Sign to support frequent buses!

CapMetro is planning to increase frequency of a bunch of routes in the core of Austin as part of Connections 2025. Many many streets, including MLK, Manor Rd, Cameron Rd, South 1st, Stassney, William Cannon, Montopolis, East 7th, and several others will get frequent buses every 10-15 minutes for the first time! It will provide a lot more access to much more of the city. CapMetro’s board is balking, though, so we’ve started a petition to support the changes here: . Please sign for better transit! If you want more information on why its a good idea, see this explanation:

I’ll try to reply to other questions here as they come up!

Brennan Griffin

Austinites: There is a new petition going around asking you to support Capital Metro’s Connections 2025 plan. If you have followed my work over the last 15 years, you should be aware that I do not support this plan. Most grid redesigns have a lot of cargo cult in them, and this plan is not even a good one. It cuts urban service under the false promise of doing the opposite, and directs future growth to unproductive suburban services, serving mainly areas that don’t even pay taxes to Capital Metro.

I had high hopes that when I helped (in a small fashion) launch the second iteration of AURA with its wider focus, that it would at least continue to be the bulwark against bullshit that it had been during Project Connect version one (2014 rail proposal). That is no longer the case. They have sold out for access, and can no longer be trusted to be a force for honesty in government. If you trust my track record, do not support AURA, and do not sign this damn petition.

Your pal,

Point to the actual cuts in the core, please, Mike. The rapids become very close to locals in terms of stop spacing and they add service to all the streets I just named and more.


I am very short on time, or I would have written an entire blog post.

Hyde Park and NUNA are losing all remaining ones, threes, fives, and 19s. They are getting, best case, a couple more stops on the 801 in the long gaps that exist currently. This is not a increase in service by any definition, the typical resident of Hyde Park will now be further away from fewer buses per hour than they had in the past.

Of course, we have gone over this, and I have raised this very specific objection to you. Those reading now should wonder why Brennan felt the need to ask me again. Most redesigns that focus on ridership over coverage would not even dream of cutting service to the best transit markets like the neighborhoods I mentioned above. It’s only capital metro that continues to try to hide cuts in service as if they were actual increases, just as they did with the original rapid bus roll out, which I opposed and AURA at the time credulously supported, only to come around to my way of thinking after ridership cratered. Likewise with the redline, which only I publicly opposed from the position of transit advocacy.

Going to bed, and I won’t have time to write anything tomorrow. Those of you who know me know my track record. Feel free to make your own decisions.

In a meeting I had with a senior planner with CMTA last week about Project Connect, I brought up the changes specific to Lamar and the 1/801. Though this meeting wasn’t about Connections 2025, we did spend some time on that topic for a bit.

My concern, and the example I used, was what actually will happen to the local bus stops as the 801’s gets added stops and begins to replace the 1. Though he’s not on that planning team, he said they actually don’t have a plan for that yet. My example I gave him was that between 183 and Crestview Station, there are four stops for the local route (1) but only a single stop for the 801. Will the be adding more 801 stops in that segment? (seems very unlikely to me) So will they just shut down the local stops and force people to walk north and under 183 to get to the NLTC? (gosh I hope not, that Anderson intersection is a death trap).

Point being, the agency still has no plan to fix the 1, and in the past it’s been about resource constraints. Yet now, Cx2025 is proposing even further jacking around with that route in while funding expanded services elsewhere.

I know Mike loves to point out the 1/101/801 woes, but what has happened on that corridor is a microcosm of the network as a whole. With underfunding or lack or resources, we pull resources (buses, employee hours) from one route to create new “frequent” ones, leaving behind underserved or not served communities.

My actionable take away from the meeting:

  1. the funding for Cx2025 is yet to be defined.
  2. the implementation criteria for bus stop amenities should have the bar raised - at the least each time they make a route “frequent service” iso that it has a bus stop amenities standard (I dream of shade structures at all 3000 stops some day). and
  3. The planner says the board still needs to hear concerns for the local routes.

Steve - I’m not sure why you’d assume that a .75 mile long part of the MetroRapid wouldn’t get at least two or three stops, since their stated stop spacing is going to be .2 to .3 miles. They’re moving away from the super-expensive, not very helpful current MetroRapid stops to something much cheaper and more functional - there’s a working group in CapMetro looking at it now. It will still have the next departure listing, but will hopefully be a lot better at keeping out the elements, but be off the shelf instead of the expensive one-offs we have now.

I also think its a bit hard to expect them to have the implementation plan before they’ve approved the theoretical plan! Houston basically did everything at once, putting new stops in and covering old stops up, and then shifted overnight. I don’t know if that’s the best solution, but its certainly an option. You could think of several others in between.

They do budgets year by year, but they’re already putting money aside to implement some pieces late this fiscal year, and the 5 year budget has space to move around. Again, this is stuff that probably comes after approving the conceptual plan.

