To close a $200,000 gap in the University’s shuttle service budget, the Enfield Road shuttle route will likely be combined with a mainline city route.
The proposed route will serve most of the stops on the current Enfield Road route, and then follow route 18 east of Interstate Highway 35 on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, said Capital Metro principal planner James Gamez, who spoke on campus Wednesday during the third of four public forums on the proposed change.
Gamez said the change will decrease the frequency of buses from about 12 minutes to between 20 and 25 minutes. The trip from the Enfield Road area to campus will take five to seven minutes longer because of a shift to a high-traffic route to stop at Austin Community College. He said the change will also extend service earlier in the morning and later at night, to the weekends and to 365 days a year.
He said Capital Metro continually monitors bus ridership and shifts in where students live, and continually adjusts shuttle routes. The Enfield Road route serves about 250 students, the lowest number of any of the UT shuttles,
About 30 students and community members attended the forum, and many expressed concern about the planned shift to the higher traffic route causing delays and on a narrow turn added to the route. Gamez said the city often responds to Capital Metro requests for changes in infrastructure to make narrow turns easier and safer for buses to navigate.
“Once we re-evaluate these intersections we’ll decide if we need to make any recommendations to the city for different striping or stop bars at the intersection,” Gamez said.
Six million dollars of students fees per year, taken from the fees in every student’s tuition bill, fund the shuttles, which are operated by Parking and Transportation Services. Parking and Transportation Services is a self-funded auxiliary unit of the University which receives no revenue from tuition or
PTS director Bobby Stone said the shift will save PTS money because Capital Metro charges the University $1.89 per rider for shuttle buses and close to 40 cents per rider on mainline buses. He said PTS considers student concerns first when planning routes, but the department tries to take faculty and staff concerns into consideration when possible.
“Ultimately our responsibility is to the people paying the bills, and the people paying the bills are the students,” Stone said.
Mary Baughman, a conservator at the Harry Ransom Center, said she has ridden the Enfield Road route for more than 30 years, and her main concern is the decrease in frequency of buses.
“If they decrease frequency too much, people are just going to stop riding,” Baughman said.