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  #1  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 6:50 AM
Dariusb Dariusb is offline
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Austin's $10 Billion Expanded Rail with Subway Plan Approved

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  #2  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 1:21 PM
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It is worth it at twice the price.

It will only cost more in the future. So, spend those billions and build now.

Last edited by kingkirbythe....; Mar 7, 2020 at 5:39 PM.
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  #3  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 3:28 PM
jtown,man jtown,man is offline
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Austin should have started this 20 years ago. However, a subway downtown and then street level the rest of the way? Is there anything in this plan that includes some elevated portions?
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  #4  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 5:04 PM
ATXboom ATXboom is offline
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Much needed!

Subway is the right move. Agree on investing ASAP.

Wonder how Street level will work. Can’t get votes taking a traffic lane away. And can’t get riders if trains are stuck in traffic.
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  #5  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 5:08 PM
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Build it!
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  #6  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 5:24 PM
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Austin needs this badly. Traffic there is horrific and this would/ could help.
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  #7  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 5:43 PM
N90 N90 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jtown,man View Post
Austin should have started this 20 years ago.
Really? So Austin should have started this when it was a metro area of just 1 million? Sounds ridiculous.

It wouldn't have the critical mass or density in the core to support it back then. Right now is a good time to get started on it because it now has more of the critical mass, traffic, core area density, and road strain to support something like this.

Last edited by N90; Mar 7, 2020 at 8:07 PM.
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  #8  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 5:47 PM
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Isn't this the exact same thing Nashville proposed but then it was killed by Koch brother meddling?
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  #9  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 5:52 PM
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This should be in the Transportation forum...

There is already a conversion going under Light Rail Boom... perhaps an Austin specific thread should be created...
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  #10  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 5:55 PM
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i would think portland would get a subway before austin. portland isnt built for cars like austin and there is more people in portland.
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  #11  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 6:05 PM
IrishIllini IrishIllini is offline
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I don't think this is a could, but will.
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  #12  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 6:58 PM
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I said it the other thread and I'll say it again. I don't think Austin really has the ridership for rail yet. They need to invest in buses first.

Dallas made the mistake in investing in rail before buses, building the largest light rail system in the country, and it has worse transit ridership than Austin. It's only when it finally started investing in buses last year that now Dallas is finally seeing major ridership growth.

You need a highly-developed bus system to know where to build rail. You need lots of buses to feed riders into the rail lines. Austin is doing good job building its bus network and it needs to finish doing that. It shouldn't rush to build rail.

When ridership is too high, that's when you build rail. When ridership is too low, you have to invest in buses.

Las Vegas, Winnipeg, Quebec City, these are some bus-only systems that get 60-70 million boardings every year, twice as much as Austin's. Seattle was around 150 million boardings annually before it finally built light rail. And guess what? It is around 200 million today, not a drastic change.

Rail isn't built to create a transit culture, rail is built for an existing transit culture. Austin doesn't have that transit culture, yet.
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  #13  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 7:11 PM
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Congress just needs to pass a trillion dollar infrastructure bill and send a few bucks Austin's way.

Current New Starts funding formula will prioritize some BS project in the middle of nowhere over this greatly needed project.
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  #14  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 7:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doady View Post
I said it the other thread and I'll say it again. I don't think Austin really has the ridership for rail yet. They need to invest in buses first.

Dallas made the mistake in investing in rail before buses, building the largest light rail system in the country, and it has worse transit ridership than Austin. It's only when it finally started investing in buses last year that now Dallas is finally seeing major ridership growth.

You need a highly-developed bus system to know where to build rail. You need lots of buses to feed riders into the rail lines. Austin is doing good job building its bus network and it needs to finish doing that. It shouldn't rush to build rail.

When ridership is too high, that's when you build rail. When ridership is too low, you have to invest in buses.

Las Vegas, Winnipeg, Quebec City, these are some bus-only systems that get 60-70 million boardings every year, twice as much as Austin's. Seattle was around 150 million boardings annually before it finally built light rail. And guess what? It is around 200 million today, not a drastic change.

Rail isn't built to create a transit culture, rail is built for an existing transit culture. Austin doesn't have that transit culture, yet.
Can't apply a Canadian experience to a U.S. city. American's don't like bus transit.

