Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority
|Founded||July 1, 1986|
|Headquarters||2910 E. Fifth Street|
|Service area||Austin, Travis and parts of Williamson Counties|
|Service type||Bus, passenger rail, van pool|
|Routes||49 metro, 12 special, 8 express, 19 UT shuttle, 1 passenger rail|
|Hubs||22(transfer centers/ park and ride)|
|Stations||9 (passenger rail)|
|Fuel type||ultra-low sulfur diesel, Diesel-electric hybrid|
|Chief executive||Linda Watson|
Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Capital Metro, is a public transportation provider located in Austin, Texas. It operates bus, paratransit services and a commuter rail system known as Capital MetroRail for Austin and several suburbs in Travis and Williamson counties. Voters approved the creation of Capital Metro in January 1985, agreeing to fund the organization with a one percent sales tax. In December 2010, Capital Metro ridership numbered approximately 140,000 trips per day and has the highest per capita ridership in Texas.
- 1 History
- 2 Funding conflicts
- 3 Member jurisdictions
- 4 Capital MetroRail
- 5 Bus routes
- 6 Fare structure
- 7 Finances and governance
- 8 Future expansion
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Capital Metro was established by a referendum on January 19, 1985, to provide mass transportation service to the greater Austin metropolitan area. Voters in Austin and the surrounding area approved the creation of the agency, to be funded in part by a 1 percent sales tax. Capital Metro commenced operations on July 1, 1985, and took over the existing city of Austin bus services in 1986.
In an effort to boost ridership, Capital Metro did away with fares completely and instituted fare-free in an experiment that lasted from October 1989 to December 1990. The program was enormously successful in attracting new passengers, and increased ridership by 75% (but expanded service accounted for some of the growth). The fare-free scheme, however, attracted problem riders who drove away quality ridership. In response, 75% of transit drivers voted to have the program discontinued immediately in 1990.
In 1997 Capital Metro was the subject of a string of Texas Legislature and FBI investigations that uncovered a dysfunctional organization beset by poor management. As a result, the Legislature subsequently overhauled Capital Metro and its the board of directors in an attempt to make the transit authority both more effective and transparent ahead of a performance review by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. The review cited an "ongoing criminal investigation" by the FBI, "irresponsible management", "expensive, embarrassing mistakes", "dubious contracting and purchasing practices", and $118,000 spent on "food, parties, and presents for its employees" and culminated with, "We have never, in all of the performance reviews we have conducted, seen an agency with such a lack of accountability."
As part of this restructuring, the Legislature ordered Capital Metro to hold an up-or-down referendum on passenger rail. In response, Capital Metro released an ambitious plan that proposed to spend $1.9 billion for a light rail system with 52 miles of track on existing streets. The referendum was narrowly defeated in November 2000 by 2,000 votes, with voters in central Austin tending to favor it, while those outside the city limits did not. Capital Metro prepared a greatly scaled-back version for voters in November 2004. The updated plan sought to build just one starter line that would run north-south at a cost $90 million. While the project was somewhat marred by construction delays, questions and safety and cost overruns, the Red Line of the Capital MetroRail began service on March 22, 2010.
Capital Metro had its first passenger/bus fatality in its operating history on January 30, 2012, when route 383 operated by Veolia Transportation bus struck a pedestrian crossing Braker Ln and Jollyville. This was due to a number of factors including sharp left turns at the intersection of Braker and Jollyville, the fact the 2-3 bus routes turn on a narrow stretch of turn lane, bad weather, and using buses that are near end of life or end of life such in the case with the buses contracted out to Veolia that were once used for StarTran bus services.
There have been several passenger injuries that have been reported on Veolia, StarTran, and First Transit routes in which First Transit exceeds performance ratings, StarTran in the middle, and Veolia failing to consistently meet performance ratings. A safety review plan has been communicated with Veolia Transportation in 2011. The board of directors have been constantly reviewing ways of improvement for that contractor.
The source of Capital Metro's funding has been a source of considerable and consistent controversy since the transit authority's founding in 1985. In December 1988, the board of directors voluntarily lowered the sales and use tax to 0.75-cent. In June 1995, the Board of Directors reinstated the sales and use tax to the full one percent effective October 1, 1995, promising to set aside the additional revenue for funding light rail.
