Rapid Bus versus existing conditions on the #3 corridor

Best-case time for Rapid Bus, here we are.

The existing service on Burnet Road heading southbound into downtown in the morning rush looks like this:

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 9.45.16 AM

This basically boils down to a local bus every 22 minutes during the morning peak. Service drops slightly to 26-minute headways during the mid-day, and then rises back to 22 minutes during the evening peak. People from other cities may not believe this, but this actually qualifies as frequent by Austin standards. This route makes a lot of stops. Meaning it’s fairly slow, but you don’t have to walk far to pick it up (I used to use this one, occasionally, for a former work commute).

Stops on existing #3

The new Rapid Bus line running on Burnet/Lamar (the second one to be built, but the first one we’re talking about) will run every 10 minutes during the morning peak, and every “12-20 minutes” during the mid-day.

Here’s a diagram of the Rapid Bus route replacing the #3 (look at the purple line). The bus will only stop at the indicated ‘stations’ (bench + sign).

MetroRapid on Burnet/S Lamar

An interesting aside: Capital Metro’s newest MetroRapid presentations now only include the best example of travel time improvement for each route (somewhat OK in the case of the #3 replacement; complete bullshit on the other route). Luckily, your intrepid reporter located the old presentation from which the picture below is taken

And here’s the travel time estimate improvement graphic from Capital Metro:

MetroRapid #3 improvements

So we can see a pretty big travel improvement here – focusing on North Austin, a 20% or so time improvement over the #3. But where does that improvement come from? Traffic lights, or reducing stops?

Unfortunately, there’s no existing express service (limited-stop) on the corridor to compare to, so we can’t answer that question – but the results from the next post may serve illustrative on that metric. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, let’s imagine a couple of users of the current #3 and see how this affects them. Using 600 Congress for the destination here.

Allan Allandale boards the #3 bus today at a stop that will be served by the new MetroRapid service. He gets on the bus at Justin/Burnet today for his job downtown. Currently, this trip takes from 8:11 to 8:43. 32 minutes. In the new service, we’ll be completely credulous and assume the 20% time reduction from the entire “Domain to 10th St” trip applies equally here – and the new trip will take 25 minutes (32 – (20% == 7)). Allan saved 7 minutes.

But that’s not the only case. Scroll back up and notice the high number of #3 stops up there. Most of those are going away; unlike the other Rapid Bus line on Guadalupe/Lamar, the existing local bus is not just being cut; it’s being eliminated. So a person may have to walk quite a bit further to the new stop than the old one.

Suppose Allan’s friend Andy Allandale lives in a slightly different spot in Allandale and currently uses the bus stop at Burnet & Greenlawn. His extra walk from that bus stop down to Justin/Burnet will take about 4 minutes. Doesn’t seem like much, but remember Andy is only going to save 7 minutes on the actual bus ride. So the savings for Andy are actually only 3 minutes.

This pattern gets worse the closer in you get to town (and better the further out you get) – which makes sense. A 20% time savings is going to buy you more savings on the bus part of the trip the further out you are, and if the walk penalty is about the same, the suburbanite will benefit more from the service than will the urbanite. Unfortunately, this ruins the narrative that Rapid Bus is going to be great for Central Austin. In fact, Rapid Bus delivers its travel time benefits on the #3 route disproportionately to people who live very far out; people in Central Austin likely see little benefit even if they live right next to the stop; and zero or even worse conditions if they live next to a #3 stop that’s being eliminated.

Worse case scenario still: Ronald Rosedale currently boards the #3 at 45th and Burnet. The new Rapid Bus that eliminated the #3 actually moves away from Burnet here over to Lamar – the closest new stop will be at Sunshine and Lamar (or 40th and Lamar). 8 minute walk, which totally eliminates the time savings from the Rapid Bus trip.

Once we go further south than that, we’re into the territory where the lines overlap, and the #1 remains a (less frequent than before) option.

Now, what about frequency? On this corridor, all users see a significant increase in peak-hour frequency, roughly doubling the number of available bus trips per hour over current conditions. Mid-day frequency improvement is likely not significant (I’d wager the 12-20 minute citation here means this corridor is getting 20 minute headways and the other one 12; existing conditions are 26-minute headways).

So the conclusion for the #3 corridor? If you live far out of the core, but still close to a stop that will be served by the new service, you are going to be much better off. Central city residents, down in the urban core, will see little travel time benefits, but still enjoy frequency benefits.

On to Guadalupe/Lamar Rapid Bus next, likely next week.

