Doug Allen presentation about the future of the Red Line

About 60 people logged in to hear Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer Doug Allen discuss the future of the Red Line. Several people have asked for a recording of the webinar that could be downloaded since they were not able to participate live. We did record the webinar, but the recording did not capture the audio. We are working with the online meeting host to see if it can be retrieved from their servers. In the meantime, here are the presentation slides that Doug discussed. When/if the recording is available we will certainly post it and let everyone know.

8 thoughts on “Doug Allen presentation about the future of the Red Line

  1. chrysrobyn

    I’m a little disappointed I can’t read all the words (like page 13) because they’re too small, but there were a few things I was happy to see. The plan for expansion by adding cars is something I didn’t expect. Is finding room for bikes an ongoing problem?

    I’m still hoping to see some kind of purpose statement. Is the purpose to get cars off the roads and reduce the cost and frequencies of highway and artery expansions? Is the purpose to provide low cost transportation for those who can’t afford cars? How does the Red Line measure up to meaningful metrics? Is the purpose to attract Blackberry wielding professionals? This presentation is an information dump without providing guidance for how to interpret it. “Riders per day” is nice, but is the Red Line stimulating the downtown economy at the cost of more localized businesses? Or is it getting people downtown who would have taken a car? How well is it displacing bus riders — have 90% of the 980,981, 982 and 983 started taking the train instead, or is it closer to 110%?

    Does increasing frequency to 30 minutes (p 11) decrease the overall subsidy per rider? I would have appreciated seeing page 8 have an annotation with the number of riders per trip originally suggested to the voters — wasn’t that 150?

    1. Hi, chrysrobyn. Sorry for the delay in responding to your questions. TOD Manager Lucy Galbraith helped me with this and I want to give her credit here, since it’s mostly her words I’m sharing. Also, in the webinar, Doug committed to answering all of the questions received, and he’s in the process of doing that. I have added your questions to the list, so there’ll probably be a more detailed answer soon. I will keep you posted.

      Is finding room for bikes an ongoing problem?

      Finding room for bikes is a challenge, especially as ridership goes up, since one bike takes the space of several people. One way we are planning to help with this is by providing secure places to leave a bike at one end of your trip, i.e., building bike cages with secure access. We hope to have a pilot project done this year. (This won’t relieve all need for bikes, but will help for those who only need a bike on one end of their trip.)

      I’m still hoping to see some kind of purpose statement. Is the purpose to get cars off the roads and reduce the cost and frequencies of highway and artery expansions? Is the purpose to provide low cost transportation for those who can’t afford cars?

      The short answer is, transit does all of the above. It provides commuter options for those who would otherwise have long drives. Transit also provides access to jobs, healthcare, and education for those who can’t afford cars, or those who can’t drive for some treason. (About 40% of the population does not drive, being either too young, too old, too poor, or having some condition that keeps them from driving a car.)

      Specifically for the Red Line, a major purpose is to provide infrastructure that supports walkable urban communities around stations. The Austin region has many options for those who want a low-density suburban development and very few options for those who want something more urban. Transit supports this type of development. The cities of Austin and Leander have made transit-oriented development an important part of their planning to accommodate future growth.

      How does the Red Line measure up to meaningful metrics?

      Regarding metrics, metrics on ridership and cost are standard and available from the first day of operation. Metrics on development take longer and are more complex to put together. We do know that Crestview Station’s Midtown Commons residential is fully leased, the nearby BlackStar BrewPub Coop is doing very well, Circle Brewing just opened near Kramer Station, and we look forward to the opening of M Station this summer.

      “Riders per day” is nice, but is the Red Line stimulating the downtown economy at the cost of more localized businesses?

      Stimulating Downtown is good for the region, which is why it is an important part of Austin’s planning. Stimulating growth around the stations creates value in compact places, creates opportunities for neighborhood businesses, and is consistent with the City’s planning. Infrastructure always changes the location economics in a region, but it is very difficult to know how much is relocation and how much is new. We do know that locating the same number of jobs or residents closer in raises the property tax base, since the underlying location value is then leveraged by the development.

