Austin’s New Light Rail Transit, the Bus and Some Other Musings

Most people would agree that Austin needs better public transit. What Austinites cannot agree on is what type of transit, where and at what cost. In my opinion, light rail is an essential element to the evolution of a great city. We cannot depend on upgraded/wider roads to improve our overall transportation systems. I also think it’s smart to take advantage of the federal money which will cover approximately half of the total $550 million it will cost to build the new light rail system. For more information from Impact News click here.

At a cost of $275 million – which is what the City of Austin would have to come up with – many Austinites are having some sticker shock. That’s understandable. This amount doesn’t even cover the annual operating costs of $16 million dollars. Nevertheless, I still think that light rail establishes our city as “green” and “forward-thinking.” It takes into account the ever-increasing population of Austin as a whole, and emphasizes the need for city planners to use better, smart growth solutions, verses ones that encourage sprawl and incongruity among the Austin population.

My only concern is whether or not the new light rail plan addresses population trends within the city. That is, will the light rail be located in areas with the highest population density? It doesn’t seem to. The fact is that most of Austin’s population growth is in South Austin (zip codes 78749, 78748, 78704 & 78741), so a rail line that goes from Mueller development in Northeast Austin through downtown, then along Riverside to the airport would not seem to address population trends.

There is, however, a ray of light for South Austin. Currently, there are plans for a rapid bus transit system that goes from North to South Austin (on both East and West sides). It should be noted that the total cost of this project is $47.6 million with $38 million being paid by the federal government. Surely, an improved bus system will increase use of public transit as a whole, and do something to address Austin’s record-setting population growth.

For now, I would say that investors and buyers in general might want to rethink the Riverside area. Between the light rail, Formula One, Emos, Beauty Ballroom and Riverside’s proximity to downtown, it’s likely to become Austin’s coolest new area to live.

Stuff You Should Know About Austin Transit:
• Free WiFi is available on most bus routes as well as the light rail. Cap Metro is looking into upgrading from a 3G to a 4G network. Click here for additional information.
• The rapid bus system stations will each have a bench, system map, standard route sign and a real-time digital display to show riders the anticipated arrival times of the next two buses. A mobile phone app will also be available.
• Cap MetroRail has a Wikipedia page.
• Cap Metro claims that Austin’s light rail trains are the most technologically advanced trains in North America.




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