Local Delegation Moves MetroRapid Funding Forward

Great news! Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed their Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill for FY2011 and it included $24.23 million for Capital MetroRapid!

The Senate Appropriations Committee also passed their version of the bill last week, and the same was previously requested by President Obama in his FY2011 budget. While there are a few more steps left before final budget approval, the recent action is very encouraging and moves Capital Metro that much closer to the finish.

MetroRapid bus rapid transit is a highly cost-effective premium service designed to reduce travel time by up to twenty percent. How? With a traffic signal priority system that holds lights green a little longer for buses, queue jump lanes designed to let buses bypass traffic, fewer stops, and frequent service every 10 to 15 minutes! Initial service will include two routes: North Lamar/South Congress and Burnet/South Lamar.

MetroRapid was selected for funding by the Federal Transit Administration as part of a competitive grant program. We applied in Fall 2008 and are especially proud of our rapid (har har, get it) progress. (Thanks to our staff and incredible assistance from the FTA, Capital Metro was able to navigate through the process very quickly.) In FY2010, as a result of the FTA recommendation and assistance from our local delegation, Capital Metro was awarded $13.3 million in funds and, should this second round be approved, the federal total will tally $37.6 million, which is 80 percent of our application’s estimated $47 million total—and the maximum amount of federal funding provided under the program.

Capital Metro extends special thanks to our Austin-area Senators and Representatives who have worked to help advance funding for MetroRapid. In the House, Rep. Lloyd Doggett provided a critical first step and ongoing support by advocating inclusion of the project in the House Transportation Appropriations bill. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Rep. John Carter provided advice and information to help us navigate this year’s process.

In the Senate both of our Senators played key roles. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, worked to fund the project and Sen. John Cornyn provided active support as well.

Funding for this project isn’t guaranteed until the bill is passed by the Senate and signed by the President, but the recent House vote is another key step in the right direction. Stay tuned for more exciting news, and thank your Senators and Congressmen the next time you see them. We couldn’t accomplish these things without them.

8 thoughts on “Local Delegation Moves MetroRapid Funding Forward

  1. “MetroRapid bus rapid transit is a highly cost-effective premium service designed to reduce travel time by up to twenty percent.”

    Over the #1. Nobody ever talks about how much it’ll reduce travel time over the #101. Ask yourself why that is.

    Results seen in LA from this technology have been very underwhelming. Holding the light green on the Drag, in particular, will be next to useless during peak periods.

  2. Erik

    The #1 takes almost 60 min to travel from Tech Ridge P&R to Downtown. According to Google Maps it takes between 20-30 min via IH-35 or Mopac for the same distance. Cutting the trip time down by 20% improves service by 12 min. Is that worth almost 50 million? Probably not.

    1. Scott Wood

      IMHO, if it were cutting 20% off of the 101’s time, it would be worth it.

      But using a 9:00 AM arrival downtown as the benchmark, the 1L takes 68 minutes (1M takes even longer). Shave 20% off, and you get around 54 minutes. The 101 arrives at the same place and the same time after 52 minutes.

      It would be nice if CapMetro were clearer on just what travel times they’re expecting at peak and off-peak, and what the 20% is supposed to be relative to.

      OTOH, how much of the cost is actually related to the “speed up”, versus just acquiring new buses? Will CapMetro have the operating money to put the old buses to use as additional service elsewhere, or will it just be using the opportunity to retire its oldest buses?

      1. Erik

        All in all, seems like the ‘advantages’ are only a difference of several minutes shaved and nothing deserving of tens of millions spent. Sure, it shouldn’t take an hour to travel 13 miles, but is MetroRapid the solution?

  3. Don Dickson

    I live on that line and I’ll be interested to see this and use it whenever it launches. But I too have to wonder about spending all these millions of dollars to shave twelve minutes off the end-to-end journey of the 1L/1M. (Hardly anyone takes the ride from end-to-end, either.) You could shave five minutes without costing taxpayers a penny just by having four stops instead of nine between Cesar Chavez and the Capitol. And you would make the route safer by eliminating stops at those intersections where drivers on the inside lane cut in front of the buses to make right turns.

    1. Erik

      Well said. Unfortunately government’s addicted to spending money to implement “progress” instead. Where’s the white paper on this solution for the public to review? All I see is the data available at http://allsystemsgo.capmetro.org/capital-metrorapid.shtml which suggests there will likely be limited stops (and that certainly skews my estimate of 20% faster than the #1). Just like Scott said, what’s the data relative to? And how is this any different than our existing Limited route? Besides costing an arm/leg for traffic light adjustments, new fleet, etc? Show us what’s so great about this substantial investment…seriously.

    2. Erik

      Well said. Unfortunately government’s addicted to spending money to implement “progress” instead. Where’s the white paper on this solution for the public to review? All I see is the data available at http://allsystemsgo.capmetro.org/capital-metrorapid.shtml which suggests there will likely be limited stops (and that certainly skews my estimate of 20% faster than the #1). Just like Scott said, what’s the data relative to? And how is this any different than our existing Limited route? Besides costing an arm/leg for traffic light adjustments, new fleet, etc? Show us what’s so great about this substantial investment…seriously

  4. Don’t expect much – like almost all “better bus” projects in the US, this is just a way to get the Feds to buy new rolling stock by providing something that’s not much more than rebranded limited-stop service (precisely what happened in LA).

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