Project Connect’s Got Game

20170824_182742Talking about transit planning and regional public policy works better in a place that serves beer and great food. That’s why Capital Metro took to Scholz Biergarten last month to sponsor Project Connect’s Game Night.

Hosted with Glasshouse Policy, the event was designed to get people thinking about transit planning and the future of Central Texas transportation with all the limitations imposed by the real world. This can be difficult for a few different reason:

  1. Because the circle of people interested in transit planning is already pretty small.
  2. Because the people who are interested in transit planning tend to be firm in their opinions.
  3. Because sometimes those opinions don’t fully take into account all the real-world factors that professional transit planners deal with.
  4. Because sometimes those opinions conflict in ways that are hard and even impossible to reconcile.
  5. Because, really, it can be tough to find people interested in coming out on a Thursday night to talk transit planning.

So, you can see the dilemma. That’s why we bring folks to a beer garden and combine our planners’ expertise with the experience and crowd-pleasing skills of Glasshouse Policy. It was fun!20170905_110211_resized

The idea was to give people a real-world situation, throw some complicating factors at them and then have them design a transit solution. Like say, you’ve got a fast-growing medium-sized city with a traffic problem and an affordability problem that’s pushing lower-income residents further out of the central core. But those people still need to commute into the city for work. Add in an entrenched car culture, small but passionate fans of various forms of transit and a growing reluctance to approve bond elections. And you have to work within a budget.

But make it fun!

20170824_185415_resizedThe participants were given their instructions and the advice to play rounds of the game in a couple different ways:

  • First, implement a transit project you’re truly interested in (light rail, streetcars, rocket ships, whathaveyou).
  • But then the second time you play, go in a different direction. So, if you’re a light-rail-down-Lamar-and-Guadalupe true believer, try bus rapid transit or streetcars instead.

The intent was to make the players understand the complications inherent in the process and to see the possibilities available when you’re more flexible. In essence, to give these armchair planners a glimpse into the life of professional planners. (But make it fun!)

20170905_110029_resized2And it worked. The crowds came out and had a good time. About 60 people showed up, playing on 11 teams of 2 to 6 players each. The winners worked with their $1.1 billion budget and built three lines that were judged on their capacity to carry riders, frequency of service and ability to sustain operations for the long term.

It really was a good time, and the Capital Metro team has plans to bring it out to neighborhood events over the coming months to give more people a chance to play. Be sure to check to find out where and when.

Cap Metro to Take Comment on Budget


We at Capital Metro take seriously our mission to be open, honest and trustworthy stewards of the public’s money. 54.1 percent of our annual budget comes from our cut of the sales tax, and we’re aware that the public has the right to know what we plan to do.

Part of that effort to be transparent in every way we can is to post online our budgets for each of the past 10 years and next year’s proposed budget, too. The Fiscal Year 2018 budget will go before our board of directors on September 29, and we’re offering the public a number of chances to learn about it and offer comment. In addition to four public meetings (two in person and two online), there will be a public hearing before the board on Thursday at lunchtime. (We’ll also present about the minor changes that would go into effect in January 2018 should the board approve them.)

See below for the dates and locations of the all the meetings:

Monday, September 11

5-6 p.m.

Old Quarry Branch Library

7051 Village Center Drive

Served by Routes 19, 320, 661, 681

Tuesday, September 12

Noon-12:30 p.m.


5-6 p.m.

Pleasant Hill Branch Library

211 E. William Cannon

Served by Routes 1, 201, 333, 801

Wednesday, September 13

5:00 – 5:30 p.m.


Thursday, September 14

Noon-12:30 p.m.

