On Tuesday, April 10, the general public was invited to downtown’s Republic Square to hear from Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff about the next big thing in Austin transportation.
Capital Metro President and CEO Linda Watson, Capital Metro Chairman and Council Member Mike Martinez, and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell were present for the event, during which Peter Rogoff announced the $38 Million Federal grant to provide MetroRapid service.
MetroRapid is Capital Metro’s bus rapid transit (BRT) with service scheduled to begin operating 40 buses in 2014. BRT is a positive addition to Austin’s transportation infrastructure in many ways. Signal prioritization hardware is included in each MetroRapid bus, allowing for fewer delays at signal lights while driving on city roads. In some areas, the buses will likely have dedicated lanes. The buses are large and comfortable, and oftentimes have amenities that are attractive to business commuters, such as small tabletops and Wi-Fi.
Other cities, such as Houston, allow BRT vehicles to travel in HOV/HOT (high occupancy vehicle/ high occupancy toll) lanes to make trips in and out of the City core faster. When these lanes eventually do come to Austin, we can likely expect the same.
BRT focuses on commuter travel in and out of the City core and keeping connections available to other modes of transportation, including local bus service, rail, car rentals (such as Car to Go), or bike rental stations.
Engineer Associate Valerie Kaiser and Project Engineer Tony Estes, two of Bury’s transportation team members, attended Tuesday morning’s announcement and even had the opportunity to board one of the model buses. Valerie said, “As a traffic engineer, I am excited to see Austin take this next step. MetroRapid offers a convenient and affordable solution to what is too often a long and difficult commute to and from home and work.”
One viable solution to traffic woes would be to incorporate additional rail lines in Austin. However, the taxpayer benefit of the MetroRapid service is that more vehicles will be off the road as they choose to ride the BRT, without the expenses associated with purchasing and building on additional right of way.
On Tuesday, Administrator Rogoff also awarded Capital Metro a $3 Million grant to upgrade the existing local bus fleet, which has an average age of 15 years. Capital Metro was founded in January of 1985 and has the highest per capita ridership in Texas.
Read more from local news coverage of the event, or check out photos from the event on our Bury Facebook page.
KXAN – MetroRapid gets $38M federal grant
Austin Business Journal – MetroRapid bus project gets $38M grant
Community Impact News – Federal agency green-lights rapid transit bus routes