CapMetro introduces Pickup system to extend public transit

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Photo Credit: Evelyn Thai | Daily Texan Staff

Austinites can now request a ride from their home to anywhere within a certain zone after CapMetro recently introduced a new ridesharing system called Pickup.

Chad Ballentine, vice president of demand response for CapMetro, said the program rolled out in the summer of 2017 and intends to target areas where public transit is not readily available, such as East Austin and the Mueller area. The service allows multiple riders at a time to order rides to appointments, shopping trips or other destinations in its service zone, according to the official Pickup website. 

“We’re the first place in the country to try a program like this at this magnitude,” Ballentine said.  

Ballentine said five areas are currently serviced by Pickup, including Manor, Walnut Creek and Windsor Park. He said these areas are serviced because of their lower population density and few current Metro bus routes.

“This service really isn’t to just plop down in any place in the city,” Ballentine said. “The goal is to put them in areas where we still have riders, but it doesn’t justify putting down a full-service bus.

Business and premed sophomore Jay Jaber said he likes the idea but wishes it operated in areas like Riverside and West Campus where the student population is more dense.

“It’ll probably be cheaper than Uber or something, but I couldn’t use it where I live since I’m in West Campus,” Jaber said. “I know people living in East Austin who’d like it.”

Ballentine said the program does not operate in those areas, but he sees potential expansion in the future to areas such as Riverside and the rest of South Austin.

“We’ve identified some areas for additional service already, like South Austin,” Ballentine said. “We don’t have anything south of the river yet, but we’d like to start there in the near future. If we start seeing an area that has a lot of rides, we might just put a bus down there.”

Ballentine said the Pickup system looks similar to other on-demand transportation apps like Uber or Lyft but does have differences in both operation and pricing.

“It’s meant for public transit, so we really want to make sure we’re transporting more than one person,” Ballentine said. “If you use Pickup with your student ID, you can ride free like the rest of the transit system.”

Music education sophomore Thea Kilbane said she likes having another way to get around the city, but she thinks it should be expanded.

“I’d love to use it when ACL starts up, but if I don’t live in a place it serves and Zilker isn’t in one either, that isn’t really possible,” Kilbane said. “If I could, I would totally use it. It sounds pretty cool.”

Ballentine said he is proud of the project and what it represents for the future of Austin transportation.

“As the region is growing, we’re seeing lots of development on the south and southeast side especially, and this is the perfect solution to (not having bus routes in those areas),” Ballentine said. “A lot of people are looking at us, and that’s pretty exciting.”