The Central Austin CDC is committed to seeing that the transportation needs of the most densely populated, most transit-dependent, and jobs-dense area in our region are addressed. We believe a first high capacity transit investment must maximize ridership and work as the core component of an integrated regional transportation solution for congestion relief.
Over the last 2 years, we have organized a diverse coalition of communities, non-profit groups, and light rail advocates. Their backgrounds include social media, public policy, non-profit management, engineering, environmental policy, new urbanism, neighborhood and business leadership, and established rail advocacy from other campaigns. A consensus of this grassroots process is a vision for a system anchored by a north-south, expandable backbone of light rail service in the Guadalupe-North Lamar Corridor.
On December 12, 2013, the Austin City Council advanced the Highland and East Riverside sub-corridors into phase 2 of the Project Connect Central Corridor Study. The action preempted alignment-specific studies of the other 8 of 10 sub-corridors, and it ended the Guadalupe-North Lamar Corridor from further light rail consideration in the Project Connect process. Many citizens believe that there are more suitable and compelling options that have been overlooked.
On February 21st, Project Connect planners eliminated a light rail connection to the Seaholm Center in their final alignment recommendation. This change will break a fundamental prerequisite of the planning process to create a connected system. It would diverge from the regional planning approach, and all but ensure that the western alignment through the core, needed to serve the Guadalupe-N Lamar corridor, would never be realized.
Project Connect continued to remove future service to Guadalupe, West Campus, and the western half of downtown with the introduction of its plan for future connectivity to its Highland-East Riverside LPA on May 16, 2014.
Austin City Council is scheduled to approve the Project Connect Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) on June 26, 2014, and mark-up any bond language in August.
The need for future rail on Guadalupe was expressed in Council Member Chris Riley's December 12, 2013 amendments. They directed City Manager Marc Ott to essentially fast track preparations for high capacity transit on Lamar and other corridors and to create a proposal by August 1, 2014. Yet, as Project Connect's proposal shows, the Guadalupe corridor between 30th and 3rd Streets has already been determined to be served by MetroRapid bus indefinitely. The intent of those council-approved amendments has not been carried forward in Project Connect's future connections proposal, neither in regard to alignment and mode. Since staff's May 16th recommendation incorporated these future connections in concert with their LPA, any approval of the Riley amendments would come weeks after the LPA is scheduled to be acted on in June.
The early intent of this council to recognize Austin's strongest transit corridor has been rendered inoperable.
Our groups strongly support light rail, but the direction established by staff's sub-corridor recommendation would result in a broken system, an ineffective transportation solution for our city and region, and a politically non-viable ballot measure. A light rail alignment on Guadalupe-North Lamar would put tracks within a ten-minute walk of a third of all the jobs in the city. Project Connect can choose to serve the existing population, or it can choose to create a symbolic and duplicative urban rail system in a non-existent transit corridor to the Highland Mall site. The Red Line already provides a station for Highland Mall. Highland Mall is within a half mile of North Lamar Blvd.
The people have already expressed their choice. In the past 12 months, organizations serving over 100,000 Austinites have formally endorsed a Guadalupe North Lamar Corridor light rail alignment. You can add your voice by signing our change.org petition "I want to ride LIGHT RAIL on Guadalupe/North Lamar!"
Our 14 station, 7.5 mile phase one alignment serves the greatest number of riders, forms an expandable backbone of a much larger future system, and satisfies many public benefit criteria while serving the following communities, centers, and nodes.
View Austin Urban Rail Map at a higher resolution.
