Capital Metro Wins National Award

These bus/train ads have been up and down Austin streets for a few months now. They’re all about going downtown and grabbin’ a ride on MetroRail to get you where you need to go. If you’ve noticed them, you’re not alone — they’ve caught the attention of the American Public Transportation Association.

Earlier this month, Capital Metro found out we won the APTA AdWheel Award for this “Go Downtown” campaign we started in March when we began running Friday and Saturday night service! APTA contests are no joke, so this award means a lot to our team and lands us some major props in the industry.

The campaign mission originally was solely intended to encourage and inform riders like you about the new night rail service, but it’s cool too that someone else noticed our efforts because there were a  lot of very creative people who invested many hours into making the “Go Downtown” project shine.

Each year, APTA honors members’ marketing and communications efforts with the AdWheel Awards. Awards are presented in five main media categories: print, electronic, campaigns, social media, and special events. Recipients are honored in a special ceremony at APTA’s Annual Meeting, held each October.

So, thanks APTA for recognizing Capital Metro’s efforts through this award — it means a lot to us, but more importantly, we hope riders like you are continuing to enjoy Friday and Saturday night service and know we appreciate you for riding Capital Metro! Next time you see these cool ads around town, you’ll know they’re actually award-winning.

Twitter Name: Now @CapMetroATX

Tweet, Tweet!

For those of you who follow our Twitter activity (or may want to), you may have noticed our recent change of account names.

In the past, we have communicated to followers using two separate Twitter accounts: CapMetroNews and CapMetroRail. Having two accounts made sense leading up to the opening of MetroRail, but now it’s just sort of confusing. People tweet us with rail-related inquiries at CapMetroNews and with bus issues at CapMetroRail. Plus, having two accounts sometimes contributes to a delay in us responding.

Going into our new fiscal year in October 1, we wanted to use that date as a benchmark for turning over a new leaf in our Communications efforts — including Twitter.

Going into the future, we have changed the name of our CapMetroRail account to @CapMetroATX. This will be our one and only account where we’ll provide bus and rail service updates as well as relevant news and rider tips. Over the next two weeks we’ll phase-out our CapMetroNews account.

We know by following one sole account, you may get more info than before. So, how can you filter the info you get notifications about, if you want?

By using certain apps, you can make settings to only get notified of certain hashtags, versus receiving all our Tweets.

We’ll be operating via these hashtags:

#MetroRailAlert: for specific delay alerts on MetroRail

#MetroBusAlert: for all bus-related service alerts

So, for example, if you began following our rail account and only wish to continue receiving rail-related messages, set-up your account to send only messages including the #MetroRailAlert hashtag.

How to set specific alerts up? This useful YouTube video helps you use TweetDeck for setting-up hashtag notifications:

If you’re not into Tweet Deck, there’s also Boxcar for push notifications as well.

This change may take some getting used to, but it’s for the better — to provide improved communications and customer service. So, jump right it, follow us at www.twitter.com/CapMetroATX.

Tweet you soon!

TODAY: Nominate Arthur as Austin Chronicle’s Best Operator

Today’s the last day to vote, click here to nominate

Every year, the Austin Chronicle hosts their “Best of Austin” competition.

Austinites have the chance to vote for their favorites around town, from restaurants to media outlets. Aside from those traditional categories, the Chronicle gives everyone an opportunity to think outside the box and nominate a Wild Card topic for someone you would give an award to.

We think our very own bus operator, Arthur Murillo deserves an award for his outstanding work. Today is the deadline to vote, so log-on to: www.austinchronicle.com/bestof and scroll to the bottom of the page and fill in Arthur’s name in the Wild Card category.

Why should you nominate him?

  • Arthur is a four-time International Bus Roadeo Champion.

    Four-time international champion Arthur Murillo has driven buses for Capital Metro customers for 25 years.
  • He won his fourth title earlier this year.
  • He was voted Best Bus Operator in the Austin Chronicle in 2006.
  • He’s got more than 25 years behind the saddle driving folks around Austin as a professional bus operator.

Let’s get some votes going and help give Arthur an award he truly deserves.

Read more about Arthur’s previous  competition wins here.

Bus 101: WaBuCy Zilker Outreach

Last week, our Capital Metro folks went to hang out with members of the Zilker neighborhood group called WaBuCy (Walk Bus Cycle) for a Social Bus Outing. The group started at Irie Bean where they met with our community involvement manager, John-Michael, who gave all the in’s-and-out’s of bus transit and some cool CapMetro goodies!

