Buda residents could see a Capital Metro commuter bus route by next year providing daily access to Austin.
Buda City Council members have been discussing a proposal to pay Capital Metro to run a commuter bus. The proposed route would run from a park-and-ride location in Buda to downtown Austin or to a transit station near Southpark Meadows, said Chance Sparks, director of planning for Buda.
From there, commuters could use other Capital Metro routes to get where they need to go.
“It’s another transit option,” Sparks said. “It gives people an alternative to using their personal vehicle to fight the traffic.”
Early estimates put the annual cost at $230,000 for a route to Southpark Meadows or $330,000 for a route linking Buda to downtown Austin. Capital Metro already spends about $100,000 a year serving a portion of that area. If it extended the route to Buda, the agency would hope to recover about $70,000 a year in fares, with the city kicking in an additional $66,000.
Capital Metro estimates that it will cost $2.75 for a one-way regional fare, with transfers to other routes, including rail, without additional fares. The final price hasn’t been determined.
According to 2010 census data, about 55,000 people live in the area that would be served by the proposed park-and-ride location. Capital Metro officials estimate they could see 300 daily riders on that route; they would need at least 100 a day to meet cost projections.
“Buda isn’t that far from Austin,” Sparks said. “It’s a good test case to see what demand there is in this direction for this service.”
Capital Metro’s Project Connect is eyeing ways to connect cities like Georgetown, Round Rock and Pflugerville to Austin transit routes. The transit system already has express routes to Elgin and Manor and to Leander and Cedar Park. Sparks said that Capital Metro officials have also met with officials from Texas State University, Kyle and the Capital Area Rural Transportation System, or CARTS, which serves Travis County and eight surrounding counties.
Gov. Rick Perry on May 18 signed a bill that allows Capital Metro and other transit authorities to form “local government corporations” that make it easier for them to extend routes outside their service area.
Many suburban cities, including Buda, have reached the 8.25 percent sales tax limit set in state law, including the 2 percent that cities themselves can levy. Such maxed-out cities cannot join Capital Metro unless they repeal 1 percent of their own sales tax, clearing the way for the required sales tax supporting the transit agency.
But under the terms of a local government corporation, such a city can contract with the transit agency and pay for the route without actually joining Capital Metro or changing the local sales tax.
The Buda City Council still has to decide whether and how to budget for the yearly transit costs. The council is expected to take up the matter July 11.