Seaholm to Guadalupe-Lavaca :: Hike and Bike Trail, Central Library, Amtrak, CMTA's Red Line, Lone Star Rail [P3], City Hall, 2nd Street District
Guadalupe-Lavaca to MLK :: MetroRapid 801 & 803, Warehouse District, Hobby Complex, [P3], Republic Square, Federal Complex, Travis County Complex [P3], Wooldridge Square Park, County Courthouse, State Capitol Complex West [P3], University of Texas West, [P3] South Campus, Dobie Center, Rolling Hall, AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, Megabus Terminal
San Antonio/Nueces from MLK to 29th :: University of Texas Station, The Drag, West University, University Neighborhood Overlay [UNO], West Campus, Pease Park/Shoal Creek Greenbelt, Shoalcrest
Guadalupe 29th to 51st :: Villas, Venue, Seminaries, Adams Park, North Drag IBIZ District, Wheatsville Co-Op, North University, Hemphill Park, Sparky Park, Seton Central Medical Center, area medical offices, The Gables, Central Market [P3], Heart Hospital, Austin State Hospital, [P3], Hyde Park, Baker School, Shipe Park, Triangle, School for the Blind [P3], Intramural Fields, UT Tennis Center, Winters Building [P3], State North Austin Complex [P3], Department of Health
North Lamar :: Lamar Activity Corridor (2.8 miles of redevelopment), State DPS,Crestview Station [TOD], Midtown Commons [TOD], Crestview HEB [TOD], Rail maintenance and storage at site of present day North Lamar Transit Center, Park and ride under of elevated Hwy 183 [TOD]
Modes of high capacity mass transit are traditionally chosen to meet ridership demand. Trains are at the top of the list, carrying the most people in any given urban transportation system. Light rail alignments are successful to the extent they maximize their ridership in a given corridor. These systems are often required to return other public benefits for the large investment needed to build them. Those benefits include environmental, social equity, employment, economic development, land use, congestion relief, and connectivity to a regional system.
We have worked with stakeholders to develop a VISION for light rail transportation that could transform mobility for our city and for our region. At the heart of this vision is a 7.5 mile PHASE ONE light-rail alignment in the Guadalupe-North Lamar corridor. This is a north-south expandable backbone of mass transit that would maximize system ridership. The people living in Austin today may be asked to pay for something like this in November.
While we look toward shaping future growth, economic vitality is limited by congestion. Turning our backs on the current state we find ourselves in, and the patterns of current travel demand, will not serve the region, nor will it make its problems go away. We must break through the ring of congestion with this first investment. The suburban population will support this if it serves them. This proposal may extend the promise of true mobility choice to all Austinites. It would do that by serve the region's COMMUTERS by taping into the center of CAMPO's north-south regional travel demand.
The alignment creates the ideal combination of the highest ridership, the highest number of jobs, and the highest number of homes. A system that maximizes ridership pays for more of itself at the farebox. Users paying for a system leads to financial self sufficiency and a more aggressive extension schedule.
Running census data within a half mile of 14 station points yields over 178k jobs, not counting UT's employment, and a population of over 54k. These are not speculative data. Transit sheds similar to this are what the FTA uses to rate each application. They will be required in Austin's application. The City Manager's sub-corridor recommendations eliminate route to route comparisons to Guadalupe and North Lamar. In August 2013, with no money and by using publicly available and verifiable census data, volunteers published data on half mile linear buffers for population and jobs in the Guadalupe Lamar corridor. These criteria are the bread and butter of any FTA study leading to an LPA. As of March 7, 2014, Project Connect has not published corridor-specific data such as these for their Highland and East Riverside recommendations.
Employment concentrations along this corridor are extraordinarily high. About 20,000 jobs within a half mile of the intersection of 23rd and Guadalupe, 13,496 jobs at 38th and North Lamar, 16,658 at 49th and North Lamar, and 7,255 at Koenig and Lamar. These are not just jobs, they are the drivers of cars on Guadalupe and North Lamar, they are workers who need to get back to their families, they are the people who spend 1.6 million hours every year of their productive time lost in congestion between 5th Street and 183. And, they are voters.
The Guadalupe-North Lamar vision has been adopted by prior council action in three large combined neighborhood plan ordinances and in the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan with its HIGH CAPACITY TRANSIT CORRIDOR DESIGNATION. Red River, Duval, and Clarkson have not received this designation; Guadalupe and North Lamar have. After the referendum loss in 2000, neighborhoods were asked to accept density in their plans, contingent on rail infrastructure that never materialized. Between 2000 and 2003, area residents and 15 neighborhood associations participated in station-level light rail planning along Guadalupe-North Lamar. Upzoning agreements were made between the city and the area's residents contingent on this new density having rail service. Over $20 million in FTA funds have been spent preparing this corridor for rail over the years.
