Transit & Health in Black Communities

Throughout our time talking about Project Connect, we’ve been clear that an investment in transit is an investment in equity.

What we mean by that is that public transportation ridership is heavily weighted toward low-income communities and people of color. And so when we improve our services, those benefits go toward the people who need them the most.

In addition, our country’s history has resulted in a landscape tilted against Black communities, who experience worse health outcomes, higher levels of air pollution and lower levels of public services overall. Good access to strong transit can help combat those issues and more.

Some of the most obvious benefits of transit are financial. It’s expensive to own, operate and maintain a car after all, and a monthly bus pass costs just $41.25.

Some of those are safety-related. Traveling by public transit is 10 times safer than by car.

Traffic safety also affects health outcomes, because people riding transit are in fewer collisions and therefore suffer fewer traffic-related injuries. Transit also brings improvements to the overall health of Black people and other communities of color in a variety of ways:

  • Transit takes cars off the roads, reducing air pollution from vehicles.
  • Transit combines with other active forms of transportation like walking and biking to and from stops or stations, enabling riders to get more exercise.
  • Transit connects people to medical centers, hospitals and doctors offices, giving more people access to regular healthcare appointments.
  • Transit increases access to healthier food options as well.

Public transportation can be a great equalizer for all communities and historically has been essential for Black Americans.

CapMetro’s 2021 Year in Review

The 2021 fiscal year was one of the busiest, most challenging and exciting years for our agency.

Voters approved Project Connect, a transformational system expansion that will improve mobility throughout the region and make Austin a more equitable and livable city.

We continued to improve safety measures at our facilities and on board our vehicles, and provided emergency assistance to our community during the unprecedented winter storm.

Our commitment to our customers and staff allowed us to improve our services and plan for the bright future ahead.

In this video we’ll highlight how CapMetro is serving the Central Texas region, including a look at how we continue to implement new technology to ensure the safety and reliability of our services:

Spooky Bus Season is Here

Halloween is this weekend and all great statisticians of our time estimate that 99.9% of participants wait until the last minute to choose their costume. Lucky for you, we’ve put together a few ideas that are sure to leave an impression at any Halloween shindig you choose to attend.

Here are some options suitable for both kids and adults … modeled by CapMetro buses of course.

Frida Kahlo

Looking to make a strong, colorful statement this year? Get to work on that flower crown and       break a heart or two as Frida Kahlo! Keep your colors bold and bright; dig through that wild necklace collection; and finally get some use out of that shawl you bought on a whim. Growing a unibrow is optional, but rosy, red cheeks and eye shadow are a must. However you bring the look together, be fierce and carry on the powerful spirit of one of the world’s most fearless artists.

Cruella de Vil

Earlier this year, Disney’s Cruella showed a bit of a softer side to the absurdly vain and fashion-obsessed villain from the 101 Dalmatians film canon. This new depth and backstory provide breathing room for just how much attitude you serve others while in character around the punch bowl or on an evening strut around town. You can find a cheap wig or dye half your hair; the gaudier the (faux) fur coat, the better; and don’t forget that pop of red on some long gloves or heels. Bonus points if you add in a well-behaved pooch. We hear Austin Pets Alive has plenty up for adoption!

Minecraft

A fun art project for the little ones, pixelating yourself could be a lesson in color theory, geometry, cubism or … ah heck who are we kidding? Add some blockiness to your world by bringing one of the most popular video games to life! Cardboard boxes are the name of this costume game. Create just a head or go all out with arms and legs. There are plenty of props that can be incorporated — swords, armor, food, banners — just remember to keep them all square!

Bob Ross

With this costume idea, you have an important choice to make: poofy curly-haired wig or full-on real deal perm? Are you as committed to this look as Bob Ross was to the idea that everyone can paint beautiful landscapes? The costume is a relaxed fit — jeans and a light blue dress shirt. You can complete the look by carrying a paintbrush and palette or really dive in and set up an easel in the corner of the party and painting a beautiful depiction of the scene around you. Be efficient in your methods though — running time for a single episode of Ross’ The Joy of Painting was just 30 minutes. Running time for that perm is 3 to 6 months.

