Local poets to be featured on entire Capital Metro fleet

Prepare to be inspired! By the end of October, your bus will feature poetry onboard, thanks to a partnership with Austin Poetry Society.

The winning poets pose with their poems/bus placards in front of what has been deemed “the poetry bus.”

On Sept. 29, we kicked off the next phase of a partnership with the Austin Poetry Society that is bringing poems by local poets onboard our entire fleet of buses, including UT Shuttle buses.

APS announced the winners of a poetry contest that was advertised on 150 Capital Metro buses earlier this summer. About 100 people came to hear the winning poets read their poems and install the first of the bus placards onboard a Capital Metro bus parked at the event.

Bus number 2371 was parked at the event, and we’ve deemed it “the Poetry Bus” as it will feature the poems of ALL the winning poets.

Twelve different poems are being produced into bus placards, all designed by local artist and poet Christine Gilbert. We hope the poems will delight you and add some joy to your daily ride on Capital Metro.

The contest garnered more than 300 entries, many of which were penned by bus riders. Per the partnership agreement, APS produced the interior bus signs, and Capital Metro donated the space inside the buses.

APS is planning to produce a second batch of signs featuring another 12 poems next spring.

Here is one of the placards you may see on your bus beginning this month, enjoy!



MetroRapid Construction Begins, “Screen ATX” Debuts

Today, the official groundbreaking for MetroRapid, Capital Metro debuted a unique and artistic short video to get people talking about MetroRapid. Take a look.

We debuted the video at the MetroRapid groundbreaking this morning at Chinatown Center. Chinatown is one of so many awesome destinations that will be served by the first MetroRapid route, Rapid 801 North Lamar/South Congress.

Check out more photos from the event today on our Facebook page.

Over the next 15 months, 40 MetroRapid stations will be built between Tech Ridge Park & Ride and Southpark Meadows. Construction for the second planned MetroRapid route, Rapid 803, Burnet/South Lamar, will begin later in 2013 (another 32 stations).

MetroRapid combines the reliability and amenities of a train with the flexibility and cost efficiency of a bus. Everything about MetroRapid is designed to move people quickly and connect them to the best parts of Austin along the two planned routes.

Some of the features of MetroRapid that will make for a reliable, on-time, and comfortable ride:

  • real-time arrival information at stations
  • signal priority technology that allows vehicles to “talk” to traffic lights to keep the service on time
  • limited stops and multiple-door boarding means faster trips
  • MetroRapid vehicles will be able to bypass traffic through downtown thanks to transit priority lanes
  • lots of headroom, comfortable seats, etc.
  • beautiful stations, with benches and unique shelters

MetroRapid is going to connect the best of the ATX.

What did you think of the video?

Capital Metro to upgrade rail warning system at six crossings

Capital Metro Rail Operations staff recently completed an assessment of the handful of private crossings along the 32-mile MetroRail Red Line.

Today at the Capital Metro Operations & Planning Committee meeting, VP of Rail Operations Melvin Clark outlined the assessment and our recommendations. The good news is that all of the private crossings meet Capital Metro’s standards.

The better news is that the assessment gives us an opportunity to review and update our standards for private crossings. Melvin reported to the board committee our plans to standardize the private crossings and install flashing light warning signals, as well as pursue closure of several private crossings as part of its ongoing commitment to safety.

We will install flashing warning lights at six private crossings—one per year over the next six years. It costs an estimated $200,000 per crossing to install the lights. Although the Federal Railroad Administration does not require warning lights as private crossings, we’ve programmed these upgrades to enhance safety along the commuter line.

We are also standardizing the crossing surface of each private crossing along the Red Line to asphalt or concrete panels. Three private crossings in the assessment had a gravel (they call it ballast in the railroad industry) crossing surface, which requires more ongoing maintenance depending on the volume of motor vehicle traffic. One of the three private crossings has already been resurfaced with concrete panels, and the remaining two crossings will be resurfaced over the next two months.

Ultimately, it is still up to the driving public to obey public safety and traffic laws. Capital Metro has an ongoing rail safety education program to raise awareness of rail safety issues. This fall, Capital Metro will launch a rail safety campaign to reach rural communities along Capital Metro’s freight railroad. Learn more about rail safety.

Expanded MetroRail service prompts new look at parades and rail safety

The annual Austin Juneteenth parade, sponsored by the Greater East Austin Youth Association, is right around the corner, Tuesday, June 19. Capital Metro is proud to continue its long-standing participation with the Juneteenth celebration.

This year, for the first time, MetroRail trains will be in full operation during the time of the parade. The parade route has traditionally ended at the Rosewood Park rail crossing, which will see MetroRail trains passing by an average of every 18 minutes on the morning of the parade.  Because the safety of the community is the number one priority for the event organizers and Capital Metro, the parade route will be slightly detoured away from the Rosewood rail crossing.

 Beginning this week, Capital MetroRail trains are traveling just a wee bit faster along the line (15% reduction in travel time from end to end), allowing us to add another morning and evening round trip. With the recent addition of Friday night and Saturday MetroRail service, too, it becomes clear that the community should “always expect a train.”

