‘Dillos to disappear?

I certainly hope not. All that would remain would be two routes: one running around the Capitol grounds, going no farther north than 17th Street and no farther south than Barton just off South Congress; the other, circulating constantly west on Sixth and east on Fifth, running only so far as Bowie to the west and Red River to the east. So much for students, southies, and those living and working east of IH-35. What’s obviously a PowerPoint (or equivalent) presentation bills these proposed changes as “improvements.”

There have been rumors about this proposal for months; the April 14 article in the local daily (byline Ben Wear) employs “aims for free ride every five minutes” as part of the print headline (as is usual, the on-line version bears a completely different headline). What good is frequency that’s little better than what already exists if the routes remaining aren’t helpful to Austinites in their daily lives, but exist only to serve tourists?

There’s an on-line map of the existing ‘Dillo routes, serviceable enough, but I love the printed pocket ‘Dillo map and schedule that will work until August 28. There’s a graphic showing each route individually, together with the frequency for each period of the day, and another that makes it clear which route will take a rider to which major destinations. I always carry it with me.

It’s not that the ‘Dillo vehicles themselves are wonderful: they’re tough for older people to navigate, the seats are lacking in comfort and sensible configuration, and the high center of gravity makes them seem precarious. But the imperiled routes are very useful indeed. For example, more than one runs up to the Drag, and often; the Silver route covers an important part of Pleasant Valley and circulates through East Austin, running through downtown, past BookPeople and Whole Foods, on beyond MoPac, and all the way back over east, with very helpful frequencies; and the Orange ‘Dillo runs down South Congress to the precinct offices (and really should go all the way down to Oltorf / Twin Oaks / H-E-B)., and during lunchtime carries people out to the fine dining establishments springing up along Manor. Of these, I think that the Silver route is the most important.

There are to be opportunities for the public to comment (at “informational public forums” scheduled for Tuesday, April 27; 323 Congress; 11:30 am and 5 pm; and on campus at Belmont Hall, room 328, 2100 San Jacinto, at 5:30 pm, on Thursday, April 24; and at a public hearing before the Capital Metro board of directors on Monday, April 28; 2910 East Fifth Street; 5 pm). Capital Metro has announced that those wishing to comment may call 474-1200 or e-mail planning@capmetro.org. ‘Dillos are now free, but they needn’t be; if it would save the endangered routes, I believe that most riders would gladly pay the going fare.

3 Comments so far

  1. roundsparrow on April 17th, 2008 @ 10:42 am

    I agree that the free is overrated. I know a local group has been pushing for all free bus, but I don’t support it.

    If anything, they need to modernize the on-bus money management. I would love to be able to insert a $10 or $20 bill and buy a monthly card instead of having to go visit a retail outlet. All the machine would need is the ability to spit $10 in change if you put in a $20.

    or even a 7 day for $5.

    Selling the monthly passes on board would surely increase the sale of monthly passes… and would make the bus cheaper. If they think the free is an issue – cheap and easy (onboard purchase) is practically free.

  2. odoublegood on April 17th, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

    Everybody I talk to would be willing to pay to ride the ‘Dillos. One aspect of these proposals that I do not understand at all is to keep one on Congress, which is super-easy to walk and has plenty of service of all kinds anyhow. The silver ‘Dillos really help the poor pedestrian get across IH-35 and Lamar without being killed; it’s getting crazy to cross MLK these days to get from the Drag to the Capitol complex and vice versa.

  3. Ride the bus to Keep Austin Weird | Austin Metblogs (pingback) on April 29th, 2008 @ 10:56 am

    […] doublegood reported recently, not only is Capital Metro planning drastic changes to the Dillo service downtown, they are […]

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