Where’s Waldo?

This highly recognizable costume is sure to have everyone looking your way. Though the lovable Waldo does his best to blend into his surroundings, you’re sure to stand out at the function in this costume. A red and white striped shirt is easy to come by or create on your own with some fabric paint; pop out the lenses on any round rim glasses from a thrift store (unless they happen to be your prescription, then free specs!); bust out your beanie collection a little early and there you have it! Just make sure your group doesn’t lose you at the end of the night. Plan ahead — make sure your group has a meetup plan and a safe ride home.

Explore Austin – Fusion Edition

Welcome back to another installment in our Explore Austin series with Food Network’s Ali Khan! Ali is checking out notable restaurants around Austin that you can visit using CapMetro as you get back to what you love in our great city. Head to our Trip Planner to get started!

Fil N’ Viet

CapMetro stops near Fill N’ Viet: 12th/Leona, Stop IDs 2856, 1105 on Route 6

Often the word “fusion” invokes strong feelings among opinionated foodies. And more often those feelings are negative; a reflex reaction brought on by the trauma of failed restaurant concepts and half clever dishes. I avoid using the word too often unless a place really gets it right. Fil N’ Viet is one of those places.

Last week I met Kevin and Rosie Troung, the chef couple who created Fil N’ Viet; a food trailer born out of the pandemic, their courtship and marriage. This delicious fusion of Vietnamese and Filipino cooking is home to Austin’s best fried chicken, by way of whole joint wings. 

The menu at Fil N’ Viet is indeed fusion, but not just clever culinary ideas. It represents Kevin Troung’s Vietnamese heritage and Rosie’s Filipino upbringing. For what it’s worth, Kevin is first generation Vietnamese-American who hails from Oklahoma City, which has a substantial Vietnamese immigrant population. Rosie immigrated from the Philippines. 

Fil N’ Viet was also built from moments. Like when Kevin would cook Vietnamese dinners for Rosie on a date. Or when Rosie took Kevin to the Philippines and exposed the chef’s palate to Filipino street food stalls. It’s a dating scene out of a Netflix docuseries.

The Sisig Báhn Mì is perhaps the definitive fusion item on the menu at Fil N’ Viet. Even casual eaters might know of the Báhn Mì, Vietnam’s national sandwich and a fusion food in its own right. The French colonized Vietnam and brought their love of patê and the baguette to Vietnam.

All the classic elements of a Báhn Mì are present here: the baguette, the mayo, the pickled carrot and daikon, even Vietnamese patê. But the star protein is in fact Sisig: a staple Filipino pork dish where chewy fatty morsels of pork are simmered till crisp and made lip-smackingly irresistible with Filipino lime and umami rich Maggi seasoning. 

I’ve become a big fan of Sisig lately, making my own version at home with pork belly. It’s so rich and decadent, the mere idea of it in a sandwich evokes the words cheat day. But at Fil N’ Viet, the sandwich is surprisingly not meat heavy. In fact, it’s balanced enough to make this a reasonable weekday lunch for even the most hunched over their computer type of office worker. Just make sure you get your steps in.

Kevin and Rosie chose all the dishes I tried, including this ceviche. The couple are very sweet, down to earth people, but part of me suspects they wanted to show off with this dish. Chunks of buttery yellowtail that could pass for sashimi quality on most any menu are doused in sugar cane vinegar, coconut milk, Thai chilis, cherry tomatoes and fried shallots. I would be stoked to eat this at a big-ticket type of restaurant like Uchiko. This is one of those dishes that justifies the babysitter tab. I was impressed. While the fried shallots speak to their fine dining background, the ceviche bears a Filipino name, Kinilaw, and is in fact a Filipino dish in origin. And here I was thinking they were trying to be just another hip food trailer in East Austin. 

