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Austin’s rail service to get started in March

Austin’s long-awaited rail service, which was approved by the voters in 2004, is finally ready to roll.

After what seems like endless series of problems and delays, Cap Metro has announced that light rail service will begin in March. Service was originally scheduled to commence on March 30, 2009.

MetroRail will run from downtown to Leaner with stops for Lakeline, Howard, Kramer, Crestview, Highland, MLK, Jr., and Plaza Saltillo. The full 32 mile trip is estimated to take 57 minutes with a maximum speed projected to be as fast as 60 mph. Capital MetroRail will offer service every 35 minutes during morning and afternoon rush hours with fares ranging from $2 to $3 depending on distance. There will also be discounts for monthly passes and certain categories of riders. Senior citizens and children under 6 ride for free.

The pictures are very attractive – it certainly looks like it will be a pleasant ride. For the case against, as always we turn to Mike Dahmus. To my Austin readers, any of you plan on using this? Leave a comment and let me know.

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4 Comments

  1. RBearSAT says:

    I wish they had a more definitive date. I’m planning to be in Austin for SXSW Interactive and it would be great to ride it to the Convention Center. But after a year of uncertainty I can’t plan for it.

    The other issue is that it followed the path of other “we have to have rail” plans and runs on existing tracks that don’t even come close to the core of business and activity downtown, as Mike points out. It’s 2-3 miles from both the State Capitol complex and UT where it could have benefited Austin the most. It’s so far from those areas they have to have two map sections to even show connectivity.

    San Antonio is getting ready to follow that path with Judge Nelson Wolff’s proposal to use existing rail lines for rail in San Antonio. The tracks don’t even come close to the Medical Center where VIA has some of its largest ridership other than downtown. It won’t address the 281 corridor but at least we’ll have rail.

    If you’re going to invest in rail make it count before you make it pretty.

  2. Ginger says:

    I don’t see it having much use for us immediately because we live so far west, but I’m planning to try it out and will report when I do.

  3. Karl-Thomas says:

    So I actually work a few blocks from one of the stations (about halfway between the downtown end station and the central east austin plaza saltillo station). Seeing as I bike to work, this won’t factor in or make my commute any different. So given that it won’t run on weekends, and only runs during commute hours which make it hard for me to go north and come back at a normal hour, there won’t be much use for me on it. And I *want* to have a reason to use it.

    Austin Urban Rail, pushed by the City of Austin and not Cap Metro, will be far more useful if we get it moving, but the fucked up mess of CapMetro with this Red Line may have the unfortunate effect of making arguing for other light rail that actually works that much harder.

  4. M1EK says:

    Thanks for the link, Charles. Ginger, you’d do well to try the express buses in the meantime – they leave from the same park-and-rides (for the most part, and also pick up at some more convenient places in some cases too) and unlike the Red Line, go right past UT and the Capitol and right into the part of downtown where the offices are.