing

March 17, 12:00 noon

Capital Metro Headquarters, 2910 E. 5th St. | Served by Local routes 17, 300

For more information on the proposed summer 2014 changes, including maps of the proposed areas, visit capmetro.org/summer2014. Details can also be found by viewing this video or by calling the GO Line at 512-474-1200.

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By Roberto Gonzalez, Capital Metro Planning

UT ShuttleCapital Metro would like to thank our riders who have taken the time to provide valuable feedback regarding the proposed transition of WL and CR Shuttle route riders to mainline Capital Metro service for Spring 2014 (capmetro.org/Spring2014).

The UT Shuttle system is jointly funded through a partnership between Capital Metro and The University of Texas. Funding for the University’s portion comes from the Student Fee Bill Committee (SSBC) and unfortunately, for the past several years, there has not been an increase to any of the organizations funded through the SSBC based on financial constraints across the University (despite annual rising costs).  Thus, the shuttle system cannot continue to operate at the same levels as before.

Working with the UT Shuttle Bus Committee (a group comprised of students, faculty, staff), Capital Metro staff has developed proposed changes to service in order to match available funding.  The committee must balance the needs of students with the need to provide cost-effective shuttle service that benefits the entire student community (all of whom pay equally into the system).

RouteCRShuttle

The proposal was developed after evaluating shuttle route performance where it was determined that both CR and WL shuttle routes are UT’s lowest-performing routes (measured by ridership and resources expended). In making this determination, Capital Metro used student population data gathered from the University as well as ridership data collected by automatic passenger counters (APC) equipped on shuttle vehicles.  (more…)

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Capital Metro has partnered with other transit agencies in the central Texas region, like the City of Austin, CAMPO and the Lone Star Rail District to create a plan for regional high-capacity transit.

What would that look like?

Imagine a series of components like urban rail, commuter rail (like MetroRail), Rapid service, and express lanes where all services support one another in a network, easing access throughout the region.

Sounds nice, right? Well, it looks even better. Check out this detailed vision map with all the system elements to help you share our vision for how to create a connected central Texas.

vision_map

(Download PDF version)

Now, you too can view the full details of the Project Connect transportation plan and partnership at ConnectCentralTexas.com.

But, wait there’s more!

Well, now that the vision has come together, the partners want your feedback. What do you think?

It’s your chance to share your thoughts at any of the following opportunities:

Tuesday, Feb. 19, 5 – 8 p.m. Seton Medical Center Hays (Cafeteria), 6001 Kyle Parkway, Kyle, TX.

Wednesday, Feb. 20, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Austin Energy (Assembly Room); 721 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX.

Wednesday, Feb. 20, 5 – 8 p.m. Williamson Conference Center, 209 N. IH-35 Frontage Road, Round Rock, TX.

Tuesday, Feb. 26, 12 – 1 p.m. Webinar – Register online at ConnectCentralTexas.com/get-involved.

The Project Connect partners also invite the public to participate in an ongoing online discussion regarding the regional transit vision.

Reasonable modifications and equal access to communications are provided upon request.  Please call 512-369-6201 or email info@ConnectCentralTexas.com for more information.

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Capital Metro changes service three times a year, in conjunction with UT and AISD academic calendars. The following is a summary of proposed changes for June 2012:

Summer reductions – UT Shuttle service is reduced during the summer to reflect ridership and enrollment. Ebus service and select trips targeting high-ridership middle schools are suspended until August.

MetroRail schedule adjustment – 1 morning round-trip and 1 afternoon round-trip would be added (including a much-desired 5:55pm Downtown departure). A midday trip would be shortened from Lakeline to Howard to accommodate freight rail. Travel times would also be reduced by 15 percent.

Route realignment to improve customer access – CR Cameron Rd shuttle would be realigned to the Mueller redevelopment (Dell Pediatric Research Institute and Moasic Apartments). Route 18 MLK, Jr./Enfield would be realigned out of MLK Station. A stop would be added at MLK at Alexander Ave.

Schedule adjustments due to high ridership – Saturday frequency on Route 1L/1M North Lamar/South Congress would be improved from 16-20 to 13-18 minutes. This improvement will benefit many weekend customers. It’s important to note that service improvements to Route 1L/1M North Lamar/South Congress on Saturdays would be made possible by the following service reductions:

Schedule adjustments due to low ridership – Early morning frequency on Route 5 Woodrow/South Fifth would be reduced from 40 to 50 minutes. Select trips on Route 935 Tech Ridge would be consolidated to improve efficiency. We have seen a strong correlation between gas prices and commuter ridership and will continue to monitor both closely. Select trips on Route 135 Dell Limited would be eliminated as a result of Route 935 changes. Route 499 Day Labor would be eliminated.