I had zero intention of trying the wings, but with each dish I became more surprised and intrigued with what’s happening at Fil N’ Viet. These whole joint fried chicken wings were in fact the best fried chicken I’ve had in Austin. And I write this post having just eaten Spicy Boys, whose bone in chicken was previously my fav. OK, OK — I’ll say it’s close, but these wings …

Honestly, I’m not sure how much I want to give away here. In fact, I’m keeping my mouth shut save for what you can read from the menu. The twice fried wings are tossed in Sinigang seasoning, which is actually a Filipino soup. The seasoning features tamarind and citric acid, adding that lip smacking sour yummy goodness that I have found defines some of my fav Filipino dishes. 

I am keeping my eye on these two and so should you. Fusion might be an off-putting word to arrogant foodies but when it comes to people and culture, it’s a beautiful thing. Fil N’ Viet is in fact more than a fusion of two cuisines, it’s the fusion of two people and two chefs. 

Calling all restaurant investors: Check this spot out. Calling all lovers of fried chicken: The cluck stops here. Yeah, that was a weak ending but trust me, you too will have a tough time following up these wings. 

Ma’Coco

CapMetro stops near Ma’Coco: Plaza Saltillo Station, Stop ID 5535 on MetroRail 550

At first glance Ma’Coco might seem exactly what it is: an homage to Baja California/San Diego-style Mexican food. Is that fusion? It is if you’re bringing it to Central Texas and the land of Tex-Mex. Chips and queso are kind of the rallying cry around here despite a fair number of respectable eateries serving “Interior Mexican.” You know: Mexican food that seems to be a bit popular on the other side of the border. 

It’s fusion because San Diego’s contribution to Mexican cooking, namely marrying off Carne Asada with French Fries, is certainly an act of food fusion. The likes of which you will find at Ma’Coco in spades. And when you try the Carne Asada fries, I don’t think you’ll miss the chips and queso all that much.

Meet Javier Equiha and his sister Judith. Two Californian ex-pats who ditched their gigs at Google and in the TV biz to find a slower pace of life. That’s saying something if working in the restaurant business is considered the more relaxing option. The first Ma’Coco location opened in Bastrop, with this location in East Austin opening just one month ago.

In a month’s time and despite no restaurant experience prior to opening Ma’Coco in Bastrop, Javier and Judith are putting out great food. My spread here includes San Diego Mexican classics like Carne Asada fries and the California burrito: Carne Asada and fries stuffed in a flour tortilla. But that Baja California seafood fare, well that is where Ma’Coco really shines.

The Shrimp Gobernador just might the be the catch of the day. Plump shrimp carefully sauteed till tender grace a handmade tortilla that is embossed with melted cheese. Named after a governor from the Mexican state of Sinaloa (where the dish was invented), the shrimp taco is very popular both in Tijuana and in Southern California. When you get ‘em right, it is easy to see why. This is the dish you will keep coming back for.

Remember when I said the Shrimp Gobernador might be the catch of the day? Well that’s because the Tuna Tostada is also a very strong contender. The marinade really captivated my palate. Soy sauce and Salsa Inglesa (think Worcestershire sauce) pack in savory glutamates, enhancing the tuna’s beef-like flavor profile. Add to that a scratch-made aioli spiked with chipotle, a dollop of avocado tomatillo sauce and sesame seeds and you have all the elements of a must order dish. The Tuna Tostada might not be a revelation on a menu in 2021, but execution at this level at a laid back eatery should be noted and repeated often.

These are the dishes that got me excited to try Ma’Coco in the first place. Steak and french fries in burrito form and on a plate, begging to be shared. I think the latter version is most compelling, where the abundance of cotija cheese really sets the dish off with an addicting pungency. These dishes are fine, but the seafood dishes are what really surprise and impress you.

There’s also a full bar! And PS — parking ain’t great. So taking public transit to Ma’Coco is as much a no brainer as choosing to eat there. Buen provecho, Austin, a taste of San Diego and Baja has arrived, and it is now fused to the east side.