Downtown Station Almost Complete

We’re excited to announce the Capital MetroRail Downtown Station is expected to be complete this week. The new station is located next to the Austin Convention Center on 4th Street between Neches and Trinity. It’s one of nine stations that will serve Capital Metro’s Red Line between Austin and Leander. MetroRail will open March 30, 2009.

The station features steel canopies, lighting, and accessible ramps. Information display units, digital signs with real-time train arrival information and ticket vending machines will be installed closer to the start of service.

Construction began in August and in addition to the station, Capital Metro improved railroad tracks in the area, made considerable improvements to the sidewalk next to the Austin Convention Center and the Brush Square streetscape and built a portion of the new Lance Armstrong Bikeway.

Once rail service begins, dedicated connector buses will offer quick transfers to their final destinations. Many other local bus routes are within walking distance of the station.

Plans are underway to bring the MetroRail train to the Downtown Station in December for public viewing. Stay tuned for more details.

18 thoughts on “Downtown Station Almost Complete

  1. Don Dickson

    Ditto. I hope some people find it useful. It’s not much use to me. But I’ll be looking forward to taking the ride in the hope of finding some personal use for it.

  2. Misty Whited

    Captial MetroRail will run on existing tracks which made the project much more cost effective. We know the Red Line will not serve everyone but it will be the first step towards multi-modal transit choices for central Texas.

  3. M1EK

    Unfortunately, that’s a load of nonsense, Misty; there is no way this line can possibly serve as a first step anywhere worth going, because the vehicles (and technology) you chose is incompatible with truly urban rail – can’t navigate corners sharply enough to ever go anywhere closer to where the actual commuting demand is.

    To the readers, the best hope for urban rail in Texas is to get the CAMPO TWG plan passed before people realize how awful this commuter rail start is, because while it connects to commuter rail and has a suboptimal route itself, it at least serves a few good sources and destinations directly without requiring transfers.

    It’ll be decades, if ever, before we reach traffic levels which actually make transit trips with transfers anything but a poison pill for choice commuters. Any plan, like this commuter rail debacle, which relies on transfers for most of its ridership is thus doomed to failure.

  4. martin

    In the Statesman today Commissoner Ekhardt mentioned a ‘second phase’ of the readline in her editorial (12/01/08). If I read it correctly she’s not talking about the seperate line to Elgin/Manor or the ‘urban rail’ to the Airport and Mueller. I’ve heard other mentionings of an expansion and/or more stops on this ‘red line’ in the future. Would you consider doing a post here about those options or point me to where details of the ‘second phase’ may be found? I’m very interested. Like many here I’m ready to get Austin into real rail solutions. Thank you.

  5. M1EK

    Actually, I would guess Eckhardt is referring to the Elgin line – which has been a subject of interest for her for quite some time now. The story wasn't an editorial; it was an article by Ben Wear and the topic was the original contention that toll revenues could be used for passenger rail in the same vicinity – hence, US290E –> Elgin rail.

    The only extension to the Red Line ever discussed is bringing it to Brazos, which is as far as it could feasibly go (since as I said before, the vehicles can't make turns downtown). It would require either condemning a downtown block or an incredibly long bridge over Shoal Creek just to bring it to Seaholm, where it would have to be roughly on 3rd street to work.

  6. EasyRider

    I’m no rail expert, but I do know that I’m looking forward to riding this thing to work downtown every day. And lots of my coworkers are too. I won’t be too vain to get on a bus or walk a few blocks to get from the station to my building.

  7. Erica McKewen

    Martin, I read that editorial today, too, and there is a phase two of the Red Line. Phase two includes buying six more train vehicles and upgrading various track sidings and signals so that the Red Line can operate during midday, too. When the Red Line begins service in March, it will operate during the morning and afternoon rush hours only.

  8. Erica McKewen

    m1ek, you may have missed Eckhardt’s article today if you read the paper online…it was in the print version of the paper but I didn’t see it online. But. I hope that you will read it because the gist of her article was how much this area needs a multi-modal transportation system that would include Rapid Bus, HOV, toll lanes, rail, bus, etc.

    (Note, that would include commuter rail AND light rail… room in this growing town for both, you know! ;))

  9. M1EK

    Erica, “multi-modal” is usually shorthand for “you’re going to have to transfer if you want to get anywhere worth going”, which means that people who are currently driving to work (choice commuters) aren’t going to be interested unless traffic has reached Manhattan-like levels. And this commuter rail line has destroyed the possibility of a high-quality light rail starter line like every other successful city in the country has done (it’s using part of the right-of-way 2000’s LRT proposal relied on for such high ridership projections).

    EasyRider, if they aren’t willing to take a two-seat ride straight to their offices today (drive to park-and-ride, ride express bus), why on earth would you be willing to take a three-seat ride instead (drive to park-and-ride, ride train, transfer to shuttle bus)?