A critical component of the service change process is public involvement. Customer feedback helps Capital Metro fine-tune the service change package and ultimately improve service.

Click here for more information on all of the service change proposals, including details on how to provide feedback.

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In the transit business, one of the most common ways to evaluate how well a route is doing is by measuring its productivity. There are several ways to measure a route’s productivity, such as cost per rider, riders per mile, etc. One measure that we use often around here is riders per hour, which is the number of people that ride a route per hour of service provided. For example, if 30 passengers ride a route that operates for two hours, the productivity is 15 passengers per hour.

So, what are Capital Metro’s most productive MetroBus routes?

1) Route 1L/1M (39 passengers per hour) – Continuously ranks 1st or 2nd in terms of productivity, which is one of the reasons why Lamar Boulevard, Guadalupe Street and South Congress Avenue were selected as the alignment for our first MetroRapid route.
2) Route 300 (37.5 passengers per hour) – Connects North Lamar Transit Center and South Congress Transit Center and serves many ridership generators including MetroRail stations, Reagan High School, multiple HEB grocery stores, and a Walmart.
3) Route 20 (37.1 passengers per hour) – Serves the very busy and growing Riverside corridor, as well as Manor Road.
4) Route 331 (36.7 passengers per hour) – Operates between ACC Riverside and Westgate Mall, mostly along Oltorf. ACC Riverside and Travis High School are major ridership generators. When they are in session, Route 331 can outperform Route 1L/1M.
5) Route 325 (35 passengers per hour) – Connects the densely populated Rundberg corridor with two shopping areas: Northcross Mall and the Walmart Shopping Center at Rutherford. It also has the highest percentage of Spanish-speaking passengers by far (44%).
6) Route 7 (33.8 passengers per hour) – Experienced ridership growth after it was extended to the St. John’s neighborhood in August 2010. Also serves the Dove Springs area in southeast Austin.

Did you notice that half of the highest performing routes listed above are local routes serving downtown and the other half are crosstown routes bypassing downtown? This reflects people’s changing travel patterns. Not everyone works, shops, or seeks medical services in downtown anymore. The implementation of Capital Metro’s ServicePlan 2020 has done a good job of meeting these changing patterns and improving overall productivity on our bus routes.

Service planning doesn’t only pay attention to our most productive routes, we also monitor the least productive routes. We then evaluate ways to improve productivity including rerouting, restructuring with surrounding routes, changing frequency or hours of service. To get a better idea of how we evaluate routes and make changes, check out the recording of our Service Standards & Guidelines and Spring Service Analysis webinars.

See you on the bus.

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Subway art

Image by Transit Authority Figures

You may have seen the cool subway poster art created and sold by Transit Authority Figures. Clever.

KUT News interviewed Capital Metro’s VP of Planning Todd Hemingson about transit and the feasibility/challenges of creating a real subway system for Austin.

Of course, a main barrier is the cost to build it. Here’s what Todd told the journalist:

“If money were no object, if we had unlimited resources, we would do a ton of this stuff. The challenge we make every day is trying to make our system as good as it can be.

“We would love, even on a simpler scale, to run 15 minute or better bus service on every route in the system all day long. That would be a game changer in terms of making the transit system more attractive, getting more people to use it, and building ridership and building our public credibility and so on.

“There’s plenty of evidence that better quality service achieves much greater ridership. There’s also plenty of evidence that if you can get to this 15 minute threshold, then you’re delivering service at a level that people aren’t scheduling their life around it. They can basically walk out to the nearest stop and know that a bus is coming in the next few minutes.

“The reason we can’t do that is, again it comes back to money, but it’s also land use. Land use doesn’t support that level of service for the vast majority of our service area. There’s only a few places where the ridership warrants that level of service.

“Maybe this is a circular argument of sorts, but it’s all interrelated. If you can’t justify the service based on ridership, and you don’t have the money to provide the service regardless of ridership, what you wind up doing is either providing a lesser quality of service that matches the demand, or you constrict your service and only operate in very few places.”

Check out the transcript of the full interview on KUT News.

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Honolulu, HI, ranked number 1 in the Brookings study, with 60% of jobs reachable via transit.

