Capital Metro’s Board is preparing to consider adoption of the recommendations of the year-long planning process known as ServicePlan2020. In short, ServicePlan2020 is a ‘big picture’ look at our entire bus system, involving input from several important sources: technical analysis, customer input, and staff and consultant analysis. The purpose of the effort is to figure out how best to structure the system to serve the changing needs of the community over the next five to ten years.

Big deal, you might say, Capital Metro changes its bus routes a few times a year, so how is this any different? The difference is in the scope. Whereas our three-times per year service adjustments are typically focused on individual routes, sections of routes, or areas of the city, Service Plan 2020 goes well beyond that. It looks at the existing network of routes and beyond while recognizing that indeed it is a system, one in which all of the parts should work well together.

Equally important, the effort attempts to approach this assessment from a customer perspective. It is informed by direct customer input through dozens of meetings and hundreds of surveys. It also takes into account the ‘markets’ that exist in the Austin area, using an approach called market segmentation. So just as beverage makers have long recognized that some folks like Coke and its many flavors while others prefer Pepsi (and its many flavors), market segmentation was used here, via phone surveys, to assess what types of transit people in Austin like. A range of market segments were identified, each with a unique set of preferences. For example, one market segment may value a sense of security at the bus stop very highly, while another may put a higher priority on the travel time on the bus. The team working on the project used these inputs to help shape the service recommendations.

Sounds great, right? Capital Metro should be able to design services that meet the needs of a broad range of the community, attract more riders and align the routes so they serve all areas of the city. If there were enough resources, then sure, that’s exactly what we’d do. As has been made all too clear of late, however, that is regrettably not the case. Capital Metro’s sales tax revenues (which constitute more than 70% of our annual budget) have declined by more than $50M since the economy went into a tailspin. Therein lies the rub.

So, there’s a plan but no money to implement it? Not exactly. The plan has been broken up into two main pieces: first are a set of near-term route changes that can be accomplished without additional revenue, and second are a group of longer-term improvements and additions that do require more funding to make happen.

The final report and recommendations of ServicePlan2020 are available online.  Chapter 5 details the individual route changes that have been recommended, and Chapter 7 is the tentative timeline for implementation. The board will consider adoption of the plan Feb. 22.

I’ll post more information about the various components of ServicePlan2020 on the blog between now and then.

20 thoughts on “ServicePlan2020

  1. Sean

    Wow, there is a lot of exciting stuff in there. Selfishly, I’m excited about the extensions to Southwest Austin. The 901 route would be amazing for me, although it would cost me more than the 171, I think it would pay for itself and maybe it would get some Circle Cers to start taking the bus.

    Here’s hoping that you guys get the funding you need to make these projects happen so that my family can remain a 1 car household for many years to come!

  2. Robert

    “To improve access to the campus, increase ridership, and operate through a more pedestrian-friendly area, adjust Route 5 to operate via San Jacinto Boulevard instead of Guadalupe Street.” This would be a disaster. Quite a lot of the #5’s ridership–myself included–consists of UT students and staff who are destined for the engineering complex, the communications buildings, the west mall, or the six-pack–all very dense clusters on campus. The proposed changes would drop them off a good deal farther away from their destination, and at the bottom of a hill–not at all pedestrian-friendly. This seems, like the proposed switch from Congress to Guadalupe/Lavaca downtown–to be the general principle: move the bus routes away from the places people need to go, and into areas that are less congested. That is not a plan for increased ridership.

  3. The #5 switch is all about pretending that most people don’t need to be on Guadalupe, to make the Red Line look like less of a disaster later on, but also to mollify UT who insists that future campus work will re-center everything around SJ (despite the majority of near-future construction being closer to Guadalupe). Also re the switch off Guadalupe, don’t forget the massive densification underway in West Campus.

  4. As a frequent user of No.5, I too am mystified by the move from Guadalupe to San Jacinto. Although that would benefit me going to UT sports events, it seems like Guadalupe is a more natural destination for most riders.

