A Rewarding Commute

Some of you may already be familiar with NuRide, a new (to Austin) program that rewards people for making choices that “green” your commute or daily trips. For those of you who aren’t, the easiest way I can think to describe it is as a rewards program for everyone who contributes to taking automobiles off the roads of Central Texas.

With a goal of reducing the pollution and congestion associated with driver-only car trips, NuRide members accrue points each time they log a trip taken via carpool, vanpool, public transit, bicycle or walking. They can also accrue points for trips not taken if they telecommute. The program, which is free, allows members to… Continue reading “A Rewarding Commute”

Capital Metro Connects Kids and Toys

Sunshine and big crowds.

On Saturday Capital Metro participated in the 22nd Annual Chuys Children Giving to Children Parade down Congress Ave. My arms are still tired from waving (and carrying my 6-year-old part of the way.)

It was a beautiful day and this year for the first time we combined our participation in the parade with an employee toy collection drive. Despite a late start to the toy drive Capital Metro employees proudly contributed well over 100 toys to Operation Blue Santa for the children of Central Texas.

We looked a bit like Santa's sleigh.

As we ambled down Congress the crowds lining the street were as big as I’ve seen them for the parade. The big turnout led to larger-than-expected donations to Operation Blue Santa and our bus was “drafted” mid-parade by the Parade Marshalls to serve as a toy collection vehicle near 6th and Congress. We spent a good ten minutes on the Ann Richards Bridge at the end of the parade unloading all the great donations from everyone along the way.

Thanks to all from Capital Metro who participated and to those of you in the crowd who cheered us on as we rolled past on Saturday.

Bike to Work Day Breakfast

Although I know everybody’s been doing so all week, tomorrow — Friday, May 21st — is officially “Bike to Work Day”.

Capital Metro is participating in the day’s events as one of the official breakfast stations around Austin. We’ll be out at the Plaza Saltillo MetroRail Station starting at 6:30am (until 9 or 9:30) serving up some fine breakfast tacos courtesy of Nuevo Leon and delicious coffee donated by our friends at Texas Coffee Traders.

If you haven’t ridden yet this week there is no better time — free stuff! Stop by on your way into work if you’re hungry or just ring your bell and wave as you ride past.

MetroRiding101: the Cell Phone trick

I take evening classes at UT and once or twice a week I invariably find myself waiting for a Capital MetroBus to take me home after 9pm. Because the buses are less frequent in the evening and my bus stop for the 10/20 along Red River is not all that well lit I’m often worried that our bus operator won’t see me and I’ll have to wait for the next one. I haven’t been left behind yet but more than once I’ve ended up waving my arms and shouting at the last possible second as the bus fails to slow until it’s even with me and then pulls over well past the normal stop area. (Must be my black jacket.)

Recently though one of our bus operators taught me a great trick. Operator Joe Rhodes suggested that I use my cell phone to signal the driver — waking it from sleep and then waving it toward the driver as the bus approaches is a great way to catch their attention, particularly when you’re in an area without good street lighting.

I was sceptical at first but I’ve used this little trick twice in the last week and both times the Operator saw me with plenty of time to spare. And both operators greeted me with a warm “Thank you for doing that!” as I boarded their bus.

Give it a try if you find yourself worrying about whether you can and will be seen.

Thanks Joe!

Ringing in 2010 with the Art Bus

Thursday night’s chilly temperatures and gusty winds did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of Capital Metro employees and their families who participated in the First Night Austin 2010 Grand Procession down Congress Avenue on New Year’s Eve.

Local artist Cybil Guest and teens from Arthouse at the Jones Center created the unique design for the bus, and the 3M Corporation donated the materials to make it happen. It was hard to miss the stark black and white of the bus illuminated by several dozen lightbulb-esque dancers both in and outside the bus as we rolled down the parade route. Capital Metro CEO Doug Allen donned his Santa cap and joined in this family event.

After the parade was over Bus Operator Arthur Murillo and his bus became part of the First Night Art Cars installation on the South 1st Street bridge. Arthur also provided route information and directions to chilly revelers who wanted to get a ride home that night on Capital Metro.

Well it seemed like a bright idea at the time.

Thank you to Arthouse at the Jones Center and 3M for helping create this unique partnership and rolling art. The bus is sure to be appearing at bus stops near you over the next few months…

So You Think You Can… Busk?

Express yourself musically at a Capital Metro transit hub.
Express yourself musically at a Capital Metro transit hub.