Terminating at the North Lamar Transit Center can leverage state-owned right of way under elevated 183 to provide a 3,400 car park and ride. This will engage not only I-35, but also Mopac and 183. If the transfers can move across the service road, the 6 acre North Lamar Transit Center is land for a maintenance facility, now owned free and clear by Capital Metro. A multimodal transit hub in this area engages the local bus network for the northern half of the city. And, if we get under 183, we are pointed toward Tech Ridge and the Williamson county line for future extensions.
In 2000, a gallon of gas was $1.15. While development scenarios are uncertain, we are certainly beyond peak oil. Replacing, not expanding a diesel fueled system with a system powered by the grid is an environmental and economic imperative. How are future leaders going to respond as their electorate watch empty trains cycle up and down Red River while stuck in traffic on I-35. The political anger at the legacy of the Highland Mall recommendation will be palpable. With debt markets continuing to tighten, there may be no further investments if this one fails. Austin is not even on an FTA funding wait list of 50 systems today. How quickly Austin advances on that list will require a competitive application.
East Riverside is a very strong corridor and we encourage Project Connect to pair it with an even stronger Lamar corridor and give the people of East Riverside more places to go. The economic, environmental, and cultural value returned by a system serving a diverse city, and not just a people mover Central Austin, will be vast.
Our communities are standing by to support an effective alignment and mode, through the November bond election and beyond. The good news is that support is broad and it is moving out. Suburban Austin has lost access to its downtown. They want their downtown back, they want to spend their money there, and they want to have pride in this system. Please join us in letting them do that.
Mueller could still be linked to downtown via the proposed Red Line Hancock Park and Ride. This 3700 foot link could bring service to Mueller much sooner and with locally generated funding such as a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) model. See alignment below.
Based on the employment-center optimized station points used on the attached map, a 7-mile Guadalupe-North Lamar alignment could be served with 14 stations. ArcGIS and a 2010 Census data set were used for this analysis. Census blocks within the transit shed that were not completely contained within the buffer were weighted based on the percentage of area inside the buffer. No census blocks were counted on the south bank of the lake.
View 14 Station Population Transit Shed Using 1/2 and 1/4 Mile Buffers at a higher resolution.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Center for Economic Studies 2011 Current Employment Statistics, the Guadalupe-North Lamar Sub-Corridor contains the highest density of jobs in the city. The On The Map online census utility was used to measure jobs located within one quarter mile and one half mile of each proposed station point. The results speak for themselves. If built, the Guadalupe North Lamar alignment would put tracks within a ten minute walk of over 31% of all jobs in the city.
View Employment Centers in the Guadalupe-North Lamar Sub-Corridor Map at a higher resolution.
View 78741 East Riverside Jobs Census Data at a higher resolution.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Center for Economic Studies
View Mueller Jobs Census Data at a higher resolution.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Center for Economic Studies
Source data for employment centers in the Guadalupe-North Lamar Sub-Corridor: U.S. Census Bureau, Center for Economic Studies
Over the years, prioritization of light rail for the Guadalupe-North Lamar corridor has been endorsed by both City Council and the Capital Metro board. This alignment has been incorporated into numerous citizen-drawn neighborhood plans and made into law by that same process. During the same period, the Federal Transit Administration gave the City of Austin and Capital Metro millions of dollars, at the request of those agencies, to plan light rail along the Guadalupe-North Lamar corridor.
The most advanced and detailed period of FTA planning came in the years immediately after the narrowly defeated 2000 rail referendum. It was called the "Rapid Transit Project" and occurred between 2001 and 2004 under CAMPO's Rapid Transit Plan and Austin Metropolitan Area Transportation Plan (AMATP). It defined the Guadalupe-North Lamar alignment as "The Central Line". That line was a joint planning effort between Capital Metro, The City of Austin, and several communities along the Guadalupe-North Lamar alignment. An unprecedented level of public involvement engaged citizens with route-level and station-level planning. The people's input drove changes in the recommendations and these details were incorporated into AMATP system planning and neighborhood plans.