If you’re looking at Hyde Park on the 801, you have something like 4-6 stops between 45th and 29th at .2 to .3 mile stop spacing. Off the top of my head, maybe that means you keep stops at 30th, 34th, 38th, 41st, 45th. With that arrangement, you’d lose 3 stops there from the local: 31st Street, 39th Street, and 43rd. Does that sound like it would destroy ridership?

And gaining service to dense, often lower income apartment buildings on Metric, Cameron, Manor, Montopolis, East 7th, South 1st, Stassney, William Cannon is worth it.

Anyway, I’ve gone round and round with Mike on this in several forums, and we’re not going to convince each other. I value gaining ridership and frequency, along with the freedom that gives, in low-income, fairly dense parts of town over providing 3 different N/S bus routes through Hyde Park with less than 1/2 mile spacing between them. I would prefer shorter stop spacing than what they’re proposing, but I don’t think its going to be the end of the world.


The fundamental issue here is that Brennan is _credulous_ towards Cap Metro’s claim that this plan increases service, whereas I am justifiably skeptical. When you dig into the details, every instance so far where he wants to give them the benefit of the doubt ends up showing that I was correct.

(And answer this: In Houston, the agency advertised how many people were going to be within 1/4 mile of frequent service after the change. In Austin, the agency is advertising how many people are going to be within 1/2 mile of service after the change. Anybody see any difference there?)

We already HAVE service on Metric, by the way. The increase is going to be virtually nil, and it’s not going to go downtown any more. (Current 1 service all the way downtown replaced by a stub 1 that forces a transfer to get downtown). Just for one obvious example of “credulous” vs “skeptic” analysis.

Fundamentally, more good transit neighborhoods are losing quality of service under this plan than are gaining it. Cap Metro is directing all future revenue growth to I-35 BRT and park-and-rides and Red Line expansions, so judged on a baseline of growth, this plan actually reduces services to the service area even measured overall. You should judge it accordingly; do you think the best way to grow an urban transit system is to cut service to your highest users and supply growth to suburban folks who don’t even pay the taxes that support the system, or do you think the best thing to do would be to keep it simple: restore high-frequency locals on our densest corridors and plan out from there?

Metric is not frequent right now! This will be every 10-15 minutes. The big issue, that Mike doesn’t take seriously, is that locals that come every 30 minutes are very hard to rely on if you have to get somewhere by a particular time, or if you’re trying to make a transfer. If you miss that bus by 1 minute, or if it comes 15 minutes late, you’re pretty much screwed. So having a bunch more frequent bus lines gives a lot more people comfort on relying on transit. And all the streets I mentioned are getting newly frequent service.

I-35 BRT is a problem, as is Red Line expansion (if it comes out of general funds - lately most of it comes from grants). That’s why the petition doesn’t speak to those. If they decide to keep the low-ridership lines, I want them to keep the frequent bus lines and take it from places like that. The implementation of the frequent network is 2-4 years, but the implementation of I-35 BRT is dependent on toll lanes on I-35, which is further in the future. The Park N Rides are already in trouble, and there are several groups working to kill the funding mechanism they identified, and I’m happy to join in those efforts.

Metric will switch from 30 minute headways all the way to downtown to 15 minute headways that force a transfer at NLTC, for instance. For the vast majority of riders, this is a degradation in service, not an improvement. The overall trip reliability and speed will go down, and comfort will go WAY down.

I’ve thrown out “cargo cult” before. This is where it really applies. Grid service when you have actual destinations worth going to that aren’t downtown works, but the grid service reacted to the destinations; simply placing the grid on a map where there’s not a lot to go to other than the core doesn’t magically work just like putting ‘runways’ on desert islands didn’t magically make the planes start showing up again.

Except that there is a large set of people who will never use a bus that only comes every 30 minutes or so, because they can’t take the chance that it will show up late, or that they’ll show miss it by few minutes. That changes for 10-15 minute headways. Every time I try to take my kid to the daycare on the East side on the bus, for instance, I spend half the trip stressing about whether the 7 ran a little too late for me to catch the transfer to the 20, because the next one is in 35 minutes. So I almost never do it unless I have little choice. Once the 20 becomes the 820, and would come every 10-12 minutes at peak hours, I could just do it.

And they’re talking about 7 minute peak headways on the 801, so even with a transfer, people already using the bus on Metric will be about the same during rush hour getting downtown, and have more options on when to leave.

Anyway, I think I’ve gone back and forth enough on this. People can make up their own minds from here.


The last time you jumped to the credulous “people will be as well off or better” conclusion was when we did the same calculation regarding the Grove. How did that turn out?

In your example, for every person like you whose goal is to travel laterally, there are five people who want to travel radially. We’re making things worse for the 5 in the hopes one other person will show up and join you, but our city is (thankfully!) not laid out that way.

Grid redesigns are appropriate when there are lots of transit-supportive (potentially or actual) destinations spread all over the place. That is NOT the case in Austin; we have the rare (for the Sunbelt) advantage of a relatively strong core for employment and other destinations. (Not to say that 100% or even 50% of our folks work there, but that we have a split closer to a good single-core city than to a multi-core or truly dispersed metro).