TODs and transit stations where you can park you car at can attract riders if it goes by employment areas. But people outside of NYC and a few other select metros won't necessarily take a bus to transfer at a rail station unless desperate. Texans don't do buses.
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Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 7:28 PM
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Doady, I don't agree with that. Austin is growing too quickly, its need is too great, and this huge era of development isn't benefiting from transit enough.

Much can presumably be done in the short term with more buses and some speed and service enhancements. But using buses to change the transit culture THEN studying rail would mean getting rail in 20 years instead of 10. During that time, you'd be growing more driving culture and driving infrastructure, with public pressure to expand roads, developers building huge parking ratios, and so on.

Start moving in the direction of rail now, and you'll start influencing developer thinking. When the system breaks ground they'll start making location choices with rail in mind, probably with less parking. Meanwhile you'll be spending money on a permanent solution vs. a temporary one.

BTW, I'd expect the Austin of 2030 to consider grade separation pretty important at least in key areas.
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  #16  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 7:42 PM
llamaorama llamaorama is offline
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Austin is growing very fast and in a surprisingly concentrated way for sunbelt standards. Almost all major development is downtown or in a few revitalized inner suburbs. I think a Canadian equivalent would be somewhere like Calgary, but if Calgary had never built light rail or done any transit at all.

The usefulness of a bus route is crippled when they have to drive in the same traffic congestion as cars. BRT requires widening streets or reducing car lanes and often both, which in the downtown area is difficult to do in both an engineering and a political sense. The places where transit needs to go in central Austin don't have existing corridors where you can have room for seperate right of way at grade. Look at the area around UT for example.

The purpose of LRT in Austin is to create a high-speed central spine. The rest of the network proposed will be BRT or enhanced local bus service on major streets to feed into it.

Current transit ridership is low because transit was simply never developed as it would have been in a historically larger city. Austin grew very fast, from only 200,000 people in the 1960s to almost 2 million today. In the middle of the 20th century when more people took transit, Austin was a small town. Capital Metro still runs a local bus system based on a 1990s paradigm when the city was small and downtown was tiny and the purpose of transit was just to give poor people and students a basic means of getting around only.

Quote:
Dallas made the mistake in investing in rail before buses, building the largest light rail system in the country, and it has worse transit ridership than Austin. It's only when it finally started investing in buses last year that now Dallas is finally seeing major ridership growth.
I don't agree with this interpretation of events.

Dallas has a very regionalist mindset, IMO. It's metro area consists of several large, independent suburban cities which can be as influential as the core city. DART is a regional transit agency consisting of member cities and accountable to voters living in the suburbs.

DART has to split its funding priorities between a regional rail system in order to provide service to the voters whose taxes pay for the system AND local buses. It cannot do both things 100%.

This is often criticized, with many saying the DART should have focused on all resources on urban bus transit only. This is what Houston did. But Houston is a dominant, centralized city in a region where most of suburbs lack their own municipalities or have any elected officials of their own. So suburban tax dollars can be redistributed into the city while suburban taxpayers get effectively zero transit service beyond infrequent, peak hour one-direction park and ride buses that only serve a couple tens of thousands of people.

If DART did not provide service the suburbs wanted, it would have half as much funding as it has now. So the outcome would be exactly the same as now, there would only be so much resources for buses in the city. You can say this is bad, people in the suburbs shouldn't have transit and all money should be spent only on the core. But what's the fairness in this, to someone who lives in the suburbs who relies on transit, who pays sales taxes on stuff they buy.

An ideal scenario might be where Dallas has two transit agencies - DART for regional rail and commuter buses, and a new entity running urban bus and maybe metro or streetcar in the city core. But in Texas there's an upper limit on sales tax rates, so the agencies couldn't double up on revenue.

Last edited by llamaorama; Mar 7, 2020 at 7:54 PM.
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  #17  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 9:40 PM
wwmiv wwmiv is offline
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To everyone who says Austin should invest in busses instead of rail now, so that rail can succeed later, who also use lack of bus ridership as evidence in support of their argument:

This argument relies on the assumption that we can increase bus frequency and efficiency past where we are now. We can’t. Only rail can provide a more frequent and efficient service than the bus network that currently exists precisely for all of the reasons that pro-rail people mention: Austin’s built form and inherent traffic issues because of the built form of our car specific infrastructure and inability to expand that infrastructure because of the built form of our housing largely prohibits high frequency and efficient bus transit.

