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How can you tell whether Capital Metro's telling the truth?

Still short on time; won't address the "hour instead of 48-52 minutes" change except to note that it depends - some early timetables I used for graphs had travel times of 57 minutes from Northwest to downtown already, in other words. Instead, let's address the other big change.

From Ben Wear's article, note the following quotes:

Foregoing the Leander and Lakeline stops on some morning and afternoon trips, officials said, might be necessary partly to ensure that passengers from those two stops don't fill all the trains and preclude boardings at closer-in Austin stops.
Also Wednesday, Capital Metro officials also said they now plan to use only four of the six trains, which the agency purchased for about $6 million each, because the line has just four limited sections where there is dual track to allow northbound and southbound trains to pass one another.

"We've found that it could be operated best with four trains," spokesman Adam Shaivitz said, rather than the five that the agency had said previously would typically be in service. The other two would be held in reserve and used in case of breakdowns.

So, here's a little thought experiment. Suppose you honestly believe that demand for your new rail service is going to be really, really high - so high that, as they put it, full trains from further up the line will prevent people from even boarding closer in.

What do you do to solve this problem? Do you:

1. Run with the originally planned 5 trains (out of the 6 you 'leased')
2. Increase service to run with all 6 trains while you arrange for another couple to be built and shipped
3. Cut service to run with only 4 trains

Give up? Capital Metro chose #3; they decided that they need to cut service because so many people would be lining up to ride the train.

Does this really convince anybody outside the head injury ward?

The facts in this case are quite obvious: Capital Metro expects the uncompetitive nature of these trips compared to the existing express bus service to result in disappointing ridership figures, so they'd rather run with 4 fuller trains than with 5 trains that are less full. Oh, and of course, they plan to slash the express bus service at the same time.

No, the "sidings" argument isn't true -- you're telling me you really think CM would rather leave people in Leander with only 3-5 trips a day instead of the originally promised 7 so they could shave a couple minutes off a trip that's still going to lose to the existing express bus in a head-to-head time comparison?

It is my belief that they're lying, folks. Plain and simple. (Why lie? To preserve the project long enough for conditions to 'improve' and keep it surviving so the people working on it can remain employed - like how Tri-Rail limped along for a couple of decades on the promise that the next investment would somehow make the wrong rail line in the wrong place start to work right).

In case anybody new is reading the crackplog, why would people prefer the express bus to the commuter rail solution? It's a 10-letter word beginning and ending with 'S'. The train doesn't actually go to anywhere worth going, unlike our excellent 2000 light rail proposal and every other successful rail start in this country - all of which have followed the same model - run on an existing rail corridor in the 'burbs, then run in the street close to town to make sure people don't have to transfer to a bus to get to their office.

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


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Since when has CM decided to do this? So now they're more or less screwing the people in Leander and Cedar Park even more? Just makes any plans for TOD-line development succeeding even closer to nil.

When will these head-cases learn how a real transit agency operates? I mean, they don't even have to go to Portland and ogle the streetcar like everyone else; going to Dallas to watch DART do its thing would be an improvement.

On the metric of "cost paid versus service delivered", our friends up in your part of the woods are still coming out way ahead in the bargain - the speed advantage of the soon-to-be-cancelled express bus compared to commuter rail + shuttle-bus is highest at NW P&R in Austin, lowest in Leander (break-even up there, basically).

Let me get this straight. Because you didn't like this plan, and CapMetro has screwed it up due to their dishonesty and incompetence therefore the existing plan was a foolish decision.

On the other hand, had we voted for your plan, which would have plowed up the main roads going to the central city for years, cost much more, and destroyed many small businesses, then CapMetro would have been a shining beacon of honesty, competence, and efficiency?

That makes a lot of sense. NOT.

And people are going to ride the trains. There will be plenty of riders to keep the four trains busy.

That main road is Guadalupe and is going to get plowed up anyways. There's not a lot of difference between repaving a street and repaving plus laying some tracks. And honestly, 37,000 riders is much better than 2,000.


$120 million to $736 million. 1/7 ratio for cost versus a 1/18 ratio on ridership doesn't quite add up does it.

And it would have been done with Karen Rae who is now second in command at the FRA instead of Fred Gillam who seems to be at the center of all this mess.

1. Which small businesses do you think would have been destroyed?

2. About half the problems we're seeing now would also have happened with light rail. Granted. Not all of them, though; many are due more to trying to engineer a "if you close your eyes it sort of looks almost like light rail" solution on the cheap.

3. Jeff, the cost differential is worse than that - we paid the full $120 million (more like $150-$200 million by now with overruns and delays); the Feds would have kicked in 50% of the $736 million. There's also another $100M or so of future mal-investment slated for the Red Line and the Elgin commuter rail.

Oh, and, 4:

"And people are going to ride the trains. There will be plenty of riders to keep the four trains busy."

That's the point. There's not enough riders to keep the five trains busy, obviously, so they're dropping to four, but are trying to use a transparently ridiculous argument that they're going to run fewer trains than originally planned because they expect ridership demand to be super-high. That fails a second-grade logic check.

And 5.

The operating cost per passenger on the DMU line is going to be horrible - even when interpreted as charitably as possible - one train ride, and, don't forget, one extra bus ride; both dependent on diesel fuel (how's that going to look when diesel goes back up to $4/gallon next summer?).

Compare/contrast to a real light rail solution - one ride on a train with better capacity, running on electricity. No bus needed; no exposure to diesel price spikes.

@northcomm "screwing the people in Leander and Cedar Park even more"? Leander is the city benefiting the MOST from this rail. Granted fewer trains aren't exactly desirable, but I don't envy Austinites and the millions of tax dollars they spent for something they'll never use. And I LIKE rail.

@m1ek, happywaffle, I think you both mistook what I was trying to get across. More or less the fact that now that they've screwed everyone else over by lying about the Red Line being LRT, changing buses around, etc, etc, they're screwing around with the last constituency that might've gotten something positive?

Seems like CapMetro leadership wants to mess with everything. But in this case, I don't know how much people in LCP really care anyways...

I would've totally been for true LRT down Guadalupe if I'd been old enough!

This is a comedy of errors. It gets better and better. By that I mean worse and worse.

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