Getting Austin transit back on track

Some thoughts on buses, trains, and ride-hailing.

Getting Austin transit back on track
The 803 MetroRapid. The 803, which travels along S. Lamar, Guad & Burnet, is one of our highest ridership routes.

A late newsletter tonight folks. Nothing on Wednesday though –– it is my custom to take off city holidays. Happy Juneteenth!

Over in Houston, Mayor John Whitmire is doing everything he can to make the Bayou City less friendly to pedestrians, cyclists and transit users. And yet, bus ridership in Houston has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Meanwhile, in Austin, all of our local leaders have enthusiastically embraced pro-transit branding and, to their credit, have pushed through a number of groundbreaking investments in non-car infrastructure in the past four years. And yet our bus ridership, like that of most other U.S. transit agencies, is stuck a little above 80% of pre-pandemic level.

The graph above, from a recent Cap Metro report, shows that the 82% of pre-pandemic ridership that Cap Metro retains puts it slightly above average among the "medium-sized" bus agencies surveyed by the American Bus Benchmarking Group. But for those of us who support a mobility paradigm shift, slightly above average is hardly grounds for merriment.

Ridership is not the only concern. What is also troubling is how much we are spending for that ridership.