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alexjon Dec 1, 2008 5:11 PM

Bitter bitter bitter!

But dedicated

M1EK Dec 1, 2008 6:33 PM

I'm preparing for the inevitable onslaught of "you can't blame us; we had no idea people wouldn't walk half a mile each way from a train running on infrequent headways to/from their offices!"

alexjon Dec 1, 2008 6:47 PM

I walked a mile to work this morning from my bus stop. I had to stop in and get coffee and a sandwich and didn't want to swipe my FlexPass again. Thank god ORCA cards are coming.

M1EK Dec 1, 2008 8:49 PM

If you're already willing to take the bus to work, you are not the intended audience for rail transit (or, at least, you shouldn't be).

alexjon Dec 1, 2008 9:00 PM

Why not? It would seem you hold this attitude that rail is not good enough for the plebes, it has to be built based on the needs of some gilded group of latte-sipping subaru drivers.

M1EK Dec 1, 2008 10:37 PM

I'm a bus-rider too (at times); but you have to face reality: if you want to attract more people to ride transit, you need to understand why they aren't riding today. In our case, we already have express buses that go straight to UT and the Capitol and the heart of downtown from the same park-and-rides that this commuter rail line serves, so you can't use any kind of "new service for non-serviced area" argument.

If those people aren't willing to ride one very good bus straight in, why on earth would we think they'll be willing to ride one bad bus (shuttle bus) after riding a nice train? If a shuttle wasn't required, you could use the "train beats bus" argument all day long, and in fact I often do - it's faster and more reliable. But as soon as that requirement to transfer to a shuttlebus kicks in...

Transfers are the kiss of death for ridership among choice commuters. Has nothing to do with classism - it's common sense (it increases danger of the ride taking a lot longer; and is a pain in the ass).

As for the long walk, again, people will eventually figure out how long it's taking them to get to work - and unlike in downtown Seattle, parking is abundant and cheap (those who don't have easy access to cheap parking are largely already taking those express buses).

BTW, as an exciting bonus, the 2000 LRT line I preferred would have served existing bus riders a lot better than this POS will.

alexjon Dec 1, 2008 10:52 PM

I don't care about attracting more riders, I care about improving the experience for existing riders with new riders as a secondary concern. If you build it, they will come and all that.

In terms of downtown Seattle, 60% of workers walk, take transit or ride a bike in. Only ~70% of stalls downtown are occupied on an average day. When creating transit, it's either about the environment or improving the situation for current riders. Not choice riders, regardless of ballot language and political campaigns.

texastarkus Dec 1, 2008 10:57 PM

Elgin-Austin rail proposed
 
Elgin-Austin rail proposed
Working group to evaluate putting Green Line on ballot
A nearly $200 million, 19-mile rail line between downtown Austin and Manor/Elgin may begin chugging along as regional transportation leaders convene soon to determine how to move the line from concept to reality.

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Transit Working Group, tasked with evaluating rail options for Central Texas, will begin reviewing the so-called Green Line proposal in December. Over the next few months the group’s members, led by State Sen. Kirk Watson and Austin Mayor Will Wynn, will decide whether the proposal should appear on election ballots in the near term.

The transit working group’s task comes after the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority — which would construct, operate and maintain the Green Line — this month completed a phase one evaluation and technical review of the project. Cap Metro’s work included a “decision tree” analysis, a mechanism created by Watson to ensure proper vetting of rail projects.

While it’s unclear exactly how the rail line would be funded, potential sources include federal and local governments and public funding mechanisms such as tax-increment financing, says Doug Allen, executive vice president at Cap Metro. Funding questions, he adds, are up to the transit working group to answer, as well as the timing of the proposal’s approvals.

Cap Metro’s analysis says up to 70 percent of the rail’s construction financing could come from TIF districts in the rail corridor.

The idea for the Green Line, which would run roughly along the U.S. 290 corridor from downtown Austin, has been bandied about for years since Cap Metro’s 32-mile Austin-Leander Red Line, set to begin service in March 2009, was approved by voters in 2004.

Allen says the line would run from the downtown station near the Austin Convention Center and East Austin’s Plaza Saltillo station and could have five or six additional stops, although the exact number and locations have not been identified. The eastern terminus of the rail stop will likely be at or near Elgin’s Main Street.

Similar to the Red Line, the Green Line would run on existing freight tracks owned by Cap Metro, but its lines would need much more upgrading to get it to a passenger-ready standard, Allen says. It will cost $400,000 per mile to improve the Green Line tracks, roughly double what it cost for the Red Line, although Allen says that cost is a small fraction of the overall capital cost.

Elgin and Manor leaders have long said a commuter rail would foster denser, more sustainable land-use patterns and circumvent sprawl in those fast-growing suburban communities.

One obstacle is that Elgin is not in Cap Metro’s service area and doesn’t contribute a portion of its sales tax to the authority, meaning the city would have to find a way to finance its share. That could include property tax increment or regional transportation funding sources, Elgin City Manager Jeff Coffee says.

In 2007, Elgin’s economic development corporation bought an 80-acre site earmarked for transit-oriented development along the proposed line. That land is linked to an additional 920 acres in the city that Gateway Planning Group has studied as a potential transit-oriented development.

Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty says the Red Line must be proven before further investment is made, adding that the Red Line has not generated the kind of development it was projected to.

“Where is the megabuildup we were talking about witnessing?” he says. “We are within six months of watching the Red Line open, and I think you probably need 18 to 24 months to at least give it the opportunity to hit its numbers.”

John Langmore, a local transportation consultant, says it makes more sense to tackle a downtown circulator — proposed by Mayor Will Wynn last year and also under consideration by the transit working group — as a logical next step to the Red Line. The proposed circulator would include stops at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the University of Texas, and the Triangle and Mueller developments.

“The [circulator] provides synergy to the Red Line. The Green Line doesn’t; it’s much more about establishing a regional network. [The Green Line] is cheaper, that’s the big temptation,” Langmore says. “What do you do first? Do you go with the regional line because it’s lower-hanging fruit or the one that is effective at catalyzing the entire system?”



jkwon@bizjournals.com | (512) 494-2528

NormalgeNyus Dec 2, 2008 1:47 AM

i seen an interesting point in the opinion section of the statesman today. This little amount that they are asking for a rail system is nothing compared to what they are asking for these double taxed road ways that they are putting up all over austin. to pay 200 million for a start to the rail plan is a drop in the bucket. the 2 mile "Y" interchange in oak hill alone will be 500 million just to get built then we will still have to pay everytime to use the darn thing. and the cost for the southern part of 183 and the western segment of 290 are going to be even more then that plus having to pay the tolls after we pay the taxes to build them. So whats worse pay alittle for a rail line then only paying a small about to ride it or pay alot and get double taxed on roadways that should be free to travel on

M1EK Dec 2, 2008 1:20 PM

alexjon, "if you build it they will come" is a recipe for declining ridership, as long as the "it" you build is focused on the transit-dependent. There's a reason light rail, rather than bus service, has been responsible for most growth in transit in the last 20 years.

alexjon Dec 2, 2008 4:35 PM

Then why is Seattle spending so much money on sending light rail to an area with a very high pre-existing transit ridership?

Why is Portland putting LRT down to PSU and Clackamas TC, two areas with existing high transit usage?

Why do light rail lines generally follow existing highly used bus routes except in cases where a close rail ROW is easier to use?

M1EK Dec 2, 2008 4:54 PM

Existing bus ridership provides a good baseline for the train's ridership and operating cost savings; and demonstrates strong commuting demand in a particular area; but the intent is to attract new riders (people in the same corridor who are driving). Any rail start that doesn't vastly surpass previous bus ridership in the same corridor is viewed as a failure, for good reason.

Without more people riding transit, the transit-dependent will eventually suffer at the ballot box (decreases in public subsidy leading to decreases in bus service).

This isn't a controversial topic in the rest of the world. If all you wanted to do was improve service for the transit-dependent, running buses more often and/or in dedicated lanes would be cheaper.

alexjon Dec 2, 2008 5:03 PM

Attracting new ridership out of Cap Hill or the U District would be like wringing water out of a dry cloth; you might get very little, but it just won't happen. The big reason they're doing U-Link is efficiency.

devzull Dec 2, 2008 7:30 PM

Quick question (probably discussed before): Is there anything preventing the Red Line from continuing west on 4th to Guadalupe, turning north, and then aligning with the 2000 rail route near MLK and continuing to Crestview? I think the presence of Republic Park would provide enough space for the turn at 4th, but I don't know about the rest of the 2000 route. Are the Red Line trains too fat, or is it a money/support issue?

Saddle Man Dec 2, 2008 8:38 PM

/\/\/\/\ M1EK, I think you need to answer this one again.

alexjon Dec 2, 2008 9:02 PM

Post a link-- rehashing will cause you-know-who to come back and reply.

M1EK Dec 2, 2008 9:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by devzull (Post 3947558)
Quick question (probably discussed before): Is there anything preventing the Red Line from continuing west on 4th to Guadalupe, turning north, and then aligning with the 2000 rail route near MLK and continuing to Crestview? I think the presence of Republic Park would provide enough space for the turn at 4th, but I don't know about the rest of the 2000 route. Are the Red Line trains too fat, or is it a money/support issue?

They're way too fat, and they probably couldn't make the turns even just to stay on Guadalupe north of UT (and you wouldn't want diesel trains running through a nice pedestrian area anyways). Camden solved this problem by running their diesel 'light' rail line through, well, Camden.

To the crackplog, Robin!

devzull Dec 2, 2008 9:22 PM

Thanks M1EK :)

nixcity Dec 4, 2008 2:45 PM

Any word now and when the red line will be up and running? I'm a little afraid of the timing, if it opens right before a vote on light/ultralight rail people may come to the conclusion, "why would I vote for another rail line when this one only carries 1,000-2,000 people?" Hopefully the media coverage will highlight again and again the projected ridership of the new line.

M1EK Dec 4, 2008 4:20 PM

Well, worry away - the Red Line will be open at least a couple months before the earliest possible vote on the McCracken/Wynn rail plan.


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