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Wednesday, September 20, 2017 by Caleb Pritchard

Capital Metro takes its bus network realignment to the riders

The largest overhaul of Austin’s bus network in recent memory is about to go before the court of public opinion.

Next week, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority will hold three feedback sessions to hear residents’ opinions on proposed service changes that are set to take effect next June.

The changes represent the most sweeping element yet of the Connections 2025 service plan the board approved last year and will bring “major changes” to approximately half of the agency’s bus routes, according to senior planner Lawrence Deeter.

The package would increase from six to 14 the number of high-frequency routes that arrive every 15 minutes. Deeter said that four out of five current Capital Metro riders “would be within a short, 10-minute walk to frequent service.”

“This would allow better access to jobs and education and also is a recipe that will increase ridership,” he added.

The network redesign is similar in spirit to the one Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County adopted in 2015. Like Capital Metro’s proposal, that plan straightened routes, reduced duplications and increased frequencies. Two years later, the city’s transit ridership is increasing, though the boost has been largely driven by passengers taking advantage of expanded weekend service and the agency’s light rail lines.

Capital Metro is also gambling that riders will accept the increased volume of transfers the more grid-like network will require.

“We’re asking our customers to travel differently, obviously. But at the same time, many of our customers would be able to reach more destinations in the same amount of travel time,” Deeter said.

Other elements of controversy in the proposed changes are the radical reworking or outright elimination of existing routes. For example, the No. 5 that currently travels through Hyde Park on Speedway Boulevard would be shifted over to North Lamar Boulevard and the Nos. 21 and 22 would be deleted entirely.

Deeter told the Austin Monitor that the proposed changes are far from set in stone.

“Every service change I’ve ever done here, we’ve done tweaks based on public input. We don’t anticipate that being different this time, so we want people to get out and let us know their thoughts on the proposals,” he said.

The first public meeting next week is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. on Monday at Howson Branch Library. The agency has a list of the other meetings as well as webinars along with complete information about the proposed service changes on its website. The board of directors is scheduled to vote on the final package at its Nov. 15 meeting.

Photo by John Flynn.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Capital Metro: The city’s urban transportation system.

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