Eyes on the Road, Head in the Game

Any commuter in Austin can tell you, there are a lot of cars on the road. According to Governing.com, an estimated 8.7 percent  of U.S. households are without cars and in Austin, that number is 6 percent.

Capital Metro operators do an amazing job of navigating the chaos of morning and afternoon traffic, not to mention the maze of construction projects underway across the region. Complicating their daily treks are the number of distracted drivers who see traffic jams as an opportunity to answer a text or squeeze in one more email response.

During National Safety Month, we’d like to offer some tips for our fellow drivers to help them keep their eyes on the road and their head in the game.

  1. Don’t text and drive. This seems like a no-brainer. In 2017, Texas banned texting while driving, but it still happens. People use voice commands  to compose texts as a way to get around that, but it still requires mental focus that could be better spent on driving.
  2. Operate hands-free. Sometimes you need a map to get where you’re going, and you have apps to skirt traffic snarls. But put it in a holder. City ordinance requires you operate your phone hands-free.
  3. Use “do-not-disturb.” Nearly every operating system comes with the option to place the phone in “do-not-disturb” mode when you’re driving. It sends a message to anyone trying to text you, letting them know that you will get back to them once you have stopped. It’s a great feature and one worth using as no text is worth crashing over.
  4. Silence your cell phone. If your phone is your life, silence it when driving. Or better yet, put it out of reach. One glance at a screen or moment scrambling for a phone can have devastating, life-long effects.

It’s imperative to consider your own safety, the safety of those riding with you and those around you every time you get behind the wheel. Everyone you encounter on the road has a lot riding on safety.

Junio Es El Mes Nacional de la Seguridad

Cada junio, el Consejo Nacional de Seguridad alienta a las organizaciones a poner énfasis en reducir las causas principales de lesiones en el trabajo, en la carretera y en nuestros hogares y comunidades. Esto es algo que Capital Metro se dedica a hacer todos los días.

Mucho de esto sucede detrás de cámaras. Nuestro departamento de seguridad ha estado trabajando con todos en Capital Metro para tomar en serio el tema de la seguridad y ha hecho que sea la máxima responsabilidad de todos y cada uno de los empleados y contratistas que trabajan en nuestro sistema. En nuestra industria esto se llama “crear una cultura de seguridad.” Como resultado, la Asociación de Transporte Público de Estados Unidos otorgó el Premio de Oro a Capital Metro por sus esfuerzos de seguridad. Entre estos esfuerzos, estuvo la creación de un equipo de evaluación de peligros que es responsable de identificar y evaluar los peligros potenciales y hacer recomendaciones sobre cómo manejarlos. Otra fue la institución de un sistema de gestión de seguridad que alienta a todos a reportar las áreas de preocupación sobre la seguridad las carreteras y los entornos de trabajo.

Es posible que haya visto los carteles en la parte trasera de nuestros autobuses donde se adaptó un enfoque cómico para no chocar con el autobús. Los carteles mostraban de todo, desde “No golpearias a un autobús con lentes” hasta una foto de un grupo de personas asustadas diciendo “Whoa, Whoa. Este es un autobús. Permanece Atrás”. Puede sonar tonto, pero en realidad redujo los accidentes de la parte trasera de estos vehículos por un 69%. Es posible que también haya visto carteles en los lados de nuestro autobús en honor a los Campeones de Seguridad, empleados cuyo enfoque en la seguridad hizo una gran diferencia en el lugar de trabajo. Eso inspiró a muchos empleados a trabajar aún más para hacer de la seguridad su objetivo número uno.

Es un honor para Capital Metro obtener este reconocimiento, pero muchos de los factores que mantienen a nuestra comunidad a salvo son ustedes. Así que este mes de junio, piense en lo que está haciendo cuando se trata de seguridad. En las próximas semanas compartiremos información sobre lo que puede hacer para mantenerse a salvo en nuestras carreteras y alrededor de los autobuses y trenes de Capital Metro. Trabajemos todos juntos para hacer que nuestras carreteras y aceras sean aún más seguras, no solo en junio, sino durante todo el año.

National Safety Month

Every June the National Safety Council encourages organizations to put an emphasis on reducing the leading causes of injury “at work, on the road and in our homes and communities.” This is something Capital Metro does every day.

2019 APTA Gold Award Safety SMCRA lot of this happens behind the scenes. Our safety department has been working with everyone at Capital Metro to be “Serious About Safety” and has made that the top responsibility of each and every employee and contractor who works in our system. In our industry that is called “creating a safety culture” and Capital Metro was recently honored by the American Public Transportation Association with a Gold Award for its safety efforts. Among these endeavors was the creation of a hazard assessment team that is responsible for identifying and assessing potential hazards and making recommendations on how to deal with them. Another was the institution of a safety management system that encourages all to report areas of concern about safety throughout the road and work environments.

IMG_1331 CRYou may have seen the signs on the back of our buses that took a humorous approach to not running into the bus. The signs featured everything from, “You Wouldn’t Hit a Bus with Glasses” to a photo of a group of startled people saying, “Whoa, Whoa. This Is a Bus. Stay Back.” These may sound silly, but they worked! The ads reduced rear-end crashes on these vehicles by 69%. You may have also seen signs on the sides of our buses honoring the Safety Champions — employees whose focus on safety made a real difference in the workplace. That inspired a lot of employees to work even harder to make safety their number one goal.

Capital Metro is honored to receive this recognition, but a lot of what keeps our community safe is YOU. So, this June, think about what you are doing when it comes to safety. In the coming weeks we will be sharing information on the things you can do to stay safe on our roads and around Capital Metro buses and trains. Let’s all work together to make our roads and sidewalks even safer, not just in June, but all year.

