MetroRapid changes put UT in the fast lane

Ryan Young

Just in time for the fall semester, Capital Metro is making it much easier to get around Austin. Improvements to the agency’s flagship MetroRapid service are arriving Aug. 20, and UT students and staff stand to benefit the most.

Even if you’re new to the 40 Acres, you’ve probably already noticed the bright red, bendy MetroRapid buses making their way up and down Guadalupe Street Route 801 runs via South Congress and North Lamar and route 803 runs via South Lamar and Burnet. Both MetroRapid routes have two UT stops on the Drag, and route 803 also stops at the Pickle Research Campus.

On Aug. 20, CapMetro plans to increase the number of buses on MetroRapid so that passengers will spend less time waiting to catch one. On weekdays, a MetroRapid vehicle will arrive every 10 minutes (down from 15). On weekends, every 15 minutes (down from 20). Just like a train or subway, there’s no need to consult a schedule; just show up to a MetroRapid station and wait for your ride to arrive.

Noah Giese, a recent UT graduate now living near the Crestview MetroRapid stop and working for the Department of Chemistry, said he is looking forward to the increase in service.

“It would mean that I wouldn’t have to leave extra early and wait at the bus stop, because I have to be at work at a certain time,” Giese says. When MetroRapid comes more often, Giese will be able to take a later bus, giving him some extra time to himself in the morning.

Also starting on Aug. 20, both MetroRapid routes will start running until 2:30am on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. CapMetro currently provides late-night service to UT on its E-Bus and Night Owl routes, but those services only go to 6th Street and the E-Bus does not operate in the summertime. Late-night MetroRapid will give UT students access to Austin nightlife away from downtown while also serving students staying in Austin for the summer.

One of those students is Jocelyn Whistler, a civil engineering junior who uses MetroRapid to go to bars on 6th Street, shop at The Domain and attend special events such as Blues on the Green. Later MetroRapid service would be “really helpful, because usually I’m not going back that early if I’m going to 6th Street,” Whistler said.

Riding an 801 or 803 MetroRapid bus is a viable alternative to get around town. You can keep up with friends on the free Wi-Fi or even make new ones on the bus. Thanks to dedicated bus lanes downtown and the ability to manipulate traffic signals, taking MetroRapid is sometimes faster than driving to your destination and then struggling to find parking.

Riding public transportation reduces your greenhouse gas emissions and relieves congestion on crowded streets, and when the semester begins anew, Austin’s will be even more convenient and easy to use. Lastly, you can’t beat the price. MetroRapid, like all CapMetro services, is free with your ID card for all  UT students and staff.

So the next time you’re looking to explore the very best of Austin, ditch the car — and Uber — and let MetroRapid do the driving.

Young is a computer science senior from Bakersfield, California. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @OldRyanYoung.