Last week, the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution released an analysis of how well transit systems in the nation’s largest 100 metropolitan areas connect workers to jobs.  The key finding of the study is that nationally, while a high percentage of people live near transit (69 percent), a much smaller percentage of jobs are reachable via transit (only 30 percent). What does that say about the success or failure of public transportation? What does it say about land use planning and regionalism?

After chatting with Executive VP/Chief Development Officer Doug Allen and Planning VP Todd Hemingson about the findings of the study, two takeaways for Central Texas are:

1. We have to work together and plan together as a region to meet transportation needs. (Transit needs to grow where transit can go.)

2. We need to raise the collective social awareness that smart land use planning is beneficial. (Businesses need to locate where transit is.)

Here at home, as noted in the Austin American-Statesman, the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos area ranked 50th out of the 100 metropolitan areas in the study.

Here are some findings for the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos MSA:

  • 47 percent of people live near a transit stop (study average: 69 percent)
    Considering that Round Rock and San Marcos don’t have a city transit system (and aren’t within the Capital Metro service area), you can see why the percentage is low. (When you look at just the Capital Metro service area, about 71 percent of people are within 3/4 mile from a transit stop.)
  • The average wait time for a bus or train during rush hour is 8.6 minutes (study average: 10.1 minutes)
  • Thirty-nine percent of jobs can be reached via transit within 90 minutes (above the average of 30 percent)

Transit & Jobs Analysis for Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos MSA (one page pdf with three charts, specific to our area)

REGIONAL PLANNING

In Central Texas, we’ll continue to see low job connectivity without a more regional transit network. The Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos MSA (on which this study was based) expanded in July 2008 from two to five counties. That’s a huge area, and Hays, Caldwell, and Bastrop counties are quite rural. While 82.4% of the total MSA population live within Travis and Williamson Counties, employment centers are scattered throughout the MSA.

The five-county Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos MSA, with CAMPO activity centers (and the Capital Metro service area) marked.

Here’s another compelling fact: 95% of Capital Metro’s service area is in Travis County. We have to be more creative as a region if we want to provide better job connectivity by transit. It should be noted that the study did not, to our knowledge, incorporate the transit services offered throughout the region by CARTS. Had those services been considered, the percentage of jobs accessible by transit would have increased.

The communities included in Capital Metro’s service area pay one percent of their local sales taxes to Capital Metro for transit service. But for many communities, that is not an option because all of their sales tax has been obligated. To foster a more regional, out of the box approach to transportation planning, Capital Metro adopted a service expansion policy in 2010 that gives us more leeway to explore creative partnerships and sources of funding for providing transit service. A recent example of this policy in action was the interlocal agreement with ACC to provide a bus stop on route 214 Northwest Flex at the ACC campus as Cypress Creek. The campus is outside of the Capital Metro service area, and therefore ACC covers the cost to provide service to that stop.

Capital Metro, the city of Austin, TxDOT and other partners are working through CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) to develop a regional system plan that incorporates all of the available transportation tools into one regional planning toolbox: roads, tolls, HOV lanes, MetroRapid bus service, city of Austin urban rail, MetroRail, Lone Star Rail, etc. The regional system plan will address three key questions for our region: 1. How will all of the components work together as a system? 2. How do we organize to develop and operate the system components? And, 3. How do we pay for it?

LAND USE

If you’re of a certain age, you probably remember a time when no one recycled. It took upwards of 20 to 25 years before recycling became the norm. Even after curbside recycling became available, people were slow to adopt.  They didn’t understand the benefits of recycling, or even more likely, the benefits didn’t seem very personal. What did it take to change the norm? Incentives and limitations (carrot and stick approach), years of various education campaigns designed to change mindsets, and improvements to the process itself so it became easier to recycle than to throw it in the trash.

Land use planning as it relates to transportation is kind of like the early days of recycling. The benefits aren’t well known and haven’t been communicated in a way that resonates personally for people. People are slow to adopt. Hence, businesses set up shop everyday in areas that are not accessible by transit. It’s easier and sometimes cheaper to locate your business outside of the densest population centers. Where’s the carrot and stick?

As a region, we need to work harder to make the benefits of smarter land-use planning universally understood, and the choice to grow “smart” made as easy as, or easier, than the choice to sprawl. It takes time.

One step Capital Metro is taking is to link our transit plans with the activity-centered growth vision that’s the foundation of the CAMPO 2035 plan (see the activity centers marked on the map above). We’re also one of many partners who received a HUD Sustainability Grant that will plan and implement transit-supportive development in dense activity centers in our area.

