From a (rail) rider’s perspective

Ridership for MetroRail seems to be on everyone’s mind these days. Since MetroRail is my chosen form of transportation, it is on my mind too. I was recently asked what I thought Capital Metro could do to encourage ridership. Well…from a rider’s point of view, there are some recommendations that I would like to suggest to Capital Metro.  Potential commuters generally look at the hurdles they will face when deciding to commit to this lifestyle change. For most, those hurdles include logistics; schedule; fare; weather; convenience; inconvenience; environmental impact; etc. For instance, I had to ask myself:

  • How far is it from the Downtown Station to the office?
  • Will I be able to connect easily to the bus routes once I get downtown?
  • Will I be incurring more time into my commute?
  • How difficult will it be to get to my children during the day if they need me?
  • Can I afford the fare? Will commuting prove to be more economical?
  • What will I do when the weather is bad?
  • What will I do if I have to work late?
  • What impact will my decision have on the environment?

There are potential riders who, if Capital Metro addressed these concerns and issues, would likely take the next step to climbing aboard. For me personally, the only area where I feel the experience is lacking is in scheduling and the inconveniences related to scheduling. The most important recommendation I would make to Capital Metro is to not look at their bus system and rail system as two separate networks. For most of us MetroRail riders, the bus system is an extension of our commute. The more the two systems work together, the better.

I have encountered several instances using Capital Metro’s Trip Planner [which is an excellent online tool] where the bus to rail connections are missing each other by minutes. When the connections are missed within a few minutes, the rider is left waiting approximately twenty to thirty minutes for the next bus or train. That is a fairly long time when you consider that the wait will mean a lengthier commute time. Add to that the fact that the wait will be spent outdoors in the elements. In this hot Texas weather, ten minutes can feel like an eternity.

In addition, Capital Metro is missing out on servicing several large companies like Whole Foods, GSD&M Idea City and LCRA because their rail connectors only go as far 6th and Lavaca. Granted main line routes like Buses 21 and 4 will go the distance needed to access these organizations; but their schedules are among the connections that I am speaking of. I hope as Capital Metro tweaks and adjusts the rail connectors that are intended to sync with the train that they will consider adding a rail connector that runs further west to accommodate these riders.

Now, before anyone remarks that I am looking out for my own personal interests, I would like to say that my intent is not to inconvenience any rider currently using either system. These are just observations that I have made when planning trips for myself and others. These are simply suggestions that the Planning Department may want to consider…from a rider’s perspective.

54 thoughts on “From a (rail) rider’s perspective

  1. As I mentioned in another thread, timed transfers between normal buses and the Red Line would be a disaster. Consider the #4, for instance. Suppose the train shows up downtown at exactly 8:00 AM. You want the #4 to be there waiting, so the transfer is “timed”, right?

    But the #4 is stuck in traffic like all our other buses. So we can’t plan on getting there at 8:00, or quite a lot of the time the transfer will completely fail. Depending on the congestion patterns, you might schedule the bus to get there at 7:55 or even 7:50 so that 95% of the time the bus is there waiting for the train.

    What happens most of the time in that scenario? The people who were riding the #4 from points further east end up getting to wait up to 5-10 minutes for your train. Is that going to lower ridership on the #4 (or further hurt people in Austin – the ones who, unlike many rail passengers, actually pay Capital Metro taxes)?

    How do the shuttles solve this? By being reserved for nothing BUT rail passengers.

    The only way non-reserved buses can be a fundamental help in circulating rail passengers is if they run at truly high frequencies – say 5 minutes or less – and we’ll never get there until we have much better rail service all over town. Meaning, once again, urban rail, not ridiculous commuter service that doesn’t serve Austin residents.

    1. Scott Wood

      Timed transfers of the sort you’re describing would indeed be bad for any route whose terminus isn’t the rail station — but I don’t see the harm in simply tweaking the schedule so that a local east/west bus is scheduled to pass by a couple minutes after (including the time to walk from the station to the bus stop), rather than a few minutes before, the train arrives. Yes, the bus may be late, but compare that to a bus that isn’t even scheduled to arrive for 15-20 minutes and might be late on top of that.

