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.