WaBuCy is a neighborhood group dedicated to increasing bike, pedestrian, bus travel and reducing auto traffic in the Zilker area. They are some great folks and we really enjoyed hangin’ out last Saturday.

After they all learned about fares, routes, bus safety and became transit-pros, they tackled the #3 Burnet/Manchaca bus, taking them to the Sustainable Food Center’s Downtown Farmer’s Market!

We had a great turn-out of both experienced and novice transit riding WaBuCy folks and were even featured on the KXAN news!

Photos courtesy of Rene Renteria Photography

We need your input on Proposed January Service Changes

We need your input!

Capital Metro is proposing changes on several routes in accordance with our Service Guidelines & Standards. These changes are being proposed to improve transit access, efficiency and reliability. These proposals will go before the Capital Metro Board of Directors on September 24, 2012. If approved, these changes would take effect Sunday, January 13, 2013.

Capital Metro is making several changes to routes in South Austin, Northeast Austin, and Northcross areas. Visit our website now for a complete list and maps of the proposed January 2013 service changes and details about how to give us your feedback. The proposed route realignments, extensions and adjustments would improve efficiency, service coverage and increase ridership without an increase in cost.

We want to hear from you! All riders are encouraged to join public involvement opportunities listed below and provide your feedback. Capital Metro will conduct a series of public meetings, a webinar and public hearing. See our service change webpage for schedule details. Become involved, join the conversation and comment on specific proposals in efforts to provide effective services that meet the Austin area’s transportation needs!

Upcoming Public Involvement Dates:

Sept. 4, 2012, 12:00 – 2 p.m.
Capital Metro Transit Store, 323 Congress Ave.
Served by downtown routes

Sept. 4, 2012, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
North Village Branch Library
2505 Steck Ave
Served by routes 3, 325

 Sept. 5, 2012, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

University Hills Branch Library, 4721 Loyola Ln.

Served by routes 20, 37, 323

Sept. 5, 2012, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
ACC South Austin Campus, 1820 W. Stassney Ln.
Served by routes 3, 311

Webinar

Sept. 7, 2012, 12:00 p.m.
Sign-up today

If you require captioning to participate in this event, please select the link below. You may need to resize the window to view both the caption and the presentation simultaneously.

Link to webinar caption service

Public Hearing with the Capital Metro Board

 Sept. 17, 2012, 5:00 p.m.

Capital Metro Headquarters, 2910 E. 5th Street
Served by routes 17, 300

For opportunities to continue providing input to our system, please visit capmetro.icanmakeitbetter.com, email feedback@capmetro.org, or call 512-474-1200.

Thank you for riding Capital Metro!

–Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Increased frequency to Night Owls to debut Sunday with August 2012 Service Changes

Three times a year, Capital Metro looks at what can be done to better our overall transit system. Starting Sunday, Aug. 19, Capital Metro will introduce changes to service, designed to create more efficient routes and improve overall system service. Capital Metro constantly analyzes routes and evaluates customer feedback. Three times a year, Capital Metro makes these needed changes that are in accordance with Capital Metro’s Service Guidelines and Standards to create a better system.

Service changes will include:

Route Realignments  Capital Metro will realign two services:

o        30 Barton Creek  Will no longer service the Barton Hills/Hollow Creek neighborhood due to low ridership. Frequency in the Spyglass neighborhood will be improved from 70 to 35 minutes.

o        323 Anderson  Will be realigned from Ed Bluestein to Springdale and Tuscany to improve coverage.

Night Owl Routes  Several routes will be realigned to improve directness and reduce travel time. Frequency will be improved on routes 483, 484, 485 and 486. Night Owl service will no longer be available along south Manchaca, west William Cannon, South 1st, Braker, Springdale, 7th and Cesar Chavez due to low ridership.

o        481 Night Owl North  Will be renamed 481 Night Owl North Lamar.

o        482 Night Owl East  Will be consolidated with Route 485 Night Owl Cameron. (Refer to new Route 485 for more details)

o        483 Night Owl Southeast  Will be realigned to Riverside, Burton, Oltorf and Wickersham. Frequency will be improved from 60 to 30 minutes. Route will be renamed 483 Night Owl Riverside.

o        484 Night Owl S. Lamar/S. 1st  Will be realigned to serve only the South Lamar area. Frequency will be improved from 60 to 30 minutes. Route will be renamed 484 Night Owl South Lamar.

o        485 Night Owl Cameron  Will be realigned to Rosewood, Airport, Mueller, 51st, Cameron and Rutherford (Wal-Mart). Frequency will be improved from 60 to 30 minutes.

o        486 Night Owl Dove Springs  Will be realigned to South Congress, Stassney, PleasantValley and William Cannon. Frequency will be improved from 60 to 30 minutes. Route will be renamed 486 Night Owl South Congress.