      It’s not going to be the Savior of the Red Line(tm), and it gets trickier in the reverse direction because a late bus can cause you to miss the connection rather than have a delayed transfer (though the cost of occasionally having to wait for the next train is often less when it doesn’t affect when you show up for work). But as long as we have the Red Line, we might as well try to better integrate it into the rest of the system, to the extent that such integration doesn’t do more harm than good.

      Plus, it seems like downtown deserves higher frequency east/west service, given how it’s building out along that axis. It doesn’t have to be every 5 minutes to be better than what’s there now. If the demand on the full route is too low, add a new short-line route, like a Dillo but timed to be supplementary to the existing routes, and probably with not quite as short a route as the old 5th/6th Dillo.

      1. Scott, we had the Dillo and it was a pretty big failure. (Opinions differ as to why). The #4 already has frequency about as high as possible in this area (22 minutes in morning rush). Problem with trying to match this the way you suggest is that the train/bus periods are off – you’d end up having to have a bus layover at the end for 10 minutes or so. It wouldn’t be possible to just shift all the buses 10 minutes one way or the other, in other words.

        I think there’s a lot of utility to having buses on a regular schedule (every 22 minutes sounds funny but if you say “about every 20 minutes” it sounds better). Saying “check the schedule; one trip in the morning has a 10 minute gap and the next one a 30 minute gap” probably wouldn’t work as well.

  2. Stephen

    When Capital Metro creates a new blog posting I always enjoy seeing how long it takes “M1EK” to comment. Someone should turn it into a drinking game. Sometimes I think he (she?) already knows what Capital Metro is going to post and has paragraphs pre-populated with words like ridiculous, idiotic, and senseless that can just be cut and pasted into a response.

    Capital Metro you are to be applauded for creating a forum for one of your (apparently) biggest critics and allowing them to post so frequently. I would love to be a fly on the wall if he ever gets a meeting with the new CEO.

    1. Erica

      The point of Capital Metro’s blog is to facilitate discussion about transit. I don’t agree with everything M1EK says, but I like the diversity of ideas that get shared here. I think the differing viewpoints add to the discussion and to the ability of individuals to further explore/formulate their own opinions. Boy would it be boring as all get out to have a blog that catered only to the “pro-Capital Metro” contingent, or worse, a blog where we only publish the comments that praise Capital Metro. (although don’t get me wrong, we do love to read positive comments from happy customers!)

  3. Todd B.

    While M1EK’s (Mike Dahmus) rhetorical approach may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the substance of his criticisms have merit. The Red Line isn’t a good transit fit for Austin proper (especially compared to the 2000 light rail plan).

  4. Brad

    I actually agree with Todd. I think M1EK’s “bed side manner” could use a little polishing, but I enjoy his posts and generally agree with him or at least see where he’s coming from.

  5. Stephen and others, if you had been attacked like I have for six, going on seven, years for being the only one who stood up and fought for good rail for Austin, your bedside manner would likely be unrecognizeable at this point.

    1. Erica

      I wasn’t thoroughly versed in transit matters in 2004 (still not!) prior to the rail referendum, so I can’t speak to anyone’s behavior back then, but for the past two years that I’ve been representing Capital Metro, I don’t see how you have been attacked.

    2. Brad

      M1EK –

      When you were being attacked for six years, did you present your opinions in the same condescending manner that you present them on here? If so, could that be part of the reason nobody listened to you? People don’t like to be made to fell like an idiot all the time just because they disagree with you.

      I don’t know you. I’m sure you’re a nice guy, but I’m somebody who basically agrees with a lot of the content of your posts, but I’m completely turned off by your combativeness and condescending attitude towards pretty much everybody. It seems you might get further if your “bed side manner” was improved a little bit.

