Making Transit a Priority

Contraflow
This map shows how the new lane on Guadalupe will make for a more direct route for buses. (from the Austin Transportation Department

Construction starts next week on a project near the intersection of Guadalupe and MLK. And, in a few months, that will result in a different kind of transit lane for Austin.

We’ve been working for months with the city’s transportation department to design little changes that can make big differences for Austin’s traffic congestion issues. Like the bus and bike lane that was put in place on West 5th Street earlier this year, this project will create a transit lane separate from car traffic. What’s new, is that this lane will be for buses only and go against the flow of traffic.

We’re converting one lane of southbound traffic on Guadalupe into a northbound bus lane that lets all vehicles get through the intersection of MLK and Guadalupe/Lavaca a little bit faster. Currently, buses traveling north on Lavaca often get stuck at MLK, even though they have their own lane and signal priority. That’s because the turn from Lavaca onto MLK is difficult to make and highly congested during rush hour.

Our estimates suggest that each bus traveling through the intersection will go 18% faster, which means they’ll save 65 seconds during the peak travel time. And those seconds add up. During rush hour, more than 1,200 people ride the bus through this corridor, and this project will give them an additional 23 hours a year not sitting in traffic.

On a cold day last December, a team of Cap Metro and city of Austin staff gathered at our North Ops facility off Burnet to test out the new route. We laid out cones to match the lane configuration going from northbound Lavaca, turning left at 18th Street and then right on Guadalupe. It’s a tight turn, but as you can see below, the coordination between Cap Metro and city planners combined with the skills of our bus operators make for a smooth ride.

Safety is always top of mind for us, and so the bus lane will be clearly identified as being for buses only with signage and lane markings and separated from southbound vehicle lanes by posts. There will also be a new bike lane on 18th between Lavaca and Guadalupe that turns into a shared use path and improved sidewalk on Guadalupe.

So, this is great news! For bus riders, bike riders, pedestrians and drivers. But all of this takes some work, and so there will be construction that affects traffic over the next month or so. Please bear with us as we make these improvements. We apologize for the delays you may experience in June, but we think you’re going to like what the end of summer brings you.