This past Wednesday (my only day off) I spent the day riding buses in Austin. Being a driver for VIA is awesome and everything, but it’s nice every once in a while to take a break and see a change in scenery. But that got me to thinking: when was the first time I visited Austin?
That had me digging through all of my photos and some old bus logs. As it turns out, my very first trip to the state capitol was September 29, 2008. This was a big deal to me back then as it was my first time seeing another transit agency in person. Being one year out of high school, I had the itch for travel. I wanted to see other transit systems, what buses they used and how they operated. I wanted to gain more knowledge in the transit world overall. This was that first step.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t getting sick of VIA. I was at a point where I felt like I knew everything about how VIA worked, and it was time to explore other options. And since Austin is only a one hour drive from San Antonio, it was the perfect place to start. I spent a couple of weeks looking into their transit agency, Capital Metro. I looked at photos, schedules, and did research on the city (so I wouldn’t get lost). Then came the day of travel. And yes I still remember that trip.
I parked on the University of Texas campus and walked around, looking at the mass number of buses doing university shuttles. There were a lot of firsts for me that day. Seeing Gillig buses and D35LF’s, hearing the Voith transmission and seeing my favorite bus ever, the baby Flyer aka the D30LF. Long story short, I instantly fell in love with Capital Metro.
Once I overcame my amazement, I took a bus (Gillig on route 20) into downtown to visit the transit store. And I spent even more time downtown just looking at the variety of buses traveling down Congress Ave. Next thing I knew it was lunch time and I took the Dillo (their version of the trolley) to grab a bite to eat just outside of downtown. After lunch, time was starting to wind down so it was the trolley back to downtown, and yet another Gillig back to the UT campus and back to my truck.
I drove around town for a while to get a feeling for the city, and to look for the north and east garages. By late afternoon, it was already time to head home. Even though I was only in town for a few hours, it was an amazing experience. It lead me to do more research on buses and supporting equipment (fareboxes, engines, transmissions, etc.). This trip essentially turned me into the bus geek that I am today.
I would spend another year planning another day trip back, which lead me to take my very first photo of a non-VIA bus. The photo at the beginning of post is the one, a 2000 Gillig Advantage on route 20 heading into downtown. You might be wondering if I took any photos of my first trip. The answer is no, as I didn’t have a camera then. But during my year of research afterwards, that was on the list to get first. Next thing you knew, I was taking a three day vacation in late November 2009 and I did the touristy thing around town except this time I was riding the buses like I knew the city.
So to answer my own question of my first time in Austin, it was an astounding 10 years ago. To think, I have been visiting that city a couple of times a year, and going as far to visit every month! And while things have changed vastly, my memories will not. And I will continue to make those memories and transit changes all the time. So Happy Anniversary Austin, and cheers to many more years of visiting in the future!