Capital Metro, after raising its sale tax from 0.75 percent to 1 percent in 1995, had stockpiled $176 million by the 2000 referendum. When light rail was defeated at the polls in 2000, however, pressure mounted to return the quarter-cent it had been setting aside for rail projects. For years, mass transit detractors had coveted the quarter percentage earmarked for rail projects. Political leaders and organizations, including former Republican state Rep. Terry Keel of Austin, Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty and his anti-rail group Reclaim Our Allocated Dollars (ROAD), wanted the sales-tax money to build projects such as a highway loop around Austin and an east-west freeway. As pressure mounted on Capital Metro, Keel announced his intention to roll Capital Metro's taxing authority back to a half-cent and redirecting the other half-cent to highway construction.
To head that off and keep rail's future prospects alive, the Capital Metro board passed resolutions in the months after the vote making two promises: It would direct $91 million of its existing reserves to local governments for transportation projects, and it would dispense all proceeds that year from a quarter-cent of its tax to those same local governments. That quarter-cent promise was later extended for three more years, eventually amounting to $113 million, for a total of $204 million.
The city of Austin, given that something on the order of 97 percent of Capital Metro sales taxes come from within the city, was to be the primary beneficiary of those promises. Since 2000, at least $106 million of the $204 million promised to Austin and smaller cities such as Manor and Leander. At the same time, however, it was spending more than $300 million on commuter rail, park-and-ride lots, a new maintenance and operations center, and other facilities. As the Great Recession spread to Austin in 2009, tax revenues dried up and Capital Metro had to stop payment on a $51 million load owed to Austin as part of a 2001 agreement. 
The following jurisdictions participate in the Capital Metro system, all in Travis and Williamson Counties.
- Lago Vista
- Point Venture
- San Leanna
- The Anderson Mill area in Williamson County
- Precinct 2, an unincorporated area in north Travis County.
The original jurisdictions of Cedar Park, Pflugerville, Rollingwood, and West Lake Hills have withdrawn from Capital Metro. Service to other areas in the Austin metropolitan area is provided by the Capital Area Rural Transportation System. Capital Metro recently voted to allow a new policy that would allow new member cities to hire the transit authority to provide transit service, without using the 1% sales tax. Former member city Cedar Park is interested in restoring service, and nonmembers Round Rock, Elgin, Dripping Springs, and Kyle are interested as well.
In 2004, after four years of additional lobbying by Capital Metro, Capital Metro won approval to build a commuter rail on existing freight rail lines. In September 2005, Capital Metro awarded a contract to Stadler Rail to build six diesel-electric rail cars for the system, each possessing a capacity of up to 230 passengers. The initial cost for this rail line was planned to be $90 million; however, continued construction problems and safety issues caused the project to exceed budget and to be delayed. The Capital MetroRail opened March 22, 2010.
Capital Metro's fixed route bus service includes 49 metro routes and 8 Express routes as of 2008[update]. It has several categories of routes: Local Service, Flyer and Limited, Feeder, Crosstown, Special Services, Express and University of Texas Shuttles. At the agency's inception, Capital Metro originally operated a series of "paired" route service where two different routes that pass through downtown are served by the same buses, allowing riders to transfer between certain routes without leaving the bus. Since 2000, this practice has been eliminated and after a number of route pair reassignments, the agency merged the paired routes under single route numbers (for example, the 1 North Lamar and 13 South Congress were originally paired as they were the two busiest routes in the system, but they have since been merged as 1 North Lamar/South Congress). Meanwhile, most local routes carried two digits before Capital Metro assigned a third digit for routes that do not serve downtown in 2000 (for example, 25 Ohlen became 325). Flyer routes were renumbered altogether to match their local stop counterparts (for example, Manchaca Flyer became 103), while express routes that operated during commute times only contained letters (for example, NEX Northeast Express was renamed 990 Manor/Elgin Express).