      1. Brad, I’ve been blogging on this since 2004 – you can go back and see the early ‘bed side manner’ if you want. I gave speeches at the ANC, the LBJ school, and another UT event held by Mark Yznaga. I was referenced in the Chronicle a few times as the only pro-rail voice willing to say the plan wasn’t a good start.

        After the election, and after the awful implementation of the line, and after the failure that, again, only I predicted, people are still insisting (here and in other fora) that I have no idea what I’m talking about – despite the fact that I was right (yes, back when I was nice) and they were wrong. These people want to invest even more money into a plan that can never and will never work – money that we need to have available for other rail projects (city of Austin urban rail plan) and other transit projects (like the bus lines that are being cancelled as part of the 2020 service plan, for instance).

        They’re still listening to the guys who were wrong – and discrediting the guy who was right.

        What, precisely, would you do at this point other than increase the volume? I had to purposefully torch my modest amount of access to decision-makers in 2004 and go public with this stuff because nobody else would, so now I’m just some guy with a blog – and if I show up at meetings, I’m just one of two hundred members of the public who are gladhanded and then completely ignored.

        Perhaps this posting from the blog from a long time ago might explain the limits of what I can do (what anybody can do), and why I have to do it:

        http://mdahmus.monkeysystems.com/blog/archives/000081.html

        Note that even back in 2004, CM and hangers-on were trying to discredit yours truly (you see references to it in this posting; you’ll have to take my word for it as the original material is long since gone).

      2. Here’s a letter to the editor I wrote back in ’04:

        http://mdahmus.monkeysystems.com/blog/archives/000058.html

        In Monday’s column, Ben Wear places the population in two categories – those who oppose rail transit in general, such as Gerald Daugherty, and those who support Capital Metro’s current plan. However, it’s my experience that a growing number of urban Austinites, after taking a look at the plan, are realizing that it’s a poor attempt at a starter system that will be, as a colleague on the Urban Transportation Commission aptly described it, a “finisher” system rather than a starter line.

        Any first attempt at rail transit for a metropolitan area must deliver passengers to stations within walking distance of their office in order to attract a non-trivial number of people who can choose whether or not to use transit. Capital Metro’s plan requires nearly all riders to transfer to shuttle buses for the final portion of their journey and will therefore, like South Florida’s Tri-Rail line, doubtllessly be a huge disappointment from day one.

        The Urban Transportation Commission at its last meeting unanimously voted to ask Capital Metro to include a referendum on the rail ballot asking the voter to indicate their preference among a set of 4 options, including several plans which solve the “circulator” problem.

        In the future, please do not pigeonhole the entire area into the categories of “against all rail transit” and “for Capital Metro’s ‘finisher’ system”. The residents of the city of Austin (who voted FOR light rail in 2000, by the way) deserve better.

        Regards,
        Michael E. Dahmus
        Urban Transportation Commission

      3. Jeremy

        M1EK,

        Speaking for myself what grates on me is not the combativeness you utilize – public service workers are used to encountering belligerence – but it’s more the fact that you feel the need to constantly remind people about how you were right and they were wrong, and how you were the “only one” pointing out such and such… I know your rationale is that they didn’t listen to you before and you were right, so maybe they ought to think about listening to you this time, but a) when is that tactic ever effective?, and b) any valid points you might make are buried in the middle of what otherwise sounds like a sheer ego trip.

        Frankly it comes off like you’re more in it for personal recognition than you are for actually making a difference; I’m sure that’s not the case but you definitely whip up enough background noise to that effect. Besides, being correct in the past doesn’t give you carte blanche to be deferred to on every subsequent argument, any more than successfully identifying a problem makes you the go-to guy to provide the solution. These things have to be earned on their own merits, not by building up some bulletproof reputation and coasting on it.

