🚍 Austin’s bus system: How good is it really?
- 6 min read

🚍 Austin’s bus system: How good is it really?

Plus, inside Michael Dell's multimillion-dollar Austin compound.


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☀️ Hey there, Austin.

PSA: Daylight savings time kicks in this Sunday, which means we lose an hour. Plan your weekend accordingly!

Also, happy Election Day. Find a voting center near you with this handy map.

Now, let's dig into on-time and ridership stats for Austin bus routes. Then, we peep Michael Dell's Austin compound and explain why wildflowers are here so early.

How's Austin's public transit system doing?

Living in Austin requires two things: 

  • A copious amount of reusable H-E-B bags stashed under your car seat
  • A car (don’t @ us, you know it’s true)

Our city, by and large, is not considered a walkable one. Sure, you can walk, but Austin’s layout isn’t really built for easily traipsing from neighborhood to neighborhood. 

So, the key to making mobility easier for anyone and everyone is good ol’ public transportation.

Here is a snapshot of 2023 ridership and reliability, to see how CapMetro fared. 

Buses were on schedule 80.92% of the time last year

Data includes CapMetro’s Bus, Express and Rapid services.

Is it feasible to plan your commute or weekend plans around something you can only count on 80.92% of the time? Up for debate.

Compare that to a major metro like Chicago, whose public transit system touts a 96% reliability rate.

How about ridership? Well, 23.4 million people rode the bus in 2023.

That’s about an 18% uptick from 2022. And ridership differs by CapMetro bus routes, of course. 

Data includes CapMetro’s Bus, Express and Rapid services.

The most popular routes have average monthly ridership in the tens of thousands, while less-used ones have hundreds.

For example, the 801, which spans from Parmer to Slaughter, cutting through downtown and SoCo, is CapMetro’s most popular bus route, with 2.4 million boardings in 2023. 

The line saw a monthly average of 200,930 riders in 2023.

Popularity ≠ best on-time performance, though. The 801 was on schedule 79.1% of the time, slightly below average.

So what will it take for folks to rely on Austin's public transit system? 

Well, new transit station opening debacles don’t help Austin’s case. 

And residents need to trust that their bus or rail line will actually come on time — the “my bus was late” excuse has a shelf life.

We’ll leave you with one more morsel for thought: As Austin development booms, parking spots will become more scarce, thanks to a new city standard. 

In theory, parking woes could force folks to lean on CapMetro for their transportation needs. 

If we rely more on it, could that 80.92% in reliability increase? We'll have to wait and see.  

— Katie Canales, Editor

Temperature: 88 degrees  Sun: Shining at times  What to Expect: Feeling the heat

March is heating up with high temperatures close to 90 degrees and even flirting with some records. Although the morning may be cloudy, it seems like the sun will come out by the afternoon. The winds are expected to be light and coming from the north.

Mary’s Tip: Today might be a good time to try the Armadillo Den owners’ new east side location (Dainty Dillo? How cute is that.)

A peek at Michael Dell's real estate portfolio

While Elon Musk often captures headlines for Travis County property purchases and business ventures, the planet’s richest man and Tesla founder doesn’t actually own a house here and instead reportedly crashes at a friend’s mansion when in town.

Therefore, billionaire Michael Dell, 59, is Austin’s wealthiest homeowner.

Gary Miller/Getty Images

Dell, the onetime tech wunderkind and personal computing magnate who founded Round Rock-based Dell Technologies, is ranked the world’s 15th richest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, with a real-time net worth of close to $90 billion.

Dell has owned land in Austin since 1991, when he bought 20 vacant acres atop a hill in Westlake for $925,000 and constructed a mansion. Between 1992 and 1997, Dell purchased adjoining land, and he and wife Susan now own a total of 125 acres, with a combined assessed value last year of $33.16 million.

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2019 that the Dells completed the eight-bedroom, 33,000-square-foot granite and steel mansion in 1996 and that it has 16 bathrooms, an indoor lap pool and a home gym. An overhead look at the estate via Google Maps reveals a lap pool, a whirlpool, a basketball court and a motor court, along with what appears to be a water park.

Google Maps

The Dells’ foundation office sits just a few blocks from their compound. Farther out of town on Bee Cave Road is the Dells’ 613-acre 6D Ranch, where the Journal reported that they keep horses.

Dell owns other expensive, customized homes. In 2014, he set a record at the time for the most expensive home ever bought in New York City when he paid $100.47 million for a six-bedroom, 10,923-square-foot duplex penthouse in a brand-new 1,005-foot-tall glass skyscraper on Manhattan’s Billionaire’s Row. He then renovated it using Austin-based Spanish architect Juan Miro, who also oversaw the design of Dell’s Austin mansion.

Dell’s other properties include a compound in Kukio, Hawaii on Hawaii’s Kona Coast that is known as the “Raptor Residence.” He also owns two condominiums in Boston: a $10.9 million condo unit in Boston and a more expensive penthouse in Boston’s Four Seasons Private Residence.

— Bob Goldsborough, Contributing Reporter

We really did need that rain — wildflowers are already here.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

As Texans, we know spring is just about here when we spot the first bluebonnet of the year.

Wildflower season typically runs from March through May, but bluebonnets have started to pop up, about a month earlier than usual. And it’s all thanks to the weather.

The drought we experienced last year will actually help our spring flowers, according to Lady Bird Johnson’s Wildflower Center director of horticulture, Andrea DeLong-Amaya.

“Sadly, the heat and drought killed a lot of plants, but the silver lining is that it made more space and reduced the competition in the soil for the spring blooms,” she said.

Rainfall is crucial for the number of blooms, and sunlight and warmth influence the timing. The mild weather we've seen since January's arctic blast is promising, but if cooler weather arrives, the process could slow down. Womp womp.

DeLong-Amaya thinks this year's forecast is looking good, and we'll have a bountiful year of wildflowers.

So, good news for all you local photographers! Because what's a better backdrop than a sea of bluebonnets?

— Mary Wasson, Meteorologist

Were so glad you found us. Find our bios and contact info here, or reach out at hello@austindaily.com. Behind todays send: Katie Canales, Mary Wasson and Bob Goldsborough.