University of Texas Shuttle System
The University of Texas' shuttle system, operated by Capital Metro, is the largest university transit system in the United States. The UT Shuttle System boasts 14 routes, 87 buses and carries approximately 7.5 million passengers a year. UT students, faculty, and staff may ride the shuttles at no charge with a valid UT photo ID. Without a UT photo ID, the charge is $1 for local service and UT shuttle service, and $2.75 for express service.
During the five fiscal years that ended in September 2009, hours of shuttle service declined by 16.3 percent and passengers declined by 28 percent. Capital Metro attributes some of that ridership loss to UT students and staffers moving in greater numbers to regular Capital Metro bus routes, where they also ride for free. During the same period, non-shuttle ridership by UT students and staffers increased to 2.3 million from 1.6 million. Still, combined shuttle and non-shuttle UT ridership has declined.
The relationship between the university and Capital Metro dates to 1989, when the agency took over service that private bus companies had provided for 20 years. Capital Metro offered snazzier buses with air conditioning, but it immediately lengthened the time between some bus runs.
In 1983, the University of Texas received six bids to manage the shuttle system. Capital Metro entered into the picture in 1988, when the university contracted out to them. Capital Metro, in turn, then subcontracted out to Laidlaw International, Inc., who had, up to that point, operated orange and white school buses for the university on a contractual basis. Rather than use Laidlaw's existing bus fleet, however, Capital Metro used their own. In so doing, Capital Metro brought air conditioning and wheelchair accessibility to the shuttle service for the first time. The transition, however, was not without controversy. Among the other contested issues was the fact that these new shuttles didn't have a stereo system
Amidst allegations of union busting, in 1999, Capital Metro canceled its then current contract and instead contracted out with ATC/Vancom, instead Six years later, in 2005, Capital Metro, citing concerns over the comparatively low wages ATC/Vancom paid, negotiated a contract with First Transit to operate the UT shuttle buses.
Independent of the university shuttle system, Capital Metro has, since September 19, 2002, operated so-called "E-Bus" routes, to ferry students between heavily populated student residential areas to within a block of 6th Street. These buses run from 8:00-9:00pm to 3:00am, Thursday through Sunday. The E in "E-Bus" stands for "eating and entertainment" and funding was initially provided for by companies advertising on the bus. On April 1, 2010, the Daily Texan reported that, in an attempt to curb passenger unruliness, Capital Metro was requiring students swipe their student IDs before boarding and that the University of Texas would start paying for some of the services.
As of Fall 2010, the UT Shuttle System included 19 routes on weekdays during the University of Texas semester. Shuttle bus service is available when classes are in session. Shuttle service does not operate on Saturdays except during finals. The UT Shuttles use letter abbreviations, in addition to route numbers between 0600-0699:
- CP - Crossing Place (670)
- CR - Cameron Road (651)
- EC - East Campus (641)
- ER - Enfield Road (662)
- FA - Forty Acres (640)
- FW - Far West (661)
- IF - Intramural Fields (656)
- LA - Lake Austin (663)
- LS - Lakeshore (672)
- NR - North Riverside (671)
- PR - Pickle Research Campus (652)
- RR - Red River (653)
- WC - West Campus (642)
- WL - Wickersham Lane (675)
Late Evening Combined Service:
- CR/RR - Cameron Road/Red River Combo (684)
- ER/LA - Enfield Road/Lake Austin Combo (683)
- NR/LS - North Riverside/Lakeshore Combo (680)
- WL/CP - Wickersham Lane/Crossing Place Combo (685)
Local Service Routes
Capital Metro's Local Service routes are intended to serve a specific neighborhood or area of Austin, and tend to stop more frequently. There are 17 Local Service routes, and they are designated by bus route numbers between 001-099:
Effective August 19, 2012 - January 12, 2013
Local Service Routes Multiple-stop service to-and-from downtown
- 1L N Lamar/S Congress (via Lamar)
- 1M N Lamar/S Congress (via Metric)
- 2 Rosewood