  6. Todd B.

    I don’t think M1EK’s “‘bed side manner’ could use a little polishing.'” He’s free to make his argument in whatever tone he wants. I do think it is unfortunate that some commenters use their alleged distaste for M1Ek’s approach to avoid engaging the substance of his arguments (arguments which the Red Line ridership numbers have proven right).

    1. Brad

      You’re right. He’s free to phrase his arguments in whatever way he wants to, but I would argue that you would have a better chance of bringing people to your side if you didn’t always make people feel like idiots for having a different opinion. I’ve caught his rath a couple times, and I basically agree with him. It’s obvious at least part of it’s frustration, and I understand that, as well.

      1. Doug

        Time after time, Mike Dahmus has been right. Time after time, Cap Metro has been wrong, wasting millions of dollars in the process. And you’re worried about tone? Grow up. Get with the reality based world.

  7. Don Dickson

    I agree with some but not all of Mike’s assertions. I still think the failure of the Red Line (at least so far) has less to do with shuttle connections and more to do with NIMBY and the prevailing public sentiment that trains are good for other commuters to ride so that I can continue to drive to work in my Suburban and get there faster.

    Millions of people from coast to coast ride commuter trains every day to destinations from which they have to catch another bus or train to their offices. Except for the limited schedule, there’s no reason why people can’t do it from Leander, unless they just prefer the comfort of their Suburbans.

  8. Don, again, you make the cardinal mistake of equating us with Chicago or NY; or yourself with the person not riding the train today.

    What ‘new rail start’ cities have shown very conclusively is that if you expect somebody who is currently driving to take a brand new train to work, you’d better deliver them within walking distance of their office. Obviously this is not possible for many (maybe even most) commuters; but you’d better make sure your first route hits enough offices to fill the trains.

    And it’s not just ‘preferring the comfort of their Suburbans’. That makes another cardinal mistake – one Jarrett Walker addressed a while back here:

    http://www.humantransit.org/2010/03/the-most-important-blog-post-youll-read-this-year-.html

    The reason nobody in Leander wants to take a train+bus commute to work is, frankly, because a train+bus commute to work is awful – it takes quite a bit longer than current express bus offerings; requires trudging from one vehicle to another (disrupting efforts to work or read on the trip); introduces additional unreliability to the trip; etc.

  9. And by the way, this morning, one of Capital Metro’s spokespeople tweeted to a blogger with long experience with both CM and yours truly:

    “please take anything you hear from him with a grain of salt.”

    Erica, this is precisely what I’m talking about, although a bit less intense than previous interactions.

  10. Jason

    In regards to this discussion, I actually agree with M1EK on two counts. First, many people are avoiding the MetroRail because it is slower than the competing bus routes. On most occasions, both the Google and Capital Metro trip planners recommend taking bus routes over the MetroRail (either because the trip time is shorter, or the schedule is more convenient). While I was not an Austin resident when the MetroRail was approved by voters, in hindsight it appears that it might have been more effective to invest that money in HOV/express lanes on US 183, Mopac and I-35. Unfortunately, at this point in time it would probably not be fiscally responsible to cancel the MetroRail. Instead, I hope some low cost improvements can be identified that will increase the speed and frequency of the trains.

    Also, while none of the Capital Metro staff on this blog have ever disrespected me, I have received many hostile responses from certain employees at Capital Metro and StarTran when I have reported problems. It is unfortunate that these individuals do not value constructive criticism, as many transit improvements have occurred in other cities based upon rider suggestions.

    1. Jeremy

      I’ve never been treated particularly rudely by anyone at the CapMetro customer service line, but I always get the impression that they’re just paying lip service and don’t really take my complaint seriously. Having worked in customer service for years myself, I try to position myself as making suggestions for improvement rather than just bitching, but in spite of that I usually feel like they’re politely taking my information down and then immediately filing it somewhere where it will never see the light of day again.

