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Rail update

I'm now upgrading my position to cautious pessimism (from complete horror) after a nice exchange of email with Councilmember McCracken. As I said in my initial post a week or two ago, the early media coverage made it sound like the project would just be an extension of Capital Metro's awful circulator route (which avoids most places people want to go, and services, albeit poorly, commuter rail passengers to the exclusion of the central Austinites for whom it was originally promised).

McCracken wrote back late last week, saying he had missed the email originally. Since my email only talked about reserved guideway, that's all he addressed at first - and he indicated he'd be pushing strongly for reserved guideway whereever possible, agreeing with my opinion that Capital Metro is underplaying the liabilities of running in shared lanes. So far so good. I wrote him back asking about my route questions raised by my second run through the media coverage, and he also indicated he favors a Guadalupe route up to the Triangle, pointing out that the #1/#101 are the most ridden buses we've got, proving a strong demand for transit in the corridor even today, even with bad bus service as the only option.

Sounds good, right? Well, to be realistic, it was going to be hard to get reserved guideway on Guadalupe past UT even with true light rail and with the Feds paying half to 80% of the bill. If we're funding most to all of this system ourselves, as I suspect we are, I think it will be difficult to get an exclusive lane near UT, which, unfortunately, is the place where it would be most needed. Also, the talk about running in reserved guideway alongside Riverside seems unworkable - I paid close attention during Friday's transit field trip, and didn't see enough space to get this done, unless there's something else I'm missing, like narrowing existing lanes.

So, mark me as guardedly pessimistic. I'll be rooting that McCracken can pull this off - I have not heard similarly educated stuff from any other council member, so he's the only hope here. I think Wynn believes in the streetcar fairy dust (the idea that streetcar running in shared lane will attract a lot more daily commuters than bus). Keep your eye on the ball.

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


What about down the middle of Riverside, across I35 and up Lavaca to MLK and Guadalupe? Couldn't you run it through the middle and allow turning across the tracks, ala Houston, New Orleans, and Boston? From the airport to UT through downtown is a great route...Riverside/Burton are already great routes with massive multifamily units and greater potential.

I was looking at total ROW available for Riverside while on that bus trip, and there's no extra space available (not much space between end of road and beginning of sidewalk; not enough median for two tracks). Unless the plan would reduce lanes (possible but unlikely), it'd be hard to see how they could squeeze it in.

And airport to UT route is icing - not the cake itself. Cities haven't had much luck with airport lines as starters or even second lines - they're good supplemental haulers once the basic system is up, but that's about it.

What would you think of testing bus rapid transit down the #1 and #101 routes? I'm pretty sure you know what I mean by BRT.

BRT is a complete joke - an utter disaster - pushed mostly by highway interests who know that most of the investment can eventually be reused by private motor vehicles. If it were ever implemented up to Curitiba standards, it would be almost half as good as light rail. That's not saying much, because in the USA, it never gets close to the Curitiba treatment.

"Rapid Bus" as originally proposed for Austin on the #1/#101 route is more like what other BRT treatments in the USA have ended up as - which is basically slightly longer buses with 'signal priority' which is utterly useless in congested conditions.

And, no, it's never ever EVER a step towards rail. The technologies are incompatible; the BRT treatment never ends up running in the middle (where LRT would have to run); etc.

I should mention that I've written on the Rapid Bus proposal many times on this blog; look for the category "Rapid Bus Ain't Rapid".

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