Following the emergence of the Mueller redevelopment in 2004, all planning for light rail on Guadalupe-North Lamar ceased, and plan documents related to the Rapid Transit Project were removed from the public web sites.
Fortunately, the value of that planning and community support survived. It was memorialized in public law by neighborhood plans developed during that period. Shaped and supported by the people, political support for rail planning on Guadalupe and North Lamar is captured in the public record in a high level of detail. This record is particularly extensive for the Brentwood/Highland Combined, Central Austin Combined, and the Crestview Wooten Combined Neighborhood Plan. The following neighborhood planning ordinances call for building urban rail on the Guadalupe-North Lamar alignment. No process has reversed or superceded the recommendations contained in those ordinances.
Brentwood Highland Combined Neighborhood Plan
City of Austin Ordinance 040513-30
Neighborhoods: Brentwood, Highland, Skyview
2010 Population: 11,738
Light rail plan excerpts here
page 51 Plan addresses future light rail on both North Lamar Blvd. and Airport Blvd., anticipating their convergence at Crestview station.
page 93 Plan incorporates by reference CAMPO's Rapid Transit Plan and Austin Metropolitan Area Transportation Plan (AMATP) that calls for 52 miles of passenger rail in Austin which includes urban rail on Guadalupe and North Lamar streets.
pages 98 - 120 Extensive rail planning for specific alignment and station placement referred to as the "Central Line" of the "Rapid Transit Project". 4 light rail stations were recommend at Anderson Ln., Airport Blvd, Koenig Ln, and 46th (Triangle) were recommended.
Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan
City of Austin Ordinance 040826-56
Neighborhoods: West University, University Area Partners, Shoal Crest, Heritage, North University, Hancock, Eastwoods.
2010 Population: 25,861
Light rail plan excerpts here
pages 11, 50 Transit Planning Station Workshop on June 24, 2003 outcome was the planning of stations on Guadalupe Street.
pages 186 - 207 Appendix D Detailed station and alignment planning including the placement of a station at Nueces and Guadalupe Streets and 38 1/2 and Guadalupe Streets.
Crestview Wooten Combined Neighborhood Plan
City of Austin Ordinance 20040401-Z002
Neighborhoods: Crestview, Wooten
2010 Population: 9,266
Light rail plan excerpts here
page 62 Plan incorporates by reference CAMPO's Rapid Transit Plan and Austin Metropolitan Area Transportation Plan (AMATP) that calls for 52 miles of passenger rail in Austin which includes urban rail on Guadalupe and North Lamar streets.
Pages 64-78 Station and alignment planning including 2 LRT station plans, one for Anderson Lane and North Lamar and one for Airport and North Lamar. Workshop conducted July 8, 2003.
Representatives from the Hyde Park and North Loop neighborhoods participated in station design workshops related to the Rapid Transit Project between November 2001 and July 2003. Their work is reflected both in the system documents, with an emphasis in the planning for Guadalupe and 38th Street and Guadalupe and 46th Street stations. Light rail on Guadalupe and North Lamar is also affirmed in those plans.
Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan
City of Austin Ordinance 000413-63
Neighborhoods: Hyde Park, Hyde Park North Annex
2010 Population: 5,894
Light rail plan excerpts here
page 35 Goal 3 of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan calls for light rail planning support on Guadalupe Street to enhance existing pedestrian, businesses and residential uses.
pages 39-41 Goal 5 of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan calls for a corridor plan for Guadalupe Street that includes light rail.
North Loop Neighborhood Plan
City of Austin Ordinance 020523-30
Neighborhoods: Northfield, Ridgetop
2010 Population: 5,072
Light rail plan excerpts here
pages 5, 13-14, 29, 59 Planning land use in the anticipation of light rail on Lamar Blvd. and in general locations not related to future Red Line location.
These files were retrieved from the Capital Metro site rapidtransitproject.org using an Internet archive service.