      For instance, I used to have to take the 383 south on Research to the North Lamar Transit Center and then catch the 240 northbound from there to get home. The 383 driver would routinely make a layover at the final stop before the NLTS even though it was past the final time point on the route and she could have just as easily drove on to the transit center and laid over there (not to mention the fact that the final stop was on the access road so choosing to park there for 5 or more minutes instead of driving on to the NLTS is arguably putting your riders at unnecessary risk of an accident).

      The connection between the two buses was literally something like 2-3 minutes, so to an extent I’m perfectly aware that cutting it that close you’re going to miss your connection more often than not… I just didn’t have a choice. But what grated on me was that the driver was actually making good time nearly every trip, and the SOLE reason I was missing my connection every day was because she insisted on laying over at that one stop. To add insult to injury, even though she was legitimately ahead of schedule when she laid over, by the time she got us to the NLTS she would inevitably be several minutes late. Many a time I actually watched the 240 pulling out of the lot as we were sitting at the red light, 2-3 minutes after we already should have been at the transit center.

      Well, you’d think since the bus had already cleared the final time point CapMetro would agree with me that the best thing for the driver to do would be to carry on to the transit center and lay over there, but nothing ever changed and eventually I just bought a car. I think the problem is that – like any other taxpayer-driven service – they’re used to getting so many frivolous complaints that when the legit ones come in it’s just in one ear and out the other. They don’t even seem to make an attempt to suss out which ones have merit.

  11. Jim

    Austin is a second-tier city in many ways. One of the leading reasons is the lack of a comprehensive train/subway system. I do ride the Red Line and I prefer it over the Express bus. But seriously, it needs to run throughout the day, more often and be expanded to cover much more territory . The on-board Wi-Fi bogs down to a crawl when the train is moving, and the platforms need more shelter from the overpowering Texas sun. It does offer a smooth ride, though.

    1. Erica

      I hadn’t really heard that complaint about the wi-fi. Does it do that regularly? What time do you pick up the train in the morning (and from what station)? I have to agree with you about the shelters, though. Midday service is definitely on the horizon, but it will be a while before we have additional lines.

    2. Jim, because we chose the Red Line (DMU on existing tracks), our options for expansion are very limited – these trains can never run down Lamar and Guadalupe and Congress like light rail would (should) have.

      And running more trains more often to places nobody wants to go will raise ridership only slightly at very large cost.

      1. Jim

        M1EK, it’s precisely your defeatist attitude why Austin will always be a minor league city. I’m looking forward to bolting this place and moving to a city that wants to be part of the future, not the past.

      2. Jim, more commuter rail is the defeatist path – light rail is the way other cities without mature transit systems have succeeded in the post-war era. The Red Line isn’t light rail and never can be.

    3. Jeremy

      Jim,

      Hardly anywhere has “comprehensive” train coverage. Even in NY the further out you get from the island of Manhattan the less likely you are to be anywhere close to a subway station. You’ve also got the coveted BART out in the Bay Area, which many people don’t seem to realize is pretty useless for getting around the actual city of San Francisco. That’s not to say that our commuter rail doesn’t have serious – probably fatal – problems, but on the other hand pie in the sky idealism doesn’t forward the argument any either.

      Aside from the schedule, the biggest peeve about the commuter rail for me is that there is no parking. If you’re boarding south of Howard Lane and you don’t happen to live within walking distance of a station, you’re SOL. So people in Leander and Cedar Park may have legitimate complaints, but hopefully they’ll put things in perspective and realize that the entire city of Austin pretty much got the shaft in their favor. Trotting out that tired line about “it doesn’t go where people want to go” is pretty much beside the point. There is little pretense about the train catering to anyone OTHER than CP/Leander residents.

  12. Bob

    I have been a rider daily on the red line daily since June. Best deal for me but at a high cost to the tax payer. I take the bus in the morning from Leander and the red line in the afternoon. The reason is that the bus is much faster in the morning. I find it faster in the afternoon to walk from 11th to pick up the red line. I am in favor of the red line. My main complaint is that the wifi is unreliable and does not provide adequate bandwidth.