UT Shuttles  Route and schedule adjustments will be made to the following University of Texas Shuttles:

o        641 EC East Campus  Midday frequency will be reduced from 7 to 10 minutes during fall and spring semesters.

o        652 PRC Pickle Research Campus  Frequency will be reduced from 35 to 60 minutes during fall and spring semesters. Route will be realigned within the Pickle Research campus.

o        675 WL Wickersham Lane– Midday frequency will be reduced from 15 to 20 minutes during fall, spring and finals.

Minor schedule adjustments will be made to the following routes to improve reliability:

o        4 Montopolis

o        7 Duval/Dove Springs

o        19 Bull Creek

o        30 Barton Creek

o        101 N. Lamar/S. Congress

o        151 Allandale

o        243 Wells Branch

o        323 Anderson

o        338 Lamar/45th

o        383 Research

o        466 Kramer

Select school-related trips will be reinstated or added to the following routes:

o        4 Montopolis

o        5 Woodrow/South Fifth

o        7 Duval/Dove Springs

o        300 Govalle

o        325 Ohlen

o        331 Oltorf

o        333 William Cannon

o        E-Bus routes, 410, 411 and 412

All of the changes, in addition to route schedules and maps, can be found in the Destinations schedule book, available for $3 at the Capital Metro Transit Store. The Transit Store is located at 323 Congress Avenue in downtown Austin. The guide is also downloadable at no cost on the Capital Metro website.

Details on the service change process can also be found on the Capital Metro website or by viewing this video.

August 2012 Service Change details also available in Spanish. (En Español)

New Buses Rolling Out onto Austin’s Streets This Week

New BusHave you seen them? Maybe you’ve even had the chance to experience that “new car smell” as you step on the bus. If you haven’t, chances are you will very soon.

Starting this week, Capital Metro will be adding three to five NEW buses into service each week until October! That’s right. Each week!

We’re excited to see the fancy, new electric-blue buses driving around Austin and we hope you are too. These buses are more comfortable, sleeker, better for the environment, brand-spankin’ new and are replacing older buses that have reached the end of the road.

In total, 54 New Flyer buses were approved by the Capital Metro board of directors in February.  The new buses are part of a Capital Metro strategy to maintain a state of good repair.

“We’re on the move everyday connecting people, jobs and communities. The new buses entering the fleet will allow Capital Metro to provide better reliability and an improved customer experience,” said Linda S. Watson, Capital Metro president/CEO.

The effort is also one step towards rebranding and differentiating services by color: local service will be the snazzy electric-blue, MetroRapid will be silver and MetroRail will continue red.

To further serve our customer’s needs, and improve service for bicycle transit riders, we will also be installing three position bike racks on ten of the new buses as a pilot project to test usability.

The buses use clean diesel which produces fewer emissions and meets 2010 Environmental Protection Agency Standards. Compared to 2009 buses they are 10 times cleaner and, more impressively, 25 times cleaner than buses from 20 years ago, which is great for the environment.

So, if you come upon one of our new buses, let us know! Tweet us @CapMetroNews or write on our Facebook page. We want to know!

New Tree Seedlings Planted Along North Austin Bus Routes

Tree Planting Day
Sustainable Neighborhoods and Capital Metro partner in efforts of planting more trees at bus stops.
Photo courtesy of Steven Zettner of Sustainable Neighborhoods

Trees — they help sustain the environment, and if you’re one of our MetroBus riders, you love to see them at the bus stops. They look nice, give you shade and keep you cooler during the summer. And, now we’re one step closer to seeing them at every bus stop thanks to the partnership between Capital Metro and volunteers from Sustainable Neighborhoods.

Earlier this month, over 25 volunteers went out to nine bus stops on Burnet and Anderson to plant two or three Mexican Plum and Texas Redbud tree seedlings at each site on March 11.

The seedlings were planted with a nifty new item called a Groasis Waterboxx, which will help water the seedlings for one year through a self-irrigation process. After a year, the trees should naturalize and not require subsequent watering when the re-useable Waterboxx can then be installed on another seedling.

The partnership is the beginning of a trial project for planting the street trees along Capital Metro bus routes.

