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Where does the commuter rail line end downtown?

On this forum, some folks are naively optimistic about how close the commuter rail line comes to major employment centers downtown (one even argued, although was corrected, that people would walk the 2+ miles from the MLK station to UT every day!). I dug up the picture below, and added in a legend and drew in the route of the 2004 commuter rail line as well as the 2000 light rail line. I'm not enough of a photoshop wizard to remove the other three "possible station locations" - this image was originally from a city of Austin newsletter about possibly extending the commuter rail line west to Seaholm.

Note that the typical 1/4 mile catchment area around the station at Red River and 4th Street doesn't go anywhere near any big office buildings - the only big buildings it captures are some hotels - whose employees aren't the "choice commuters" a new rail start should be going after anyways. A quarter-mile radius is typically used as an estimate of the maximum amount of distance that the typical daily commuter would be willing to walk from the train station to their office - any more than this, and they won't take the transit trip (or, as Capital Metro would hope, contrary to all of the evidence from Tri-Rail in South Florida, they'll be excited to be "whisked to their destination on shuttle buses").

Also note that the Capitol and UT are much, much, much farther from any stations for the commuter rail line - this image only shows the southern half of downtown. Not even the most optimistic people are thinking anybody would walk to work at UT or the Capitol from this thing.

I've also put green dots on the biggest buildings in this area from emporis.com's list of Austin high-rises (top 20 only), and yellow dots on other future big buildings / employment centers in the area (mostly residential high-rises under construction). Note the complete lack of any current or proposed big buildings anywhere near this commuter rail stop.

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I live 2.1 miles from my job, and I walked it twice, in the Winter. Never tried it again. At a decent pace it takes over half an hour. That would be an hour both ways. No significant amount of people are going to put up with that for a system that already, as you have pointed out, does not save them that much time anyway.

I may yet live to regret voting against the 2000 plan. I failed to ask what is the worst that could happen.

This was never the design. The design was to get you into downtown, and then have you take a bus to work.


The 2000 light rail plan counted on you being able to walk to work from the stations. The graphic below shows that despite what some people are trying to tell you, you really aren't going to be able to walk to work from the one commuter rail station downtown.

The now-being-discussed street car system will perhaps make this more viable than the circulator buses and (in my opinion) will be worth more than the commuter rail itself if things go as planned linking Mueller, UT, and downtown.


Beg to disagree - a transfer to a stuck-in-traffic circulator will be unattractive to choice commuters whether the stuck-in-traffic circulator is a bus or a streetcar. Even a transfer to another reserved-guideway system would be far from ideal for the starter line (first rail in the city really really needs to deliver people to within walking distance in order to get over the skeptical hump).

Commuting from Mueller to downtown on this thing won't be any better than taking the bus - in both cases far far worse than driving your car, since you can choose to take alternate routes in your car to get around traffic; and even on the exact same route, your car would always be at least N% faster than this thing. The number of "parking spaces per capita" downtown has been going UP, not down, so you can't rely on expensive parking to get choice commuters...