CapMetro, CTRMA explore more bus routes on toll roads
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and Capital Metro are looking at ways to serve more commuters. They say one idea could reduce traffic by 26 percent.
The plan would involve building more park and rides -- facilities were people park their cars and then take buses into downtown. However, the new facilities would be on the outskirts of Austin or in Williamson and Hays counties. They would also be stationed off of Central Texas toll roads like 183A, 45, 130 and MoPac Express.
Effective Monday, CapMetro buses in Round Rock started taking riders into downtown Austin on the new MoPac Express lanes.
"I don't have to pay the tolls yet I still get the convenience, so I like that," says bus rider Ria Garza.
It's convenience CapMetro and CTRMA are looking to expand.
"We could do that similarly with other communities like Georgetown for example, Pflugerville, Hutto, Kyle, Buda," says Todd Hemingson, executive vice president of planning and development for Capital Metro. Hemingson says paring more buses with toll roads would cut down congestion by taking an estimated 50 vehicles per bus off the highway.
"If we can have reliable, faster service ... that's what other communities have seen to be the real key to success," he explains.
From Williamson to Hays County, 22 potential Park and Ride sites have been identified. Priority goes to those that are already parking lots.
"It's much faster if you can lease or otherwise borrow existing parking spaces," says Hemingson.
Susan Somers is on the board of directors for the Austin urbanist organization, AURA. Somers rides the bus several times a week.
"I'm not necessarily completely opposed to express buses on the highways, but it's really chasing after new riders at the expense -- sometimes, I fear -- of old riders," Somers says.
Somers would rather see resources spent on improving current services and increasing population density.
"To get even 100 drivers off the road you need to devote an acre of land to a parking lot. That's a lot of parking lots to really make a dent in the number of drivers we see on the road," Somers explains.
Any services expanded outside of Austin would come at a cost, but those communities gaining the service would be required to help pay for it.