Long Range Transit Plan Presentation 021118a PDF
Long-Range Plan Presentation PDF
Newslines 1 PDF
Newslines 2 PDF
Chamber Transportation Presentation 021119 PDF
CW-TSP workshop 070803 PDF
The Rapid Transit Project - Index Page PDF HTML
The Rapid Transit Project - Web Site PDF HTML
The Rapid Transit Project - Goals PDF HTML
The Rapid Transit Project - Background PDF HTML
The Rapid Transit Project - CACNPA Station Planning (3_11_03) PDF HTML
The Rapid Transit Project - Current News PDF HTML
The Rapid Transit Project - Questions and Answers PDF HTML
CAC NPA - Questions and Answers PDF HTML
The Rapid Transit Project - Q&A PDF HTML
The Rapid Transit Project - Current News PDF HTML
The Rapid Transit Project - Rail Info PDF HTML
The Rapid Transit Project - Web Sites and Resources PDF HTML
The Rapid Transit Project - Contact PDF HTML
The Rapid Transit Project - Questions and Answers PDF HTML
The city's zoning capacity studies have shown Guadalupe-North Lamar alignment to have at least a 2.3 to 1 advantage over an alignment to Mueller or one to Highland that terminates at Hancock Center.
There are 18,979 new units projected in the Guadalupe-Lamar alignment vs. 8,272 in the eastern alignment. See the city planning study here.
The City of Austin’s Planning and Development Review Department conducted an analysis of 2010 census data by neighborhood reporting areas. These data show that for neighborhoods abutting each proposed alignment, Guadalupe-North Lamar alignment has a 4 to 1 advantage in number of residents against an alignment to Mueller or one to Highland that terminates at Hancock Center, 106,920 compared to 28,604 respectively. Guadalupe-North Lamar with service to 183 would serve almost 80,000 more people than an eastern alignment. While these census data are 4 years old, strong residential growth has occurred on both alignments in the interim, and future growth projections have been provided elsewhere in this proposal. Downtown and UT Campus were counted in both alignment scenarios.
|UPPER BOGGY CREEK||5,302|
Rail will send the customers, downtown will provide the cash register. The Guadalupe-North Lamar alignment will deliver full trains into the entertainment districts every night of the year. Ridership into the CBD brings dollars that circulate in the economy 3x, and each of those transactions are taxed at the register. That multiplier was established in a study by our friends at the Austin Independent Business Alliance.
One of the primary legs in the case for the eastern alignment has been its justification along the lines of increasing the property tax base. With the routing through 1.63 miles of tax-exempt land on the way to HIghland or Mueller, the lost opportunity for a tax base increase along another route is a cost that should be considered. The route through the tax dead zone has been plotted on a Google Map
A 1999 FTA sanctioned study place ridership at a greater than 3 to 1 advantage. Here is the study citing 37,400 daily boardings on the minimum operable segment proposed in the 2000 referendum.
Where downtown workers live.
Source courtesy of Jeff Wood of the Overhead Wire blog.
Austinites of every part of town have spent 13 years in traffic since the narrowly-defeated 2000 referendum. Attitudes and transportation costs have changed on transit use. Any system that manages to appear on the ballot before 10-1 is empanelled, will still have to be implemented by a 10-1 council in the years that follow. A process that addresses the concerns people in the outlying areas will build trust and partnerships, solve congestion problems instead of dismissing them, and better ensure success at the ballot box.
A visual representation of the 2000 vote by precinct.
Shifts in neighborhood sentiment as indicated by planning activity in NACN calling for rail on N. Lamar.
On April 23, 2013, and October 1, 2013 the University of Texas Student Government Assembly passed Resolution AR-5 and Resolution AR-15 respectively, unanimously calling for the Guadalupe-North Lamar Alignment to connect West Campus to Downtown as Austin's first rail alignment priority. UT students want a connection to their downtown from their homes, not from the east side of campus. UT Student Government is the official voice of 52,000 students, and an editorial from the Daily Texan says it all.
Source: UT Austin 2012 Campus Master Plan
The justification for the Mueller terminus is for the availability of city-owned land to operate a maintenance and storage facility.
