Overdue Debut of Austin Light Rail Line

Austin's Capital MetroRail Red Line opens today after two years of delay and budget overruns. Intended as a showcase line, Yonah Freemark claims the line will see very few riders.

Freemark says that the light rail is slower than buses on a similar route, and with a wait of as much as 35 minutes between trains during rush hour.

Freemark writes, "The route between Leander and downtown Austin, passing through northern parts of the city, was supposed to be complete in early 2008, at a cost of $90 million. Instead, its cost eventually escalated to $105 million, not including affiliated parking, bus service, and other amenities."

"Even if the line does become exceedingly popular - a very remote possibility - the corridor can only handle 3,800 daily boardings, maximum."

Full Story: With Modest Expectations, Austin Opens Rail Line After Years of Delays



Austin is screwed.

Every successful light rail system has started with a line serving the downtown, high-density areas. Once this is established, connections to the suburbs are built.

Austin is doing the opposite and is starting with a connection to the suburbs, with no real way of getting around downtown once you're there other than a bus transfer.

This line will be a failure and its failure will be held up by the road warriors as evidence that mass transit doesn't work - preventing any future mass transit from getting built. Austin is screwed.

Austin Rail

Patrick, don't know if you're from Austin, but this isn't supposed to be light rail, its 'technically' commuter rail. Voters rejected light rail a couple of times before they finally passed the approval for this project. Cap Metro had a pretty wretched reputation in Austin before this rail snafu, and its just gotten worse as this cluster has progressed. The project has merit its just been terribly developed.

The potential is there, there are plans for a massive mixed use, dense development in Leander at the northern end of the line that would provide a 20 - 30k population base for the line, we'll see if it happens. Cap Metro owns the rail all the way to several smaller towns north and west of Austin that could be linked at some point and there are discussions to extend it east to fast growing communities that direction. There is also planning underway for rail connecting San Antonio to Austin, and the urban rail mentioned in the article, so this could grow into a real, meaningful alternative as these several systems come on line (if they do). Unfortunately, due to the poor handling of this project, perception that it was rammed down voters throats after several rejections, anti tax sentiment, anti mass transit sentiment, and on and on, its not going to be soon.

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