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side of a MetroRapid bus
Friday, September 15, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

Capital Metro: No stopgap plan for fill-in-the-gap stops

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority is taking a slow approach to the eight pairs of stations destined to fill in key gaps along its two MetroRapid routes.

“The long story short is we expect to have them in service by this time next year,” Ken Cartwright, vice president of capital projects, told the Austin Monitor on Wednesday.

Agency staff first revealed plans for the new stops in July 2016 when they asked the board of directors to approve $10.2 million for 15 new MetroRapid buses. The pitch for that purchase was to beef up frequency on the Nos. 801 and 803 and to handle the extra service created by the new stops.

Those buses were delivered earlier this year and the first incremental increase in frequencies was executed last month. Additionally, the stops have been approved by the Federal Transit Administration, a lengthy bureaucratic step necessitated by the fact that the administration provided the grant money that initially launched the MetroRapid service in 2014.

Despite both of those pieces in place, the agency has other work to do before it can install the permanent stations.

“We have to do surveying, we have to do subsurface investigation to see if there are utilities that would be impacted, finalize the locations and get city approval for the locations,” Cartwright explained.

Some of the exact locations are still undetermined due to their general location on corridors that are due for large upgrades under the 2016 mobility bond program. For now, the agency plans to give the No. 803 two new stations at Rutland Drive and near the Broken Spoke on South Lamar Boulevard. Passengers will be able to catch the No. 801 at Parmer Lane, Payton Gin Road, North Loop Boulevard, St. Elmo Road and Slaughter Lane. The planned stop at West 31st Street falls on the stretch of Guadalupe Street where the two routes overlap.

The MetroRapid stops are generally separate from MetroBus stops and each features a distinct installation complete with a real-time arrival display, a beam to lean on and a cantilevered overhead design element.

Roberto Gonzalez, director of service planning, told the Monitor that one of the conditions of the Federal Transit Administration grants was to maintain consistency with MetroRapid’s distinct look. However, several of the new stops will fall somewhat short of that aim.

“Some of the stops, given their location and the future impacts by the city, they’ll look more like a conventional bus stop,” Cartwright said.

Gonzalez explained that those stops could be temporary, pending future corridor upgrades brought about by the mobility bond money.

As for putting up temporary stops at each of the eight planned locations and providing the enhanced service right now, Gonzalez said, “That’s not been the direction we’ve wanted to go with making sure all the features are in the MetroRapid stations, to make sure that it shows as a MetroRapid station.”

He added, “It’s a matter of internal and external, just making sure that we’re being consistent in what we’re trying to do.”

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Capital Metro: The city’s urban transportation system.

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