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Red Line Death Watch Part 1

No, not like the GM Death Watch at my favorite car blog; this is a "how long before somebody's killed" series. Today, some pictures of the intersection I talked about on KUT last week.

First, the overheard. Imagine you're headed west on 51st across Airport because you just went to Home Depot and are headed back to Hyde Park or points south. (Hint: Red River starts just south of this image as a turn off of Clarkson; turning on Clarkson is thus by far the best way into or around Hyde Park by car).

Not a lot of room there to queue up for that left turn, huh. Let's zoom in with google's streetview:


Uh-oh. That don't look good. But surely Capital Metro has done something about this intersection since then, right?

Yep. They've flapped their gums about how stupid drivers are to stop on the tracks - but have done precisely nothing to address the conditions at this intersection that almost always require you to stop on or just past the tracks if you ever want to make this left turn.

Guess who just did that on Sunday? If you were following the twitter machine, you'd already know. And yes, I know better; but no, the trains weren't running, at least not yet. At the time I made this turn, traffic was moderate - too much to sit across Airport until clear on the other side; too little to be in serious danger on the other side (i.e. if the gate started going down I had an escape path ready).

There is just barely enough space before the gate for a small car to stop, if they don't mind sticking out past the beginning of the left-turn bay. There is not enough room past the gate for a left-turning car to stop without risking having the rear end of the car at or past the crossing gate. In other words, quite often there isn't enough space for even one vehicle to queue up for this left turn without being in violation of the crossing gate or the double yellow behind. Not even one. So what do you think drivers are going to do here, in the real world?

You don't open up a rail line that requires that people be willing to sit through multiple light cycles on the other side of Airport to make this turn safely (if you can even judge that far ahead - you usually can't; oncoming traffic comes too quickly). You redesign the intersection to eliminate the turn, or re-engineer it some other way to make it safe rather than just hoping your gum-flapping will convince motorists to do something which may prevent them from ever making their turn. That is, unless you sold this thing as a pig-in-a-poke by claiming it would be easy and cheap to run diesel trains on existing track.

More later, if time warrants. Yes, there's other problems just at this one intersection.

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

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Comments

I'm interested in hearing what folks' ideas are for this intersection. A couple off the top of my head:

- make Clarkson one-way heading north, Caswell one-way heading south
- install an extra traffic light at 51st/Clarkson that is synced with light at 51st/Airport.
- make 51st a one way street heading west between airport and lamar... north loop a one way street heading east between airport and lamar.

Granted, I haven't considered the implications of any of these ideas. Just things I've mulled over as I've navigated that area.

I wonder the same thing all the time. I'm literally right around the corner (on Caswell) and queue up on 51st regularly.

There are so many problems with this crossing. What happens if you need to make a right turn, or left turn at the light? You run the risk of sitting through another light change.

Having lived off both Red River and Cameron Road for most of the last decade, everything you say is correct. This is not the major problem, though. Traffic really backs up going eastbound on 51st and coming off of Red River turning east on 51st. Basically, if you ever want to actually turn, you have to get on the tracks. At least the train has a long headway to stop!

I have mentioned the queueing problem in other forums (including in that KUT interview) but I suspect it'll be easier for naysayers to dismiss that one since there's not the "I can't see until I get across Airport" rationale. IE, they'll just claim "you should wait forever".

I did say "more later" - I promise I'll get to that one too.

BTW, I can't tell you how pissed the neighbors around there are with the train. It was blaring its horn at night during test runs, then CapMetro put up the ugliest, cheapest chain link fence they could find along the route to keep people off the tracks. Add possible traffic tie ups with all the intersections in the area. And - on top of all that - the damn train doesn't even stop to service the neighborhood! You get the worst of both worlds - all the problems of a train without even the ability to use it.

Of course, they'd have had a stop with LRT. Whoops.

No complaints from us about the horn or the trains that regularly use the tracks.

With all said about the queuing problem, it seems the real problem is with the amount of traffic on 51st. The train just exacerbates the problem.

But I know we all like to bash the rail line and Capital Metro...It is easy to do so...

Elevate the tracks through this area, and this problem is solved.

I lived in this neighborhood for several years and used/still used this intersection quite often and have indeed noticed that we are in for LRT-induced congestion headaches here. One of the things I've learned about Austin is that the UT Tower does not align with the Capitol. It is skewed by 12.5 degrees, and that throws the grid out of whack, with the ramifications of this being most felt in that neighborhood as well as Lamar/Guadalupe by the Triangle.

I lived in this neighborhood for several years and used/still used this intersection quite often and have indeed noticed that we are in for LRT-induced congestion headaches here. One of the things I've learned about Austin is that the UT Tower does not align with the Capitol. It is skewed by 12.5 degrees, and that throws the grid out of whack, with the ramifications of this being most felt in that neighborhood as well as Lamar/Guadalupe by the Triangle.

I WISH we were in for LRT headaches here, because that would mean we'd be getting LRT here. We're not; this is a commuter rail line which doesn't run near any activity centers whatsoever.

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