The Juneteenth parade procession will travel its traditional route heading east on MLK, south on Chicon, and east on Rosewood, and now turn north onto Chestnut, east onto Pleasant Valley and end at New York Drive.

Likewise, the annual Republic of Texas Bike Rally begins this Friday, and up to 20K motorcycles will make their way from the Travis County Expo Center to downtown on Friday evening. The procession route included crossing the Rosewood rail crossing, and we advocated to modify that route as well.

Our city is growing and changing fairly rapidly, and although the decision to modify these long-standing traditional parade routes was not made lightly, it was a necessary decision.

Capital Metro is helping to get the word out about the Juneteenth parade route change. Check out the new route map.

Now would be a great time to review some basic rail safety tips with your family. Here are a few good ones:

  • Cross tracks ONLY at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings
  • Always stop, look both ways and listen for trains before crossing the tracks.
  • Flashing red lights signal that a train is approaching from either direction.
  • Never walk around or behind lowered gates at a crossing.
  • Do not cross the tracks until the lights have stopped flashing
  • Teach your children the importance of crossing the tracks safely – “Stop, look and listen”.
  • Hold on to your child when a train approaches and when walking across railroad tracks.
  • Walking or biking along railroad tracks is very dangerous and considered trespassing.

We hope to see you at the Juneteenth celebration. Look for the “Portraits of Freedom” bus decorated by neighborhood youth in the parade. Have a safe and happy Juneteenth!

Weekend Rail Service, *every* weekend, beginning March 23

Good news! This evening, the Austin City Council approved an Interlocal Agreement (ILA) with us to fund additional MetroRail service on Fridays and Saturdays, not just for special events like Pecan Street Festival, but *every* Friday and Saturday, beginning March 23. Trains will run hourly on Friday evenings from 7 p.m. until midnight, and on Saturdays, every 35 minutes from 4 p.m. until midnight.

“One of the most common requests we hear from the community at Capital Metro is to run MetroRail on evenings and weekends,” said Capital Metro President and CEO Linda S. Watson. “This agreement with the city allows us to deliver what the community has asked. MetroRail is a tremendous community asset, and by providing evening weekend service, a greater number of people will be able to use the system.”

Capital Metro had already budgeted to provide special event rail service during SXSW. You can ride MetroRail late on Friday, March 9 and 16, until midnight, and on Saturday, March 10 and 17, from 10:30 a.m. until midnight. Then the following weekend, Friday, March 23, *regular* weekend service supported by the city of Austin through the ILA will begin. Exciting!

Austin City Councilmember and Capital Metro Board Chair Mike Martinez said, “This ILA is a great win for the city and Capital Metro, but more importantly, Austin, Texas. As Capital Metro has added service we’ve seen increased ridership due to more transit options, and this agreement continues that momentum. People who work and visit downtown and along the Red Line route will be able to take commuter rail and enjoy even more of what Austin has to offer during the weekends.”

Under the multi-year agreement, the city of Austin will contribute a not to exceed amount of approximately $5.7 million over 34 months to assist with service within the city of Austin. Capital Metro will be responsible for costs associated with rail service outside the city limits. The city’s financial commitment to weekend rail service comes as a result of an existing ILA with Capital Metro in which the transit agency directs a quarter cent of its one-cent sales tax collection to the city for transportation projects in our community. The city has determined that funding a portion of this new rail service meets the criteria.

MetroRail ridership has nearly tripled since service began and is currently averaging 35,000 trips per month with standing-room only during morning and afternoon rush hours. The service also boasts a 99 percent on-time performance record. 

I am imagining all sorts of fun excursions I might like to do once the extended hours begin. What are your plans?


Manor Park & Ride Grand Opening this week

Manor Park & Ride MapWe’re cutting the ribbon – literally – on another major milestone with the grand opening of the new Manor Park & Ride. Come on out to the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 15, and help us celebrate this fabulous new facility.

Amid the backdrop of the storied Manor water tower (of Leonardo DiCaprio fame in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape), the new park & ride provides parking for 68 cars and 4 bicycles and includes two pedestrian shelters for the #990.

As an appreciation to our customers, we’ll be at the new facility starting bright and early on the 15th from 5:30 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. to greet passengers and hand out light refreshments and other goodies.

The 9:30 a.m. ceremony will include Capital Metro board members, President Watson, Elgin Mayor Mark Holm and Manor Mayor Jeff Turner, in addition to Manor and Elgin community members and riders.


Dinita Caldwell appointed Vice President of COMTO

Dinita CaldwellWe want to congratulate our very own Dinita Caldwell, who has been appointed vice president of the local chapter of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO). Dinita is Capital Metro’s interim business development manager and disadvantaged business enterprise officer.

COMTO creates professional and educational opportunities for minorities working in the transportation industry and promotes careers in the field.  The Austin chapter provides between $2,000 and $3,000 in scholarships each year to support its members.

Dinita will serve a two-year term and joins President Blanca Juarez (UT Parking and Transportation), Treasurer Cris Lopez (Veolia Transportation) and Secretary Alta Alexander (TxDOT) on the executive board.