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Red Line Update

Last week's ridership reports are in, and they already fall within the range I predicted - even before the "settling down" period has really been reached.

What a difference $3 can make.

Specifically, the distinction between MetroRail's free first-week rides and the cost of a one-way ticket in the second week was ridership that fell from an average of almost 2,900 boardings a day to about 1,000 daily boardings when people had to pay. That's about half of what Capital Metro has projected ridership will average in the first year of the Red Line, and it equates to about 500 people using the commuter line to get to and from work.

In case anybody forgot, we've now given up this:

(30,000-46,000 boardings per day on a line which would have served the suburbs and Austin; which would have gone downtown and not just the Convention Center but to the parts where people actually work; which would have gone straight to UT and the Capitol rather than requiring a shuttle-bus; which would have served not only the joke TOD-in-name-only Crestview Station but also the much higher density residential development at the Triangle and in West Campus)

for this:

(commuter line which is already down to serving 500 people per day on a good day - even while joyriders are still trying the thing out).

You can't build the 2000 line now, ever; you simply can't get from the Red Line to rail that serves the urban core; it's NOT a first step; it's NOT a good start; it's a distraction that must be worked around while it sucks up nearly all the available local transit dollars. The only thing we can do now is what the city's trying to do - build something from another direction that might work half as well as the 2000 plan would have; and try to do it with half the funds (since the Red Line sucked up the light rail savings account and is now going to be costing us dearly in future operations and capital funding).

And the people who held their nose and voted 'yes' on the promise of light rail from Capital Metro to serve the urban core right after? Yeah, those are the same folks who are either completely quiet now or are waging a campaign of disparagement on yours truly from the shadows.

Good show, Austin. Good show.

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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Why is it impossible to build light rail that starts at the Crestview station and travels down the 2000-plan corridor to get downtown and possibly points further south? Is it a ridership problem, or a technical/logistics problem?

You could justify the tremendous disruption of taking a lane on Guadalupe for service that gave a direct trip for both suburbanites and urbanites in the 30-40,000 boardings range. You likely can't justify said disruption for the set of (urban passengers + suburban people who don't mind transfers).

In addition, the intersection at Lamar/Airport probably can't handle the disruption of another train. (The 2000 route would have left northbound traffic on Lamar and two of the Airport-Lamar turns completely unmolested; the Red Line + light rail stub probably affects everything but the north-north turning movement).

Also, of course, the money's gone, and Cap Metro's going to be competing with us for funds for the foreseeable future ("if we just double-track this line, people will ride! if we just buy more cars, people will ride!").

Elevate the Red Line over Lamar. They already did that over the Union Pacific tracks.

You could run light rail from a park and ride lot, maybe Tech Ridge, down Lamar and Guadalupe into downtown. Then all the problems M1EK mentions are solved, i.e. Lamar/Airport intersection and lack of suburban ridership.


From a technical perspective that would be helpful, but still not ideal - the ideal light rail start runs in street only in the last chunk of its route; while this route would run in-street the whole way. (This is what Houston did, and they did fine, but their parking situation in the Med Center in particular is even more difficult than ours at UT).

Would never happen though - elevating the Red Line is a complete non-starter in this part of town; and it would take a lot of money that Cap Metro doesn't have - all to serve a very small number of passengers.

The other non-technical problem, though, is that it would reward Round Rock and Pflugerville with service that they haven't been paying for for many years.

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