  5. Parker

    just really simple i think capmetro needs to extend the night owl up north lamar to metric area i get alot of people talking about wanting one and think it would help bring more parts of this town together

  6. Pingback: ServicePlan2020: Striking a Balance « Capital MetroBlog

  7. Erica

    Here’s the response from James G., our project lead for ServicePlan2020. He was trying to post it himself but was having some technical difficulties.

    Great comments and suggestions everyone. Just as the feedback received throughout this project has been used to develop and revise service plan recommendations, it’s important that we continue that process as we implement actual service changes over the next several years.

    Sean, while there is more demand for Express service from South I-35 (Kyle, Buda, San Marcos), it’s quite possible that a South Mopac Express route is up and running first.

    Along South I-35, we envision a large-scale, Capital Metro-owned Park & Ride facility, similar to Tech Ridge or Lakeline. For South Mopac, it’s more likely that we will pursue a shared parking arrangement, similar to our Great Hills (Baptist Church) Park & Ride or our former Wells Branch (HEB) Park & Ride, which preceding Tech Ridge. That’s not to say that a shared P&R could be the first stop along South I-35.

    While we anticipate the majority of the MetroRail riders to be transit newbies, there’s also a strong possibility that Express bus services in the northwest US 183 will be reduced as existing passengers migrate over to MetroRail. This dynamic may result in a reallocation of resources from the northwest to other corridors such as South Mopac, East US 290, and South I-35.

    I should also note that we periodically conduct license plate surveys at our Park & Ride facilities to find out where our customers are originating from. What we recently found out in Southwest Austin is that a South Mopac/Slaughter P&R might be more convenient for many existing #171 riders.

    Now onto Route 5. As an occasional #5 rider, I see benefits to both Guadalupe and San Jacinto. The distance from 900 Lavaca to 30th Street is essentially the same. Travel time also does not vary much today.

    If we can acquire even one bus lane on the Drag, Guadalupe would a no-brainer. However, we have a better chance of acquire bus lanes on Guadalupe and Lavaca south of MLK.

    A couple things to keep in mind:

    We will soon be adding more buses to Guadalupe in 2012 and 2013 when our first two MetroRapid lines (N Lamar/S Congress and N Burnet/S Lamar) are finally introduced. Route 3 will also be shifted to Guadalupe, which will prove speedier than West Campus and get riders closer to the primary destination (UT).

    The “recommended” Route 5 alignment along San Jacinto through campus would not be much different than the current Route 7. Currently, about 250 persons take Route 5 southbound to UT, whereas 550 persons take Route 7 to UT.

    As with all ServicePlan2020 recommendations, any change to Route 5 would have to go through our regular service change process that involves customer outreach/feedback, public hearing and board meeting.

    Parker, I agree that a Night Owl extension to Metric (south of Braker) would benefit many. There is definitely room for growth and improvement with this subset of routes, particularly #485 Night Owl Cameron. We’ll take a closer look at what changes we could potentially make to improve Night Owl service.

    Thanks to everyone for your interest in ServicePlan2020. We appreciate your feedback and encourage you to stay involved.

  8. “The “recommended” Route 5 alignment along San Jacinto through campus would not be much different than the current Route 7. Currently, about 250 persons take Route 5 southbound to UT, whereas 550 persons take Route 7 to UT.”

    This is kind of a silly response.

    First, we know that lots and lots of people are taking the #1 to UT today, too, so if this is an attempt to assert that more people like San Jacinto, it’s not a very accurate one.

    Second, we know that a large portion of those 250 people are going to have to walk a lot further to get to their offices now – since a lot of UT people, like myself, live in the transit shed of both the #5 and the #7. If they’re choosing the #5 over the #7 today, one could quite rationally conclude that their office must be closer to the #5’s current route.

    Third, pointing to more buses on Guadalupe as a remedy for the #5’s move (not sure that was the intent there; but if so) ignores the fact that a transit commute involving two bus rides rather than one bus ride will immediately cut ridership by all but a tiny fraction of existing patrons. Presumably people living between the #1 and #5, for instance, would already be pretty likely to take the #1 as its frequency is better – so the existing #5 riders are disproportionately going to be those too far away from the #1 to comfortably walk to it every day – meaning you’re expecting them to ride some other route to the #1 (or RB) and then transfer. Not. Gonna. Happen.

