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East Riverside to get bus priority lanes in April

Friday, February 5, 2021 by Harrison Young

Construction on interim transit bus lanes on East Riverside Drive will begin in late February and are expected to open in April, according to the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Austin Transportation Department.

One of Austin’s major corridors, the nine bus routes on East Riverside carry roughly 20 percent of Capital Metro’s ridership. These priority lanes are intended to ease traffic and provide greater public transit coverage in the area before Project Connect work is implemented, including the Blue Line and other potential bus routes.

“It’s a project that’s been on folks’ minds for quite a while,” Caitlin D’Alton, ATD transit program manager, said, adding that since last fall the organizations have been moving through all stages of work on the proposal including design, permits and community engagement.

The two agencies are partnering under the 2018 Transit Speed & Reliability Interlocal Agreement to complete design and construction of the project. Funding will come from the same agreement, which outlines how the city of Austin and Capital Metro collaborate on transit projects, including construction and financial obligation matters.

The lanes will cover a 2-mile stretch from Summit Street to Grove Boulevard traveling in the right-most lane that will be marked by a solid white line and a “Bus Lane Only” notice. New signage will be implemented and regular traffic will only be allowed in the lane for right turns. Current bus stops on Parker and Pleasant Valley will be relocated.

Capital Metro and ATD expect these priority lanes to save passengers up to five and a half minutes during high-traffic periods when compared to pre-Covid-19 travel times. They also expect travel time for regular traffic to increase, however minimally.

According to a Jan. 26 memo from Capital Metro and ATD, the priority lanes project aligns with the Austin Strategic Direction 2023 Mobility Strategic Outcome that aims to get “Austinites where we want to go, when we want to get there, safely and cost-effectively.”

The organizations also wrote that “an investment in transit is an investment in equity,” adding that prioritizing an area where many essential workers rely on transit will support the community and economic recovery during the Covid-19 pandemic.

ATD and Capital Metro also hope to support the City’s multimodal transportation vision based on the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan Policy 1, which is to “give public transportation priority.”

“It’s today already an important corridor for transit given the amount of ridership,” D’Alton said. “We do have plans as part of Project Connect to enhance it even further.”

The Austin Strategic Mobility Plan was adopted in April 2019 and was developed to lay out guidelines and plans to increase mobility, transit speed and multimodal transportation programs in order to “envision a transportation network that is accessible and reliable, provides choices, and serves the diverse needs of our community.”

According to the ASMP, about three-quarters of Austinites drove their own vehicles to work in 2019, and 4 percent used public transit. The city plans for half of workers to drive their own vehicles and 16% to use public transit by 2039. They also intend to increase the amount of people walking, using bicycles or working remotely.

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