    1. Tom

      Bob, I also rotate between taking the Express bus and the Red Line. To me, the train is faster and more reliable. Buses often get stuck in traffic. But on your point about the cost to the taxpayer. Looking at the bigger picture of what tax monies go into subsidizing cars (the cost of roads, bridges, car accidents, ethanol subsidies, pollution cleanup, the U.S. military budget), you’ll see public transportation is a better deal.

      1. The argument about subsidies in general is one transit should win – but the subsidy for commuter rail is so much higher than that for light rail in other cities that it deserves to be mentioned, repeatedly, especially since many of the recipients of said commuter rail subsidy don’t even pay Capital Metro taxes (since the service mainly benefits those living outside Austin city limits and other than Leander, none of those folks are in the service area).

  13. Don Dickson

    M1EK, I read the link that you posted. I ain’t buyin’ it, I think people still prefer their Suburbans to the bus that drives right past their homes and employers.

    Perfect example of this: yesterday I took the 9-Travis Heights from Congress & Riverside to the Wal-Mart on Ben White. Mind you, the 9 will be discontinued the day after tomorrow because nobody is riding it. Few were on this occasion.

    This route takes you through some of the tony-est neighborhoods in all of south Austin, high-priced homes with SUVs and Lexuses and Obama and Bill White signs plainly evident. (I didn’t see any Perry or McCain signs or bumper stickers.) These are our well-heeled tree huggers and lizard lovers. And despite their lofty socioeconomic status, I bet they’ve all shopped at Wal-Mart, too. Despite their self-proclaimed environmental consciousness, these people are not riding the 9.

    Then the route courses through some more modest neighborhoods, middle-class and “working poor” neighborhoods. Mind you, so far this route has passed nothing but residences, single- and multi-family, homes to thousands of people. A few people boarded in these less affluent neighborhoods, and disembarked with me at the Wal-Mart or continued on to the South Congress Transit Center.

    Then the route leaves residential areas and passes through a large commercial and industrial area. There’s a high vacancy rate in some of these office/warehouse properties, but in the many spaces that are occupied by large non-retail commercial tenants, the parking lots are crammed full of cars belonging to people who are not riding the 9.

    After the Wal-Mart, the 9 promptly arrives at the South Congress Transit Center, where you can catch the 1 in either direction every 11 minutes or the 101 in either direction every 15 minutes or the Barton Creek Square Mall bus about every 20 minutes. I bet all those folks whose homes I had just passed have been to Barton Creek Square Mall, too. Just not on the 9/328.

    Transit options are there for these people to use if they chose to use it. They choose not to.

    1. Don, you make another cardinal mistake here – assuming an option being present at all is equivalent to said option being remotely competitive.

      Light rail has gotten people out of their cars in other cities precisely because it’s competitive – it’s fast (maybe not as fast but close); it’s reliable (usually more reliable than the car); it’s comfortable (no transfer; better ride); and it’s convenient. That is, if it’s done right.

      Commuter rail as done here is fast up until the shuttle bus; it’s reliable up until the shuttle bus; it’s comfortable up until the shuttle bus; and it’s not all that convenient. See the difference? It’s even worse than the existing express bus service, and when your train is even worse than buses on those metrics, you’ve done a very bad job with your train.

    2. Brad

      I can really see both Don and M1EK’s point here. I completely sympathize with the frustration of dealing with people who claim to care about the environment and complain when other people do things they don’t like, but basically refuse to be inconvenienced at all in an effort to be more environmentally friendly.

      On the other hand, M1EK is right. People are the way they are, right or wrong, and an important aim of a transit institution should be to provide a service that will legitimately compete with driving and attrack the choice riders, and the Red Lines doesn’t do that as well as a true light rail line through town would have.

