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!
In honor of tonight’s extended hours on MetroRail–the last planned Friday evening service for a while–I’d like to share another MetroRail rider’s story, in his own words. Justin Kirchhoff has been riding MetroRail since day 1, and he uses his commute to stay productive and get ahead on his workday. How do you enjoy your commute?
I’ve always liked trains. I don’t know what it is. Maybe the fact that it takes the shortest route between any two locations or that its very efficient. Either way, when I started riding the MetroRail this past year, I really found the convenience alarming.
With gas prices climbing to an all time high and car repair climbing almost just as high, there was only one solution for me to travel back and forth from my production studio to home. Cap MetroRail has been my hero. I’ve saved well over $500 in gas this past year because of the light rail. $500! I would have easily spent $30 or more on gas to fill up my car every week. Now I only have to spend that once a month to ride MetroRail to and from work, even to downtown Austin.
With free WiFi enabled train cars, I could send my morning e-mails off to clients, check my daily dose of viral videos, even upload a video to my server. The convenience factor is fast, safe, and most of all smart.
One of the unanticipated, but wonderful, benefits of our efforts to participate on social media sites like Twitter (@CapMetroNews & @CapMetroRail) and Facebook (/capitalmetro) is that we’ve made some meaningful connections with riders. Hazel Beasley is one of them, and I’ve enjoyed following her updates online. She’s been riding MetroRail since day one, and since yesterday was MetroRail’s 1st anniversary, it’s a good story to share this week. Here’s Hazel’s story, in her own words.
My name is Hazel Beasley and I am a commuter on the Cap Metro Rail (I love saying that to people.)
When I am at work and I mention that I need to catch the train, the responses are almost always the same,“You take the Cap Metro Rail? Really? That is so cool! How is it? I have always wanted to take a train to work! I wish I could make public transportation work for me.”
Well, we make it work for us and it is working better than ever! We have one car and I am a full time working mother with six children aged from 10 years to 6 months old. I have been taking the Cap Metro Rail to and from work, since returning from maternity leave. Recently, I calculated that I save $187/month by taking the rail to work! Do you know how many diapers and school lunches that is? That doesn’t even take into consideration the miles that I am not putting on the car. Continue reading “Rider Profiles: Hazel Beasley”→
Since moving to Austin in 2008, I have become well aware of the problems that face our city. To me, public transportation will be the the most important factor in determining Austin’s ability to adapt to future changes. In the past year, I have been helping the MetroAmbassadors and the Alliance for Public Transportation educate and engage the public on local transportation issues.
With the endless lines of people on the road and at events during SXSW this past week, Austin began to resemble a theme park more than an actual city. This year, I have noticed that more people left Austin’s famous music, film and interactive technology conference with a Texas-sized traffic hangover than ever before. My quest was to gain a street-level perspective into how people overcame this massive transportation headache. Whether people were using a “bus, bike and brains” method or taking advantage of the MetroRail’s extended weekend service hours, public transit seemed to be the most effective way to get around.
One person I ran into outside of the Austin Convention Center was Evan Olsen, an ACC film student and frequent MetroRail rider. He uses a bike and rail combo to extend his reach beyond a normal walking distance.
“I use the MetroRail to get from the Lakeline Station to Downtown. It’s really nice having the late night services for SXSW. There’s a lot of drinking going on this week, so it’s good for those people to have a safe form of transportation.”
Hear more about Evan’s story:
Preliminary ridership numbers show that many people took full advantage of the MetroRail’s extended Friday and Saturday night services. In fact, the only real concern I received about the service extension is that people want more of it; especially on weekday nights.
Among the chorus of people saying “we want more” was Deanna Cluck. Deanna, a North Austin resident and SXSW volunteer who had to trade in a MetroRail pass for her keys during the weekdays, said that “it would be great if the train was running late during weekdays.”
Hear what else Deanna had to say:
When it comes down to it, Austin’s transportation network is already hard pressed to keep up with local demand. Taking on the +200,000 SXSW visitors last week only made this problem more apparent. By the end of the week, many people (including me) decided to stay home in order to save their sanity from the onslaught of people, cars and trash. Some bloggers have even claimed that SXSW has grown too large for Austin. I am not so sure that is the case. Austin is, in many ways, at a crossroads from being just a small state capital to becoming a key global economic power. The increasingly complex problems that come with rapid change need increasingly complex and innovative solutions. Capital Metro, in conjunction with the City of Austin, could invest in a number of transit solutions that would alleviate downtown traffic and ensure the future success of SXSW events. SXSW has always been a breeding ground for innovation in music, film and technology. With a little creativity, dedication and skill–attributes that exemplify the SXSW spirit–public transportation can surely be added to the growing list of industries that benefit from our great festival.
As a member of the Austin City Planning Commission, Dave Sullivan has a very unique perspective from the train. He is also a cycling enthusiast who uses the train to ride around town.
