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side of a MetroRapid bus
Tuesday, March 6, 2018 by Caleb Pritchard

AURA to Capital Metro: Seek new shelters

Even as it overhauls its downtown train station, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority is sticking with the same design for its MetroRapid shelters, to the chagrin of one advocacy group.

Last Thursday, AURA – formerly Austinites for Urban Rail Action before the group expanded its scope – published a blog post reiterating its standing call for improvements to the shelter design.

“The MetroRapid stations were created out of a special design process, but are particularly bad when it comes to shielding from sun or rain – worse than the stations on the regular bus lines,” the post states.

AURA’s message came less than a week after Capital Metro officially started shopping for contractors to help install 16 new station pairs that would fill in large service gaps along its two MetroRapid routes.

Agency staff revealed plans for those new stops nearly two years ago. Even after augmenting its fleet with new buses and scoring necessary approval from the federal government, the agency has declined to expand MetroRapid’s high-frequency service via temporary stops to riders at the identified locations. Instead, the agency is choosing to wait until the new stations are installed.

Capital Metro spokesperson Mariette Hummel told the Austin Monitor that the existing MetroRapid canopy structures cost $20,000 apiece, a total that does not include the cost of installation, which requires subsurface drilling to plant each structure’s support pier.

Update: A representative from Capital Metro contacted the Austin Monitor to further explain: “The turn-key cost which during the original project averaged out to be in the $125-150,000 cost range, includes survey, design, concrete, electrical, digital message board, etc.”

“Unfortunately, the bid documents for the MetroRapid infill stations demonstrate that Capital Metro will be using the same ‘branded’ MetroRapid station design for the new stations. These stations are expensive and difficult to construct, meaning riders will have to wait longer for badly needed additional stations,” AURA states. “Furthermore, they provide little to no protections from the elements. Riders would be better served if Capital Metro could move to a simpler station design that could be implemented quickly, while providing better shelter.”

Hummel told the Monitor that the designs are limited by restrictions in city-owned rights of way.

“Capital Metro has a standard design for the MetroRapid shelters and a standard design for regular bus stop shelters. The design depth of the shelters was established to fit in most city right of way areas, while simultaneously providing sufficient (Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant) clearance,” Hummel said.

A sample construction schedule included in the bid solicitation package suggests a timeline of shelter installation that begins in June and wraps up by October, though the final sequence of the work will be determined once Capital Metro selects the winning firm.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

AURA: This organization started as an advocacy group organized around the City of Austin's November 2014 urban rail bond election. It's members have since announced their intention to broaden the focus of their work to include other issues. It's membership still holds a largely New Urbanist set of views.

Capital Metro: The city’s urban transportation system.

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