AUSTIN (KXAN) — June marks one year since Capital Metro made major changes to its operations. They altered several routes and got rid of others through Cap Remap. The overhaul tripled the number of bus routes that operate every 15 minutes and CapMetro officials say it’s helped increasing ridership.
Year-over-year, CapMetro reports show ridership went up 8.6 percent in April. Average weekday was up 4.4 percent and weekends, including Saturday and Sunday, went up 11.7 percent and 20 percent.
In the 11 months since Cap Remap, ridership saw a 4 percent increase overall. Regular bus-rider Robbie Jones who uses the bus “all day, every day” says she’s definitely seen a difference.
“I’ve noticed more people,” she said. “I didn’t even have a seat.”
For CapMetro, the surge in the past year is a welcome change.
“It had been several years of decline which was very worrisome to us,” said Todd Hemingson, the bus company’s executive vice president of planning and development.
Over the last five years, CapMetro has tried several things to increase ridership.
In the summer of 2014, they took all the buses off of Congress Avenue and switched them over to Guadalupe and Lavaca streets taking over a lane of traffic. Earlier that year, MetroRapid was launched.
Then, in the fall of 2017, MoPac’s toll lane opened allowing MetroExpress routes to zoom into downtown. Ridership increased, but not as much as CapMetro wanted.
“On the grand scheme of the whole network, it’s a relatively a small part,” Hemingson explained.
He added they have seen a 60 percent increase in the MetroExpress trips and the lanes downtown “have been very helpful in terms of improving reliability, and helping the buses get through without being stuck in traffic.”
“All these things build on each other and it’s just a series of steps we’re taking to try to make service better,” he said.
Once the busses started coming every 15 minutes that they saw a notable increase in trips.
Hemingson said the company still has work to do as they move forward to get people like Jones where they need to go.
“I have a reason to go everywhere, everywhere,” Jones said.
Hemingson said as they expect the population to grow, they’ll continue working to keep ridership growing.
Next Big Step: Project Connect
For the past two years, CapMetro officials have been working on Project Connect. It’s a high-capacity system that would bring two major lines and several updates to routes across the city.