AUSTIN (KXAN) - Austin's rapid growth is demanding changes in the way the people move around town and today's introduction of a new 60-foot MetroRapid bus is proof of that. New technology on board will improve the buses' flow through the city routes.
Tuesday Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff was in Austin to announce the federal grant to Capital Metro to bring the new, high-capacity transit service, MetroRapid, to Austin's busiest streets in 2014.
"With the signed funding agreement, Capital Metro is able to proceed full-steam ahead to build this incredible new rapid transit service that will directly benefit almost 25 percent of the entire service area," said Capital Metro president and CEO Linda S. Watson. "MetroRapid will connect neighborhoods, workers and students to universities, state offices, high-tech companies and regional retail and medical centers ... We'll be buying 40 buses total. The service will have fewer stops along the route, and there will be technology that allows signal lights to stay green. We will have dedicated lanes in the downtown area and it will make the transit trip much faster and easier to use throughout community."
Plans for MetroRapid include two high-capacity, rapid bus lines along North Lamar Boulevard/South Congress Avenue and Burnet/South Lamar Boulevard -- the densest and highest ridership transit markets in the region.
Capital Metro anticipates more than 20,000 daily boardings when the service begins in 2014. Each bus fits a maximum of 118 riders, both sitting and standing.
MetroRapid will feature sleek, modern buses with greater passenger amenities on the bus and at the station. Limited stops, multiple-door boarding, signal priority technology, and dedicated bus lanes through the heart of downtown translate into quicker travel times. MetroRapid will offer all-day service with 10-minute frequencies during rush hours.
The federal funding from the FTA's Very Small Starts program will fund a full 80 percent of the $47.6 million total project cost to get MetroRapid rolling down Austin's streets. State and local officials joined Rogoff at Republic Square Park today to make the funding announcement and tour a portion of the MetroRapid route through downtown, as well as ride MetroRail.
"Austin has a lot to be proud of, and we are going to continue to build a world-class transit network that will connect our region," said Austin City Council member and Capital Metro Chairman Mike Martinez, who was on board for Tuesday's ride. "Continued coordination between Capital Metro, the city of Austin and other regional transportation providers and the federal government will ensure Austin remains a great place to live, work and play."
Work to modify bus stops and traffic lanes will being this Fall.
Light snow flurries were reported early Saturday just north of the KXAN viewing area. Sub-freezing temperatures along with a slight chance of light snow, sleet and freezing rain will continue through Sunday morning.
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Back in June, Governor Rick Perry signed a new law officially letting teachers and students use greetings such as "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hannukah" in school, all without getting in any trouble.
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The Austin Humane Society reopened to the public Friday after closing its doors for six weeks.
Sub-freezing temperatures and an approaching upper level disturbance could combine to produce some patchy freezing drizzle or sleet Saturday and early Sunday morning.