The fate of freight

The freight rail operation is one of the lesser-known components of Capital Metro.  We blogged about the basics last month.  But what’s also important to know is not just that we carry freight on our rail line but that we have to carry it.

Back in the day when Capital Metro acquired the railroad, we inherited a federal common carrier obligation.  Basically this means we’re required to provide service to any freight customers along our line as long as the operation complies with all federal regulations (including FRA safety rules).

Our Board Rail Committee’s been discussing this since there’s a developer planning to build an ethanol distribution facility out near Decker Lane and connect to it via our freight line.

The good news is whatever we carry by freight would otherwise have to be transported by truck, adding to highway congestion and pollution.  Another plus is we estimate that this operation would generate about $250,000 in revenue for Capital Metro each year.

Check out this PowerPoint that our freight manager presented to the Rail Committee earlier this month:

13 thoughts on “The fate of freight

  1. Brad

    I know part of the reason the Red Line isn’t run in the middle of the day or on the weeked is due to the freight service. I don’t understand why the freight can’t run exlusively at night (ie between 12AM-5AM) and free it up for passenger service during the day.

    I know for the LSTAR communter train, relocating the freight is an obstacle, but if the could just run the freight at night, it would solve that problem at basically no costs.

    It seems too obvious, so I’m probably missing or not understanding something.

    1. Adam

      Midday or weekend MetroRail runs are possibilities (among many others not just related to rail) that are being discussed during the budget process for FY2011. But this would narrow the window of opportunity when freight trains and the Austin Steam Train can pass through.

      1. Brad

        How much of a window is needed? How many freight runs are made each day? You would have 5-6 hours each night, which seems like a lot of time.

    2. Erik

      As a result of current MetroRail service hours, the freight that used to pass by my house around midnight now comes through near 2AM. I’m pretty sure pushing things even further into the early hours would further piss off the residents closest to the tracks. Even with “no horn zones” often times the engineers forget and continue to use them. Screw late night “commuter” service to the bars; we don’t need any more reasons to encourage binge drinking.

  2. Brad

    Erik – I understand that’s a concern, but don’t you know that’s a possibility when you buy or rent a place near train tracks? Isn’t that why it was cheaper? Should we close down Mopac or I-35 after 1 AM for the people that live close to them?

    I used to leave about 30 feet from a train corridor in Dallas, and they used to roll through there at 3am and blow their horn, and I just got used to it. I am a heavy sleeper, but I adjusted and just slept through it.

    As for the drinking, good luck with all that. I would rather the train be there in the hopes that it prevents somebody from getting into their car. Plus I think the latest it would run during the week would probablyt 10 or so, right? Were not talking about serving the late night drinking crowd anyways.

  3. Brad

    I just looked up what the Austin Steam Train was. I’m all about the train, that’s why I post on here, but really? We’re letting what is basically a tourist trap take priorty of daily passenger rail? How often does that run? It can’t be very often.

    1. Erik

      txrot, nicely played. Restrooms at transit centers are clearly only desirable for drivers, never passengers. Yet another disconnect.

  4. Kevin

    txrot -extend to midday hours???? why???? so folks can ride to leander and do what, walk across 183 to find a restroom?

    Case in point! My friend is blind and wants to go visit his friend in Burnet. She is willing to pick him up at Leander station & get him back there. However the train schedule is such that he cant visit her on the weekend!! She works through the week-cant visit her then either!! If she were to take a day off work~then he would have to be on the train at 6:41am Downtown to get to Leander at 7:43am ~THIS IS THE ONLY TRIP NORTHBOUND TO LEANDER!
    He would then have to stay until 5:23pm to take the train back downtown AGAIN, THIS IS THE ONLY TRIP SOUTHBOUND TO DOWNTOWN!! Oh, and by the way, he lives off Slaughter Lane -1 mile from Manchaca bus stop! your restroom comment is juvenile.

  5. Erik

    Sure, but your point isn’t representative of a sustainable use-case of which a multi-million dollar “commuter” train system can rely upon for revenue. If you believe the purpose of this system is to replace busses for most people, we’re screwed. Let us not forget that your friend has options such as the #983 Express to Leander station, which departs from DT all the way until 10AM.

    But, the real problem with the case you’re presenting is: even with ‘adequate’ train service connecting with the bus they’d be taking into DT, the trek from Manchaca/Slaughter to Leander is 2hrs each way. With just busses and no train it’s 2.5 per. That’s over 4 hours in travel time for a distance of 40 miles/way.

    The only thing juvenile in this dialog is Cap Metro in its current state.

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