The North Lamar Transit center is a 6 acre tract and Capital Metro owned. Combined with 35 acres of state-owned right of way under 183 at North Lamar, this unique area provides land at no cost in an ideal location for a park and ride and future rail expandability to the north. Connecting to the North Lamar Transit center supports riders of the bus system in the northern half of the city with light rail connectivity to Central Austin.
To help answer "Why 183?" these are some points that we think will support that terminus designation.
1. Running the line under 183 will create expansion opportunities to the north: Tech Ridge and aiming the system at the Williamson County line.
2. By serving the North Lamar Transit Center, urban rail engages the bus system for the northern part of the city, delivering its ridership south, and freeing up buses to serve those areas more frequently.
3. The area under elevated 183, over 2.4 miles from IH-35 to west of Ohlen, was designed by Carter and Burgess to be able to accommodate a pair of tracks between the uprights. Rail was foreseen in this location, and the linear layout may offer design possibilities for the interfacing of 3 modes: car, bus, and light rail.
4. Utilizing 35 acres of public land under underneath the elevated 183 for a park and ride has the potential of removing at least 3,400 cars from inbound trips on Mopac and 183. The functions of the the North Lamar Transit Center could be moved across the service road and under elevated 183, with bus transfer platforms, and a rail loop to interface with the park and ride. The tracks do not need to run all the way past Ohlen. There can be a shuttle/tram to ferry park and ride patrons to the appropriate platform.
5. The storage, maintenance and operations facility could be built on the 6-acre tract where the North Lamar Transit Center now is if its functions were moved to under 183.
6. By creating 2.4 miles of transit-served frontage servicing the new rail center and the property on the service roads of 183, the land use implications are large. Planned by the communities, appropriate redevelopment of those deep CS-zoned lots will be a legacy of that terminus designation, regardless of when urban rail is expanded north on Lamar. This is a large TOD opportunity in addition to Anderson Square.
How would it work at that intersection? The R.O.W. on the west side of N. Lamar south of 183 is sufficient to accommodate both pair of tracks. The west side of the overpass has sufficient clearance for the northbound track if the u-turn is eliminated or moved. The southbound track can run in the left lane of the southbound 183 service road before it joins the alignment on N. Lamar. North of the intersection, trains are routed into the park and ride area, past the platforms that serve bus transfers and park and ride customers.
Characteristics of Sub-corridor DT2NLTC
The intent of this alignment's orientation is to position it for future expansion on North Lamar toward Tech Ridge and the Williamson County line. The proposed alignment and NLTC terminus will directly or indirectly serve the population density and demographics of 78758-78753, the area straddling N-Lamar north of HWY 183.
Unequaled Park and Ride Capacity under the elevated portion of HWY 183
Project Connect financial planners have moved the Mueller Development out as an extension and plan to build only to Hancock Center as phase one. On a tour of proposed alignments by the Mayor's Central Corridor Advisory Group (CCAG) in February 2014, Hancock was identified by the lead engineer as a potential transit hub to Highland. Below is the testimony from Project Connect financial planners in the March 8th TWG meeting suggesting it become the terminus of phase one light rail.
In this proposal, existing Red Line DMU vehicles are diverted on a short 3,700 foot segment to serve the Mueller development. Residents and workers of Mueller can be connected to downtown, East Austin, and communities on the Red Line to the north much sooner and for about 10% of the cost of the current Project Connect alignment.
Frequency of service will be determined by demand. Using the current commuter rail DMU mode avoids the expense of a second vehicle type, construction of a maintenance facility, and costs of electrifying the line. The tracks and station(s) can be financed with local tax increment financing (TIF) for the Mueller development, or an FTA Small Starts Program grant.