In other words, it is NOT just about population density, but also about built form. We aren’t asking voters to approve rapid transit. We are asking them to approve light rail in our most trafficked corridors with our highest transit shares with population densities higher than anywhere else in the south. These corridors are also some of the hottest development areas nationwide, and providing rail transit and fundamentally alter the development patterns further toward density.

Rail is the only answer here because rail is less constrained by the built form of existing infrastructure than are busses.

Key fact: there are only 10 access streets for ingress into and egress out of downtown, in a city that is more centralized than most of its southern peers. Period. 10 That’s all. All of arterial access points nearly immediately split into feeder corridors, compounding the problem because there is no concomitant traffic distributor streets within downtown itself because of our small and interrupted downtown grid with very narrow streets. And so does one of our freeways...

35-South
35-North
MoPac (north and south) via Cesar Chavez-West
Cesar Chavez-East
7th-East
MLK-East
Lamar/Burnet/Guadalupe-North
Lamar/Manchaca-South
South 1st
Manor

There are ZERO other meaningful ingress and egress routes.

Busses are inherently limited in the frequency they can provide through the corridors in ways that rail is not because our entire city is built for local vehicular traffic only.

In fact, building rail will allow Austin to more efficiently use its local traffic style road network for its bus system.
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Last edited by wwmiv; Mar 7, 2020 at 10:34 PM.
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  #18  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2020, 11:59 PM
austlar1 austlar1 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by N90 View Post
Really? So Austin should have started this when it was a metro area of just 1 million? Sounds ridiculous.

It wouldn't have the critical mass or density in the core to support it back then. Right now is a good time to get started on it because it now has more of the critical mass, traffic, core area density, and road strain to support something like this.
The critical mass, traffic, core area density, and road strain is all there and growing rapidly. Traffic in the core and on highways entering and leaving the core is horrific. The case for building this project can be easily made, but a realistic way to pay for it is going to be a deal breaker. Unless there are generous federal funds (hah!), local tax revenue won't get the job done. The state legislature will oppose additional tax allocations for Austin transit projects. Local voters (supposedly progressive and liberal) are notoriously reluctant to spend big bucks on projects unless they are convinced it will benefit them. Most Austin area jobs are still outside the core, so unless you are somebody who commutes into the core or through the core on super congested highways, you are likely to oppose this project for the usual short sighted reasons related to your own experience. I think a downtown rail tunnel along with vastly expanded light rail throughout the region is the only solution, but it won't happen in my lifetime. Fortunately for some of you, I am in my mid-70s, so I am talking about a relatively short time frame. One day maybe Austin will rock on rails rolling through downtown tunnels. I sure hope so.
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  #19  
Old Posted Mar 8, 2020, 12:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The North One View Post
Isn't this the exact same thing Nashville proposed but then it was killed by Koch brother meddling?
Not a one-to-one copy by any means of course, but there are similarities, including the downtown subway bit. Hopefully they have better luck getting it passed!
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  #20  
Old Posted Mar 8, 2020, 1:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mhays View Post
Doady, I don't agree with that. Austin is growing too quickly, its need is too great, and this huge era of development isn't benefiting from transit enough.

Much can presumably be done in the short term with more buses and some speed and service enhancements. But using buses to change the transit culture THEN studying rail would mean getting rail in 20 years instead of 10. During that time, you'd be growing more driving culture and driving infrastructure, with public pressure to expand roads, developers building huge parking ratios, and so on.

Start moving in the direction of rail now, and you'll start influencing developer thinking. When the system breaks ground they'll start making location choices with rail in mind, probably with less parking. Meanwhile you'll be spending money on a permanent solution vs. a temporary one.

BTW, I'd expect the Austin of 2030 to consider grade separation pretty important at least in key areas.
Has the mixed bus/light rail tunnel in Seattle been successful? It seems like a great idea to allow buses and light rail to share a tunnel, especially for a city that needs to grow feeder bus service but faces a lot of surface level congestion like Austin.
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