Capital Metro increases weekend bus services after many requests

Reihaneh Hajibeigi

A surge in requests by commuters has led Capital Metro to increase its availability of rail service to weekend riders.

In partnership with the city of Austin, Capital Metro has expanded their running hours until midnight on Friday nights and is now providing service on Saturdays from 4 p.m. until midnight, said Erica McKewen, a spokeswoman for Capital Metro.

Since the MetroRail Red Line began in March 2010, ridership has nearly tripled and currently averages 38,000 trips per month, so the demand for higher availability in the lines has always been present, McKewen said.

The MetroRail Red Line, which has multiple stops along Leander, Kramer, MLK and Downtown, comes with additional financial costs for additional drivers and fuel.

Through the partnership with city of Austin, the city will pay up to $5.7 million over the course of 34 months to support this weekend service, McKewen said.

“Both the city and Capital Metro are invested in keeping Austin a great place to live, work and play,” she said. “Public transporation, including MetroRail, is a key component in improving mobility throughout our area.”

McKewen said this past weekend was the first weekend of the new service and they saw more than 2,600 riders on Friday and another 1,400 on Saturday, meeting Capital Metro’s expected increase in ridership.

Capital Metro CEO Linda Watson said MetroRail already allows commuters to leave their cars at home, but the community has asked for more options.

“Thanks to city support, we now have an opportunity to attract new riders into downtown on the weekends for entertainment,” Watson said.

UT pastry chef and Austin resident Tania Khalid said this new change makes it easier to go downtown on the weekends and relieves the worry about driving in the chaos.

Khalid said with irresponsible and drunk drivers out late at night on the weekends, taking the rail, which has a stop at MLK Boulevard, is a safer choice when wanting to go out.

“Driving downtown can be hectic, and parking is even worse,” Khalid said. “It will be really convenient to have this bus leave the campus area and take us directly downtown and back.”

Printed on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 as: Capital Metro to implement new weekend rail services