A revised proposal for January changes to 984, 986 and 987

About two weeks ago we created quite a kerfuffle when we floated a proposal to eliminate MetroExpress routes 984 and 986, but add service to route 987 to accommodate all riders. We met with riders on Aug. 26 at the Leander Public Library, and while I wasn’t there personally, I understand we got quite an earful.

The main sticking points for riders of 984 and 986 about switching to 987 were twofold. First, riders were concerned about additional travel time on 987. Second, they wanted to keep their bus stops along San Jacinto and MLK.

One option volunteered at the meeting in Leander was the possibility of combining 984 and 986, and after studying all the options, our transit planners agree that it is a workable idea. They’ve revised the proposal.

Capital Metro would combine routes 984 and 986 into new route 985 Leander/Northwest Direct (via IH-35). This route would serve Leander and Lakeline park & ride facilities, then travel down IH-35 and MLK to reach the State Office Complex and downtown destinations. The new route would serve all the bus stops currently served by 984 and 986. The new route would have three morning and three afternoon trips. Consequently, in this proposal 987 would only see minor schedule adjustments.

Here is the proposed schedule for 985 and 987 beginning January 2011. The schedule for new 985 is highlighted blue.

The public meetings related to the January service change began this week. There’s five more meetings, including three at park & ride facilities that may be more convenient for riders. The full schedule of meetings and details about all the proposed changes, including MetroExpress, are on our website.

23 thoughts on “A revised proposal for January changes to 984, 986 and 987

    1. Mitchell

      A better compromise would be allowing for four a.m. and four p.m. routes to run in place of the three a.m. and three p.m. busses for 984 and 986. The 984 busses are at approximately 70% capacity before combining the two routes into 985. I’m afraid their will be standing room only when these busses are combined. If that is the case, a lot of riders I’ve talked to will start driving to work downtown.

  1. Good start but still a bit short-sighted; the next time gas spikes, the old buses on their old routes would have been completely full; and these new buses will be too little to satisfy demand.

    1. Erica

      There’s plenty of capacity to handle current ridership (with some room for growth) with the proposed schedule for 985 and 987. As you know, we have plenty of capacity on the train, too (and we didn’t have the benefit of MetroRail when gas prices spiked before).

      1. I know there’s enough capacity on bus+train. I suspect that you won’t mind if 50% of prospective transit-switchers end up staying with their cars if it means the train gets more full (i.e. if 985, which blows the train+shuttle out of the water, is too full; and train is not competitive enough; some potential switchers will stay).

        Also, the time performance of the 985 has to be analyzed compared to the 984 and 986 – I don’t have time to do this today though.

  2. Jason

    I think this is a reasonable solution for modifying the current 984/986 routes. Passengers at Lakeline Station will not see any significant travel time impact, and it looks like it will only add a few minutes for Leander passengers.

    In response to M1EK, if gas prices do increase significantly I expect that Capital Metro could add additional buses at that time. It is a waste of money to run empty buses today in anticipation of higher ridership a few years from now.

    1. Ed

      Where then do you suggest Capital Metro take buses from so that they can operate with extra capacity to Lakeline/Leander in anticipation of a possible rise in gas prices?

      1. I suggest that Capital Metro not make this change at all. Those buses from Leander/Lakeline are already more full than MetroRail; and certainly more full than a number of other routes – there was clearly no justification other than an attempt to goose rail ridership for this move from the getgo.

  3. JamesG

    In terms of total seated capacity…those buses from Leander/Lakeline (Routes 984, 986, 987) are 50-55% full. In comparison, the 10 end-to-end “commuter” MetroRail trips are 65-75% full.

    1. I would be curious to hear your reasoning on this matter. Original projections (not full capacity) for the Red Line were 1700-2000 boardings/day; capacity obviously at least a bit higher. Last month’s boardings were 817/day, IIRC.

      1. Never mind, I see the qualifier “seated” now. Nonetheless, there is no way the early Red Line trips are at 65-75% seated capacity (and nowhere near that much ‘full’).

  4. Bob

    First, based on the recent rain events of September 8th, the red line system does not have enough built in resilience to take away alternative routes. What would have happened if there were no 984 or 986 alternatives? As is, even the downtown platform in the afternoon was posting misinformation and there was very limited help in getting riders to their alternatives.

    Second, why take away a free market decision? If you have successful choice between a strong performing option (at capacity routes 984 and 986) and the struggling red line option that is a poor performer why shut down the former? This is not the best long-range solution. Rather, remediate the red line option so that it meets the minimum performance and resiliency standards of 984 and 986. Then the riders will make the switch on their own.

  5. Derek Lee

    I do like the 985 “compromise” a little better than the prior proposal. But I still think that if the main goal of all these changes is to save money & improve efficiency, that the best solution would still be to keep the 986 & 984 routes exactly as they are (since they are extremely efficient,unique, & popular routes that get commuters from point A to point B faster than any other option); and instead eliminate (or drastically curtail) the 987 route which is duplicated in many ways by either the MetroRail or the 983. I bet if many commuters from either the UT or downtown area only had the option of the 983 or the MetroRail, they would be much more likely to take the MetroRail.