How could this look in operation? Northbound tracks would turn out on a radius north of the crossing gate into the middle lane of the I-35 northbound service road at Hancock Center, continue onto the left lane of ramp, and align in the median of Airport Blvd. east of the signalized intersection. Southbound tracks would turn out from the Red Line just south of the intersection of Airport Blvd. and 45th St., enter what is now a grassy strip off the right shoulder of Airport Blvd., pass across the service roads and under IH-35, crossing into the wide median of Airport Blvd. east of the northbound service road intersection. Both pairs of track would run down the wide median of Airport Blvd. and turn into the Mueller development at the Aldrich St. intersection. Stadler GTW vehicles have a turning radius of between 250 and 300 feet. Both northbound and southbound turnouts from the Red Line onto Airport Blvd. are within that radius specification, but the intersection at Airport and Aldrich will require a routing into travel lanes for a few feet in this intersection and a control system to accommodate these vehicles. Relocation of the IH-35 service road U-turn would be necessary, and there is ample area a few feet to the south to do this.
In the future, both the DMU vehicles of the Red Line and its tracks serving East Austin and Mueller can be converted to electric light rail service. This could be implemented well ahead of the 2024 target for a LRT system and would create the opportunity for planning station site under IH 35 for a Red Line Hancock park and ride.
Congestion's Impact on Life
With its explosive growth of people and cultural vitality, Austin provides nearly endless choices for things to do. At the same time, there are more constraints placed on how to get there. Congestion, parking limitations, and unpredictable travel times make trip planning an unpleasant part of our busy urban lives. And, people who live in or near the center of the city are the lucky ones. For those who live outside Austin's core, the task is far more onerous. Every day, cars and buses carrying over 200,000 people clog Austin's streets to get to Central Austin's employment centers. People can spend over an hour and a half in their cars just to get to work and back, and many have given up making discretionary trips to downtown. In the future, Austin will have a new transportation choice. We may be able to vote in November 2014 on one solution, a light rail plan that is being developed right now.
What is Project Connect?
Project Connect is a broad regional planning initiative under the aegis of the Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO). It is currently conducting a Central Corridor study of our area to plan light rail. That study is defined in an interlocal agreement that was created in April 2013 between the City of Austin, Capital Metro, and Lone Star Rail District. Kyle Keahey, of the firm HNTB, was hired as the urban rail planning lead for the Central Corridor. This process re-start began as a fresh look; all options and all alignments were on the table. Ten areas, or sub-corridors, of the city were defined and are under evaluation, including Guadalupe-North Lamar and Mueller. On November 15th, Mr. Keahey's group narrowed the choice of sub-corridors to Highland and East Riverside. That recommendation was approved by city council on December 12, 2013, the boards of Capital Metro Board on January and Lone Star Rail this winter for approval. A recommendation of an LPA, a final alignment and mode (vehicle type) will be made in the late spring of 2014. City Council may approve a wording on a bond referendum no later than August 2014, to be offered to the voters in November 2014.
Light Rail's Effect On Congestion and Land Use Plans
On a weekday morning in the future, a 2-car train may pull into a downtown station with several hundred passengers. If all of those passengers were instead drivers in single passenger vehicles, they would form a line of cars 2 miles long. Instead, with 5-7 minute headways, a light rail system can bring thousands of workers each hour into Central Austin employment centers without their cars. It can also bring thousands to attend downtown festivals over the weekend, and send full trains into the entertainment districts every night of the year, returning people safely to their home communities.
Future development can occur without the enormous and expensive parking garages that add as much as 40% to the costs of new construction. Parking pressure on residential areas near the line will be reduced. In the years following the 2000 referendum, many neighborhoods participated in light rail workshops during the drafting of the Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan, the Crestview-Wooten Combined Neighborhood Plan, and the Brentwood-Highland Combined Neighborhood Plan. These were detailed rail plans for Guadalupe Street and North Lamar Blvd. and included station locations. Residents from these communities agreed to those plans' density increases but these areas did not receive the needed transportation infrastructure to support those new populations.
Healthy, highly utilized systems are always adding a segment, spur, or extension every 5 years or so. The right first alignment will be a backbone for expansion, and make that future a success. A poor decision may yield an expensive mistake, and possibly the last track that Austin lays for quite some time. Buffalo, NY made such a mistake in 1985.
Let's serve the people by delivering a system with a phase one alignment that puts ridership first!
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P.O. Box 49168
Austin, Texas 78765