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Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Founded 1986
Headquarters 2910 East Fifth Street
Locale Austin, Texas
Service area Austin, Travis and parts of Williamson Counties
Service type Bus, Bus rapid transit, Commuter rail
Routes 49 metro, 8 express, 14 UT shuttle, 1 commuter rail
Stops 3,500+
Hubs 7 (transfer centers)
14 (park and ride)
Stations 9 (commuter rail) (opening soon)
Fleet 418[1]
Daily ridership 130,000[2]
Fuel type Diesel, Diesel-electric hybrid
Operator CMTA
Web site

Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Capital Metro, is a public transit provider owned by the city of Austin, Texas. It operates buses and soon will begin operating the Capital MetroRail system, which has been indefinitely delayed from the scheduled opening date of March 30, 2009. Capital Metro serves Austin and several suburbs in Travis and Williamson Counties. Capital Metro is headquartered at 2910 East Fifth Street in Austin.[3]



Capital Metro headquarter complex

The creation of Capital Metro was approved in 1985 by the citizens of Austin with a one percent sales tax.[4] In 1986, the system was launched, taking over the existing City of Austin bus services.

To receive federal funding under the Federal Transportation Act, the collective bargaining rights of Capital Metro's employees needed to be assured. Because Texas law prohibits collective bargaining by public employees, StarTran - a non-profit corporation - was created to operate Capital Metro's assets[5] and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091 was created to represent the employees of StarTran.[6]

Capital Metro Public Information and Fare Office in the McKean-Eilers Building in Downtown Austin

In 1989, the public perceived that too many buses were running virtually empty.[citation needed] The MTA tax was cut to 3/4 percent, and Capital Metro attempted to boost ridership by eliminating fares entirely. Although the program was successful in attracting new riders, the public, possibly influenced by the news media, perceived that too many "problem riders" were using the system.[7] Market research, however, showed that "In only a couple of isolated instances are on-board safety or less than desirable passengers or anything else negatively attributed to the free fare program cited as reasons for discontinued use of bus service."[8] Despite widespread public support of the fare-free program—general public approval was 81% and ridership approval was 97%—Capital Metro reinstated fares in January 1991.

In response to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Capital Metro eventually became the first bus transit agency to have its entire bus fleet equipped with wheelchair ramps.[citation needed]

In October 1995, Capital Metro's board of directors increased the MTA sales tax back to its original rate of one percent, promising to set aside the additional quarter percent for future projects. This brought the annual tax burden up to $349 per household.

Metro Access vehicle

In 1997, Capital Metro's board of directors was "reorganized" just ahead of a performance review by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.[9] The review cited an "ongoing criminal investigation" by the FBI, "irresponsible management", "expensive, embarrassing mistakes", "dubious contracting and purchasing practices", and $118,000 spent on "food, parties, and presents for its employees" and culminated with, "We have never, in all of the performance reviews we have conducted, seen an agency with such a lack of accountability."[10]

In 2000, Capital Metro proposed spending $1.9 billion for a light rail system with 52 miles of track on existing streets. The referendum was narrowly defeated at the polls.[11]

In 2004, Capital Metro added a trip planner to its web site. Riders enter their intended origin and destination, along with optional time, date, and other information, and the trip planner displays itineraries showing the stops, departure and arrival times, and times to get from the origin to the destination.

Also, in 2004, and again, less than a year later, StarTran went on strike.[12]

North Lamar Transit Center

In 2004, after four years of additional lobbying by Capital Metro, a commuter rail plan — to be built on pre-existing freight rail lines — won voter approval. Capital MetroRail's new rail line will run from Leander through northwest Austin and east Austin before terminating at a station on the southeastern edge of downtown Austin, at the location of the Austin Convention Center.[citation needed] It was scheduled for completion by December 2008, but the opening has been delayed indefinitely due to continued construction problems.[13]

In September 2005, Stadler Rail won a bid to build six diesel-electric rail cars for the system.[14] Each car has a capacity of up to 200 passengers per trip, with seven peak direction and three off-peak direction trips scheduled for morning and afternoon rush hour. The initial cost for this rail line was planned to be $90 million; however, continued construction problems have caused the project to exceed budget.[15]

In 2008, StarTran voted to begin a general strike, despite the fact that StarTran employees were already the highest paid bus operators in the state.[16] Beginning on November 5, 2008, the strike caused the transit agency to reduce its fixed and paratransit service levels, particularly impacting Austin residents who had to use public transit.[17] During the strike, the agency initially provided only those routes on the contingency map for a reduced number of hours but added others as resources became available.