  6. KH

    Cap Metro is still ignoring the fact that you are increasing the Leander riders on bus time. The 987 buses that run at approximately the same time as the 984 & 986 are VERY empty as are the 983 buses. Why are you attempting to combine buses with more riders than combining two almost empty and larger (the actual Express buses) which are more expensive to operate. I am extremely frustrated that Cap Metro is so completely inefficient in thinking outside of the box on how to rectify this situation. PLEASE consider consolidating the 987 and 983 (by running the first half of the 983 and switching to 987 route on Mopac) during the peak rush hour times when there are many FASTER (currently) options for moving north. They are excellent buses when there are no other options, but during rush hour you will notice that there are fewer riders because there are faster ways. Derek Lee I agree with you. The 987 and 983 are comparable time to the train the 986 is half the time of any of these. The 985 will still take 25 minutes longer than the current 986.

    1. DM

      The 987 leaving Leander at 5:45AM (Lakeline 6:07AM) is normally 70-80% full, it is a regular Express Bus, not the “Big Red” coach. The 987 departing Leander at 5:20AM (Lakeline 5:42AM) is a “Big Red” coach and normally very full, 65-75%. Probably the same number of people just more seat than the later bus. No rail beats these 987s.

      I catch both of these depending on how early I need to be downtown. They both satisfies a gap from Lakeline, first 984 is not until 6:25 and Leander’s first 986 is not until 6:00AM.
      I think the riders on these buses need it to stay and not be “fixced”. The 983 is not a good option for these buses.

      I can not address later 987s or 983s because I am already at work.

      As for the afternoon commute, the 984 (arriving Lakeline 4:41PM) I catch is normally at 85-95% full. I used to catch the 984 (arriving Lakeline at 5:11PM) and it was very full also. If we combine these 984s with the 986s in an Express Bus, there will be no standing room, remember the Ice Storm of 1995. Only “Big Red” coaches have the capacity.

      The 985 is a compromise that will work with “Big Red” coaches and not the smaller Express buses.

  7. Joe Crawford

    I agree with and endorse the comments of Derek Lee and KH made this morning. Their insight is on target. The current 986 departing Leander at 6:00 AM lets me off at the Post Office – Guadalupe and 6th between 6:35 – 6:45 AM. The new 6:00 AM 985 adds about 20 minutes to that.
    To be objective and as a slight defense to the train, if I can be content to arrive at my office downtown after 8:00 AM, the train departures from Leander at 7:10 and 7:54 are faster/better than 983 or 987, but I can’t always do that. Also the train back in the PM costs me an extra 30+ minutes.
    The bottom line for me is this: I can depart my house off Ronald Reagan Blvd. at 6:00 AM and be in my chair at my office by 6:45. To ride the 986 makes me depart at 5:45 and be in my chair at 6:50. That’s tolerable. Longer than that make driving more attractive. JVC

  8. James Crabtree

    I’m glad to see that the 985 proposal is a step in the right direction, but it still adds a lot of ridership time for the Leander passengers. It also seems likely that the 985 will often be standing room only, especially on the afternoon runs.

    Why have Ms. Watson and Chairman Martinez still not responded to the 103 riders who signed a petition asking them to please meet with us before they vote on abolishing our routes? This petition was mailed in on Friday, August 27th.

  9. AJnRR

    I agree with Joe and have a similar attitude.

    Currently CapMetro is only taking into consideration the bus commute time which is a partial picture. Here is a more holistic picture of the commute time from Round Rock to Austin.

    I believe that time is money and when I choose to ride the bus my commute time doubles. When I drive myself to work leaving my home at the exact same time I leave to catch the bus, it takes me 30 minutes. This time is tracked from the time I leave my driveway to sitting at my office desk. When I ride the bus, my commute time doubles. I have taken the train to be able to compare the service and found that the train takes me 80 minutes each way. So the bottom line for me is if I am able to choose to spend 60, 120 or 160 minutes commuting each day, I’ll choose to spend 60 minutes driving myself.

  10. Tony

    This 985 bus is going to leave folks standing. The 4 pm 986 and the 4:05 984 are always packed. This is incredibly short sited. If any 2 routes are identicle it is the 983 & 987, why isnt Cap Metro combining these routes and leaving the PREMIUM routes 984 & 986 alone?

  11. Joyce T. Snodgrass

    For what it is worth, the 983 and 987 routes are not identical, although one can get to all the places you can on the 987 by taking the 983–it just requires you to wait through the pavillion and Jollyville area stops.
    With the earlier(pm) 983 routes this can mean standing part of the way home. Since I board at Leander usually there is no worry about standing when I board. The important factor in the buses mentioned here is that a considerable part of the route is nowhere near the train—all stops from leaving Mopac on 35th/38th street, until the end of the UT area.

    (I have not yet seen where the train station is on MLK and have not had any need to get there yet since I no longer work or study at UT).
    I have no current direct relationship to the 984/986 bus use and so I really do not have a need to comment, but the 985 sounds like it is better than noting but I don’t know if a change does need to be made.

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