“I don’t know why more people don’t use MetroRail. It’s a convenient, ideal way to travel,” Dave said. You avoid the hassles on the roads, he said. He bikes 2 miles from near Enfield and MoPac to the Convention Center 3 – 4 mornings a week to catch the 6:41 to Kramer Station, then one mile from there to the Pickle Research Campus. In the evening he bikes home 10 miles. Occasionally he does the reverse. Sometimes he bikes both ways!
There are also many things that one can do whilst on the train. “You can work on the train; I see lots of people with their laptops out.”
Eventually, “there will be much more residential and retail than there is now,” Dave said. This will cause ridership to rise as more people have more places to go.
Dave also enjoys getting to meet new people who are riding the train.
He, like many others, wishes there was more service, especially more reverse commute trains that go all the way to Leander.
He sees a future with weekend service, too. “During South by Southwest people could stay at hotels farther north and then run into downtown,” he said.
UT student Chris Tosh began riding MetroRail this semester. According to him, the journey was an improvement over how he used to get from the Kramer area to the UT campus. Chris used to have to take an hour-long bus ride to get to campus. Now, he bikes in to Kramer Station, rides MetroRail to MLK, Jr. Station and then takes the 465 MLK Jr. Connector to the UT campus, or he bikes in.
“I’d heard MetroRail was running, I just did not know that the station was close by,” Chris said.
“The train is faster, because during rush hour you don’t hit any of the traffic,” Chris said. He continued, “I definitely like this better than the bus trip.”
Stephanie McCurley likes Capital MetroRail so much that she walks farther to use it. “I walk two blocks out of my way to use the train,” Stephanie , a bus and train rider, said. Her commute takes her from Tech Ridge Park & Ride to downtown on E. 8th st.
She rides the 935 Tech Ridge Express into work in the morning, but in the afternoon she takes the train fromDowntown to Howard and then catches the 243 Wells Branch home.
“My car broke down two years ago, and I decided to keep using public transportation,” Stephanie said. “The train does not sit in traffic and there is no slamming on of the brakes or stop and go like on IH 35. You aren’t worried about being rear ended or hitting another vehicle. A friend once complained the train is always on time so if she is late she must take the bus instead.”
She enjoys the train because the scenery is better than the roadway. “I do my bird-watching out of the window, I see great blue herons and hawks,” she said. To her, the train is “smoother, quieter and more scenic” than a bus or car trip.
His commute used to take 45-55 minutes or longer by car. He now rides every workday on Capital Metro’s MetroRail and connector buses and his commute now takes 1 hour and 10 minutes. Why does David Franke do this? The longer trip is more useful.
“I gain time, because I can work 45 minutes on my computer during the trip,” David said. He uses Sprint 3G for internet instead of relying on the built WiFi on the train. His commute now is a drive from his house to the Lakeline Station, MetroRail to the Downtown station, where he catches the 460 Downtown Station/Capitol MetroRail Connector.
Fighting traffic on 183 was what he did previously. His new commute “is a good deal in terms of cost, its lower frustration, with no road rage.”
David is a rider that Capital Metro did pull off of the highways and roads of Austin and put into our train and bus. With his new found time and lowered frustration he “was surprised that more people aren’t riding the train.”
His advice to new riders is to “have something to do and find out which bus connector goes to where you work.”
Brian Tracy said it best, “You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” Thursday, a friend of mine decided to put Brian Tracy to the test and try MetroRail for the first time. Here is what Traci J. had to say about trying a new trek to work.
[ck] What made you decide to try MetroRail?
[Traci] Several things really. I am so tired of fighting traffic in the morning from Round Rock; but, it’s even worse trying to get home in the afternoon. I don’t have air conditioning in my car at the moment. We all know how summer in Texas can be. I also wanted to minimize the wear and tear on my car so I don’t have to buy a new vehicle right away. I thought making this change would help me save money on gas and save money on the tollway. When I drive, it’s amazing how often I end up on the tollway to skirt around a traffic delay. If I were to take the tollway every day, it would cost me eighty dollars a month (and it has).
Kathleen McElwaine rides the bus to work everyday from Leander. She also happens to be an artist and has found a way to make her time on the bus each day uber productive: she paints watercolors during her commute.
But not only that, she markets her bus paintings as green art! She maintains a blog and was featured in a TV news story not too long ago about her creative approach to commuting. (Obligatory comment: Those express buses must be one s-m-o-o-t-h ride if you can paint while onboard.) She sells her bus paintings through an Etsy storefront–check it out.
AND. She is one of 28 finalists in a contest to be named a Jerry’s Artarama Art Star. Her video is posted online, and the Art Star will be chosen based on the number of people who view the video–go view it!
Kathleen is just one of thousands of interesting riders onboard Capital Metro everyday. What do you do while riding the bus?