Ms. Watson Goes to Washington

Capital Metro is proud to announce that our CEO and President Linda Watson will represent Central Texas and the agency on a national stage Wednesday, May 13, participating on an esteemed panel: Economic Competitiveness: Transit’s High-Value in the Knowledge Economy.

Watson will discuss how transit investments, in both technology and infrastructure, improve our nation’s competiveness. She will also highlight recent investments in transit to meet Greater Austin’s rapid growth, as well as the continued need for investment in technology and the system to meet the demands of its riders, including Millennials and the tech-savvy riders who continue to make Austin their new home.

Austin’s unique mix of Millennials and the technology sector is important for two reasons: (1) the growing number of Millennials’ desire to ditch their cars and use transit is creating more demand, and (2) located in one the world’s hottest tech cities, Capital Metro can look for ways to tap into the talent that comes with those jobs to stay on the edge of technology.

The panel is sponsored by the American Public Transit Association (APTA) and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute as part of Infrastructure Week, a yearly event that brings together thousands of stakeholders across industries to highlight the importance of investing and modernizing our country’s infrastructure system, and how that investment directly affects our nation’s overall economy.

While in Washington, D.C., Watson will be meeting with a wide variety of infrastructure leaders and decision makers, including elected officials, from around the country. Through these meetings, Watson will discuss and share new ideas around infrastructure problems that other cities have faced, and how the problems were solved.

New MetroBike Shelters Opening Early 2014

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Capital Metro is building 6 new MetroBike Shelters to provide more secure overnight or daily bike parking at major access points to bus and train routes.

Like the MetroBike Shelter already open at Kramer Station, these new shelters will make it safer and more secure to use transit without the having to take a bike onto a bus or train.

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The new MetroBike Shelters are being constructed at:

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

For an introductory cost of only $30/year, you can purchase a MetroBike Access Card online to be mailed out within the week. Cards are valid beginning the month of purchase. This card will access any of the MetroBike Shelters around town. Daily card access extends from 5:00AM to 1:30AM.

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Protect your bike from the elements

Once inside, the cyclist locks their bike to a rack with their own bike lock. The shelter provides protection from the sun and rain, and provides a higher level of security with 24-hour camera surveillance and lighting.

A helpful repair stand with tools and air pump with gauge inside each shelter makes it easier to combine your bike and Capital Metro commute.

A MetroBike repair stand
A MetroBike repair stand

Free bike racks will remain available outside these shelters.

Flatwork at Plaza Saltillo Station
Flatwork at Plaza Saltillo Station

Construction is underway at all new locations, and the shelters will open before the summer heat returns (Opening date to be announced soon). These shelters are made possible through an FTA Livability grant with match funding provided by the City of Austin. For more info go to http://www.capmetro.org/metrobike.

Testing the future of Capital Metro

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In the past, we’ve said that Capital Metro’s future is Rapid-ly approaching. With today’s system-wide test of the 801 line of MetroRapid, suddenly the future is upon us.

On Tuesday, December 10, Capital Metro implemented a full-scale test of the forthcoming MetroRapid service. This test allows us the opportunity to see how MetroRapid performs in real world scenarios while dealing with the needs of passengers who will utilize the service.

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Today’s testing was designed to get an up close and personal view of the MetroRapid service from the user’s perspective. A main objective of the field test was to evaluate the performance of the new technology being used onboard the vehicles. Also, “dwell times,” or the time it takes a vehicle to load and unload passengers at each station, were recorded. In addition, operators will simulate detour scenarios and traverse through the new transit priority lanes on Guadalupe and Lavaca downtown. Additionally, we were testing other aspects including announcements, farebox and rear door ticket validators, destination signs, dynamic message signs at stations, passenger counters, WiFi and more. We also recruited volunteers with bikes and wheelchairs to test those respective systems to ensure all is ready for MetroRapid’s launch on January 26th, 2014.

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Our volunteers will note their observations, document their experiences and return their feedback. We’ll then go over those comments and determine what succeeded and what kinks need to be ironed out. We believe strongly in MetroRapid. We know it will provide an invaluable service to the community and today’s testing will go a long way in ensuring that Capital Metro offers the absolute best experience possible when MetroRapid goes live next year.

Over the next month and a half, you will notice MetroRapid vehicles out and about in Austin as we continue to fine-tune the service. We know you’re excited to ride the Rapids, so please view the additionally testing not as a joyride, but as our unwavering commitment to the community. MetroRapid is coming and we want you to love it as much as we do.

For more information about MetroRapid service, its amenities, route maps and more, visit capmetro.org/metrorapid.

Foxx Brings TIGER To Austin

Capital Metro President & CEO Linda S. Watson is by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx
Capital Metro President & CEO Linda S. Watson with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx following the announcement of Capital Metro’s TIGER Grant award.

Thursday marked a historic day for Capital Metro. Joined by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Capital Metro President and CEO, Capital Metro Board Chair Mike Martinez and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, announced that Capital Metro was a recipient of an $11.3-million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grant.

