AUSTIN -- There's a new bus in town. Starting Sunday, Austinites can upgrade from the traditional Capital Metro bus to the MetroRapid bus. They are larger, equipped with Wi-Fi and combine limited stops with new technology for a faster commute.
"It can talk to signal lights. So, if the bus is running behind schedule, it can keep a signal light green so that the bus, and any other lucky automobiles around it, can get through the green lights quicker," said Capital Metro president and CEO Linda Watson.
Transit Priority Lanes will also help the buses get around faster. The four lanes of Guadalupe and Lavaca streets through downtown are now designated as three lanes for vehicles, with the far right lane reserved for buses only, and in some areas, bikers. The lanes run from Cesar Chavez Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Drivers can only get in the right lane to turn.
City officials say the new lanes will allow traffic to move safely and quickly through that area.
"If it's helping to make things less congested in the long run, I think it should help everyone out," said Austin resident Jason Watson.
But there are some drawbacks. Parking on the right side of the street is no longer allowed, so downtown lost 95 parking spaces.
"That's going to be frustrating," said Austin resident Karin Bednorz. "Because, you know, we have to park blocks away to get to where we want to go now."
Construction is another issue. For instance, two lanes are currently closed on Guadalupe and Eighth streets due to construction, leaving drivers to merge into just one lane, because the far right lane belongs to the buses.
"It's probably going to be very frustrating for a lot of people. It'll have to be some, you know, months, or maybe even years, of transition to get used to that. But I don't know, with all the growth in Austin, there's a benefit to having the bus," Bednorz said.
One major benefit of the new buses and lanes is Capital Metro officials expect to run 60 buses an hour on the new routes, taking people where they want to go much more quickly.