      Or is it getting people downtown who would have taken a car? How well is it displacing bus riders — have 90% of the 980,981, 982 and 983 started taking the train instead, or is it closer to 110%?

      Yes, it displaces some cars, and probably some bus service, but when we looked at this in December, the numbers didn’t add up. We are going to look at this again this spring with the newer data to try to determine to what degree bus riders have been displaced. The figures are further complicated by the fact that other factors change, too. (Gas prices go up, schedule changes)

  2. Regarding the size of the slides, on the lower left where it says “menu”, if you click there you can view the slides full screen, and you’ll be able to read everything, including the text on slide 13.

  3. I just moved to Cedar Park this week and was excited to find a metro! I am sad that there currently isn’t a stop in Cedar Park but looks like one is in the works! My car hasn’t shipped here yet but it looks like in the future I probably won’t need a car if everything goes to plan. It’ reminds me of my trip to Europe. I traveled between countries, cities and the inter-city by train and metro and have always wished that some where in the US they had the same systems. Looks like it’s going in the right direction!

  4. Erich

    As a business commuter it would be nice if the Wifi could be fixed. The connection is very spotty between MLK and crestview… I should know… this post if coming from the 101 train southbound 🙂

    1. Erich

      ohh.. and odd question.. .why are the benches on the Kramer station not covered like the others from Kramer to DT?? I just happened to notice that.

  5. Adam

    We received many more questions than we had time to answer during the webinar. Here are some additional answers:

    Q: Given that Capital Metro does not serve the densest parts of town with rail, why should those parts of town support the Red Line, when it will compete for funding and attention with a line that will (city plan)?

    A: People in parts of town not directly served by rail should support the Red Line because it is the first part of what will become a more comprehensive system to meet our region’s transportation needs. The Red Line is just the beginning of a regional network of high capacity transit options to serve our community. As with most large systems, it cannot be completely built out at once; you have to start with a few pieces. The growing ridership of the Red Line indicates that there is certainly demand for this kind of transit service, and we are working with other regional transportation agencies and municipalities, including out partners at the city of Austin, to ensure that we are all moving forward together on developing a regional system that will work for central Texas. This kind of cooperation will ensure that all the various projects do not compete with each other for funding or attention. In addition, people not currently served directly by the Red Line may wish to support it because it takes cars off the road, and in essence, provides additional roadway capacity, helps improve air and water quality, reduces vehicle miles traveled, and a host of other regional quality of life goals that our community largely supports.

    Q: How can you characterize Midtown Commons as a TOD when it’s somewhat less dense (in developed areas) than the Triangle, which has no rail access?

    A: So far as we can tell, there is not much difference in the densities of Midtown Commons and the Triangle development. In any case, Midtown Commons at around 31 dwelling units per acre is plenty dense to qualify as a neighborhood transit-oriented development (TOD). Capital Metro expects more TOD (of varying intensities) to pick up steam as the real estate market rebounds. In fact, there have been recent expressions of interest and new activity at many of the stations along the Red Line in recent months. Only time will tell what development comes to fruition, but MetroRail and the TOD it will engender are long-range projects that will mature over many years.

    Q: What is the time line and anticipated steps for the Regional System Plan?

    A: The Regional Transit System Plan (we need a catchier name) will begin this month and will include several public meetings later this spring and fall to gather community input throughout the region. We hope to have the plan completed and adopted by all the participating partners by early 2012.

    Q: Why no circulator bus into the Domain?

    A: Capital Metro has been working with the Domain folks to obtain approval for our buses to travel on their property. The street networks within the Domain are private, so we are required to have a legal agreement in place in order to provide transit service on those streets. At this time, an agreement has not been approved. It is unlikely that Capital Metro will be able to gain this approval in the near future. Thus, for the August 2011 Service Changes, we are proposing to realign service to other area activity centers. More information on those proposals is available here:

    Q: How much of the increase in ridership the last two months do you attribute to warmer weather in the last 2 months?

