AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Connections 2025 plan, approved by the Capital Metro board this week, will triple the number of bus routes that run every 15 minutes or less. It will expand MetroExpress and MetroRapid, as well as and east-west options. Connections 2025 serves as a strategic plan for future changes over the next five years with Cap Metro calling it “guiding recommendations,” but it will also cut some bus routes, creating concerns for those who rely on the system.
Neighbors angry that service along Exposition Boulevard is cut in the new plan reached out to KXAN with their concerns.
“I use it, rely on it to get to three different doctors and dentist over in the Medical Park Tower area and I’m visually handicapped and I don’t drive,” Bill Oakey said. “We can’t afford to lose that kind of service.”
Julie Moore works at Austin Public Library’s Howson Branch, where she takes the bus to and from every day. She gave up her car years ago. “If I had to walk to work it would take me 45 minutes,” she said. “The 21/22, this is a neighborhood that has depended on this bus for over 25 years.”
That could change as early as 2018. Capital Metro’s Melissa Ayala explained, “Not every community has the demand for that traditional bus and we want to be responsible with our resources.”
That was discovered after a nearly year and a half long study leading up to the Connections 2025 plan release, where a third party consultant was involved. The resources, Ayala said, could be reallocated to areas with more need. A move that baffled Moore and her neighbors, knowing the need in their own area.
“You’re losing a whole neighborhood service by cutting off this,” Moore said, telling KXAN she’s found a lot of the riders don’t even know about proposed future bus changes. “There’s going to be people that are going to have no way to get around unless they walk 20-30 minutes to get to another bus.”
Cap Metro is proposing six what it’s calling “innovation mobility zones,” that explore transit alternatives, such as partnering with rideshare companies, shuttle services, and exploring flex routes. In addition to Exposition, the other areas identified are:
- Oak Hill
- Dessau Road
- Pilot Knob
“We would pilot a test service before removing any traditional transit service,” Ayala said, saying the pilot programs would run at least six months.
It’s a promise that does little to calm Oakey’s concerns.
“There is no substitute for this bus service. The idea of having ridesharing services or some such thing as that take the place of our bus, that’s unacceptable. It’s totally unacceptable to do away with this bus for any reason,” he said.
Neighbor Beth Placek told KXAN, “People are coming in to work at places like the hospitals and the library and from all parts of town…This neighborhood, it matters. It’s an old Austin neighborhood and we matter.”
Cap Metro says it plans to host open houses as soon as this summer to gain additional community input. Prior to eliminating any service, the board will have to approve final service changes. Significant changes are not expected until late 2018.