Red Line: What Comes Next?
Really short but need to get this out for posterity.
Capital Metro is already declaring the thing a success, despite ridership half of projections and about a twentieth as much as a good light rail start would have delivered. What are they saying they're going to do next? And, will it work?
I'm going to do this in L33T table form. You'll see why in a minute.
|Capital Metro's Grand Idea||Will It Work?|
|Double-track more of the line so trains can run more frequently||Tri-Rail did this. Didn't work.|
|Get freight under control and get more vehicles so trains can run all day||Tri-Rail did this,. Didn't work.|
|Employer shuttles (van straight to office)||Tri-Rail did this. Didn't work.|
|Cancel competing bus routes (see quotes below)||Tri-Rail didn't have to do this (no competing bus service even existed)|
|Build yet another stupid commuter line which doesn't go to any urban destinations||Tri-Rail never got the chance to do this, after 20 years of failure|
Idea Capital Metro is not trying:
Stop fucking around with useless commuter rail and instead get behind the city's plan to build urban rail (light rail) that actually has a chance of serving tens of thousands of people a day instead of less than a thousand. No, saying they support it isn't enough; they need to stop spending our limited local and federal dollars on the Red Line and the Green Line to Elgin and come up with the cash for the city's plan, or the city needs to sack up and take it back.
Quotes from Ben Wear's piece a week or two ago, emphasis mine:
Four days later, on Tuesday, with the 4:20 p.m. train waiting for passengers on a sunny and warm day, the station was virtually deserted. The Capital Metro workers leaned on the railings, sipping coffee drinks from the nearby Starbucks and chatting with the idle security guards. Ambassador Lyndon Henry , charged with helping people quickly buy fare cards at the two ticket vending machines (there had been fears people might miss trains because of stackups at the machines) had few customers to instruct. It was quiet and awkward; no one seemed to want to talk much about the situation.
The 108-seat train left the station with about 25 passengers, and the 4:55 p.m. train that followed had about 50 people on it.
Some of them put the train in second place.
Kevin Monroe , who works for the Texas Department of Insurance in the Hobby State Office Building at Fourth and Guadalupe streets, normally takes the 986 Leander Direct express bus at 6 a.m. He took the train Monday and Tuesday of the free week. But this week, he was once again on the 986.
"The bus is so much faster," said Monroe, who works a 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. flex day. His morning bus, driving most of the way on U.S. 183 and Interstate 35 before traffic thickens, takes just 40 minutes to get to a stop right across Guadalupe from his building. The train takes just over an hour. Many of the 20 or so passenger snooze in the darkened bus, which, unlike the train, has reclining seats. Because the express bus, like the train, has wireless Internet service, some riders surf the Web and read e-mail.
At the end of Monroe's workday, the 4:20 p.m. train from downtown goes only as far as the Howard station, so he'd have to wait and take the 4:55 p.m. which goes all the way to Leander. And he'd have to walk five blocks to get to the downtown rail station, while the bus stop is right outside his building.
"Coming back, the schedule doesn't work for me," Monroe said, echoing other riders on the 986. He and other bus passengers said rumors are rife that Capital Metro will cancel the 986 and perhaps the 987, another express bus from Leander that has more stops and takes a few minutes longer to get downtown. If that happened, they might drive instead, he said.
"There's a lot of talk (on the bus) about carpooling," Monroe said.
Similarly, North Austin residents who might take the train from the Crestview station at Lamar and Airport boulevards have to compare it with the 101 route, which stops nearby and costs $1 for a one-way ride versus the $2 one-way fare for the train from Crestview to downtown. Longer one-way trips cost $3.
Allen acknowledged that Capital Metro is examining "competing" bus routes.
"We'll be looking at that over the next several months," Allen said. "We have to really look when we have bus routes that serve the same areas as the train."