After months of studies, discussions, and debates Capital Metro’s new plan to improve our city’s public transportation system has finally been approved. The plan is called Connections 2025 and its main goal is to boost public transit ridership by increasing the frequency on many of Cap Metro’s current bus and MetroRail routes.
Increasing ridership is a big goal for Cap Metro, which has seen costs to provide public transit services rise since 2000, while ridership has actually decreased. At a time when Austin’s traffic problems are on the rise and the city has expressed a desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increasing public transit ridership has quickly become a high priority.
Here are some of the majors changes put forth in the plan:
- An increase in high frequency routes (with buses coming every 15 minutes or faster) from six to 17
- The addition of two new MetroRapid routes through downtown and East Austin
- Utilizing new express toll lanes within bus routes to make riding the bus faster and cheaper than driving a car
- More bus-only lanes and queue jumps to allow buses to move faster than the speed of traffic
But, all of this does come at a cost. In order to expand the number of frequent routes, Cap Metro has decided to cut several bus lines with low ridership numbers. Many of those bus lines are in Southwest Austin, where the community outcry has been strong. To make up for the loss, Cap Metro has promised to create so-called mobility innovation zones in the neighborhoods that lose bus service. These zones will be the site of new pilot programs testing out on-demand services, new partnerships, and the use of smaller public transit vehicles.
So what comes next?
The changes outlined in Connections 2025 will be implemented gradually over the next 10 years, beginning with express routes on MoPac toll lanes and increased frequency on routes with high ridership. Before any routes are officially eliminated there will be future opportunities for public input. You can stay up-to-date on the progress of Connections 2025 (as well as check out a map of proposed route changes) here.