Good News for MetroRapid

Last week, Capital Metro learned that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has recommended $17.39 million in funding for MetroRapid. The funding is a part of President Barack Obama’s FY2010 budget, which must still be approved by Congress.

MetroRapid was one out of 10 new or expanding transit projects that the FTA recommended for funding. This announcement was a welcomed surprise. We submitted the project just nine months ago; and we were not anticipating possible funding this early in the process.

Initial service will operate on two of the busiest corridors: North Lamar/South Congress and Burnet/South Lamar. The project cost for these first two routes is an estimated $47 million. Capital Metro is still pursuing more federal funding, up to $37 million.

Capital Metro plans to start the procurement process for MetroRapid buses later this year. Staff is considering a combination of 40-foot and 60-foot vehicles. The buses will be equipped with signal priority technology to keep traffic lights green as they approach major intersections.

For more on the MetroRapid system, visit our web site.

7 thoughts on “Good News for MetroRapid

  1. colinhand

    1. So this requires another $20m in funding by Austin taxpayers?

    2. What’s the difference between this and #1 route already in service on 10min intervals?

    3. Who cares about signal priority? Seriously, that sounds like a solution in search of another problem. Probably a big investment in the technology for very little improvement in speed of transit.

    4. Will Rapidbus have dedicated lanes, or will it still be stuck in shared traffic with cars?

    5. Wouldn’t $20m be better spent prepping for a permanent light-rail line along lamar/guadalupe? Rapidbus just seems like a complete dead-end band-aid fix to the problem.

  2. Jamie Bemoore

    In response to colinhand, this was just the first segment of funding. According to the Capital Metro website, they are also hoping to get additional federal funding, so that the net cost to Austin will be about $10 million.

    As for the difference between the #1/101 buses and MetroRapid, buses with signal priority can usually travel at least 20% faster. This is because at selected intersections they can hold the traffic light green for the bus until it makes it through the intersection. Other cities, such as Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Phoenix, New York and Washington D.C. already use this technology, and it was been proven to reduce travel times by bus.

    Also, signal priority is actually rather cheap compared to other options of improving travel speed. This project will not have dedicated bus lanes, but will only cost about $1 million per mile, which is vastly cheaper than building a dedicated bus lane for the entire route.

    Lastly, while I would also like to see light rail along lamar/guadalupe, it will probably never happen. This is because in order for light rail to run at high speeds it would need a dedicated ROW, which would mean that Lamar/Guadalupe would have to be brought down to 1 lane in each direction (or property would have to be taken). If this does not happen, then light rail will have to share the ROW with traffic, meaning that it will go just as slow as the MetroRapid bus would due to congestion (at a vastly higher cost)

  3. martin

    Too bad politicians don’t have the guts to take away lanes from cars. We do need to take lanes from cars for dedicated bus and/or light rail. That’s a real solution.

  4. Misty Whited

    Jamie beat me to the punch in answering your questions. The only other thing I’d like to add is that MetroRapid is a part of the All Systems Go plan, which thousands of citizens helped create. We don’t see just one mode, such as rail, being the solution to congestion. MetroRapid will add to a comprehensive system that offers different modes of transit. MetroRapid will especially be beneficial to South Austin since there are no plans in the near future for rail in that area.

  5. M1EK

    Jamie, you are wrong; the 20% time difference is compared to the #1, not the #101. It is very very unlikely that signal priority will help much in the most congested part of the #1 route since congestion usually results from the next two or more intersections.

    Misty, it is foolish to claim citizens chose Rapid Bus. Citizens were presented with Rapid Bus as the only option for Lamar/Guadalupe; the only ‘choice’ presented was ‘where else would you like Rapid Bus?’

    The fact is that in other cities, light rail would run on Guadalupe. It would already be running on Guadalupe by now had Krusee not pushed the election early in 2000.

  6. Pantograph Trolleypole

    M1ek is right. It wasn’t a citizens process. It was more like “we’re going to do this and you’re going to like it”. I remember we had to pull teeth to even get a streetcar studied. This decision to do faux BRT makes me sad. As a former #1 rider I really really wanted to see real quality transit on Guadalupe in my lifetime. Looks like the best corridor for that will now be taken for bus repackaged transit.

  7. vindobonensis

    M1EK has a good point about the effects of traffic several lights ahead on congestion. Can the signal pre-emption technology control the flow several lights ahead? Seems to me that a temporary travelling “green wave” needs to be created along the path of the bus which already starts several minutes ahead of the bus.

    To Jamie’s point about light rail needing a dedicated right of way, why not build it above street level similar to the I-35 upper deck or portions of 183? I know it probably sounds crazy, but I’m sure the idea of an upper deck would have sounded crazy too to anyone driving along I-35 in the 1960s.

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