AUSTIN - Austin drivers may notice something different driving along I-35 during their morning and afternoon commutes: a double-decker bus.
"You get to see more of Austin, it's kind of a panoramic view," said Capital Metro (CapMetro) Spokesperson Mariette Hummel. "You get to sit, you know, on the upper deck, and you get to recline your seat, you have a footrest."
CapMetro is testing out the high-capacity bus made by British company Alexander Dennis.
"There was a pilot program in Atlanta this past summer. And then it's been on the road in Las Vegas and Seattle for a while now. So we've been hearing about it and we thought it would be something fun to do in Austin as well," said Hummel.
"Capital Metro is just always looking for ways to move more people," she added.
Up to 100 people can fit on one of the buses compared to a standard bus which fits half of that.
The bus is running on the 935 Route, which travels on I-35 from Tech Ridge to Riverside, at 6:52 a.m., 3:55 p.m. and 6 p.m. CapMetro is testing it out for the next two weeks for free and so passengers will not be charged for riding on the route.
"It's one of our busiest commuter routes which means you will see standing passengers and standing room only at times. And this makes it sometimes less attractive for riders to get on the bus because they're like I don't want to stand all the way down to my commute," said Hummel. "So this is just a more attractive way."
It may be more attractive, but is it practical?
CapMetro reports there are about 300 one-way trips made on the route each weekday. Buses run on the route 22 times a day, which is an average of about 14 people each time.
The buses that are currently used for the route seat 36 people and 15 more can stand. Plus, the Metro Rapid buses already can carry the same amount of people as the double deckers.
Hummel said the double deckers use the same amount of gas as the standard bus and since they seat more people, CapMetro could run fewer trips, decreasing it's footprint.
CapMetro leaders said the buses costs about $900,000, the same as a Metro Rapid bus. As of now, they are not currently planning to buy one but want to get feedback from riders to consider for the future.
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