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Capital Metro to meet its own bus stop standards by 2020

Friday, March 29, 2019 by Ryan Thornton

The Capital Area Metropolitan Transportation Authority is wrapping up construction on the last of 16 MetroRapid stops approved in a contract with Muñiz Concrete and Contracting Inc. in May 2018. This year the agency is turning its attention to its MetroBus stops with a new contract with Muñiz for the addition of benches, shelters and trash bins at 125 locations.

The Capital Metro Board of Directors unanimously approved the contract Monday afternoon for a total award of $3,706,224, including 25 percent contingency, entirely funded through the agency’s fiscal year 2019 capital budget. The project is scheduled for completion by the end of 2019.

Capital Metro Vice President Ken Cartwright said the 125 stops are the only locations currently out of compliance with the agency’s own bus stop standards, which state that bus stops with more than 15 boardings per day should be equipped with benches and those with over 50 boardings per day should feature overhead shelters.

Board Chair Wade Cooper said that in the five years he’s sat on the board it has never had a contract prepared or the confidence to declare a plan to bring all of the agency’s bus stops up to its own standards.

While the contract ensures that well-used bus stops will give users a better customer experience, Council Member Delia Garza noted that it doesn’t account for latent demand at stops that could see more boardings if benches and shelters were provided.

“I understand the policy of the certain number of boardings and that’s why we prioritize them, but at the same time in some of our areas that have fewer boardings – it’s kind of a chicken-and-egg thing. Maybe people aren’t getting on the bus because they are having to stand in the sun,” Garza said. “I feel like we need some flexibility in the policy, especially – looking through the lens of equity – in parts of town that have limited bus service.”

Cartwright expressed interest in discussing specific stops where there may be more demand than use suggests, but added that lack of amenities has not deterred regular use at those 125 stops to be renovated.

Williamson County Commissioner Eric Stratton wanted to know if one particular well-used stop on the north side of the state Capitol would be included in the project. The stop at 15th and Colorado streets features only one commuter route, the 985, but Stratton said it is regularly used by commuters working at the Capitol and nearby offices.

“It’s interesting because there is a complete MetroRapid bus stop that is at 15th and Lavaca like half a block away … it has the complete full MetroRapid bus setup… but this literally is just a lone pole just standing there all by itself,” Stratton said.

Cartwright said he was confident that stop exceeded 50 boardings per day so it would likely be on the list for a bench, shelter, and waste bin.

The project will also be featuring a pilot installation of solar-powered lights and 13-inch “e-paper” electronic messaging signs, with route and arrival information, at 15 of those 125 stop locations that now serve five or more routes. Installation of the lights and electronic signs is also planned for completion by the end of the year.

Cartwright said the agency has already been testing the solar lights and signs and expects to bring back a different contract to the board within the next couple of months to add solar lights at many more bus stops.

Additionally, the project’s $741,245 in contingency funds was added into the contract less as a safety net for unexpected circumstances than as a plan to expand the bus stop improvements to an additional 30 locations at the beginning of 2020 when the initial project is complete.

Cartwright said most of those stops will only be serving around 40 boardings per day at that time, exceeding the board’s approved standards.

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Maps courtesy of Cap Metro.

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