Downtown Austin traffic: Transit in transition


Sunday is day of change for Central Texas mass transportation. Capital Metro will launch its “rapid bus” service. The agency also will move two regular bus routes off of Congress to one-way Lavaca and Guadalupe streets. To accommodate the new routes and service, the city of Austin has dedicated a lane on both Lavaca and Guadalupe downtown to buses. And Capital Metro is changing its fare structure, raising the cost for most bus riders and many rail customers.

METRORAPID

Capital Metro will replace its No. 101 route with a new No. 801 rapid bus route, using new 60-foot-long, articulated buses that during rush hour will run every 10 to 15 minutes and at tighter intervals than existed before at other times.

The buses — with three, wider doors and added fare readers for faster boarding — will stop about once a mile on the 21-mile route. Stations are more elaborate than regular bus stops, with message boards telling riders how long before the next two buses arrive. The parallel local routes 1L and 1M will be combined into a single No. 1 route, running at half the frequency.

Location: From Parmer Lane near Interstate 35, along North Lamar Boulevard, on Guadalupe and Lavaca streets downtown, and on South Congress Avenue to Slaughter Lane.

Impact: Fares will be 50 percent higher on the No. 801 than on the route it replaces. But Capital Metro believes it will shave a few minutes time off trips to and from downtown and ultimately increase bus ridership in the popular North Lamar/South Congress corridor.

TRANSIT PRIORITY LANES

The right hand lane of Lavaca and Guadalupe downtown will be reserved for buses, and the city has added a bike lane near the right-hand curb of each of these streets.

Vehicles, which will generally be confined to the other two or three lanes, will be able to move into the transit priority lane only in blocks where drivers need to make a right turn. Fines will be steep for illegally driving in the lane — $200 — and even higher for parking or stopping there, at $500.

Location: The transit lanes run from West 17th to West Third streets on Lavaca and from West 17th to West Fourth streets on Guadalupe. Until a construction project at West Eighth Street ends, cars will be able to drive in either of the two lanes currently available between West Seventh and West Ninth streets.

Impact: Keeping cars out of those lanes will allow buses to make better time through downtown, and Capital Metro by August plans to move to Lavaca and Guadalupe a dozen routes now using Congress. As many as 65 buses an hour will use the lanes during peak commuting times.

But adding the lanes, and the bike lanes, will make it harder for delivery trucks to unload at businesses and residences along Lavaca and Guadalupe. And it meant eliminating 267 parking spaces. City officials say most of those will be replaced with new spaces on nearby side streets.

FARE CHANGES

Capital Metro is eliminating “single-zone” rail fares of $1 one-way and $2 a day for MetroRail. The $2.75 one-way fare will now apply to all rail trips. A 31-day pass for rail and express bus service will increase to $77.

The agency is adding a new “premium” fare structure for its MetroRapid service, as well as “flyer” routes, with a base fare of $1.50 and a $49.50 rate for a 31-day pass. And a 31-day pass for regular bus service will now be $33.

Location: The fare increases will apply to routes throughout Capital Metro’s bus and rail system. However, fares for MetroAccess, the door-to-door rides for people with qualifying disabilities, will not increase.

Impact: Customers on regular bus routes will see no change on one-way or daily fares, but face a 10 percent increase on 31-day passes. Riders who were taking the now-canceled No. 101 and flyer routes, with wider spacing of stops, will see their fares go up 50 percent. And any MetroRail riders who were buying $1, one-way fares for what were supposed to be shorter trips, will now have to pay $2.75 for a single trip.


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