University of Texas shuttle

A Capital Metro bus painted in University of Texas at Austin colors.

The University of Texas' shuttle system, operated by Capital Metro, is the largest university transit system in the United States. In 2004, the system carried about 8.1 million riders on 87 vehicles and 19 routes[18] and earned Capital Metro nearly $15 million dollars ($5 million from student fees and $10 million in grant money from the United States Department of Transportation).[19]

The history of the shuttle system can be traced back to 1969, when Transportation Enterprises, Incorporated (TEI) was contracted to manage a shuttle system for the University. There had been attempts to create a working shuttle system prior to even that, but none of them met with much success.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1549 was created, in 1972, to represent the interests of the bus operators[20][21]

In 1983, the University of Texas received six bids to manage the shuttle system. ARA Transportation Inc. ultimately won, underbidding the incumbent TEI by $1.9 million.[22] At that time, the shuttle system consisted of 10 routes, operating over 64.1 miles, with 18,000 riders, per day.[23][24]

Capital Metro entered into the picture in 1988, when the University contracted out to them. Capital Metro, in turn, then subcontracted out to Laidlaw International, Inc., who had, up to that point, operated orange and white school buses[25][26] for the university on a contractual basis. Rather than use Laidlaw's existing bus fleet, however, Capital Metro used their own. In so doing, Capital Metro brought air conditioning and wheelchair accessibility to the shuttle service for the first time.[27] The transition, however, was not without controversy. Among the other contested issues was the fact that these new shuttles didn't have a stereo system[28][29]

In 1991, Capital Metro canceled its contract with Laidlaw and contracted out with DAVE Transportation, instead[30][31]

Amidst allegations of union busting, in 1999, Capital Metro canceled its current contract and instead contracted out with ATC/Vancom, instead[31][32][33]

Six years later, in 2005, Capital Metro, citing concerns over the comparatively low wages ATC/Vancom paid, negotiated a contract with First Transit to operate the UT shuttle buses.[34]

Future projects

A Capital Metro van

Capital Metro's operating budget has increased almost 60% over the past five years.[35] This generous funding supports future projects such as the high-tech MetroRapid bus rapid transit. Capital Metro plans to reduce congestion for MetroRapid riders in two ways. First, these buses will get signal priority; as they approach an intersection, traffic signals will automatically stop cross-traffic sooner (or longer) than the normal cycle.[36] Second, Capital Metro hopes to convert existing lanes into bus lanes (dubbed "near-term managed lane facilities") "to improve mobility".[37]

Customer service

Capital Metro has a customer service advisory committee which meets to provide feedback to the agency on how to continue improving service and facilities.


As of 2008, the fares for Capital Metro's services are as follows[38]

One-way fare Adults Students* UT students, faculty, and staff; senior citizens; children under six
Dillo (bus trolley) $0.50 (two-hour pass) $0.25 Free
Metro, Flyer, UT Shuttle**, Limited $1.00 $0.50 Free
Express and Northwest Dial-A-Ride $2.50 $1.25 Free

* Students twelve and older may be required to show school ID to receive student fares.

** While fare is technically required on UT Shuttle buses for non-students, it is not normally collected.


Pass Type Adults Reduced Fare*
Dillo Monthly Pass $5.00
Local Day Pass $1.50
Local 7-Day Pass $7.00
Local Monthly Pass $18.00 $9.00
Express Day Pass $3.00
Express Monthly Pass $36.00 $18.00

*Students eighteen and younger and Active Duty or Reserve Military with ID

Board of directors

Capital Metro headquarter building

Capital Metro is led by a board of five elected officials and two (appointed) members-at-large. The board is composed of two council members appointed by the Austin City Council; one commissioner appointed by the Travis County Commissioners' Court; one mayoral representative appointed by the mayors of the suburban cities of Travis County, within the service area; one representative appointed by a panel made up of the mayors of the suburban cities, the Williamson County Judge, and the presiding officer of each municipal utility district; and two members-at-large appointed by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Member jurisdictions

South Congress Transit Center

The original jurisdictions of Cedar Park, Pflugerville, Rollingwood and West Lake Hills have withdrawn from Capital Metro.[40]

Service to other areas in the Austin metropolitan area is provided by the Capital Area Rural Transportation System.

