A new on-demand transit service is providing safe rides and cutting down commute times for neighbors in northeast Austin - and it's all free.

You've likely seen one of the blue buses buzzing around if you live in Austin's Mueller, Windsor Park or University Hills neighborhoods.

CapMetro's Pickup service began a few weeks ago and already has a devoted following.

"I got a flyer in the mail about it and that it was free and going for a year. It covered both work and home so I definitely wanted to try it," said Stephen Garcia. He uses the pickup app to take the service home from work several times a week.

"It tells me when they're coming, it identified the vehicle, it's all very clear and clean," he added.

To Garcia, it's an upgrade from riding the regular bus.

"With this it takes about 20 minutes, maybe. A bus ride would be about 45."

It's time better spent with his family, Garcia says.

It's just one of the reasons CapMetro kicked off the pilot program in June.

"We're always looking for ways that we can be innovative about transit, and find ways we can be cost-effective and environmentally-friendly and move more people," said CapMetro spokesperson Mariette Hummel.

And it is.

Last Thursday, 74 people ordered a free ride during Pickup's 8-hour span.

Pickup is free right now because CapMetro's budget does set aside money for pilot programs. However, it could cost you a few dollars a ride if it becomes permanent.

"We'd have to go through a whole process to see how much we'd charge or if we'd even charge for it," Hummel added.

Either way, Garcia will be on board.

"I think if they expanded it and it goes well I'd love to see it go citywide," he added.

The service is already performing better than expected, hitting ridership numbers they hoped for in six months in only one and a half.

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