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Broken Commuter Rail Promises, Part One

The ongoing brouhaha with Lyndon reminded me to start collecting these in one place. First in a series of at least three.

Advocates of light rail through central Austin (including myself, of course) were encouraged to vote for this commuter rail plan, and get "light rail later". Dave Dobbs took me to lunch and tried real hard to get me to fall into line on this, as a matter of fact. This strategy extended to electioneering by Capital Metro itself, who originally stated in Rapid Bus materials that the one proposed route was a "possible placeholder for light rail". One example here. After getting the pro-transit forces to ease up (except me, of course), they dropped this language from their materials. Since then, Capital Metro has never mentioned running rail on the 2000 light rail route past such minor destinations as the center of downtown, the Capitol, the University of Texas, high-density residential development in West Campus and points north, and the Triangle.

From Jeff Wood's thesis, the following:

Robin Rather, who also attended the meeting, asked the hard questions. "What is the best system and what does the Central City get out of all this?" She had a point. Bus Rapid Transit would not sit well with people who had voted overwhelmingly for light rail in 2000. "With the stroke of a pen, I could wipe out this whole proposal at the ballot box," she said "So why should we support this if we are not getting anything out of it?"

Fast-forward to 2006. Capital Metro has eliminated any talk of reserved-guideway rail on the 2000 light rail route; and the "circulator" service being hashed out is leaning heavily towards buses (although still keeping streetcars on the list until the bitter end as is typical). Where's it going to run? Through downtown and by the capitol; but then veering east past the south edge of UT and out to the old airport; avoiding all of the residential density which exists now or in the near future. In other words, this amazing "center-city circulator" which was supposed to make commuter rail provide some benefits to the people who pay essentially all of Capital Metro's tax dollars has morphed into "The Bus People Living At Mueller Will Take To Get To Their Job If They're Members Of The Small Group That Have To Pay A Lot To Park". (Need a catchy slogan for this vehicle! Ideas gladly stolen^H^H^H^H^H^Haccepted!)

Feel good so far about falling for this snow-job, folks?

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Don't Hurt Us Mr. Krusee, We'll Do Whatever You Want , I Told You So , Transit in Austin , Transportation , Urban Design

Comments

We could solve these problems by limiting voting to only those people who live within sight of the UT Tower, Tarrytown, and those adjacent to a country club.

The thousands and thousands of people moving to the Leander should just die and reduce the surplus population.

Jim,

The hundreds of thousands of people in Austin deserve rail first, or at least at the same time, as the tens of thousands in Leander; but for the most part, the Austin residents aren't going to be able to feasibly use this line.

(It ain't great for Leander residents either - with the required shuttle bus transfer to get to the final destination, but it works better for them than anybody else).