Public Hearing

2910 E. 5th Street

Served by Routes 17, 300

Friday, September 29


Board vote

2910 E. 5th Street

Served by Routes 17, 300

‘Traffic Jam! A La Mode’ Serves Up a Project Connect Transit Mode Talk

Picture1In the spring, the Project Connect team surveyed people about where they wanted to see future high-capacity transit services. Now the team is engaging the community in the second phase of the planning initiative — examining which types of high-capacity transit would best fit each location. Continue reading “‘Traffic Jam! A La Mode’ Serves Up a Project Connect Transit Mode Talk”

Connections 2025: Routes 383 & 392 Update


Long-term planning can be tricky, because it requires balancing the needs of multiple constituencies that change and evolve over time. This isn’t the case just in transit of course, but it’s something we run into all the time. The most recent example is our Connections 2025 Transit Plan, which has seen changes to some of the proposals that were included in the approved plan. That’s common with bus network redesigns.

We wanted to share with the community one of these changes, since we’ve heard concerns regarding the potential elimination of service on Route 392 north of Braker in Northeast Austin.

What was the original proposal? The approved Connections 2025 plan proposed combining Routes 383 and 392 into an east-west route operating from Lakeline Mall along Jollyville Rd. and Braker Ln. to Dessau Rd. Buses were proposed to operate every 30 minutes instead of every 35 – 40 minutes. Route 383 would no longer serve the North Lamar Transit Center, and the area north of Braker served by Route 392 would be modified into a Mobility Innovation Zone.

What is a Mobility Innovation Zone? Mobility Innovation Zones are areas where Capital Metro wants to look into mobility options other than a 40-foot bus by using various pilot projects.  That’s because the land use and road network in these parts of town make it very difficult to provide cost-effective service with a big bus. The pilot projects would likely leverage emerging technology and transportation options, whether that’s an on-demand service like Pickup , flex routes, partnerships with TNCs or something else, we’re not sure. Because these technologies and tools are emerging, we’re still exploring how the pilots would function. Staff will be taking the next 12 months to develop the pilot projects with community input before requesting board approval. When approving Connections 2025, the board instructed staff that fixed-route service north of Dessau must be retained until the Mobility Innovation Zone pilot projects have been developed.

How has the proposal been modified? In keeping with the board’s directive to maintain fixed-route service, the proposed Route 383 would travel from Lakeline Station along Jollyville Rd. and Braker Ln. When the bus reaches Dessau, it will travel along Dessau, Shropshire, Thompkins, Yeager and Parmer before ending at the Tech Ridge Park & Ride. This proposed service would operate every 30 minutes and remain in place until a Mobility Innovation Zone pilot project is ready for implementation sometime in 2019.

What’s next?  As with any Connections 2025 proposal, this modification will require public outreach and board approval before it can be implemented. We will seek public comment this fall and ask board of directors to vote on the changes toward the end of the year. Changes would be implemented in June 2018. More information about all the upcoming changes and ways to provide feedback will be available shortly after Labor Day.

Connections 2025: Get Ready for Big Changes


Capital Metro is super excited to announce that the first significant changes coming out of Connections 2025 are scheduled to go into effect in June 2018. These proposed changes will go before our board for approval on November 15, but only after going through an extensive public input process.

The changes would affect almost every route in our system. In fact, more than half of our current 82 routes will see some level of change, with just 38 remaining the same after June 2018. The great news is that these changes will make for a more tightly integrated bus system that has more frequent service. It’s true that 14 current routes are proposed to be eliminated, but most riders of these routes will see comparable and likely even better service replace their current route.

Also, fixed-route service along low-ridership segments of Dessau, Steck and Mesa, Walsh Tarlton and Convict Hill will not be eliminated in this round of changes. These segments will transition to Mobility Innovation Zone pilot projects in 2019 after further study, public input and board approval.

