Austin, Texas-based Capital Metro rolled out on Monday the first of two new MetroRapid bus rapid transit (BRT) lines as well as a mobile ticketing app.
The new routes connect several neighborhoods in Austin with major business, medical, education, and entertainment hubs along a 21-mile corridor.
The routes include 77 stations, with several shared stops through downtown Austin and near the University of Texas. The lines also connect with Capital Metro’s MetroRail and MetroBus stations. The transit agency expects the new bus routes to shave roughly 10% to 20% off trip times compared to regular bus service.
“The MetroRapid BRT system will make an enormous difference in the commuting options available to Austin-area residents by bringing transit to the neighborhoods with the densest, highest ridership in Capital Metro’s entire service area,” said FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan. “This is a great example of BRT done right, with new buses equipped with Wi-Fi, and more green lights along the way. It all adds up to a more efficient, comfortable ride for thousands of commuters, seniors, and students.”
Approximately 80%, or $38 million, of MetroRapid’s $47.6 million project cost was funded with assistance from the Federal Transportation Administration Very Small Starts program. The remainder was funded by state and local sources.
The agency has been planning and developing the project since 2009.
“Our incredible team has accomplished so much during the past four years to introduce this convenient, premium service to Austin,” said Capital Metro President/CEO Linda S. Watson. “There’s a lot of great buzz about MetroRapid, and we’re excited to bring this new transit experience to our rapidly growing community.”
Features of the new MetroRapid service include:
• Increased frequency: MetroRapid will run every 10 to 12 minutes during peak hours, and 12 to 20 minutes during non-peak times. Weekend service will run every 20 to 30 minutes.
• Fewer stops: MetroRapid will have just 44 stops along a 21-mile route to get people to their destinations quickly.
• New vehicles: All vehicles on the new route will be 60-feet long — enough to hold 101 passengers — with an accordion-style flexible middle section to make turning easy. They will feature three extra-wide doors for faster boarding, fully padded seats, extra headroom, higher ceilings and LED lighting to give passengers a premium experience.
• Free onboard Wi-Fi.
• Traffic priority lanes.
• Unique stations: Stations will feature electronic digital signage that shows next arrival times, bench seating, and canopies to protect against sun and rain. Stations have been strategically placed to maximize connectivity to MetroBus and MetroRail services.
• 3-position bike racks.
• Traffic signal priority.
Capital Metro also launched CapMetroApp, a mobile ticketing application, created by Bytemark.
The free app will let riders purchase passes with their smart device, then use the device as their pass. The app will also offer real time arrival information, trip planning and a feature that finds the closest station. Called the CapMetroApp, it can be downloaded now through the Apple Store, Google Play and Windows Store.
Servicing approximately 33 million trips every year, Capital Metro launched this app as part of its new, high-tech MetroRapid service ahead of SXSW this March.
The app utilizes Bytemark’s patented mobile ticketing solution, which enables riders to purchase and store transit passes on their mobile devices. To use passes, riders simply show their smartphone screen to bus operators or scan the on-screen barcode upon boarding the new MetroRapid vehicles. The app is available for Apple iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices and also offers real-time arrival information, a trip planner and the latest service advisories.
The app features a “Smart Tile Home Screen” that provides users with the most relevant content based on their settings and usage history and Capital Metro’s mobile trip planner, service alerts, real-time arrival information, maps and schedules; and the option to purchase multiple passes on one device for groups traveling together.