  9. SR

    Why does Capital Metro continue to degrade the central Austin routes more and more while pandering to the far reaches and suburbs?

    Isn’t it enough that central Austinites are getting nothing but headaches while massively subsidizing the tiny number of Leanderites who want to go to the Convention Center on the Commuter Rail Red Line?

    Why in the world eliminate the 21/22 routes that may sometimes have lower ridership, but which serve an amazing diversity of riders – AISD students, college students, tourists, maids, Goodwill employees, retirees, etc.

    And why move the UT and downtown routes away from where the people are and where the people want to be?

    This is beyond crazy! Cap Metro seems to want to offer an ever-smaller set of routes that help out a few wealthy remote suburb dwellers and ignore the huddled masses who really need transportation to work and grocery stores and homes in central Austin.

  10. SR

    Is there any chance that the people planning these route changes could ride these routes and talk to other riders?

    I bet the planners would then make massive changes to their proposed changes.

  11. SR, it’s really simple: Mike Krusee was willing to fight for his interests (kill light rail, allow commuter rail), and our city council members were not (nor was anybody else in Austin, except yours truly, as evidenced by this sad bit of history).

    Talking, having charettes, staying connected, keeping in contact, maintaining relationships, giving input – none of this matters if the guy on the other side is willing to exercise his power to get what he wants and you aren’t. (This, by the way, is why I don’t bother showing up and giving ‘input’ at things like the 2020 service plan meetings – despite nice invitations and hurt feelings when not taken up on; I’m better off with speaking to hundreds of readers and having a 1% chance of slightly modifying the opinion of somebody with real power than I am giving my one input and having it roundly ignored).

  12. James G

    SR – 21/22 is a quirky route that in many ways, works. To clarify, ServicePlan2020 only recommends eliminating the western 1/3 of the route and doing so in conjunction with other changes in West Austin. We’re not planning any changes to 21/22 this fall but we are proposing to eliminate #9 (replacing the Oltorf to SCTC connection with an extension of #300), which could end up preserving the existing #21/22 alignment, as ridership will likely increase along Exposition.

    Regarding riding and talking to riders, absolutely. In addition to public meetings, we also solicit feedback at major transfer points, such as NLTC, Highland Mall, etc. In December, we went out to Craigwood (Route 23) and Oak Hill P&R (171), surveying riders. In each case, we requested feedback on two service options. We would do the same for Route 5 should we propose a shift from Guadalupe to San Jacinto. I should note that ServicePlan2020 is a framework for future service changes. Each specific service change requires a staff proposal, public input, and board approval.

    M1EK – We regularly receive “input” (requests, suggestions, opposition, support) that helps us tweak/confirm/reconsider plans. While indirect, your input is also considered.

    Helpful – WordPress’ server was down so I asked Erica to post my reply when it came back up. As you can tell by my delayed response, I’m not a regular MetroBlogger.

    All – Fall 2010 service change proposals will be on buses and online by early April, at the latest. We look forward to your feedback.

  13. Parker

    I wanted to ask a general question if capital metro is spending all this money for park and rides why the heck
    does the north lamar transit center look so bad no cams,nasty vending machines,paving is horrible and just
    don’t feel safe there i just think spending some of that money on that transit center would help i mean it is the oldest in austin

  14. Pingback: Capital Metro’s Service 2020 plan: Stupid, Stupid, Stupid | M1EK's Bake-Sale of Bile

  15. cecil

    I have lived in Portland Oregon mobility instrusctors there for the public trans have never heard of a city cutting a rote in the middle of a city like the19 that runs on Stock and Mesa there buses run parallel north to south east to west and every 15 min. also there employees have the best pay and benefits for retriment and there not in trouble are in debt. They have street cars and a Max line that runs fast and parallel to the city. You get to places quick and they do not pick people off there para transit service. there is going to come a time when Captial Metro picks on the wrong person with a big name then the people that think there above eveybody else will be thrown to the wolves because its just effected a big name person. It happened in another state years ago and the change was voted in as a right grave to grave service.

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