AUSTIN, Texas - There's a new travel option connecting Round Rock and Downtown Austin. CapMetro has added a new bus route that will use the Mopac express lanes.
The Mopac express lane is an 11 mile stretch from Cesar Chavez to Parmer Lane. Now more buses will be taking advantage of the option. We followed one of them to see how things would go.
MetroExpress Route 980 launched Monday with 22 trips daily, operating during peak travel times. Some of those trips connect Downtown Austin to Round Rock. This is all in an effort to help traffic flow.
"I just think more options are better," said Brandon Donovan, bus rider.
"I don't know if there is a way to fix this thing. There are so many people in a densely populated area, I know the expressways are helping but there are only two highways," said Jonathan Bakhshian, former Austinite.
It has brought about mixed reaction, so we decided to check it out for ourselves. The bus picked up riders at Guadalupe and 12th Street around 4:50 p.m., then took Cesar Chavez over to Mopac. That took about 11 minutes. On Mopac the speed limit is 65 miles an hour. We were following the bus, on the express lane, driving around 45-50 miles an hour. Traffic was moving a little slower until about half-way and then picked back up.
"I think since they're using the toll road, not many people use that, so I don't think it will add to traffic whatsoever," said Donovan.
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority raises the tolls when traffic is heavy and lowers them when traffic is light.Their goal is to maintain a consistent flow of traffic and allow drivers that use the tolled-lanes to move faster than those that don't. CapMetro said things also went smoothly Monday morning. They've been testing the route to make sure it increases speeds and will continue to do so.
"What we're looking for in this next week, is just making sure that our bus runs well on the express lane, that it's going fast enough, not holding up traffic," said Amy Peck, CapMetro.
Austin's Transportation Department said engineers were out in the field Monday looking at adjusting traffic signals in order to help with the flow. They are starting with Cesar Chavez and if needed, will continue upstream. Some people said the traffic problem is something we need to take a hold of.
"It's a true epidemic here in Austin. It's becoming like California where the traffic is out of this world," said Bakhshian.
In January, CapMetro's Northwest Express Routes, including those that go to Leander and Lakeline, will also be using the managed lanes.
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority sent us a statement saying:
"In a heavily congested and space constrained corridor like Mopac, combining Express Lanes and Express Bus Service is one of the best ways we can offer greater mobility and reduced travel times to our ever-expanding population for years to come."