The grant will enable Capital Metro to advance a number of rail improvements, including increasing the speed at which MetroRail trains operate, and beginning or completing several state-of-good- repair projects. Additionally, the funding will provide operational flexibility for future service enhancements.

The $11.3-million TIGER grant will support several commuter and freight rail enhancements at Capital Metro, including:

• Railway and signal timing improvements that will help reduce vehicle delays and rail traffic congestion.

• Commuter rail improvements, including additional sidings and double tracking in the most critical areas, which are projected to increase ridership capacity by 15 percent and reduce commute times by five to ten minutes.

• Freight rail enhancements, including the replacement of several bridges, and rail rehabilitation and realignments that will increase speeds and enhance safety while doubling freight capacity and improving reliability.

“These TIGER projects are the best argument you can make for investment in our transportation infrastructure,” said Secretary Foxx. “Projects such as Austin’s efforts to improve its freight and passenger rail network, ensure a stronger transportation system for future generations by repairing existing infrastructure, connecting people to new jobs and opportunities, and contributing to our nation’s economic growth.”

The reality is, MetroRail ridership is booming. Since the Red Line launched in 2010, ridership is up 225%, proving if you build it, they will come.

Rail Ridership Graph

And come they have. MetroRail is now averaging over 65,000 boardings a month, with trains at full capacity during peak hours. In 2012, we saw our one millionth passenger trip and it’s very clear to that demand is only going to increase as the region continues to grow.

It’s also clear that people have come to view MetroRail as one of their best options to connect to the places and events they want to go.

Take South by Southwest as an example. MetroRail first served the annual conference in 2011 and since then, ridership has increased by over 65%. But it’s not just SXSW — During the inaugural Formula 1 race at the Circuit of the Americas, MetroRail had nearly 14,000 boardings, including almost 2,000 on the special Sunday service that was added to accommodate the demand. We’re expecting even more demand for MetroRail when race fans return to Austin this November. Also, nearly 22,000 people have taken MetroRail to get to the popular Pecan Street Festival since 2010.

The Red Line certainly gets people moving, and gets them to the places they want to be. It also gets them there on time. Historically, MetroRail has an on-time performance record of 99%.

But it’s not just MetroRail ridership that’s increased — economic development along the Red Line is booming.

For example, Midtown Commons is a transit-oriented development located next to Crestview station. Prior to MetroRail, this area was a brownfield—which means it was a former petrochemicals plant. Now, it’s a vibrant and modern, mixed-use development that includes a brewery, retail shops, live & work units, and apartments—with an integrated transit plaza that provides easy access to a wide variety of destinations.

In fact, Midtown Commons Manager, Heidi Piper, has said they located their development at Crestview as a commitment to providing housing in transit-rich locations.

MetroRail has been a factor in more than $95-million in new development so far around Capital Metro’s nine stations, with another $283-million in various stages of development.

Capital Metro was one of 52 recipients of TIGER grants.

More than 585 applications totaling $9 billion in requests were received for this round’s availability of $474 million grants. The money is designated as investments in high-impact port, road, rail and transit projects.

MetroRail's Downtown Station
MetroRail’s Downtown Station

Happy Trails To You…

Cap Metro President/CEO Linda S. Watson (right), Austin City Councilman Chris Riley (center) & Bike Austin Executive Director Tom Wald (left)
Cap Metro President/CEO Linda S. Watson (right), Austin City Councilman Chris Riley (center) & Bike Austin Executive Director Tom Wald (left)

The evolution of Capital Metro’s commitment to a walkable, bicycle-friendly, connected region continued Friday, August 02, 2013 as the urban trail connecting Crestview and Highland stations officially opened. The nearly one-mile long trail, created in conjunction with the City of Austin, connects transit hubs, businesses and the forthcoming Austin Community College (ACC) Highland Campus.

“The Crestview/Highland trail is really about connections and Capital Metro has been working hard to develop a comprehensive regional system, through efforts like Project Connect, to address the needs of a growing region,” said President/CEO Linda S. Watson. “Providing sustainable, safer transportation options like this trail extend the reach of the transit system and encourage healthy habits that will improve the quality of our communities. It also means we can offer more choices for people to get out of traffic and navigate the community in other ways.”

Joined by partners including the City of Austin, who displayed a demo of the forthcoming bike share program, Bike Austin, Bike Texas and CAMPO, the event showcased the best of what collaboration can do to create meaningful, useful solutions for everyone.

Also attending the trail opening were the Texas Rollergirls (who have their season-ending bout on August 10th. If you take Cap Metro to the Austin Convention Center for the finale, you can still receive $5 off at the door), Movability Austin, and Commute Solutions. Additionally, the Mexic-Arte Museum and Creative Action contributed with “art bikes” to help celebrate.

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Continue reading “Happy Trails To You…”

Cap Metro’s Future Rapid-ly Approaching

A sneak peak at the new MetroRapid vehicle.
A sneak peak at the new MetroRapid vehicle.

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.”

Cap Metro President & CEO Linda Watson with a new MetroRapid vehicle.
Cap Metro President & CEO Linda Watson with a new MetroRapid vehicle.

Continue reading “Cap Metro’s Future Rapid-ly Approaching”