    And it’s not ‘a few blocks’ or people being lazy. Transit research all around the country shows that for the average person to ride transit frequently, it needs to bring them within a quarter-mile of their destination.

  10. martin

    We’ve got to start somewhere, right? Ok, I agree with you that we didn’t start in the right place. But, we did try. A good proposal got voted down 8 years ago, and that’s a shame. I and many others (about half the voters) voted for it, but it wasn’t enough. No doubt, times and attitudes have changed since then, but by how much I don’t know. Not enough to have a monumental shift in attitude, auto use and land use, but I do see things changing more and more. I mean, look at downtown!
    It’s not perfect, I think most agree. But repeating that it’s not perfect over and over again is really not going to change anything. I think Austin has not been the hare in the transit race, but hopefully we’ll end up being a tortoise.

  11. EasyRider

    M1EK, I’m definitely willing to leave the car at the Northwest lot and take the train downtown instead of my current commute on the express bus. I like the express bus, but traffic is so unpredictable on 183 and 35. It was backed up big time on 35 this morning, so my bus arrived later than usual. I hope you can at least acknowledge that there are people like me and my coworkers out there who will use the train even if you don’t like it.

  12. M1EK

    Martin, it’s not just that this Red Line isn’t perfect, it’s that it cannot be evolved into something better – ever. The vehicles cannot ever go where they need to go, and choice commuters will not accept transfers as part of their daily commute.

    EasyRider, the shuttle-bus won’t be any more reliable than the express bus is, since it has to go through traffic as well, and you have to add the time it takes to disembark the train and fill up the shuttle bus (ever completely filled a bus before? Even without payment it’s not an instantaneous process).

    My belief is that the express bus will be a fair amount quicker (and a lot less hassle) than the train+shuttle combo, and in the same ballpark for reliability. And if you’re planning on walking the half-mile or more from the ‘downtown’ station to the typical downtown office building, you need to factor in that time as well (most people won’t – the time investment is way too large – which is why the “quarter-mile rule” exists in the first place).

    If we’re only marginally attractive to people who already ride the bus, and not at all to those who don’t, the battle is already lost anyways. And apparently you’re actually one of those folks currently riding the bus.

  13. martin

    “it cannot be evolved into something better – ever”

    ok… and…?
    I don’t remember anyone saying this is the one and only non-auto or transit solution that we are going to pursue in this city. In fact, I think it is exactly the opposite. Anyone who thinks this red line is the end all be all is silly. It’s not the end all, it never will be (agreeing with you here) and furthermore I don’t remember anyone ever saying it would be that way.
    I think with more transit improvements, improvements in land use, a cultural shift from cars, an economic shift from cheap oil and better transit-based policy and planning our overall transit system will be better. The red line is a *part* of this.
    Like I said (and you said), probably not the best starting point or ending point, but it is what it is. Can we move on to a more constructive and holistic look at the future of transit in Austin?

  14. M1EK

    Martin, others are pushing for additional lines just like this one, with all the liabilities this one has, instead of investing in a second-best but at least not-awful solution that’s already on the table (the CAMPO TWG plan – which doesn’t run on the #1 corridor where rail really belongs, but unlike the Red Line’s DMU vehicles, at least has the possibility of going there someday).

    Those that think the Red Line can be fixed with transfers to a better circulator ignore history at their own peril. Choice commuters don’t accept transfers unless the driving environment is Manhattan-like in expense and hassle.

  15. Don Dickson

    We’re not Manhattan-like in terms of expense and hassle of downtown driving, but we’re already worse than Dallas and Houston, according to the Dallasites and Houstonians I encounter here in Austin.

    Even if you’ve been to Manhattan, most folks around here have never been drivers in Manhattan, so they aren’t using Manhattan as the measure of what they will or will not do to commute to work. They’re comparing Austin to Dallas and Houston. And Austin is beginning to compare very unfavorably with both of those cities in terms of both congestion and cost and availability of parking.

    Congestion here will probably never rival Manhattan, and the cost of parking here – no matter how high it gets (and honestly it can’t get high enough to make me happy) – will never rival the cost of parking in midtown Manhattan.

  16. M1EK

    Don, the point is that even in Manhattan, which blows us away in terms of how bad driving is, the transit agency is spending billions (billions!) to bring the LIRR a bit closer in – even though THEIR transfer is far superior to what we’ll ‘enjoy’ with the Red Line.

    So the chances that a lot of people who won’t ride the express bus today will cheerfully take the new train once they figure out they have to then transfer to a shuttle bus is effectively zero.

    Remember, we’re not talking about people who ride the bus today. If that’s all we get to ride commuter rail, it is a dismal failure.

  17. Eraofbarrera

    I would like to see better connectivity with the Convention center. Much of the transit stop is open to the environment and it would be much more convenient to have covered awnings leading up to the stop.There are many ways to do this and keep with architectural design.

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