Saturday, August 30, 2008

Riders, Riders Everywhere

A letter to the editor in today’s Austin American-Statesman stated that Capital Metro is not addressing the increased ridership growth, specifically on Route 935. Since the Statesman prefers to keep letters to about 150 words, we’ll use some extra space on the blog to take a closer look.

First, it’s important to remember that when we assign buses, we have many routes to consider. If we solely address the needs of Route 935, then we’d be neglecting other routes with the same issues. We have to look at the system and make decisions based on ridership and safety. And yes, don't forget about the "b" word (budget).

Capital Metro monitors ridership very closely to make sure we match the largest buses with the busiest routes whenever possible (there are other factors to consider; for example, some streets and intersections cannot safely accommodate larger buses).

Staff worked diligently over the summer to respond to customer and bus operator feedback about crowded buses by:

1. Reinstating some trips on routes 982 and 983 that we normally scale back in the summer
2. Sending an extra bus to supplement route 935 during the morning rush
3. Adding an extra bus to route 990 (this particular route normally operates with smaller vehicles and limited trips)
4. Purchasing an extra 45-foot express bus which went into service about a month ago

This is in addition to making tweaks to bus assignments on a regular basis.

We’re not finished. Just a few days ago, our Board of Directors approved the purchase of eight 40-foot buses which we hope to add to the fleet in the next few months. And we’re still looking at other possibilities to supplement our fleet.

Are we still facing challenges with crowded buses? You bet, especially now that we’re in our fall schedules and school is back.

Getting back to the budget, the massive increase in fuel costs also affects how we're able to respond to service growth. Diesel fuel prices have increased more than 336 percent in the past five years. Fuel is expected to be about 14 percent of our total operating budget in the upcoming fiscal year.

You can be sure that Capital Metro will continue to work hard to address the needs of our community as resources allow.