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Cap Metro plan up for a vote today

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 by Syeda Hasan

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors is set to vote today on a major overhaul of its bus system. If approved, the changes would take effect in June, changing more than half of all routes in the area.

While some buses would run more often, other routes would be eliminated. Some are calling it the agency’s most significant overhaul ever.

Capital Metro has held a handful of public meetings and webinars, as well as posted information at bus stops, since September.

But some regular riders, like Veronica Nelson, didn’t know that proposed changes were on the table. Nelson catches the No. 5 bus on Speedway to commute from her apartment to her job downtown. Under the new plan, the No. 5 would be moved off Speedway and onto Lamar Boulevard.

Capital Metro notes that riders have other options nearby, like the No. 7 bus on Duval Street. But for Nelson, that means a longer walk.

“If I go take the 7, there’s no guarantee that I’m going to be able to catch it on time, because I have to walk over to it,” she said. “But also it makes, I guess, more popular stops through campus. It generally takes longer.”

The plan also proposes eliminating 13 bus routes, two of which would not be replaced with any alternative service. Todd Hemingson, Capital Metro’s vice president of strategic planning and development, said the goal is to make the system more efficient and grid-like, with an emphasis on more frequent service.

“By that, we mean routes that operate every 15 minutes, or better, essentially all day long, seven days a week,” Hemingson said, “and that’s a pretty big change for us.”

He says the changes would mean fewer buses twisting and turning through neighborhood streets. According to Capital Metro’s own analysis, most people would still live a short walk away from a stop.

“What we found is that 97.6 percent of current riders will still be within a five-minute walk of service if the board approves the plan,” Hemingson said.

What’s not certain is how the new plan could affect MetroAccess, an on-demand ride service for people with disabilities. Capital Metro’s latest reports show that every weekday, more than 2,000 people use the service. Hemingson said his team will introduce a plan that would incorporate those services, though he can’t disclose the details just yet.

“We’re going to propose something that we think will address most, if not all, of the concerns we’ve heard,” he said.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Pavel Mezihorak for KUT.

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