2012 Earth Day Is Coming: How Are You Involved?

Earth DayEach year, we get one special day to celebrate Mother Earth and get involved in how we can help take care of our planet and be more eco-friendly.

This year, that special day falls on April 22.

So how will you be involved?

If you still don’t have plans, we’ve got you covered. So, keep reading…

At Capital Metro, being earth-friendly and staying “green” is important to us. And, we take pride in the fact that as a public transportation agency, we help reduce harmful air emissions and carbon-footprints by facilitating people riding together each day–not alone in their cars. Continue reading “2012 Earth Day Is Coming: How Are You Involved?”

Ozone Season: What You Can Do

Clean Air Force

Spring in Texas is in full bloom and although you might want to jump in the car and take some pictures with Bluebonnets on the side of the road, you should know Ozone Season has officially started and will stick around with us until late October.

But, don’t let that get you down because there are things you can do to stay safe and help out the environment during this year’s Ozone season.

Yesterday, Mayor Lee Leffingwell joined the CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas at Austin City Hall to mark the beginning of the Ozone Season and speak with the public about reducing air emissions starting now and continuing throughout the summer.

 “We are urging Central Texans to pay extra attention to ozone alerts and air quality levels this Ozone Season. Basically anything that limits your driving or electricity use will help make a positive difference in the quality of air we are breathing,” said Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell.

Just as Mayor Leffingwell said it, it’s our #1 recommendation this Ozone Season too — limit your driving and help out the environment. By using Capital Metro, one of the best things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is to ride public transit instead of taking a personal car. Continue reading “Ozone Season: What You Can Do”

Raising the bar on service at 2,700+ bus stops

There have been a number of news stories this week about an initiative to discourage tobacco use at Capital Metro bus stops. The Capital Metro board yesterday adopted a revision to our Tobacco Free Facilities policy to include all 2,700+ bus stops (park & rides, transit centers and MetroRail stations are already tobacco free). Beginning March 1, 2012, we’re asking people to kindly not use tobacco products within 15 feet of a bus stop.

It’s great news, and we’re excited to promote healthier air and cleaner bus stops for our riders by discouraging tobacco use. But, the most exciting part of the new signage project for riders has flown under the radar: incredible new methods for getting next scheduled bus information, specific to every single bus stop in the system.

Riders will begin to see a sign like this at their bus stops beginning in December. The sign will be in addition to the current bus route signs at stops.

Check out the new sign that will be gracing your bus stop in the new year. Note that the top 1/5 or so of the sign is the “No tobacco use within 15 feet” message. And the remaining 4/5 of the sign outlines how one can use his phone four different ways to get schedule information by stop.

Here’s how it works: every bus stop in the system has a unique ID number.  The bus stop at 11th and Guadalupe is #504, for example. With your phone and that ID number, you can:

  1. Text: Text the bus stop ID number to DadnabTM at (512) 981-6221, and receive a reply text with the next scheduled bus arrival times for the buses that serve that stop.
  2.  Scan the QR Code: Scan the square barcode on the sign using a QR reader app (many free readers are available from your phone’s apps marketplace), and next bus times and a route map will be displayed on your smartphone.
  3. Open our mobile site: Open capmetro.org/stopid/ from your phone and input your bus stop ID number to pull up a mobile-friendly website with the next bus arrivals.   
  4. Call the Go Line at 512-474-1200. Use the automated voice system 24 hours/day or talk to a real person weekdays, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on weekends, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This new information method has been in the works for a number of years, but we haven’t had the funding available before to implement it across the system. Because of our commitment to reduce secondhand smoke at bus stops, we are able to leverage federal grant funding to implement the signage. The entire cost of the signage, hardware and installation (about $230K) will be paid for through a grant from the city of Austin under the national Communities Putting Prevention to Work. Later in FY2012, Capital Metro will use additional local funding to incorporate Braille on the signs, too, greatly expanding the usability of our system for riders with visual impairments.

There are a ton of other benefits, too. First off, we begin to rack up the savings with the very first service change, because the signs will not need to be updated when routes or frequencies change. Over 5 years, we could save up to $100,000 on materials alone! Additionally, the signs are slated for installation at 100 percent of Capital Metro bus stops. Currently, schedule information is available at fewer than 50 percent of bus stops.

Riders may begin to notice the new signs at their bus stops beginning in December, and we expect the signs to be 100 percent installed by the end of February.

You might be thinking, what if you don’t have a phone? No worries. Although a 2010 survey of Capital Metro riders found that 80 percent carry a cell phone when they ride, Capital Metro will continue to provide free route brochures and system maps onboard the bus, and for $3, customers can purchase the newest edition of Destinations, the official Capital Metro schedule book.

We invite you to test out the various information options featured on the sign and let us know what you think.

 

A Rewarding Commute

Some of you may already be familiar with NuRide, a new (to Austin) program that rewards people for making choices that “green” your commute or daily trips. For those of you who aren’t, the easiest way I can think to describe it is as a rewards program for everyone who contributes to taking automobiles off the roads of Central Texas.

With a goal of reducing the pollution and congestion associated with driver-only car trips, NuRide members accrue points each time they log a trip taken via carpool, vanpool, public transit, bicycle or walking. They can also accrue points for trips not taken if they telecommute. The program, which is free, allows members to… Continue reading “A Rewarding Commute”

Tough decisions, in their own words

Have you seen the agenda for Friday’s board meeting?  It’s packed!  Every board vote is important, but the three that have understandably generated the most feedback are the FY2011 budget, MetroAccess policy changes, and the January 2010 service changes.

Many people spoke very passionately at public hearings for all three issues in the last few days.  People expressed their worries about how these proposed changes and budget decisions will affect them.

Originally I was going to blog about how these are difficult decisions, etc.  But I think our board chair, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, summed it up really well at the end of yesterday’s budget public hearing, with an additional comment from Vice Chair John Langmore.  So here it is in their own words (with transcript pasted below the video clip along with additional comments from today’s Finance/Audit Committee meeting):

Continue reading “Tough decisions, in their own words”

Bike to Work Day: Tomorrow

Tomorrow is Bike to Work Day. Wouldn’t it be great if tomorrow during morning rush hour, there were more bikes out on our streets than cars?!

I’ve got my route planned out and hope to bike the whole way, but just in case I get tired, I’ve also noted where along my route I could catch a bus if needed. All of our buses (except the ‘Dillo trolleys) have bike racks, and it’s easy to load/unload your bike. If you’ve never “biked by bus” before, you can check out the easy how-to on our Web site.

I had heard there was a bike shop in town that had a standard bus bike rack in the store so people could practice (without the pressure of traffic zooming by). I thought it was Mellow Johnny’s but turns out it’s not. Does anyone know which shop, if any, provides that?

But. I did learn that Mellow Johnny’s provides bike commuters hot showers, and while you’re getting cleaned up, they’ll tuneup your bike, provide you a storage locker, and give you a free cup of coffee (on Fridays). All for $1. Pretty cool.

They’re also on the list of organizations providing FREE breakfast to cyclists tomorrow. Check out the full list of breakfast locations.

Hope to see you on two wheels tomorrow!