A revised proposal for January changes to 984, 986 and 987

About two weeks ago we created quite a kerfuffle when we floated a proposal to eliminate MetroExpress routes 984 and 986, but add service to route 987 to accommodate all riders. We met with riders on Aug. 26 at the Leander Public Library, and while I wasn’t there personally, I understand we got quite an earful.

The main sticking points for riders of 984 and 986 about switching to 987 were twofold. First, riders were concerned about additional travel time on 987. Second, they wanted to keep their bus stops along San Jacinto and MLK.

One option volunteered at the meeting in Leander was the possibility of combining 984 and 986, and after studying all the options, our transit planners agree that it is a workable idea. They’ve revised the proposal.

Capital Metro would combine routes 984 and 986 into new route 985 Leander/Northwest Direct (via IH-35). This route would serve Leander and Lakeline park & ride facilities, then travel down IH-35 and MLK to reach the State Office Complex and downtown destinations. The new route would serve all the bus stops currently served by 984 and 986. The new route would have three morning and three afternoon trips. Consequently, in this proposal 987 would only see minor schedule adjustments.

Here is the proposed schedule for 985 and 987 beginning January 2011. The schedule for new 985 is highlighted blue.

Continue reading “A revised proposal for January changes to 984, 986 and 987”

Wednesday Morning on the 987

The oblong box cruises south on Mopac. It is 6:22 on a mid-week morning and still dark outside. The interior lights are off. Two individual overhead spotlights are on as two of my passengers read. That means 21 passengers are asleep in the recliner seats. That makes me feel good because my smooth driving lulled them to sleep, which is what they wanted and looked forward to when they boarded at Leander and Lakeline. A 15-minute nap will help them get through the morning. As I drive this particular morning I see a meteor streak down and quickly disappear. It is the end of its million mile journey. I don’t mention this to my passengers. It is too early to wake them.

But like almost all good things, this ride, as comfy and cozy as it is, is disturbed at 6:26 when the first passengers deboard from the bus. I go into my routine. “Time to get up. Don’t forget anything. Make sure you have what belongs to you. Up and at ’em. Show them what you’re made out’ve.” Reminds me of when I was the duty N.C.O. in the Marines and had to call reveille, decades back. I walked the barracks to make sure every marine was up. Job well done.

My passengers know me by my name because this is the third time (or “mark-up,” to use transportation lingo) I’ve had this run, the 987 Leander.

Each of my passengers smiles at me as they walk out and onto work. It’s priceless.

They are in a good mood because their morning commute was quiet. Uneventful. Just as they like it. I did my part in making their day start off well. In turn they will make other people’s day better. It is a chain reaction made from positive energy. At 6:44 the bus is empty except for me. And I think to myself, “Another job well done.”

June 2009 Service Change: Express Routes

We’ve begun shopping around Capital Metro’s June 2009 service change proposal. One of the items in the proposal is changes to and the possible elimination of some express route trips in the Northwest corridor, on routes 984, 986 and 987.

After the Capital MetroRail Red Line begins full service, Capital Metro will evaluate ridership on both the Red Line and routes 984, 986 and 987 for some weeks to determine if any trips on these express routes could be trimmed. In particular, routes 984 and 986 parallel the Red Line. Those trips with similar departures as the Red Line could potentially be eliminated or consolidated with 987. However, we really won’t know until after the Red Line has been in full operation a little while and we see where the ridership trends are.

Going multi-modal is a big deal, and while our planners have a lot of tools and expertise at their disposal to predict ridership patterns and need for service, it’s not a perfect science. It made pragmatic sense to go ahead and propose potential changes to 984, 986, and 987 now, so that we have the ability to make any needed changes after the Red Line begins to best allocate our resources and coordinate bus and rail services.

As with every service change (three times per year), it’s a public process, and we invite your participation. Capital Metro staff is hosting two community meetings this week, and the Capital Metro Board welcomes your input at a public hearing.

Public Meetings:

Thursday, March 12
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Capital Metro Customer Service Center, 323 Congress Ave.