  14. Kelly

    I dont know why their is so much hate for the train. Light Rail is very expensive too. Trains are expensive, its a fact. I rode the Light Rail in San Jose when I lived there run by VTA (Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority). Light rail is slow, and not to mention the many grade crossings. So unless you are only going downtown or going all the way out to Mountain View i wouldnt choose it. VTA’s light rail is for fun (also people with a bus phobia ) Capital MetroRail is for Commuting. For Commuting, VTA’s The Rapid buses are faster and run every 15 min or less. Nobody here even considered BRT, and no the airport flyer doesnt count (ha ha). I personally prefer BRT, its was as nice as VTA’s Light Rail. MetroRail is much better than light rail, you get nice seats and wi-fi. Does anybody think Bus Rapid Transit combined with MetroRail would be awesome?

    1. Kelly, San Jose’s light rail was one of the more disappointing starts over the last couple of decades – they ran it through an area with pretty poor density and pedestrian access – it is really almost more like the Red Line than a light rail success story.

      The light rail success stories are usually among these cities: Houston, Dallas, Minneapolis, Portland, Salt Lake, Denver, Phoenix. Lately, Seattle has been another moderate disappointment for a variety of reasons.

      All of the successes above followed a few things in common – the main thing being don’t expect people who drive to be willing to ride shuttlebuses from your train when they don’t take the bus today. That’s the main thing Capital Metro got wrong with the Red Line; but they continue to insist it’s not a problem – we just need even more shuttles.

      Time of day makes very little difference; the vast majority of ridership on most those light rail lines is peak commuter traffic. And, no, most of those people don’t care if they can or can’t take the train anywhere during lunch.

      1. Kelly

        Valley Metro is quite nice but I dont think Link is that bad. It seems to be popular, but Seattle metro has so many bus options and so convienent, I could see why it might not be getting as many riders as would have liked. Talking about success stories , you failed to mention New Mexico’s Rail Runner Express, it has been quite the success as a commuter train. Although that has a lot to do with a pro-transit governor. (Thanks again, Governor Richardson) I also think everybody is still a little hard on Cap Metro, they werent setting out to build BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) just an alternative to the bus.

  15. Kelly

    I agree with Don soooo much, LA Metro has a bus the Metro Rapid 720 that goes by Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, its there and people get on but they havent been shopping on Rodeo drive. All those stars and other wealthy people drive off in their Escalades.

  16. spikeaus

    I agree with everything “ckeesee” said. It’s on spot!
    Two remarks:
    1) There were two days of standing room only during rush hour on the train this week. It appears folks have begun adjusting their schedules to the train.

    2) I don’t think the bus schedule caters to white collar commuters in the business district and Capitol complex. We need a quick and efficient way to get to and from lunch during the week. Maybe Cap Metro will figure it out some day.

  17. Don Dickson

    M1EK, I don’t want you to think that I’m championing the Red Line. I would agree with you that for junior’s first train set, it was a poor choice.

    A random transit-related thought that just came to mind: when I came to Austin fifteen years ago, my first address was at the Woodland Heights Apts. at 8312 North I-35. It used to boggle my mind, still does, that you could live along the literal backbone of Austin’s transportation network, and not have any bus service. I had to walk about a half-mile to catch the 7. Not that big a big deal….unless you’re carrying eight bags of groceries, or eight unwieldy clothes hangers full of dry cleaning.

  18. D

    I agree with ckeesee about tweaking the connecting schedules. I currently take the 982 into town and then connect with the 21 or 4 which will drop me at my office. I looked at the train schedule and I could take the train but… as has been pointed out the bus leaves 2 to 5 minutes before the train arrives and if I wait the 20 to 30 minutes for the next bus I will be late to work. Since that is not an option I thought I would continue to take the 982 but I was informed this morning with the schedule changes that the 38th and Lamar stop for the inbound bus is now a timepoint. If that is true then I will have problems making my connections. I wish I had a car to drive but I don’t so I am stuck with making this work.

  19. So it turns out Capital Metro isn’t going to wait any longer for us to “clap louder or Tinkerbell will die”; in the January service change, they will cancel many 984 and 986 bus runs in order to attempt to boost MetroRail ridership.

