Public buses and rail service are now available at full rider capacity in the Austin area for the first time in more than a year. Capital Metro returned most of its vehicles to full capacity Tuesday after the city announced that Austin and Travis County had entered Stage 2 of Austin Public Health's COVID-19 Risk-Based Guidelines.

Recommended public precautions for the area were recently reduced to their lowest level since the start of the pandemic, largely due to a decrease in the seven-day moving average of COVID-19 new hospital admissions—a key indicator used to monitor the local spread of the disease.

MetroAccess, the agency's on-demand, paratransit rideshare service, will be the one exception to the agency's full reopening of vehicles.

Based on guidelines from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Capital Metro will continue to require the wearing of masks in all of its vehicles.

Procedures the agency implemented during the pandemic—including electrostatic cleaning, use of air purifiers, cashless and contact-free payment, and making hand-sanitzer dispensers available—will also remain in place.

The city announced its entry into Stage 2 on Tuesday, due in part to the fact that the number of local hospital admissions related to COVID-19 proved to be lower than authorities initially thought. “As we start to progress toward the final stages of the pandemic, we are breaking down our Metropolitan Statistical Area hospital data which shows an increasing percentage of admissions from outside this area and that our local admissions are even lower than we thought,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “Austin-Travis County residents have made great strides in getting vaccinated and taking precautionary measures to reduce spread, and the data reflects that. I want to thank our residents for their efforts – they are paying off.”