The bottom line is that continuing to develop with low-density auto-oriented development patterns will result in more auto dependency and poor transit accessibility.

MORE INFO on the STUDY

Learn more about the Brookings Institution analysis

View an interactive map of the Brookings data showing job access via transit.

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Capital Metro has proposed service changes for August that would affect bus and rail riders. Beginning next week, we are hosting several public and online meetings to gain input on these potential changes.

Why change service? Well, it allows us an opportunity to adjust bus routes and schedules to best meet customer’s needs and improve efficiency of the system.

ServicePlan2020, which was approved by our board of directors just over a year ago, provides the framework for future service changes. The initial phases focus on improving route directness and connectivity. Capital Metro’s Service Guidelines and Standards are another guiding document for service planning.

Other key factors that can lead to service changes include ridership trends, passenger surveys, travel patterns, demographic data, customer feedback, and changes in land use or infrastructure.

All of this information is used to develop service change proposals that are shared with existing and potential customers and fine-tuned based on feedback.

The August 2011 proposal includes cutting underutilized routes or trips and shifting those resources to make improvements in other areas.

MetroRail ridership has been steadily increasing since January; however, the three downtown rail connector routes continue to have low ridership. Currently, less than 25% of MetroRail riders destined to Downtown transfer to a connector route. Many of those rail riders walk, bike or catch other routes. For that reason, we are proposing to eliminate Routes 460, 461 and 462.

Among the potential improvements is consolidation of the ER Enfield Rd (UT) shuttle and Route 18 Martin Luther King. This change would add Saturday service to the Enfield portion of the route. It would also improve connectivity between UT and ACC Rio Grande and establish a direct east/west path across downtown Austin. This proposed change differs slightly from the West Austin route recommendations in ServicePlan2020 because of customer feedback to keep certain services intact.

Another improvement is the proposal to realign Route 100 Airport Flyer from 7th Street to Riverside. Routing within UT and downtown would also be adjusted to improve access to hotels and minimize travel time. A limited number of stops would be added to the Riverside corridor. Weekday service would see an improvement as buses would run every 30 minutes.

We are also recommending realignment of Route 466. This change would provide a direct connection to the ACC Northridge Campus.

Click here for more information on all of the service change proposals, including details on how to provide feedback.

Thanks for riding Capital Metro. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Kevin Buchanan wrote a thought-provoking article in the Fort Worthology blog yesterday. He includes a number of examples specific to Fort Worth, but you could substitute Austin development projects and roadways and it would be just as relevant.

Transportation, Development, Priorities
Written by Kevin Buchanan on March 24, 2011

“This transit project’s nothing but a handout to developers!”

Words similar to those are often heard in the United States when cities plan transit projects (it was certainly heard during the discussion around Fort Worth’s own streetcar project). The plan to spend ~$80 million, from the Near Southside and TRV TIFs combined with a federal grant, to build a streetcar linking the districts with Downtown, just as other TIFs spend their money on infrastructure, was seen by some as a handout to developers because one of the stated goals of the project was encouraging higher-density transit-and-pedestrian-oriented mixed-use development. “If these developers want it, they can pay for it!”

So, where are the calls for developers like Cassco or the homebuilders in Cleburne to pay for the nearly $1.5 billion Southwest Parkway, which is undeniably a benefit to projects of theirs like Edwards Ranch (there’s a Whole Foods planned there – but not until the Parkway is built)? Where are the calls for developers like Hillwood to foot the bill for the I-35 widening that will undoubtedly benefit developments like Alliance?

To call a transit project a “handout for developers” and a roadway “necessary public infrastructure” is an enormous double-standard. The reality is that every transportation project is also an economic development project – every transportation project has impacts for development.

Transportation and development/land use are deeply, deeply entwined.

This gets to one of the hearts of the sprawl vs. urbanism debate – the reality that sprawl is not the result of the free market simply choosing a totally car-dependent lifestyle. The invisible hand of government has led the way since WWII, resulting in the built environment we have, and are paying for (in more ways than one), now.

Without hugely subsidized roadways and freeways (the reality being that roads don’t even come close to paying for themselves, as even highway-crazed TxDOT has admitted), there wouldn’t be the sort of car-dependent development we have now. Those same roadways mean that when we do have moderately successful urban places, they’re little pockets surrounded by parking (as seen downtown and on 7th) or choked with excessive car trips. Or, put more simply:

You get the development you design your transportation systems for.

Read the full article by K. Buchanan.

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