    Some of those people currently riding those far superior express buses will switch; some will go back to driving.

    The key here is that when you build a GOOD rail line, most people switch from redundant bus lines willingly – because the train is better than the bus. Only awful trains require you to force-march passengers away from what they choose to ride; and this only works for captive riders, and only for a while.

    Once again, M1EK was right – and those of you defending Capital Metro were wrong.

  20. Erica

    I love it that our blog readers and commenters are passionate about transportation. Thanks for participating and for letting your views be heard.

    Just a friendly reminder, though, our guidelines for comments include no personal attacks. This isn’t the Statesman. I just had to delete a comment.

    Carry on.

    1. Erica

      Well, unless you count the time I drove around the Leander P&R competing in the amateur bus roadeo (our team was called Death on the Yard), I’m not a bus operator (and considering how terribly I drove the bus on the aforementioned occasion, all of Austin should be thankful I’m not).

  21. Stephen

    I can’t agree with you here M1EK. Canceling *some* (i.e. not all) of the runs on the 984 and 986 — which appear to both average less than 15 passengers per trip on a 40-person bus — will no doubt inconvenience some express but riders and result in a bit longer trip times for many. But I would expect Capital Metro to periodically revisit ALL bus routes and redistribute resources as they are needed in other areas where ridership is more in demand. If they were only trying to drive ridership to the MetroRail they could have just eliminated the two routes entirely.

    My own neighborhood just lost the #9 route over the weekend which was painful for those of us who occasionally rode it, but at the same time it never seemed to have more than a handful of people on it even at peak times — so I understood the decision to put those hours into another more crowded route someplace else.

    Awful trains and force marching? Not from where I sit.

    1. Stephen, the performance of those buses exceeds that of the Red Line. Why are we not talking about cancelling its trips instead, given that its per-trip subsidy is truly monstrous, according to Capital Metro’s own figures?

  22. Stephen

    Ummm… because rail is a longer-term investment and it will take more than 6 months to establish what its eventual ridership pattern will be?

    Look I would like both the buses and the trains to be full of people, which would indicate that the service is operating at an efficient level. Pulling five buses a day off direct express routes from Leander that average 15 people per trip so that you can get closer to capacity on other services — bus and train — AND give additional express bus service to Manor where it might be better utilized just doesn’t seem to be the ridiculous scenario you make it out to be.

    If you want to argue that Cap Metro should start canceling trains as a way to solve its financial problems that’s fine, but I don’t see this as a particularly bad decision on their part.

  23. Doug

    “get closer to capacity” – that’s a laugh. Way to spin. You must be a CM employee.

    And why not push people off more efficient buses that get people closer to where they want to be and which cost millions of dollar less to operate than trains? Makes a lot of sense, if it gets you closer to capacity. Sheesh. I’ve got a billion dollar rail boondoggle to sell ya. Sounds like you’re a willing buyer.

    Cap Metro is getting dangerously close to the point where Austin voters are going to shut it down. They can’t run a bus system competently. You think the trains are going to be a success in 20 years? Keep dreaming.

  24. Stephen

    I’m in the Capitol complex for 19 more months until I can retire Doug but my guess is that if you get enough people to ride it once a rail system is up and running it operates more efficiently than a bus, not less. Right or wrong Metro is not going to start cutting service on their new train so soon no matter how much you and Mike holler.

    And I’ll take your billion dollars if it will get us the type of rail system I’ve seen in other cities so we can stop trying to pave our way out of traffic congestion. What’s a billion dollars, like, 10 percent of TxDOT’s annual budget? I think that’s M1EK’s whole point on this thread. He and I agree.

    You sound like one of the 100 people that might get inconvenienced by Metro’s decision to operate their buses more efficiently. For that I feel your pain.

  25. Pingback: MetroBlog year in review « Capital MetroBlog

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