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Buses get new red lanes, out of red lights

Monday, August 19, 2019 by Ryan Thornton

The Capital Area Metropolitan Transportation Authority started running its northbound routes through the city’s new “contraflow” bus-only lane Sunday, giving customers a glimpse of a possible future of greater collaboration between the transit agency and the Austin Transportation Department. In addition to the bright-red, bus-only lanes, the project features new traffic and transit signals and a new shared path for pedestrians, cyclists, and scooters. The purpose of the project is to bypass the heavily congested intersection of Lavaca Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard by giving buses a new transit-only path westbound on 18th Street and then northbound against traffic (hence, contraflow) on Guadalupe Street to cross Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The project also gives northbound pedestrians and cyclists a shared path route with a painted stripe separating users. By making more efficient use of existing right of way, Capital Metro expects the changes to decrease trip time by 65 seconds per bus during afternoon peak travel time and improve the customer experience enough to attract 7-10 percent more transit customers. Many of Capital Metro’s high-frequency and local routes, including MetroRapid routes 801 and 803, are using the new configuration. Eastbound buses, however, are keeping their same routes, sharing the right-turn lane on Lavaca Street with private vehicles. The project was funded with approximately $19.8 million from the city’s 2016 Mobility Bond.

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