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Hold Your Horses

So a train started running today, for reals. Know what? Right now is the time for the uninformed on both sides to have their day - it's too early to say anything really useful.

In the meantime, I spent the 2nd half of Spring Break in Houston, and yes, rode the train. Was gonna write a TFT post but baby had other plans involving the being sick of and on and all over; am now in work, late, on 2 hours sleep. Maybe tomorry.

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I took it with my kids today for the first time. I figured I would try it out while it's still free.

To get the kids to school on time reasonably, it means getting everybody up before 6 am in order to make the 6:42 Crestview stop. It's a logistical nightmare.

So nightmarish, in fact, that we just barely missed the train and took the next one at 7:17 am.

If I were to drive it in at 6:42 am, it would take less than fifteen minutes, door-to-door. In fact, I couldn't even leave the house that early, because the school doesn't open its doors to kids before 7:05-am-ish.

The train was a smooth ride and timely, I'll grant that. But this is how it went down for us:

5 min - Mom drops us off at train station & wait for train
20 min - Train ride
2 min - Layover to shuttle
5 min - Shuttle ride

That's 32 minutes, minimum, at $140/month. Add ten more minutes, at least, if we bicycle to the train stop instead of imposing on mama.

Car? - 15 minutes, (25 if we leave after 7:10 am or so), ~$50/mo for gas. Even using the IRS 2010 mileage allowance, that would mean $110/month.

If I lived in Leander or Cedar Park, the train might be an option. But for me, I just don't see the value in shelling out $140/month to get downtown slower with more logistical problems.

I'll be brutally honest here: I'm a Republican, and I'm somewhat connected into the party structure. Our Travis County local issues committee rains fire down on this sort of thing regularly.

I'd like to make an honest case for public rail transportation, even knowing I'll be fighting an uphill battle given the audience. But there is now way I'd ever even bring it up when we've got this kind of albatross as a model.

Tourism is in full swing.

I've ridden the train twice now.

This morning, I got on the last train, at 8:36 in Crestview. Standing room only. Half the car disembarked at the MLK station, presumably destined for UT.

This afternoon, I hustled myself and my kids to catch the first train out of downtown. Waste of time. There were tons of tourists from Leander who just wanted to do the round trip. There was literally no room left on the train, not even standing.

One of the PR women manning the station told me that most of them didn't even get off when it rolled in.

So we waited 30 minutes for an empty train to roll in.

I discovered that the downtown platform is only large enough to accommodate two cars. CapMetro can't even buy another set of cars and do a four-car train if they were regularly crowded.

I guess they'd have to increase frequency. Although, I'm sure that introduces other challenges with timing and sidings and whatnot.

I suppose we'll find out how used this thing really is in about a month or two after the novelty wears off and the financial & time commitment sets in.

Ouch. I just heard on the radio that the official numbers on ridership yesterday were in the low 900's.

That's gonna leave a mark.

If that kind of ridership sustains or drops, we'll make Florida look good.

Still to early to conclude either way, although my prediction, reluctantly pulled from my by Roger Cauvin, was for 500-1000 boardings/day after things settle down (with the caveat that CM may not let things settle down before cancelling express bus service).

Florida's numbers are for service that runs all-day by the way. 20-40 minute headways during rush hour; no more than an hour headway the rest of the time.

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