Tomorrow, House Bill 2327, which has been filed by Representative Ruth Jones McClendon of the San Antonio area, is scheduled to be heard in the House Transportation Committee tomorrow morning. Senator Jeff Wentworth has filed the bill on the Senate side; his is Senate Bill 1102. (Keep reading to learn how you can register your support of these bills!)
Rep. McClendon’s bill, HB 2327, would authorize TxDOT to implement a pilot program in Travis, Bexar, Denton and El Paso Counties whereby public transit agencies would be allowed to safely use improved highway shoulders for bus passage on authorized sections approved by TxDOT. For Capital Metro, we believe this could be safely and effectively implemented on IH-35, MoPac, and 183—our region’s most congested corridors.
At the discretion of the bus operator, the operator could travel on the designated shoulders when traffic slows to 35 mph or less. To ensure the safety of all motorists, the bus would only be allowed to travel 15 mph greater than the prevailing traffic, with a maximum speed limit of 35 mph.
As anyone who lives in our area knows, traffic is a beast and for multiple hours a day, traffic on major highways grinds to a halt. Austin was unfortunately recently named the third most congested city in the country—which is why we need and deserve options other than sitting in traffic and bus-only shoulders can help!
The operation of buses on shoulders is already allowed in many communities across the county: Minneapolis/St. Paul, Atlanta, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Miami, Seattle, and San Diego; and it can work in Central Texas too.
During these times of congestion, the pilot project would safely use existing 10 foot right-of-ways, which would be pre-approved by TxDOT and clearly marked with signage, to allow buses to bypass traffic. This would reduce travel time for transit riders and increase scheduling reliability. In other communities where this is allowed, the reductions in travel time and even the perception of reduced travel time were significant enough incentives to get people out of their cars and increase ridership.
Construction to implement this pilot in Travis County would be limited to signage, meaning very limited disruption to current drivers and very low capital costs. The total capital cost within Travis County is projected to be only $20,000 paid for by Capital Metro, but the increased ridership that could result could generate up tan additional $250,000 in fares annually. There is zero fiscal note to the state for this piece of legislation.
The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Transportation Committee tomorrow morning. The meeting starts at 8:00 am in Room E2.028 of the Capitol. The notice is online.
If you are open to signing a card in support for the hearing tomorrow come on down!
Since we think the Committee would appreciate the brevity, we suggest that any supporters simply sign a card in support and not testify (which also means you can leave and go on with your day).
This pilot program is a fantastic way to maximize underutilized right-of-way that already exists, and for Capital Metro to be able to move our passengers more quickly. In fact, a study conducted by UT’s Center for Transportation research identified feasible sections of highway shoulders in Travis County where buses could be safely and effectively operated and travel time savings of about three to seven minutes per trip for routes that could benefit from this were estimated. Given the low cost and potential for increased ridership and fare revenue, it’s a great deal!