East Austin asking for bus route back, CapMetro offers solution

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s been a long couple of months for some who live in east Austin.

“The first two weeks were pretty rough because it was my first time walking,” Javier Calderon said.

He is one of several who live in Johnston Terrace and said since CapMetro’s ReMap removed bus route 17 from their neighborhood, getting around has been hard. 

“It’s made a bigger impact than I think people imagined it would,” Javier’s grandmother, Ofelia Zapata, said.

An Eastside Memorial Early College High School senior, Calderon was supposed to take the bus this year from school to his internship, but since its removal, he is now stuck with an hour walk.

Zapata is lobbying CapMetro to bring back the bus, but that’s not happening anytime soon.

“I think the app would work for some, but I don’t think that’s the solution,” Zapata said. 

CapMetro recently introduced its new program called MetroLink. It’s an option for those who live in Johnston Terrace who depended on the bus to give Ride Austin a call and set up a ride. 

People can call the company or use the app to set up a ride and a Ride Austin driver will pick them up and drop them off at a nearby CapMetro bus stop to continue their ride.

If you don’t have a smartphone, you can call: 512-369-6200. 

“If someone needs a translator, we have that too,” Roberto Gonzalez with CapMetro said. 

The ride is free for those who live in the area. CapMetro is picking up the tab.

“This is a chance to look at a more cost-effective way to serve that area,” Gonzalez said. “We’re paying for trips as the occur, so if someone is not taking a trip we’re not paying for service, but if someone needs a trip that’s when we go ahead and pay.”

Gonzalez said they came up with approximate figures to show how much they would be saving. He said having MetroLink is, “about 20 percent or less than what it would cost to operate a fix route bus.”

He added, “one bus on weekdays, operating from morning to evening would cost anywhere from $250,000 to $300,000 a year and with this program we estimate it’s going to cost us tens of thousands or dollars instead of hundreds of thousands of dollars.” 

When it comes to bus route 17, CapMetro said it lost riders over the years.

During the fall of 2012, 2,565 people rode the bus. Fast forward to last fall, and the numbers dropped by nearly 250 riders. CapMetro is hoping this new partnership with Ride Austin called Metro Link will help those like Calderon. 

“What we wanted to do was have a seamless continuation of our service, so this is what we call our first mile or last mile connection,” Gonzalez said. 

Calderon is looking forward to the help.

“Honestly, I do like the idea,” he said. “It would help the students a lot, we wouldn’t have to worry about being late for school when we can just make a phone call and it would save us 10 minutes of walking and be there in two minutes.” 

MetroLink Routes Linked:

Exposition (Ends Dec. 7)
Route 18: Exposition/Enfield, Stop ID 1985
Route 335: Casis Elementary School near Exposition/Westover, Stop ID 1426

Springdale/Johnston Terrace
Routes 2 & 300: Springdale/Goodwin, Stop ID 1339
Routes 4 & 17: Shady/Cesar Chavez, Stop ID 6259 & Stop ID 6260

Springdale/Rogge
Routes 20 & 300: Manor/E 51st St., Stop ID 1591
Note: You will need to cross the street to catch routes traveling in the opposite direction.

St. David’s North
Route 325: Metric/Cedar Bend, Stop ID 2567

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