Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Detour Drama

If you tried to get around downtown over the Labor Day weekend, you know firsthand how difficult it was to navigate. Several special events closed city streets and created transportation headaches for everyone, whether you were in a car or a bus.

To those who were relying upon Capital Metro, we apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced. Street closures are a big, big deal to us because they create detours for our bus routes and cause some bus stops to temporarily close—in essence they interfere with our business and make it hard for our customers to get around!

Don’t get me wrong. I love all the delightfully Austintatious events in this city, and a number of my friends and coworkers compete in the many foot and bike races in town. But speaking with my Capital Metro Employee Hat firmly in place, street closures are a real pain.

In order to effectively let our customers know about detours that will be in place for an upcoming event, we print and post signage for affected bus stops (and on the buses that run those routes) about a week and a half in advance, and then post the detour information to our Web site during the week before the event. We actually have a staff committee that meets every week to review and plan for special events detours. We also meet regularly with City of Austin staff (the city approves and implements the street closures for special events) so that we can develop bus route detours effectively.

Unfortunately the plans don’t always go smoothly, and the city closes additional blocks, or the streets are closed earlier than we anticipated, and our buses are forced to detour the detour, on the spot. When this occurs, our signage at bus stops and on our Web site is no longer accurate. During major events, Capital Metro’s field supervisors patrol the routes, looking for people who need help catching a detoured bus. With so many routes on detour this weekend, it was hard.

We will continue to work with the city to improve the coordination between them and us for street closures and detours. We have been monitoring closely the work of the city-sponsored Downtown Street Event Closure Task Force and are providing input to that group. Hopefully it’ll be a smoother ride for all of us in the future.