It’s been said that great cities have great public transportation systems, and with the upcoming launch of MetroRapid, the booming Central Texas region will be one step closer to realizing that goal.
Capital Metro pulled back the curtain Thursday, allowing members of the media to get an up close and personal look at the new MetroRapid vehicles before they hit the streets in early 2014 (although you’ll be seeing some of the buses around town over the next few months for testing purposes).
“This is a service we’re going to be able to introduce to the community unlike any they’ve seen before in Central Texas,” Capital Metro President and CEO Linda S. Watson said. “This is such an exciting time for Capital Metro.”
MetroRapid will roll out in two phases in 2014 along two of the area’s fastest growing corridors, both of which pass through the bustling downtown core. The North Lamar/South Congress route will begin service in early 2014, followed by the Burnet/South Lamar route later that summer. Currently, those two transit corridors see 21,000 weekday boardings, serving almost 25% of the entire service area, making them the densest and highest ridership transit markets in the region.
Speed is the name of the game with MetroRapid, and many steps are being taken to ensure people get where they need to go quickly. During rush hour, vehicles will arrive every 10 minutes, with off-peak frequency dropping just slightly to every 12 to 20 minutes.
“The buses are smart. They have the technology that allows them to talk to signal lights so they can keep lights green so the buses, if they’re off schedule, can zip through those traffic lights,” said Watson. “Everything about this service will be more rapid.”
Additional steps that are being taken to ensure the rapid delivery of passengers include:
• Signal priority technology, which allows vehicles to “talk” to traffic lights so they stay green a little longer when a vehicle is behind schedule.
• Transit priority lanes in downtown Austin, which will give MetroRapid vehicles their own lane to bypass traffic.
• Limited stops, with stations spaced up to a mile apart for faster travel times.
• Multiple-door boarding that lets people jump on and jump off quickly, translating into less waiting time at stations.
• Real-time arrival information, including digital signage, so riders know exactly when the next vehicle will arrive.
• Mobile ticketing, enabling passengers to purchase their tickets in advance on their mobile device and allowing them to scan it upon boarding.
With 77 stations along the two planned routes, Capital Metro will connect major business, medical, education and entertainment hubs with neighborhoods across Austin.
The MetroRapid fleet will include twenty-two 60-foot buses, with capacity for 101 people, and eighteen 40-foot buses, accommodating 78 riders. Each vehicle will be equipped with modern amenities such as WiFi, low-floor boarding, extra headroom and sleek interiors to give passengers a premium service experience.
The launch of MetroRapid comes at a crucial time in Austin’s history. The city is now the 11th largest in the country according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and is the fastest growing large metropolitan area in the U.S. It is also the fourth-most congested metro area in the nation and the 12th most congested in the world, according to the INRIX Traffic Scorecard. The five-county region that makes up Central Texas is growing by 150 people a day, adding 70 more cars daily to local roads.
With each driver on Austin’s roads wasting 40 hours a year stuck in traffic, the time has come for serious transportation solutions.
MetroRapid is poised to be a significant part of that solution.