Hit the Trail

action-activity-adventure-1374543Austin is ranked as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. If you have never taken advantage of the miles of dedicated bike trails and lanes, National Bike Month is a great time to put on your helmet, get outside and explore.

The city is continually working to develop a complete bike network. Those ongoing efforts are just one of the reasons the League of American Bicyclists has designated Austin a Gold Level Bicycle Friendly City.

If you want to give bicycle commuting a try, an online bike route map ranks roads on the level of comfort cyclists can expect based on traffic and accommodations. Roads marked in green have lanes physically separated from vehicular traffic. Blue roads have designated bike lanes. Also noted are several projects under development to add lanes for bike and pedestrian traffic.

If you’re not quite ready to share space with motorized vehicles there are more than 30 miles of urban trails snaking their way through the city.

The trail system is designed to let people enjoy the great outdoors while keeping them safe from traffic. Motorized vehicles, including electric scooters, are prohibited from the trails.

During National Bike Month, take the opportunity to explore biking. It’s a great way to relieve stress and a greener and more economical commuting alternative.

Saddle Up for Safety During National Bike Month

Loading Bike Bus video stillMay is National Bike Month and Capital Metro wants to take the opportunity to remind everyone the importance of sharing the road safely with cyclists.

Austin has a strong bicycling culture and cyclists are so commonplace we sometimes take them for granted. Throughout the month of May we plan to offer safety reminders and tips to make the most of Austin living if you do it from the seat of a bicycle.

One of the most basic reminders is to always wear a helmet. We have more motorized vehicles on the road thanks to the region’s rapid growth. That added traffic creates greater opportunities to encounter distracted drivers. Wearing a helmet could be a difference-maker in surviving a collision with another vehicle.

It doesn’t matter where you ride, or the distance of your trip, a helmet is essential. Make sure it’s the right size, ensure it fits snugly, it should rest properly on top of your head and it has to be strapped on.

Check back with Capital Metro throughout National Bike Month.

Making Transit a Priority

This map shows how the new lane on Guadalupe will make for a more direct route for buses. (from the Austin Transportation Department

Construction starts next week on a project near the intersection of Guadalupe and MLK. And, in a few months, that will result in a different kind of transit lane for Austin.

We’ve been working for months with the city’s transportation department to design little changes that can make big differences for Austin’s traffic congestion issues. Like the bus and bike lane that was put in place on West 5th Street earlier this year, this project will create a transit lane separate from car traffic. What’s new, is that this lane will be for buses only and go against the flow of traffic.

We’re converting one lane of southbound traffic on Guadalupe into a northbound bus lane that lets all vehicles get through the intersection of MLK and Guadalupe/Lavaca a little bit faster. Currently, buses traveling north on Lavaca often get stuck at MLK, even though they have their own lane and signal priority. That’s because the turn from Lavaca onto MLK is difficult to make and highly congested during rush hour.

Our estimates suggest that each bus traveling through the intersection will go 18% faster, which means they’ll save 65 seconds during the peak travel time. And those seconds add up. During rush hour, more than 1,200 people ride the bus through this corridor, and this project will give them an additional 23 hours a year not sitting in traffic.

On a cold day last December, a team of Cap Metro and city of Austin staff gathered at our North Ops facility off Burnet to test out the new route. We laid out cones to match the lane configuration going from northbound Lavaca, turning left at 18th Street and then right on Guadalupe. It’s a tight turn, but as you can see below, the coordination between Cap Metro and city planners combined with the skills of our bus operators make for a smooth ride.

Safety is always top of mind for us, and so the bus lane will be clearly identified as being for buses only with signage and lane markings and separated from southbound vehicle lanes by posts. There will also be a new bike lane on 18th between Lavaca and Guadalupe that turns into a shared use path and improved sidewalk on Guadalupe.

So, this is great news! For bus riders, bike riders, pedestrians and drivers. But all of this takes some work, and so there will be construction that affects traffic over the next month or so. Please bear with us as we make these improvements. We apologize for the delays you may experience in June, but we think you’re going to like what the end of summer brings you.

Cap Metro wants to help you bike to work

Bike 2 bus TopCropThis week, commuters are encouraged to keep their cars at home and use their bikes to get to work. May 13-17 is Bike to Work Week capped off by Bike to Work Day May 17.

The Austin bike community shows up big for Bike to Work Day with live music and complimentary drinks and snacks at special fueling stations along the way. New bike commuters can try routes alongside experienced cyclists and guides.

According to the League of American Bicyclists, 40% of all trips are less than two miles. From 2000 to 2013, bike commuters grew by 62%. Austin’s plethora of bike and pedestrian-only trails and well-marked bike lanes make the city ideal for commuters and Capital Metro is more than happy to help those wanting to make that transition.

If your job is farther than you’re comfortable riding, you can combine your bike commute with a bus or train ride. Capital Metro has convenient racks on the exterior of all local and MetroRapid buses that hold up to three bikes per rack. There is also space on each train compartment for bikes.

You can also lock and leave your bike at special bike shelters located at our most popular MetroRail stations and transit centers. They provide safe, secure places for you to stow your bike while you complete your commute. Think of it as a bicycle Park and Ride.

The shelters are at:

  • Kramer Station
  • Lakeline Station
  • MLK Jr. Station
  • Plaza Saltillo Station
  • Highland Station
  • Tech Ridge Park & Ride
  • South Congress Transit Center

Get more information on secured bike shelters here. Follow this link to learn more about Capital Metro’s bike-friendly transit.

Don’t let this opportunity to bike to work pass you by!