12 Replies to “Rapid Bus versus existing conditions on the #3 corridor”

  1. “Most of those are going away; unlike the other Rapid Bus line on Guadalupe/Lamar, the existing local bus is not just being cut; it’s being eliminated.”

    Yes and no. The “#3” is going away, but it appears as if CapMetro is relocating/creating lines to recreate it (in sections). For instance the 383.
    I’m presuming to act as “feeders” into the metrorapid.

  2. No, the 383 is being rerouted for completely unrelated reasons to MetroRapid. The MetroRapid on Burnet isn’t coming for another year after the one up Guad/Lamar anyways.

  3. And the portion of the #3 being covered by the #383 reroute is minimal anyways. This is a change for drop-off end only; there’s no residencies along this portion of Burnet.

  4. What I mean is the #3 is covered, in part, by:
    the 1 and others through downtown
    (there’s also some flyers and the PRC, but I’m ignoring those for the moment as they aren’t full service).
    Just eyeballing it, it appears as if even when the 3 goes away, approximately 50% of its route will still have local service. This isn’t even counting significant segments where another route parallels it only a block away (like portions of the 5 and 331).

    To this we now add the 383. To me, this is suggestive of an attempt by CapMetro to retain local service along this route, while not yet taking on the entire expense of retaining a full extra route. We know they want to retain local service here, the 2020 service plan includes both the metrorapid and local service in this corridor.

  5. “The bus will only stop at the indicated ‘stations’ (bench + sign).”
    +canopy+lights+real-time updates+bike racks.

    The stations are a _significant_ upgrade over many of the existing stops on the line (which often consist of a sign stuck in the bare ground, sidewalk coverage on burnet being inconsistent).

  6. Not a lot of time for this right now, but will try to address what I can.

    1. Realigning various local routes is NOT NOT NOT even close to a replacement for the #3 – which has a lot of long-distance travel on it now (I know; I used to take it sometimes as a bike boost). It’s just an effort to basically boost ridership on MetroRapid by having more transfers directly on it.

    2. The ‘stations’ are ‘bench+sign+canopy+lights+real-time-updates’. I see no evidence there will be bike racks. Many of these ‘stations’ are nearly complete in the core right now on the Lamar/Guadalupe route, and there’s no room for racks. Don’t know where you got that idea. And the remainder of it was intended to point out that this is nothing at all like a light rail station (not even as good as the small stops that Houston has, really).

  7. I agree that they’re a significant upgrade over “sign on hot pavement”. I disagree that they’re anything close to the rail-like infrastructure that Capital Metro promised the center-city voters in 2004.

  8. “Realigning various local routes is NOT NOT NOT even close to a replacement for the #3 ”
    I partially agree, which is why my initial post said both “yes and no”. For long distance travel, it is not a one to one replacement, but it can help replace some long-distance trips, via transfers (and for many trips, still come out ahead of the old travel times, due to the abundance of stops).

    “I see no evidence there will be bike racks.” I also was unable to find any direct mention of this on the web site (which I found odd, since adding them is basically “free” while they’re there doing construction, and since capmetro has been pushing multi-modal with bikes recently). So I emailed capmetro, and they told me that bike racks would be included.
    “Thanks for your inquiry. Bike racks will be installed at the MetroRapid stations.
    Juan Wah
    Community Involvement Coordinator l Business & Community Development | Capital Metro

    Take that statement for whatever it is worth.

    “And the remainder of it was intended to point out that this is nothing at all like a light rail station (not even as good as the small stops that Houston has, really).”
    It’s open-air, with an overhang and some benches. That’s basically the same as the red-line stops, and since I know you’re not a fan, it also seems to be the same as the Houston stops (though I haven’t ridden those, wikipedia’s pictures seems to be the same, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Hermann_Hospital/Houston_Zoo_(METRORail_station)

  9. I have ridden Houston’s, and have gotten off at that station, and there is no way in hell the MetroRapid ‘stations’ are anywhere near that magnitude. I live right around the corner from one being ‘built’ on Guadalupe – and it’s basically a few feet of sidewalk frontage – room for one bench, nothing more. There is zero chance a bike rack will exist at this, or a dozen more ‘stations’ I see under construction on a regular basis.

    Now, it’s possible some of the far north or far south ‘stations’ may have a bike rack. But the ones in the center city certainly will not. And they’re no bigger / longer than a bench. Compare/contrast to the Houston example, where a ‘station’ is still minimal compared to heavy rail, but takes up a hundred or more feet, with multiple ticket machines and whatnot – in the median, not competing for space with pedestrians on the sidewalk.

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