“The tree seedlings are tiny – just 4″ liners,” Steven Zettner of Sustainable Neighborhoods said. “The waterboxxes are about the size of a large tire. They are donut shaped and wrap around the seedling, buffering it and emitting moisture very slowly. The waterboxx’s water bladder absorbs heat during the day and releases it at night, causing water to condensate and refill the bladder.”

Since the planting day, Sustainable Neighborhoods has been checking in on the bus stop seedlings and documenting their progress on their blog: http://www.snaustin.org/brainstorming/waterboxx

“Thanks in part to good rains, the waterboxxes have remained mostly full and the plants wet. Will be interesting to see how they fare over the summer if the rain stops,” according to one blog entry on March 23.

Tree Planting Day
Volunteers plant seedlings into Waterboxx containers.
Courtesy of Steven Zettner of Sustainable Neighborhoods

Now, there are 20 new Waterboxxes in North Austin and if the trial proves successful, it will signal a new method for planting trees at bus stops in an environmentally friendly mission that’s less expensive and labor-intensive.

“There are about 25 bus stops on Burnet between 2222 and 183, six have shaded shelters, two are at existing shaded locations, and we planted trees at 7 more,” Zettner said. “Assuming our trees make it, that will eventually double the shade quotient … and if this experiment pans out, we’ll be able to hit many other bus stops and sidewalk locations around NC Austin in the coming couple of years.”

The project has already helped to raise awareness and plant seedlings in North Austin that will one day help shade our riders and help the environment. If you stumble upon one of our little trees tell us how they’re doing and shoot us a picture of its progress. We can’t wait to see them full-grown and hope the project can keep expanding to help plant more trees!

A few words about productivity…

In the transit business, one of the most common ways to evaluate how well a route is doing is by measuring its productivity. There are several ways to measure a route’s productivity, such as cost per rider, riders per mile, etc. One measure that we use often around here is riders per hour, which is the number of people that ride a route per hour of service provided. For example, if 30 passengers ride a route that operates for two hours, the productivity is 15 passengers per hour.

So, what are Capital Metro’s most productive MetroBus routes?

1) Route 1L/1M (39 passengers per hour) – Continuously ranks 1st or 2nd in terms of productivity, which is one of the reasons why Lamar Boulevard, Guadalupe Street and South Congress Avenue were selected as the alignment for our first MetroRapid route.
2) Route 300 (37.5 passengers per hour) – Connects North Lamar Transit Center and South Congress Transit Center and serves many ridership generators including MetroRail stations, Reagan High School, multiple HEB grocery stores, and a Walmart.
3) Route 20 (37.1 passengers per hour) – Serves the very busy and growing Riverside corridor, as well as Manor Road.
4) Route 331 (36.7 passengers per hour) – Operates between ACC Riverside and Westgate Mall, mostly along Oltorf. ACC Riverside and Travis High School are major ridership generators. When they are in session, Route 331 can outperform Route 1L/1M.
5) Route 325 (35 passengers per hour) – Connects the densely populated Rundberg corridor with two shopping areas: Northcross Mall and the Walmart Shopping Center at Rutherford. It also has the highest percentage of Spanish-speaking passengers by far (44%).
6) Route 7 (33.8 passengers per hour) – Experienced ridership growth after it was extended to the St. John’s neighborhood in August 2010. Also serves the Dove Springs area in southeast Austin.

Did you notice that half of the highest performing routes listed above are local routes serving downtown and the other half are crosstown routes bypassing downtown? This reflects people’s changing travel patterns. Not everyone works, shops, or seeks medical services in downtown anymore. The implementation of Capital Metro’s ServicePlan 2020 has done a good job of meeting these changing patterns and improving overall productivity on our bus routes.

Service planning doesn’t only pay attention to our most productive routes, we also monitor the least productive routes. We then evaluate ways to improve productivity including rerouting, restructuring with surrounding routes, changing frequency or hours of service. To get a better idea of how we evaluate routes and make changes, check out the recording of our Service Standards & Guidelines and Spring Service Analysis webinars.

See you on the bus.

Proposed January Service Changes

Capital Metro changes service three times a year, in conjunction with UT and AISD academic calendars. Service change proposals can vary from minor schedule adjustments to facility integration to large-scale route restructuring.

A critical component of the service change process is public involvement. Customer feedback helps Capital Metro fine-tune the service change package and ultimately improve service.

While most transit agencies across the country are reducing service, Capital Metro has been fortunate enough to maintain similar levels of service over the past few years. As a result, recent service changes have essentially been a reallocation of resources from underutilized routes or trips to areas and corridors with high ridership demand. Continue reading “Proposed January Service Changes”