- 3 Burnet
- 4 Montopolis
- 5 Woodrow/South 5th
- 6 East 12th
- 7 Duval/Dove Springs
- 10 South First/Red River
- 17 Cesar Chavez
- 18 M.L. King
- 19 Bull Creek
- 20 Manor/Riverside
- 21 Exposition
- 22 Chicon
- 30 Barton Creek Square
- 37 Colony Park
Limited and Flyer routes
These routes are designed for faster transportation, so they stop less frequently than Local Routes. While Limited and Flyer routes are similar, there are some basic differences between the two. Limited Route buses stop fewer times because the routes are designed to move more people between key transfer points and key destinations. Likewise, buses on the Flyer routes stop less often and typically offer direct service between neighborhoods and the UT campus or downtown Austin. There are 13 Limted and Flyer routes, and they are denominated by Route Numbers 100-199:
Limited & Flyer Routes
Limited stop service to and from neighborhoods and downtown
- 100 MetroAirport Flyer
- 101 N Lamar/S Congress Limited
- 103 Manchaca Flyer
- 110 South Central Flyer
- 122 Four Points Limited
- 127 Dove Springs Flyer
- 135 Dell Limited
- 142 Metric Flyer
- 151 Allandale
- 161 Dellwood
- 171 Oak Hill Flyer
Feeder Routes offer multiple stop service between neighborhoods and Capital Metro transit center or park and ride locations. There are six of these, and they are denominated by route numbers between 200-299:
- 201 - Southpark Meadows
- 214 - Lago Vista Feeder
- 228 - Burleson
- 238 - Westgate
- 240 - Parkfield
- 243 - Wells Branch
- 271 - Del Valle
These routes are intended for riders seeking direct, multiple-stop service from one part of Austin to another without going through Downtown Austin or near UT (even to change routes). There are 11 of these, each of which will have a route number between 300-399:
- 300 - Govalle
- 311 - Stassney
- 320 - St. John's
- 323 - Anderson
- 325 - Olhen
- 331 - Oltorf
- 333 - William Cannon
- 338 - Lamar/45th St
- 350 - Airport Blvd
- 383 - Research
- 392 - Braker
Express Routes are geared towards commuters who want limited-stop service straight into downtown. Capital Metro has 8 of these, and they are noted by their route numbers between 900-999:
- 935 - Tech Ridge Express
- 970 - Lantana Express
- 982 - Pavilion Express
- 983 - North U.S. 183 Express
- 985 - Leander/Northwest Express via I-35
- 987 - Leander/Northwest Express via MoPac
- 990 - Northeast Express
Special Services Routes serve very specific areas of town or individual events, typically implying a limited schedule - often late night buses from downtown. Capital Metro lists 17 of these, and they are denominated by route numbers between 400-499:
- 410 - E-bus Service Suspended for Summer(E-Bus)
- 411 - E-bus Service Suspended for Summer (E-Bus)
- 412 - E-bus Service Suspended for Summer (E-Bus)
- 460 - Downtown-Congress
- 461 - Downtown Guadalupe
- 462 - Downtown-Riverside
- 464 - MLK-Capitol
- 465 - MLK MLK/UT
- 466 - Kramer/Domain
- 481 - Night Owl North
- 482 - Night Owl East
- 483 - Night Owl Southeast
- 484 - Night Owl Lamar/South 1st
- 485 - Night Owl Cameron Road
- 486 - Night Owl Dove Springs
- 490 - HEB Shuttle
- 499 - Day Labor
The majority of the current bus fleet consists of vehicles produced by two manufacturers, Gillig and New Flyer, with only relatively small generational design variations, most visibly in the use of flip-dot destination displays on older series versus LED displays on newer buses. A few smaller series of buses were acquired from other manufacturers, notably Optima (used preferentially on MetroRail shuttles) and MCI (used on express services). Older bus series produced by TMC and Blue Bird are no longer in service.
Effective Sunday Jan. 16, 2011, Capital Metro implemented a fare adjustment that increased some fares and pass rates, standardized MetroExpress and MetroRail fares, and eliminated most free fares. The new fare structure is divided into three categories: Local (all local MetroBus routes), Regional (MetroExpress and MetroRail), and Reduced (1/2 fare for those who qualify):
|Local||Local Reduced*||Regional||Regional Reduced*|
Reduced Fares are available to those with a Capital Metro Reduced Fare ID (formerly the Disability Fare Card) including: Seniors 65 and over, Medicare card holders, and people with disabilities. Students 6-18 with a valid school ID, and Active & Reserve Military with valid ID.
