CTR Commuter Diversity: Public Transit
As transportation researchers, we are all too familiar with the causes of congestion. And as the saying goes, “you are not stuck in traffic—you are traffic.” So we try to do our part to reduce our impacts on the Austin network in a variety of ways, participating in such congestion-mitigation practices as carpooling, bicycling, and using public transit. This article will be the first in a series on the commuting alternatives we use right here at CTR.
In the car-worshipping culture of Texas, riding the bus gets a bad rap, but the CTR staff and researchers who regularly commute via public transit find it enhances their quality of life. The Austin public transit provider is Capital Metro. Here’s a sampling of the ways that CTR staffers use Cap Metro services.
Express bus: This crosstown service makes limited stops to and from UT, downtown, and Park and Rides, often routed on highways, and has Wi-Fi on board. CTR Director Chandra Bhat takes an express bus. “I love it, because I find it gives me more time to work. It makes no difference to me if there’s heavy traffic—that’s just more time to be productive,” Dr. Bhat notes.
Rapid bus: The MetroRapid bus, routed along Austin’s busiest north/south roads, makes fewer stops, has dedicated lanes downtown along Guadalupe and Lavaca Streets, and provides priority service through onboard technology that allows it to catch more green lights, among other amenities. The coolest feature, according to CTR’s editor, Maureen Kelly, is that every rapid bus station posts the actual wait till the next bus, and you can even check the time of the next arrival online before even leaving the office.
MetroRail: The Red Line rail, which runs from Leander to downtown at E. 4th Street, is another option that CTR staffers use. Researcher Lisa Loftus-Otway rides the rail home after attending a monthly meeting at the Austin Chamber of Commerce, which is just a block away from the Downtown Station. “It’s always on time, saves having to find a parking spot in a congested downtown area, and it allows me to get home at just about my regular time.”
UT shuttles: These buses are oriented to the UT campus, extending outward to areas with high student populations. These are quite handy if you have to run a lunchtime errand in the UT or downtown area. Students report mixed results for regular commuting, however. “I particularly do not like the UT shuttles, specifically the West Campus bus. It is often not on schedule, or packed, or not even stopping at its stops, so I find the 20-minute walk to campus more convenient and quite possibly more scenic,” notes Karim Virani, a senior Finance major.
Pro Tips for Beginners
- You don’t have to take the bus the whole way. You can use a Park and Ride, such as the one at The Triangle (4600 Guadalupe).
- Use the Cap Metro app. If you have a smartphone, you can use the app to plan a route from wherever you are. The app will tell you about stop closures and route detours, and also will now give you a countdown at each stop for the next three bus departures.
- Check the fare ahead of time. CapMetro has a tiered pricing system, so if you don’t get to ride free (as UT staff and students do), find out how much to bring for your route of choice. You can buy a pass at most grocery stores, or bring some quarters (they are easier to use than bills in the fare boxes).
Cap Metro provides a Rider’s Guide with full details about all of their services.