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In the past, we’ve said that Capital Metro’s future is Rapid-ly approaching. With today’s system-wide test of the 801 line of MetroRapid, suddenly the future is upon us.

On Tuesday, December 10, Capital Metro implemented a full-scale test of the forthcoming MetroRapid service. This test allows us the opportunity to see how MetroRapid performs in real world scenarios while dealing with the needs of passengers who will utilize the service.

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Today’s testing was designed to get an up close and personal view of the MetroRapid service from the user’s perspective. A main objective of the field test was to evaluate the performance of the new technology being used onboard the vehicles. Also, “dwell times,” or the time it takes a vehicle to load and unload passengers at each station, were recorded. In addition, operators will simulate detour scenarios and traverse through the new transit priority lanes on Guadalupe and Lavaca downtown. Additionally, we were testing other aspects including announcements, farebox and rear door ticket validators, destination signs, dynamic message signs at stations, passenger counters, WiFi and more. We also recruited volunteers with bikes and wheelchairs to test those respective systems to ensure all is ready for MetroRapid’s launch on January 26th, 2014.

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Our volunteers will note their observations, document their experiences and return their feedback. We’ll then go over those comments and determine what succeeded and what kinks need to be ironed out. We believe strongly in MetroRapid. We know it will provide an invaluable service to the community and today’s testing will go a long way in ensuring that Capital Metro offers the absolute best experience possible when MetroRapid goes live next year.

Over the next month and a half, you will notice MetroRapid vehicles out and about in Austin as we continue to fine-tune the service. We know you’re excited to ride the Rapids, so please view the additionally testing not as a joyride, but as our unwavering commitment to the community. MetroRapid is coming and we want you to love it as much as we do.

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

Feel the Need for Speed?

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The Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix is returning to Austin Nov. 15 – 17, and Capital Metro is in on the action! 

During Formula 1’s premiere in Austin in 2012, the total weekend attendance was over 260,000. As a result of its expanded MetroRail service last year, Capital Metro saw a dramatic surge in weekend ridership, including a 435 percent increase over a typical Saturday.

This year, F1 fans can again take advantage of Capital Metro’s expanded MetroRail service during the weekend.  Trains will operate from northwest Austin to downtown on the following schedule:

  • Friday, Nov. 15: 6 a.m. – 12:30 a.m. (Saturday morning)
  • Saturday, Nov. 16: 8 a.m. – Midnight (Service to all MetroRail stations except Leander)
  • Sunday, Nov. 17: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Service to all MetroRail stations except Leander)

MetroRail’s route is divided into two fare zones. The cost to ride one zone is $1, or $2.75 if you cross the fare zone boundary between Howard and Kramer stations. You can buy a MetroRail pass at ticket vending machines on station platforms or at the Transit Store, located downtown at 209 W. 9th Street.

The Nov. 15 – 17 weekend will prove to be a busy one, not only because of F1 but also because of Austin Fan Fest and the Nov. 16 UT football game. Buses will run as usual throughout the weekend, though riders can expect some route changes in the downtown area. Detours will begin on Nov. 14. Access all downtown routes – with the exception of MetroAirport – along Guadalupe and Lavaca from Nov. 15 – 18.

MetroAirport service from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to downtown will run its regular schedule from early in the morning until late at night.

Plan your fun! Find the latest F1-related transit information including routes, schedules, detours and a helpful trip planner at capmetro.org/f1.

Capital Metro would like to thank all of the patient MetroRail riders who planned their commutes around the disruption in service on Oct. 31 due to heavy flooding. It was a doozy, but our incredible rail operations team was able to work throughout the night, inspecting and repairing all of the sections of track affected to ensure they’d be safe to travel the next day.

Check out some pictures below of the impact and check out this video from local TV station, KXAN, who went on-site to check on our repairs. See it for yourself!

McNeil Merrilltown Xing Towards Abbott

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halloweenPlanning your night out for Halloween? As you wrap-up the finishing touches on your Breaking Bad or Despicable Me Minion Costume, remember to plan how you’re getting there.

That’s right! Plan a safe ride on Halloween.

We’ve got you covered!

E-Bus service operates Thursday through Saturday night via routes 410 West Campus, 411 Riverside, and 412 Main Campus. Regular service hours are from approximately 9 p.m. until 3 a.m. Night Owl service will run its usual schedule, Tuesday through Sunday from about midnight until 3 a.m.

Riders needing to get to and from the downtown area can also use Capital Metro’s local service until around midnight.

bus_ritzRiders can also bypass traffic by using MetroRail, which will operate its regular late schedule on Friday and Saturday nights, offering service until midnight. The MetroRail Downtown Station is located across from the Convention Center on 4th Street between Neches and Trinity.

Regular fares will apply. UT students ride free with valid school ID, and ACC students can board using their Green Pass.

Capital Metro riders who plan to use the 4 Montopolis, 21 Exposition and 100 MetroAirport routes should take note of possible 6th Street closure detours due to Halloween events from around 8 p.m. until 3 a.m.

More detailed route and detour information can be found on the Capital Metro website.