Local fares required for MetroBus routes. Regional fares required for MetroExpress and MetroRail (includes all MetroBus service). MetroRail riders may purchase a single ride zoned fare: $1 for one zone, $2.75 for 2 zones. All other MetroRail passes must be purchased at the Regional rate. The table below regarding available is up-to-date as of January 2011:
|MetroAccess 10-Day Ticket Booklet||$15|
|MetroAccess Monthly Pass||$40|
|RideShare Monthly Pass||$60|
|Shared Value Card ($15 Value)||$12|
University of Texas and Austin Community College students, staff and faculty charge through separate paid agreements with Capital Metro. City of Austin employees also ride at no charge through a similar agreement.
Finances and governance
Board of directors
The board of directors was changed once again through state legislation in 2010 to increase the total number of board members from seven to eight. The new law also reduces the number of elected officials who are required to serve on the board, and institutes new requirements regarding the professional experience of certain appointees. The new board will consist of three members appointed by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, including an elected official; one member representing the small cities in Capital Metro's service area; a member each appointed by the Travis County Commissioners and Williamson County commissioners; and two members appointed by the Austin City Council, in which one must be a member of the Austin City Council.
As a public entity, Capital Metro is prohibited by Texas law from entering into a traditional collective bargaining agreement with a labor union in the United States. In 1991, however, to comply fully with a state law prohibiting public entities from supervising unionized employees with collective bargaining rights, the Capital Metro board determined that its unionized employees and their supervisors should be transferred to a separate non-profit company. In January 1992, Capital Metro created Startran, Inc., a private entity that acts as the authority's agent in managing its unionized workforce.
On the other hand, Metro drivers and mechanics are represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union, a major labor union representing workers in the transit system that boasts over 188,000 members representing workers. StarTran and the AUT have in the past had troubled contract negotiations, that most recently resulted in a general strike in November 2008.
In 2008, StarTran voted to begin a general strike, despite the fact that StarTran employees were already the highest paid bus operators in the state. Beginning on November 5, 2008, the strike caused the transit agency to reduce its fixed and paratransit service levels, particularly impacting Austin residents who had to use public transit. During the strike, the agency initially provided only those routes on the contingency map for a reduced number of hours but added others as resources became available. The Sunset Advisory Commission released its report on Capital Metro in April 2010.
Capital Metro also contracts with two other service providers for bus operations, First Transit, Veolia Transport and the Capital Area Rural Transportation System. First Transit provides shuttle service for University of Texas students, faculty and staff.
|Operating Revenues||$28.04 M|
|Passenger Fares||$9 M|
|Contract Fares||$6.76 M|
|Freight Rail||$11.77 M|
|Operating Expenses||$164.70 M|
|Non-Operating Revenues||$178.23 M|
|Build Central Texas Program||$3.7 M|
|Change in Net Assets||$9.36 M|
Capital Metro's operating budget has increased almost 60% over the past five years. This generous funding supports future projects such as the MetroRapid and Urban Rail services.
In early 2014, CapMetro will begin operation of an express bus service branded "MetroRapid". MetroRapid rolling stock will be bus rapid transit style vehicles operating in shared lanes with vehicular traffic. Despite claims by CapMetro staff that MetroRapid will be Bus Rapid Transit, many experts show that the MetroRapid project is not a true BRT project. When the service begins in 2014, the first corridors to be serviced will be the North Lamar and South Congress routes. Capital Metro plans to reduce congestion for MetroRapid riders in two ways. First, these buses will get a small signal priority; as they approach an intersection, traffic signals will automatically stop cross-traffic sooner (or longer) than the normal cycle. Second, Capital Metro hopes to convert a few block stretch of on street parking downtown into bus lanes (dubbed "near-term managed lane facilities") "to improve mobility".
Plans have been circulating since a failed light rail vote in 2000 about urban rail in Austin. A vote on urban rail, on either light rail or a streetcar system, was initially planned to be put to the voters as early as 2012. However, current timelines are projecting a bond election to be presented to voters in November 2014.
- Texas Department of Transportation
- Dallas Area Rapid Transit
- Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County
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