Progress is moving forward on the MetroRapid rapid bus system as construction on the first 40 stations began in September.
Capital Metro officials joined community and business leaders to celebrated the ground breaking of the station at the Chinatown Center, 10901 N. Lamar Blvd., on Sept. 20.
“I would like to thank Alex Tan and all the businesses at Chinatown Center for hosting us today. I have not run into a more enthusiastic group about transit in this project since we started working on it,” said Linda Watson, Capital Metro CEO and president.
Capital Metro received a $38.1 million grant from the Federal Transit Authority in April for 80 percent of the total $47.6 million cost.
“It was a very competitive grant process, and I'm so proud of our team at Capital Metro for doing the job to bring these funds to the community,” Watson said. “I'm also very grateful to the Federal Transit Administration for recognizing the value of this service and what it will do to our community.”
MetroRapid will be a two-route rapid-bus system that will run along North Lamar Boulevard to South Congress Avenue and Burnet Road to South Lamar Boulevard. The transit authority will construct 77 new bus stops, and the routes will allow riders to connect to other bus routes and the commuter rail line, which stops downtown at 401 E. Fourth St.
Watson said that during rush hour, the bus routes will run every 10 minutes.
The North Lamar/South Congress route will run from the Tech Ridge Park and Ride to the Southpark Meadows retail center on Slaughter Lane. The second route will run from the North Austin Medical Center on Burnet Road to the Westgate Transit Center on South Lamar.
However, MetroRapid program manager Ken Cartwright said Capital Metro has been meeting with The Domain owners Simon Property Group and Endeavor Real Estate Group about the possibility of the Burnet/South Lamar northern terminus.
“We have had since then some discussions with The Domain development [to see] if they would be interested in having that be the northern terminus for the second route,” he said. “We're having discussions with them about that right now. But nothing is final on that.”
Capital Metro board Chairman Mike Martinez said the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization anticipates the five-county region of Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson will grow from 1.7 million people to 3.2 million by 2035. Martinez said Capital Metro is focused on how to help those people get to where they need to go.
“We do that at Capital Metro, and we do that through public transportation, through a comprehensive system that includes bus, train, rail, trails, road and every other potential component we can come up with between now and then,” he said. “It is important that we take this next step.”
Mayor Lee Leffingwell said Capital Metro is just one of the organizations working to improve the city's transportation through all modes, including bus and rail.
“As a growing city, a major metropolitan area, we face significant challenges,” he said. “The most important of those, the most difficult to solve, I believe is our transportation problem. Our transportation effort simply must include a significant, well-functioning, efficient mass transit component.”