Capital Metro recently voted to allow a new policy that would allow new members cities to hire Cap Metro to provide transit service, without using the 1% sales tax.[41] Former member city Cedar Park is interested in restoring service, and nonmembers Round Rock, Elgin, Dripping Springs and Kyle are interested as well.[40]


2006 Actual Budget[42]
Transportation fares $5.22 M
Contract revenue $6.00 M
Freight rail $7.27 M
Operating Revenues $18.48 M
Labor ($45.53) M
Fringe Benefits ($31.98) M
Services ($19.17) M
Materials and supplies ($18.81) M
Operating Expenses ($138.65) M
Sales and use tax $135.92 M
Grant revenues $19.59 M
Non-Operating Revenues $160.28 M
Build Central Texas Program ($8.76) M
Mobility Programs ($16.37) M
Change in Net Assets ($10.44) M

Bus routes

Capital Metro MetroBus

Capital Metro's fixed route bus service includes 49 metro routes and 8 Express routes as of 2008. It has several categories of routes: Local Service, Flyer and Limited, Feeder, Crosstown, Special Services and 'Dillos, Express, and University of Texas Shuttles.


Local (to Downtown) Routes

  • 1L Lamar
  • 1M Metric
  • 2 Rosewood
  • 3 Burnet/Manchaca
  • 4 Montopolis
  • 5 Woodrow/South 5th
  • 6 East 12th/Ed Bluestein
  • 7 Duval/Dove Springs
  • 9 Enfield/Travis Heights
  • 10 South 1st/Rundberg
  • 17 Cesar Chavez
  • 18 ML King
  • 19 Bull Creek
  • 20 Manor Rd/Riverside
  • 21 Exposition
  • 22 Chicon
  • 23 Johnny Morris Rd
  • 29 Barton Hills
  • 30 Barton Creek Square
  • 37 Colony Park

Limited/Flyer Routes

  • 100 Airport Flyer
  • 101 North Lamar/Congress Limited
  • 103 Manchaca Flyer
  • 110 South Central Limited
  • 122 Four Points Limited
  • 127 Dove Springs Flyer
  • 135 Dell Limited
  • 137 Colony Park Flyer
  • 142 Metric Flyer
  • 151 Allandale Flyer
  • 161 Dellwood Flyer
  • 171 Oak Hill Flyer
  • 174 North Burnet Limited

Feeder Routes (to transit centers, with transfers to downtown)

  • 201 South Park Meadows
  • 202 Battle Bend (elimination proposed 1/2010)
  • 214 Lago Vista
  • 240 Parkfield
  • 243 Wells Branch

Crosstown Routes (no downtown access)

  • 300 Govalle
  • 311 Stassney
  • 320 St. John's
  • 325 Olhen
  • 328 Ben White
  • 331 Oltorf
  • 333 William Cannon
  • 338 Lamar/45th St
  • 339 Walnut Creek/Koenig
  • 350 Airport Blvd
  • 383 Research
  • 392 Braker

'Dillos (downtown shuttles)

Capital Metro claims that decreasing ridership on the 'Dillos has prompted Capital Metro to evaluate reducing the number of routes to two and increasing their frequency.[43]

Capital Metro has recently reduced dillo services to two routes, concerning people who wonder if this is a step to eliminating the service all together. However, the implementation of fares for the previously free 'Dillos could mean that the service would be retained.[44]

  • 450 Congress 'Dillo
  • 451 6th St Dillo

As Of October 3, 2009 the Dillos ceased operation.

It should also be noted that only 8 riders per hour boarded the Dillo's per Capitol Metro ridership records. This was due in part by raising the fare to 50 cents per ride, incompatible transfer oppertunites, and cutting the Dillos from 6 routes to 2 back in 2008.

Capitol Metro isn't the only transit system to eliminate trolly service Houston, Texas eliminated their trolleys in 2003 1 year before their MetroRail Main Street line completed construction.