Thursday, March 12
5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
Capital Metro Customer Service Center, 323 Congress Ave.

Public Hearing:

Friday, March 13
12:30 p.m.
Capital Metro Headquarters, 2910 East 5th St.

A Community of Commuters

This weekend the Dallas Morning News printed a fun article about a social network of women commuters on DART. Their membership is up to 50 women, and in addition to visiting during their daily commutes, they meet for a business networking lunch once a month.

I know here at home, Express route riders often get to know one another and form a small community of sorts. That’s a trend I think will spread to MetroRail, too, once it’s going. I’m pretty sure we could come up with a snazzier club name than DART’s “Blue Line Ladies Lunch Bunch.” The MetroRailers? The Red Line Red Hots? Red Line Rogues? The 5 o’clock Sidecars?

Check out the full article from the Dallas Morning News, behind the cut.

Dallas Morning News – January 25, 2009
Women extend DART commute into a network

Judy Appelman and Darlene Bennett have learned to make connections while making connections.

They’ve turned the daily trek from Garland to downtown into a business network for female DART warriors. Membership in the dues-free legion, the Blue Line Ladies Lunch Bunch, currently stands at nearly 50 women ages 32 to 65.

In addition to communing while commuting, the group meets each month at a lunch spot downtown to socialize with purpose. Someone needs to sell her house. Another needs to find one. Several, including Appelman, are looking for jobs.

More than half of the members are legal assistants and paralegals.

“The only way we’re going to survive in this world of new economic realities is by networking with each other,” says Appelman, whose hours as director of marketing for an architecture firm were recently pared to part time. “There are 48 people who now know I’m looking for a job.”

Sometimes commuters form social groups, but as far as DART knows, this is the first time a business network has coalesced.

“This group has taken on a whole different dynamic,” says DART spokesman Morgan Lyons. “This is really cool.”

It started last April when Bennett, an executive assistant for an oil and gas chief executive, asked Appelman how she could get to know other women on the train. Bennett, who moved here from California to take care of a seriously ill sister, was “starving for friendship,” she says.

Appelman and Bennett set a lunch date for the next week. Becki Woodward, who works in the purchase and sales department of Southwest Securities, overheard their plans and invited herself along. Over Mexican cuisine at Iron Cactus, the idea for a monthly group lunch of Blue DARTers blossomed.

“We started by gathering e-mails on the train,” Appelman says. “It was truly that simple. We’re not selective at all.”

Women only

Guys can’t join, Bennett says in hushed tones, as if that were illegal.

“If somebody loses a job, maybe somebody else knows of a job,” Woodward says. “I wish the whole world were like this. We’re all helpmates.”

Last Thursday, nearly two dozen train trekkers gathered at Enchilada’s on Elm Street, where the conversation centered on how to expand the club’s just-launched Web site. More detailed contact information on everyone would be helpful. Perhaps they should start a reading club. A list of goings-on downtown and where to park cheapest at night would come in handy.

Most get an hour for lunch – but not necessarily the same hour. Forewarned, Enchilada’s manager Toni Lopez was happy to accommodate the come-and-go crowd.

They came in small batches beginning at 11:30 a.m. (coinciding with train arrivals at Akard a block away), ordered as they sat down and left when they had to. The last woman caught the Blue Line’s 1:23 p.m. northbound.

The group is thinking about doing an after-work happy hour at Mockingbird Station because some can’t get away at lunchtime.

There are other benefits. “If someone has car trouble when she gets back to the station, she knows who she’s ridden in with that afternoon and can call for help,” Appelman says. A half-dozen or so with children at Texas A&M University formed an Aggie Mom subgroup.

“Instead of reading, people feel free to strike up conversations,” Bennett says. “I’ve met some of the nicest ladies on the train and have been blessed in getting to know them.”

A rainbow

It’s become an endeavor of the heart for Bennett and Appelman, who would like to help start Red Line and Green Line groups.

The folks at DART think that would be just great.

“It shows how transit can create community, a sense of ownership that you can’t get while riding alone in your car,” Lyons says.