In the last couple years, CapMetro has made some changes to the shuttle system, notably cancelling one low-performing route and beginning to upgrade their fleet to buses that carry fareboxes, as well as having the same look and branding of the rest of the bus system fleet. Up until recently, the shuttles had all-door boarding and no payment was required (technically, non-students were supposed to pay, but that's hard to do when there's no farebox). Now, students have to swipe their student IDs and the general public has to pay to ride, just like on every other bus. While I'm sure this cuts down on lost fares, it also slows down boarding. Time will tell if that's a good trade-off.
|The orange-and-white UT buses are on their way out.|
Source: UT Parking & Transportation page.
A few months ago, I had to go across town in the morning, changing buses downtown, for a total trip time that was somewhere between "I could be halfway to Dallas by now" and "Are you freaking kidding me?" Then I remembered the UT shuttles. I rode one to campus, changed buses, then had a bus all to myself (since I was going opposite the direction students were going) for the second half of the trip. All in less than half the time door-to-door than a regular local bus would have taken.
I'm not necessarily encouraging that the people of Austin go out and invade the student shuttles in droves--although perhaps if they did, CapMetro would have a bit more incentive to make the regular buses as frequent and convenient as the shuttles. And that would be an even better thing that a few specifically useful routes: for every route in the CapMetro system to be as useful, frequent, and easy to ride as the UT shuttles.
Now, if my hometown would just get on board with the public transportation thing.