MetroRapid ridership lags along North Lamar and South Congress

A MetroRapid Bus on Lavaca in downtown Austin. (KXAN Photo/Kevin Schwaller)
A MetroRapid Bus on Lavaca in downtown Austin. (KXAN Photo/Kevin Schwaller)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Austin nears three years with MetroRapid bus service, ridership along the North Lamar/South Congress corridor is lagging below projections.

Capitol Metro’s premium bus service including WiFi, fewer stops and other features launched in January 2014. The project cost was $47.6 million with 80 percent of that coming from the Federal Transportation Administration’s Very Small Starts program.

“Ridership in the North Lamar/South Congress corridor, led by the new MetroRapid service, is projected to reach 20,000 boardings per weekday within the first two years of operation,” a news release from January 2014 stated, just days ahead of MetroRapid’s launch.

However, the boardings are currently at about 13,000 per day on the corridor, according to Capital Metro spokesperson Dan Dawson.

“We believe that’s partially due to the fact that we need some more stations and also development has been slower on that corridor than it has been on the 803, where we’re seeing a lot of condos and new apartments going up,” said Dawson.

The 803 is the second MetroRapid route that started in August of 2014. Dawson says ridership for that route has grown. Dawson also pointed out that both MetroRapid routes have met goals from federal transportation officials.

“We will be building new stations,” said Dawson. “In addition we will be taking the service to ten-minute frequency in 2017 and adding new vehicles to it.”

The Capital Metro board also voted unanimously Monday to eliminate the premium category from its fare structure, taking effect Jan. 8, 2017.

With this change, fares will be reduced for all local, MetroRapid and Flyer service to $1.25 for a single ride, $2.50 for a day pass, $11.25 for a 7-day pass and $41.25 for a 31-day pass.

The premium fare currently includes two MetroRapid routes and nine Flyer routes, all of which feature fewer stops compared to local service.

The transportation agency says the fare reduction is the first service initiative implemented as part of Connections 2025, a planning study that included a review of the agency’s entire bus system. Capital Metro says their goal in going to a two-tiered fare system is making it easier for customers to move around the system.

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