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The lane is as important as the route

I often make fun of commuter rail for not going where it needs to go - but in this case I'm kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum. Here's a comment/letter I just sent the Chronicle in response to coverage of a recent UT meeting about streetcar:

It would be really swell if every time this issue came up, people writing articles would be really clear about what's being proposed by various folks, especially on the issue of dedicated runningway (shared lane vs. reserved lane).

For instance, a streetcar on Speedway sounds a lot better to me too; and Guadalupe sounds better still, since Guadalupe is where all the current and most of the future residential density and other activity is. But are Black and Gadbois and whomever else suggesting reserved lanes on their routes (as in 2000's light rail plan on Guadalupe), or that it would be sharing a lane with buses/cars (as in Cap Metro's original, execrable, Future Connections proposal on San Jacinto)? This makes a HUGE difference - a streetcar without its own lane is actually even WORSE than a bus in speed and reliability - and is thus a complete waste of time and money.

While we probably can't now justify taking a lane on Guadalupe without the suburban ridership the 2000 route would have brought in, at least the McCracken/Wynn TWG proposal (streetcar running in dedicated lanes, albeit on San Jacinto) is capable of being expanded that direction later on; while commuter rail is a complete dead-end.

The problem here is that a streetcar on the "right route" (Guadalupe) that doesn't have its own lane will be even worse than the existing bus service there. Commuter rail has its own lane, in a sense, but doesn't go anywhere you actually want to go - and your transfer is going to be to a crappy shuttle-bus stuck in traffic (without its own lane). I guess I slot San Jacinto somewhere in the middle between the poles of "where most people want to go" (Guadalupe) and "nobody wants to go" (Airport Blvd). But the biggest difference is that streetcar that runs on San Jacinto in its own lane might someday be able to be branched over to Guadalupe while commuter rail can never be brought anywhere you actually want to go.

This entry was posted in the following categories: 2008 Light Rail , Austin , Don't Hurt Us Mr. Krusee, We'll Do Whatever You Want , PS: I am not a crackpot , Transit in Austin , Transportation

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Comments

how about a street car or rapid bus with an elevated, dedicated lane?

In an alternate universe where one could build something elevated without worrying about cost, the ADA, or the ANC, sure. But in the world we live in, pushing for elevated transit is just another way to push for no transit.

sorry, shoulda known...ada. I was envisioning stairs. LOL.

what's ANC?

What about underground? After my recent trip to San Francisco/Oakland, I started wondering why not put Austin transit underground. You get all the transit benefits with so few of the negatives - less NA opposition, less business opposition, no lost parking or lanes, etc. I understand that underground is also cost prohibitive, though. Any thoughts?

It's cost and feasibility. I think that LA pretty much destroyed the chance of anybody building a large amount of underground rail, other than maybe New York.

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