Express Routes

  • 935 Tech Ridge Express
  • 970 Lantana Express
  • 982 Pavilion Express
  • 983 North US 183 Leander Express
  • 984 Northwest Direct
  • 986 Leander Direct
  • 987 Leander/Northwest Express
  • 990 Northeast Express


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Home page. Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved March 28, 2009.
  4. ^ "Vote for Capital Metro". The Daily Texan. January 14, 1985. 
  5. ^ "Startran, Inc., Docket No. 02-1140". US Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. July 23, 2003. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  6. ^ "ATU in the South". Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  7. ^ "Fare-free Buses, The Austin Experience". People for Modern Transit.!OpenDocument. Retrieved 2007-09-12. 
  8. ^ "Free Fare Telephone Survey. 1993. Page 1.". NSI Market Research. Retrieved 2008-05-16. 
  9. ^ "Public Transit, Public Trust". John Sharp, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Retrieved 2007-09-10. 
  10. ^ Texas State Comptroller (1998-07-15). "Sharp Report Offers 147 Recommendations to Improve Operations and Restore Public Trust in Capital Metro". Press release. 
  11. ^ "A Critical Analysis of the Austin Light Rail Proposal". Texas Public Policy Foundation. Retrieved 2007-09-10. 
  12. ^ "Cap Metro strike will not affect UT buses, officials say". The Daily Texan. August 25, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  13. ^ Wear, Ben (2008-09-30). "Feds OK Cap Metro's passenger rail cars". The Austin American-Statesman. 
  14. ^ Stadler (September 23, 2005). "Stadler Wins Commuter Rail Car Award with Capital Metro". Press release. 
  15. ^ Ben Wear. "Ding, Ding, Ding Goes the Commuter Train". Austin American-Statesman.,1596,1596. Retrieved 2007-09-10. 
  16. ^ "VIEWPOINT: "Forecasting a bus strike"". The Daily Texan. August 25, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  17. ^ "Contingency Plan: "Core Routes"". Capital Metro. November 1, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  18. ^ "Cap Metro chooses UT bus service provider, design firms for commuter rail". American City Business Journals. February 25, 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  19. ^ "A Battle on the Shuttle". The Austin Chronicle. May 21, 2004. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  20. ^ "ATU 1549 History". 
  21. ^ "History of the UT Shuttle System". 
  22. ^ "Current problems characteristic of shuttle bus history". The Daily Texan. February 6, 1985. 
  23. ^ "Shuttle bus hearings begin". The Daily Texan. October 4, 1984. 
  24. ^ "Brief History of the UT Shuttle Drivers". 
  25. ^ "Capital Metro: Is It Worth the Wait?". Cactus Yearbook. May 1990. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  26. ^ "Capital Metro: Is It Worth the Wait?". Cactus Yearbook. May 1990. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  27. ^ "City buses take over UT shuttle system". The Daily Texan. August 10, 1989. 
  28. ^ "Capital Metro debut earns mixed reviews". The Daily Texan. August 29, 1989. 
  29. ^ "Shuttle drivers argue need for some "friendly sounds' on". The Daily Texan. August 29, 1989. 
  30. ^ "DAVE wins bid to run run shuttle system". The Daily Texan. June 3, 1991. 
  31. ^ a b "Transit Union Takes Bus Company to the End of the Line". UT Watch. March 1999. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  32. ^ "Shuttle disputes go round and round". The Daily Texan. February 17, 2004. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  33. ^ "Cap Metro hires new maintenance contractor". The Daily Texan. January 26, 1999. 
  34. ^ "Cap Metro Switches UT Shuttle Providers". The Austin Chronicle. March 4, 2005. 
  35. ^ Ben Wear. "Capital Metro Budget Tops $200 Million". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2007-10-05. 
  36. ^ "Capital MetroRapid Technology on the Move". Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved 2007-10-05. 
  37. ^ "Accommodating Traffic Increases/Managed Lanes". Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved 2007-10-05. 
  38. ^ a b "Fares - Riding Capital Metro". Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  39. ^ "INTERACTIVE MAPS (Beta)." Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved on March 28, 2009.
  40. ^ a b
  41. ^ Ben Wear. "Cap Metro opens door to suburban transit service". Austin America-Statesman. Retrieved 2008-07-01. 
  42. ^ "Approved Annual Budget Fiscal Year 2008, pg. 41". Capital Metropolitan Transport Authority. Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  43. ^ Ben Wear. "Capital Metro may thin Dillo herd". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2008-04-15. 
  44. ^ "BRU-ATX on Proposed 'Dillo Cuts". Bus Riders Union of Austin, Texas. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 

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