    A: While the very cold weather we saw in early February probably kept some riders away, we don’t think that warmer weather necessarily played a significant role in increased ridership. The current trend is most likely attributable to increased awareness of MetroRail service (you would be surprised how many people have only recently discovered that the train is running!), the addition of mid-day service in January, and rising gas prices.

    Q: When we implement BRT through Downtown, does that preclude the city from moving forward with an urban rail system down the same corridor?

    A: We do not believe so. However, to be more confident that these two services potentially sharing the same lane through downtown will not cause significant operational issues, Capital Metro and the city of Austin recently approved of an interlocal agreement to collaborate on a modeling study. The study will identify any potential issues that may arise on a shared corridor and make recommendations on how best to move forward.

    Q: During SXSW, some passengers had difficulty getting from Kramer Ln to their hotels late at night. Any possible solutions?

    A: Which hotels were they trying to reach? If they were staying in the Arboretum area, Route 3 from Burnet & Braker (near Kramer Station) connects to the Arboretum. We also noticed that several hotel shuttles came to the Kramer station to pick up passengers.

    Q: Are the current Stadler Red Line vehicles safe and proper to use in downtown Austin?

    A: Yes. The rail cars currently travel in downtown Austin along 4th Street from I-35 to the Downtown Station on the North side of the Austin Convention Center.

    Q: What is the status of the rail bridges that were identified as needing major repairs?

    A: First, it’s important to note that all bridges on the line are maintained for safe operations. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t be running trains on them. The four bridges most in need of work are in the final stages of design for replacement. We expect the bid packages for three of the bridges to be released for competitive proposals this summer. The fourth bridge will most likely follow two to three months later. We are in the final stages of detailed maintenance work for the remaining bridges that needed repair.

    Q: What is the status of Capital Metro’s plans for redevelopment and use of its property between Plaza Saltillo and I-35?

    A: Capital Metro is exploring ways to fund the site preparation needed for redevelopment. More info is posted on our website here under Market Studies here:

    Q: What about connector service to Lakeline Mall?

    A: You can get to Lakeline Mall from Lakeline Station via Route 383 Research.

    Q: WiFi needs help if it’s going to be 1 of 3 major value propositions.

    A: The current WiFi system on both MetroRail trains and MetroExpress buses was implemented for basic use such as checking email or browsing the internet, but not for video or gaming. Bandwidth is very limited, and we know that there are locations along the rail line with low signals, just like you would experience on a cell phone in a moving vehicle. There are some possibilities for improvement, but some would result in a significant increase in cost, and perhaps the need to pass along some of those costs to users. We will keep looking at ways to cost-effectively enhance this free (and very popular) service.

    Q: The current fare structure makes little sense for people only traveling in zone 1 – one way (2 hrs) for $1, but a day pass is $5.50. Moreover, the regional 7 and 31 day passes are based on zone 2 pricing. Why not have passes for zone 1?

    A: With our current fare system we are unable to add additional passes because we’ve reached the limit for the different types of fare media that our equipment can accommodate. We are still evaluating the entire fare structure and may recommend further changes to simplify the system. If anything develops, we will be sure to seek community input before any changes are made.

    Q: Can you discuss how transit oriented development might integrate into this planning effort?

    A: All transportation planning in our region utilizes (or should) the CAMPO 2035 Regional Growth Concept as a starting point. The activity centers adopted as part of CAMPO’s growth concept are an integral component of the region’s adopted long range plan. Any transportation projects applying for federal funding are required to conform to the adopted plan. Refinements based on local planning will be incorporated into projections of demand. For example, the city of Austin is developing a Comprehensive Plan that will inform any detailed transportation planning for the city.

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