We know that many of y’all are excited for the improvements that will come with the expanded High-Frequency Route Network. Those routes will provide service at least every 15 minutes seven days a week to 80 percent of our riders. So you may wonder why we don’t do this even sooner than next June. We made this decision for many reasons:

  • We need time to build new bus stops and sidewalks connections.
  • We also need to work with the city to incorporate transit priority treatments to traffic signals, allowing our buses to move more quickly and efficiently through the congestion.
  • Making changes in June minimizes disruptions to student commutes.
  • There are simply fewer vehicles on the roads in June. This will allow us to start the revised service in a “quieter” time and make any necessary tweaks in August, when the city’s business picks back up.

prm-161207-service-change-infographic-update_v22We do have some Connections 2025 changes coming sooner, though. MetroRapid Routes 801 and 803 will increase their frequencies in August, with weekday frequency increasing to every 10 minutes and weekend frequency to every 15 minutes. The service will operate until 2:30 a.m. on weekends … the first step toward 24/7 MetroRapid service!

We know the next question you’ll have is, “Which routes will be proposed to change?” We’re working on finalizing that list now and will produce a brochure to explain all the changes. We should be ready to present our proposal shortly after Labor Day, so look for the brochures on buses and in mid-September. And, just like we always do with our service change process, we’ll also offer several opportunities for you to provide feedback on the proposed changes, including at public meetings the week of September 25. In addition to those formal meetings, our team will go to bus stops, back-to-school events, festivals and neighborhood meetings. Please check our online calendar in August for dates, times and locations.

For more information on the transit plan, please visit Questions may be directed to 512-369-6000 or


Cap Metro Breaks Ground on Plaza Saltillo

Linda and Pio
Capital Metro President/CEO Linda Watson with Board and Council Member Pio Renteria

This was a big week for Capital Metro, a week decades in the making. With our partners Endeavor Real Estate and Columbus Realty alongside members of the community, we celebrated the groundbreaking of the Plaza Saltillo District on Wednesday.

Braving the warm, muggy weather, a couple hundred people joined us at Plaza Saltillo, right next to our MetroRail station and directly adjacent to a 10-acre tract of land that’s laid empty since the mid-1990s.

It won’t be empty for much longer, though. When construction is through, the development will feature 800 residential apartment units (almost 20 percent of which will be reserved as affordable housing), more than 110,000 square feet of retail space, 140,000 square feet of office space, an acre-and-a-half of open space with public art and access to a range of transportation options. In addition to our own MetroRail and MetroBus services, the Plaza Saltillo District will be located right along an extended Lance Armstrong Bikeway and two historical walking paths (the Tejano Music Legends Trail and the Tejano Healthy Walking Trail); it will also have access to Austin B-cycle stations and Car2Go vehicles.

Rather than your typical event with a big pile of imported dirt and shiny new shovels, the Plaza Saltillo groundbreaking featured a flag-planting ceremony. Representatives of Capital Metro, the city of Austin, Endeavor Real Estate and the neighboring community staked flags symbolizing the three organizing partners: Cap Metro, Endeavor and the city. We included the Texas state flag too.

Cap Metro President/CEO Linda Watson spoke enthusiastically about the trajectory of the project, and the agency’s efforts to guide the development in a way that served the needs of Capital Metro, as well as the neighborhood and the entire region.

Pio Renteria is a member of both our board of directors and the Austin City Council, representing East Austin. He and East Side resident Johnny Limon talked with passion about the history and the people of East Austin. In his dual roles, Renteria was instrumental in getting the project through the final steps of the approval process. Limon, too, worked for years leading a community group dedicated to finding a solution for the abandoned railyard that will be home to the development.

In addition to the flags and the great speeches, the crowd was able to enjoy tamales and agua frescas from the Tamale House (located just down the street from the station), conjunto music by Los Pinkys and paletas from Mom and Pops Frozen Pops.

Remediation work on the former brownfield site has already started and construction of the underground parking structure will begin shortly. In all, the project is expected to take about 30 months.

Wednesday was a fun way to acknowledge the road we’ve taken so far and to look to the days ahead when the development be finished. Once done, the resulting Plaza Saltillo District will be a great addition to Austin and Central Texas.