A few years ago, Capital Metro and the city of Austin teamed up to make our streets work better for everyone who uses them, whether they’re on a bus, in a car, on a bike or on their own two feet.
The two teams have worked together to install new transit lanes on West 5th, Lavaca and Riverside. But they’ve also completed projects throughout the city that have made our sidewalks more connected and accessible, our bike lanes more protected and plentiful, and our streets safer and more easily navigable.
We work best when we work together, and Austin’s transportation system works best when it offers people choices for how to get around: buses and trains when they work for you, bikes and walking when possible and cars when that works better for the situation.
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.
This month, a stretch of West 5th Street will debut a big change for Central Austin: a bus & bike-only lane that will speed transit service into downtown and encourage people to get out of their cars and onto the bus.
The new lane on 5th Street west of MoPac is similar to the bus-priority lanes on Guadalupe and Lavaca Streets. Working with Cap Metro, the Austin Transportation Department is converting a bike lane that ran all the way to Lamar Blvd into a dedicated bus & bike lane for a half-mile section between West Lynn and Baylor Streets.
The bus & bike lane will have signal priority for the traffic light at West 5th & Baylor. That means while all other traffic is stopped at a red light, buses and bicycles will be allowed through the intersection. Bikes will continue in the same lane, and buses will be free to switch lanes as they proceed toward the busy Lamar & 5th Street intersection.
The reason we’re doing this is to save time for our customers by allowing buses to travel free from other traffic, just as we did last year when MetroExpress routes began to use the MoPac Express Lanes. Currently during peak traffic times, it takes our buses between 7 and 10 minutes to go from MoPac through the Lamar & 5th Street intersection. We expect this change to cut that time in half!
Those five routes send roughly 20 buses through that corridor per hour during peak commute times. And now they’ll be doing so in half the time.
This is just the start, too. Capital Metro and the city of Austin have long worked closely together, and that partnership is getting stronger. Later in the spring, we’ll have more to announce on this front.