Capital Metro is putting out an open call for buskers — aka street perfomers — who might be willing to help the agency out at events in the coming months in exchange for a small honorarium plus any tips they collect. We’d like to add a little Austin flavor to some of our public events and station openings.

Buskers are a common site at transit stations throughout the world. In 2003, for example, the London Underground took an activity that had previously been illegal and set aside designated spots in many of their stations for performers to play. Now there are more than 3000 performances each week on the Tube. And a couple of years ago the Washington Post got acclaimed professional violinist Joshua Bell to play a 45-minute set — incognito — at the L’Enfant Plaza station in downtown DC to see whether regular commuters would stop and recognize the level of talent before them rather than hurrying past. They didn’t — he collected $32 and change.

Coincidentally this week also marks the opening of the International Busker Festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I happened to be in Halifax in 1998 at the same time as the Festival and it made for a lively and entertaining week. If you’re ever in Canada….

Details on what we’re looking for at Capital Metro and how you can be a part of it can be found here.

And remember when it comes to busking (and life) enthusiasm and attitude sometimes count just as much as talent and ability.

Customers Picture Themselves on Capital Metro

Last week Capital Metro celebrated National Dump the Pump Day with a couple of fun events to encourage ridership and engage our customers.

Thursday morning (June 18th) Capital Metro staff arrived at both the North Lamar and South Congress Transit Centers by 6am for a Dump the Pump bag exchange, which encouraged people to bring us 5 plastic bags that we would exchange for a reusable cloth one. This morning I dropped off the more than 500 plastic bags we received at Ecology Action for recycling.

Then all throughout Dump the Pump Day we encouraged our customers to “Picture Yourself on Capital Metro” by sending us a photograph of themselves riding on Capital Metro. We received dozens of great pictures of people on the bus ranging from thoughtfully composed to hasty self-portraits.

A complete set of the winning shots — chosen at random from the entries received — can be found here. Our Grand Prize winner (a shot of 2-year-old boy named Jake with crackers covering his eyes) received a $200 gift certificate to the EcoShoppe. Runners-up received an i-Ride jacket made from recycled materials. Congratulations to all and thanks to everyone who submitted a photo.

I Ride

It was a beautiful morning to be out on a bicycle.

Last year I rode my bike to work a handful of times. This year for whatever reason I haven’t gotten into the habit. I don’t have a good excuse if the weather’s nice — Capital Metro at 5th and Pleasant Valley is only 6.3 miles from my house in South Austin and I can ride most of it along the Town Lake Trail on Lady Bird Lake. The gravel trail means I have to work a little harder than if I stayed on pavement but the tradeoff of not having to dodge traffic is worth it. Continue reading “I Ride”

It’s easy being green and nice to be noticed too!

Capital Metro earned the “Most Forward Thinking” Award for our exhibit at the Austin Green Living & Home Products Expo February 27th to March 1st. We talked with hundreds of people who stopped by our booth and climbed around on our beautiful hybrid bus parked inside the Austin Convention Center. A comment we loved the most, and heard a lot: “Wow, that’s a pretty bus!” We agree, and every time you take a ride you help keep the planet pretty too.

The (Coming) Adventures of Billy and i-Ride Man

This past Saturday members of the Capital Metro Marketing Team got to help out as casting directors for an upcoming series of videos that will be written and directed by one of our riders.

In April of this year some of you may remember that Capital Metro held a contest where we invited our customers to “tell us why you ride”. Our i-Ride Contest entries included songs, videos, original art pieces and lots and lots of stories. Several of the winning entries in the Video category were submitted by a UT Radio-Television-Film student named Alex Diamond. We were so impressed with Alex’s work that we invited him to help us make it easier for first-time Capital Metro riders by having him write and direct a series of short instructional videos that will appear on the Capital Metro website and YouTube early next year. The videos will follow the adventures of his main character Billy and his sidekick i-Ride Man as the navigate their way through first time rider scenarios such as planning a trip, stop etiquette, putting your bike on the rack and paying your fare.

So Saturday was a day of auditions for the series at the Vortex Theatre on Manor Road, who were kind enough to let us use their facilities. Alex and his two Capital Metro assistants auditioned roughly 40 hopeful actors and actresses to find three characters to star in the videos. After putting each through a cold reading of a few pages from one of the scripts we compared notes and had to make some tough decisions. (The complete cast list is posted on the Capital Metro website.) We’d like to thank all that tried out – we met and saw some very talented people and it takes guts to put yourself out there even if it’s only for a set of How to Ride videos. Look for the completed videos on our site sometime in January or February.