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.