Bus Rapid Transit: Getting you Downtown in a Flash

What if you could zip through the morning traffic that stacks up around downtown? Just cruise right on through, catching every green light, sipping your morning coffee and getting a head start on email. Does that sound like a dream come true? We’re here to tell you, that dream will be a reality in just a few short months. It’s called MetroRapid here in Austin and around the world it’s known as Bus Rapid Transit or BRT for short. We’re going to give you a first-hand look at what BRT is and what that means for you.

BRT started many moons ago in a place called Curitiba, Brazil. At the time, Curtiba was the size of Austin and growing much like we are today. Curitiba understood that their city was going to be choked with car traffic very soon and needed to find a solution so they could continue their high quality of life. It was then that they invented BRT. Seventy-five percent of people in Curitiba now get to work using their BRT. Since that time, many cities across the world have implemented BRT and perfected it along the way. What are those cities you ask? Bogota, Mexico City, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Cleveland, and many more.

BRT in Austin = MetroRapidnorth lamar transit station

Capital Metro is launching MetroRapid in early 2014. This will be a service unlike any other Austin had before. There will be a route on North Lamar and South Congress and another serving Burnet and South Lamar, via 77 stations (stops). Let’s walk through some of the benefits.

The Bus Stations are gorgeous, comfortable and intelligent. The new stops (that you may have already seen around town) will be covered (shade!). Benches will be available to rest your bones while you wait for your bus. Stops will have system maps as well as digital signage telling you, in real time, when your  bus will arrive. Now you can leave your office in just enough time to catch your ride home.

Check out this video we created that shows a number of stations on the 801 route. Can you guess where they are?

MetroRapid has a number of clever features:

There will be multiple doors for boarding. The more people that get in the bus faster, the faster the bus will leave, and the stations and buses are at the same level adding to speedier boarding. This may not seem like much at first, but it significantly speeds up boarding.

Mobile ticketing will allow riders to scan their tickets using their smart phone when they board. No more fumbling for change.

A new technology called Traffic Signal Priority will enable these buses to send a beam to a traffic light that is green  to keep it green just long enough to get the bus through the light and on time to the next station. Now cars will want to be behind the bus!

During rush hours buses will run every 10 minutes!

Finally, CapMetro and the City are currently planning to create Transit Priority Lanes in downtown. Cars and bikes will be able to make right turns, but it is a lane for buses only.

Additionally, all MetroRapid buses will have free WiFi for you to check email, check out Movability on Facebook or watch the news to get your day started.

Take all of these features together and you have a service that provides speed, reliability, comfort, and the frequency necessary to make this a top commuting option.

Sounds Great, WHEN is it coming?

You can take your first MetroRapid trip in January 2014, when the route serving Lamar and South Congress opens. Then, in the Summer of 2014, the Burnet/South Lamar route will open. We know you all can’t wait to start loving your commute and making the most of MetroRapid!

4 Responses to Bus Rapid Transit: Getting you Downtown in a Flash

  1. Rich MacKinnon says:

    I can’t watch the Vine video on my laptop. It just appears to be a photo.

    • glenn says:

      Sorry about that Rich. It seems that certain browsers aren’t compatible with Vine. If you can, try a different browser and see if that works.

  2. Sean Brown says:

    I have some issues with calling this BRT. Jace Deloney went into a deeper analysis on Twitter a little while back.

    For me, here are the issues:

    1. Unlike real BRT (true reserved lanes) MetroRapid’s reserved lanes are a pretty small minority of its total route.

    2. What happens in the “transit priority lane” when a car turning right has to wait for a pedestrian crossing the street at the crosswalk to the right? That’s right, the bus has to wait behind the car.

    3. Still have to scan your ticket onboard (can’t prepay/pre-scan and just quickly get on). I am frankly not sure whether it will accept cash/coins but if so, the boarding process will eat up even more time.

    I agree that it is much better than the current system due to real-time bus position and higher frequency. The light timing and priority lanes will both help but probably not a whole lot. But calling this BRT and bringing up Curitiba’s system in this article seems somewhat disrespectful to the system they have down there.

  3. Kate says:

    Looking forward to the Transit Priority Lanes. That’s when things will really start to move. Until then, I’m skeptical this will make much of a difference. Rapid Buses aren’t going to move very rapidly when they’re stuck in the same backed up lanes as everyone else.