Photo of event attendees at City HallYesterday, Capital Metro participated in the 2013 White Cane Day with other sponsors and members of the Texas School for the Blind.

Photo of Capital Metro Accessibility Specialist Martin Kareithi accepting Mayor's AwardAccessibility Specialist Martin Kareithi accepted the mayor’s award on behalf of the agency, in support of the accessibility community and inviting attendees to join the team at Republic Square Park where Capital Metro had a MetroRapid vehicle staged for in-person tours.

In addition, festival goers were able to check out the adjacent Republic Square Station, a future stop along the MetroRapid route. Volunteers oriented fPhoto of MetroRapid vehicle arriving at stationolks around the station, discussing all the cool, new features available, including an announcement button that tells passengers audibly when the next vehicle will arrive.

The new MetroRapid service will launch in early 2014 along Route 801 North Lamar/South Congress.  It will feature new amenities, like real-time arrival information; shelters at every station with benches, lighting and a bike rack; technology to sync with stop lights, helping keep lights green as the vehicle passes through the intersection; and, free on board WiFi. In addition, the service will be fully ADA compliant with wheelchair securement areas equipped with companion seating and Braille ID bus numbers located at each rear door and at front wheel wells. For full details, visit capmetro.org/MetroRapid.

Questions or comments? We’re happy to discuss our accessible services or the new MetroRapid service, launching in 2014.

Photo on board MetroRapid

Photo of event at Republic Square Park

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).

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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.  Continue Reading »

Foxx Brings TIGER To Austin

Capital Metro President & CEO Linda S. Watson is by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx

Capital Metro President & CEO Linda S. Watson with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx following the announcement of Capital Metro’s TIGER Grant award.

Thursday marked a historic day for Capital Metro. Joined by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Capital Metro President and CEO, Capital Metro Board Chair Mike Martinez and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, announced that Capital Metro was a recipient of an $11.3-million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grant.

The grant will enable Capital Metro to advance a number of rail improvements, including increasing the speed at which MetroRail trains operate, and beginning or completing several state-of-good- repair projects. Additionally, the funding will provide operational flexibility for future service enhancements.

The $11.3-million TIGER grant will support several commuter and freight rail enhancements at Capital Metro, including:

• Railway and signal timing improvements that will help reduce vehicle delays and rail traffic congestion.

• Commuter rail improvements, including additional sidings and double tracking in the most critical areas, which are projected to increase ridership capacity by 15 percent and reduce commute times by five to ten minutes.

• Freight rail enhancements, including the replacement of several bridges, and rail rehabilitation and realignments that will increase speeds and enhance safety while doubling freight capacity and improving reliability.

“These TIGER projects are the best argument you can make for investment in our transportation infrastructure,” said Secretary Foxx. “Projects such as Austin’s efforts to improve its freight and passenger rail network, ensure a stronger transportation system for future generations by repairing existing infrastructure, connecting people to new jobs and opportunities, and contributing to our nation’s economic growth.”

The reality is, MetroRail ridership is booming. Since the Red Line launched in 2010, ridership is up 225%, proving if you build it, they will come.

Rail Ridership Graph

And come they have. MetroRail is now averaging over 65,000 boardings a month, with trains at full capacity during peak hours. In 2012, we saw our one millionth passenger trip and it’s very clear to that demand is only going to increase as the region continues to grow.

It’s also clear that people have come to view MetroRail as one of their best options to connect to the places and events they want to go.

Take South by Southwest as an example. MetroRail first served the annual conference in 2011 and since then, ridership has increased by over 65%. But it’s not just SXSW — During the inaugural Formula 1 race at the Circuit of the Americas, MetroRail had nearly 14,000 boardings, including almost 2,000 on the special Sunday service that was added to accommodate the demand. We’re expecting even more demand for MetroRail when race fans return to Austin this November. Also, nearly 22,000 people have taken MetroRail to get to the popular Pecan Street Festival since 2010.

The Red Line certainly gets people moving, and gets them to the places they want to be. It also gets them there on time. Historically, MetroRail has an on-time performance record of 99%.

But it’s not just MetroRail ridership that’s increased — economic development along the Red Line is booming.

For example, Midtown Commons is a transit-oriented development located next to Crestview station. Prior to MetroRail, this area was a brownfield—which means it was a former petrochemicals plant. Now, it’s a vibrant and modern, mixed-use development that includes a brewery, retail shops, live & work units, and apartments—with an integrated transit plaza that provides easy access to a wide variety of destinations.

In fact, Midtown Commons Manager, Heidi Piper, has said they located their development at Crestview as a commitment to providing housing in transit-rich locations.

MetroRail has been a factor in more than $95-million in new development so far around Capital Metro’s nine stations, with another $283-million in various stages of development.

Capital Metro was one of 52 recipients of TIGER grants.

More than 585 applications totaling $9 billion in requests were received for this round’s availability of $474 million grants. The money is designated as investments in high-impact port, road, rail and transit projects.

MetroRail's Downtown Station

MetroRail’s Downtown Station

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