Capital Metro shifts to increase ridership near UT

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Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

Capital Metro is working to increase ridership on their network for UT students and the greater Austin community through Connections 2025, an ambitious plan to improve the city’s transportation network.

Connections 2025 is being implemented in multiple phases. In late April, service changes were approved that will boost frequency for bus routes 801 and 803 that allow buses on weekdays to run every 10 minutes instead of 15 and on weekends, every 15 minutes instead of 20. These changes will be implemented on August 20.

In a transportation panel Wednesday, City Council member Delia Garza said Cap Metro was doing its best to maximize limited resources because they want to accommodate the most people during the busiest season.

“We (could) build a system that touches every Austin resident, but they’re going to have to wait 30-45 minutes,” Garza said. “I do think that Capital Metro has done, through Connections 2025, a good job. You need to put the transit where the density is and to allow the frequency so we’re not in the position subsidizing each rider at a very high rate.”

A 2014 report revealed that 22 percent of UT students use the shuttle service, whereas roughly  one-third drive to campus.

Capital Metro CEO Linda Watson said the traffic congestion caused by the large volume of vehicles near campus could be alleviated if more students knew about public transport.

“We have been meeting with UT,” Watson said. “We are building a campaign right now, and that’s one of the biggest problems.”

Watson said Cap Metro has been working with student government on the campaign that will roll out out this fall, but she did not provide specific details.

Relying on the bus system to reach campus during her four years at UT, recent graduate Mayra Zamora, who attended the transportation panel, said the city’s bus system was her main mode of transportation to campus and is a viable option for students without cars.

“We can use the buses for free and pretty much go anywhere,” Zamora said. “If UT told students about it, maybe more people will ride.”

Buses 801 and 803 are major routes for UT students because they connect across Austin, and the approved service changes for August 20 will add two more bus rides per hour during the weekdays and one more bus per hour during weekends.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who spoke at the panel, said accommodating bus schedules when people use it the most is one of the solutions that will help lower Austin’s traffic congestion since the construction of new roads would not be enough.

“You put the times and uses approximate to the transit so that people will use the transit and be able to get to the places that they need without getting into a car,” Adler said.“Ultimately, you can’t build your way out of congestion.”