Christof takes a look at the state of the Metro 2012 Plan now that we know they'll be pursuing light rail on all routes instead of BRT.
METRO needs to re-examine how the Southeast and Harrisburg lines get into Downtown. The BRT plan called for reserved lanes with rail already in the ground and light rail style stations -- with one exception. Downtown, the BRT vehicles were to run in existing "diamond lanes," with no reconstruction of the streets and fairly minimal station platforms. That plan made service slower and less reliable, but it avoided significant construction Downtown. The diamond lanes also allowed METRO to devise an awkward but cheap arrangement of right angle turns to get from Scott to Capitol and Rusk.
Now METRO can go back to the rail plan shown in the DEIS -- two tracks in the center of Capitol Street -- or devise an alternative. One idea I've heard from METRO staff is to take the Southeast and Harrisburg lines to the Intermodal Center instead of Downtown. That may be cheaper, and construction would be less disruptive. But it would lead to longer trips for most riders (which means it's a bad idea). In either case, a smoother connection to Scott is required, and that will take additional property.
Of course, the Capitol plan has its own flaw -- a ridiculous 3 to 4 block walk to transfer to the Main Street Line. As BRT, once could at least reason that the plan was temporary. As light rail, this is a permanent fixture. The good news: this can be fixed fairly easily.
The Intermodal Center may matter less -- or it may matter more. If the Southeast, Harrisburg, and North lines run directly into Downtown, the Intermodal Center becomes less important. It's still the Downtown commuter rail terminal, and it's still served by some local bus lines, but it's merely an intermediate stop -- not a transfer point -- on the light rail system. Of course, if the Center is the transfer point between the Southeast, Harrisburg, and Main Street lines, it's more significant than it was before.
Meanwhile, the following comment was left on my previous post:
Any idea when the first line will open? They say all lines will be open by the end of 2012. So are they going to build one line at a time, or all at once? I was hoping maybe at least one of the new lines would open before 2012.