Subway art

Image by Transit Authority Figures

You may have seen the cool subway poster art created and sold by Transit Authority Figures. Clever.

KUT News interviewed Capital Metro’s VP of Planning Todd Hemingson about transit and the feasibility/challenges of creating a real subway system for Austin.

Of course, a main barrier is the cost to build it. Here’s what Todd told the journalist:

“If money were no object, if we had unlimited resources, we would do a ton of this stuff. The challenge we make every day is trying to make our system as good as it can be.

“We would love, even on a simpler scale, to run 15 minute or better bus service on every route in the system all day long. That would be a game changer in terms of making the transit system more attractive, getting more people to use it, and building ridership and building our public credibility and so on.

“There’s plenty of evidence that better quality service achieves much greater ridership. There’s also plenty of evidence that if you can get to this 15 minute threshold, then you’re delivering service at a level that people aren’t scheduling their life around it. They can basically walk out to the nearest stop and know that a bus is coming in the next few minutes.

“The reason we can’t do that is, again it comes back to money, but it’s also land use. Land use doesn’t support that level of service for the vast majority of our service area. There’s only a few places where the ridership warrants that level of service.

“Maybe this is a circular argument of sorts, but it’s all interrelated. If you can’t justify the service based on ridership, and you don’t have the money to provide the service regardless of ridership, what you wind up doing is either providing a lesser quality of service that matches the demand, or you constrict your service and only operate in very few places.”

Check out the transcript of the full interview on KUT News.

7 thoughts on “Subway art

  1. CapMetro should focus on connectivity. Not ridership. Ridership is a trap. When was the last time you heard a city tell a developer to justify building a neighborhood road or culdesac? We have a lot of roads in this town that get 10 drivers a day tops. Lets stop justifying the cost and start justifying the connectivity.

  2. If Capital Metro hadn’t built the Red Line, we’d have a shot at a surface-running rail network that could duplicate the functions of this map. But now we never can – because the Red Line sucked up all the capital we needed and is currently blowing holes in the operating budget (subsidies still around $35/ride last data I got).

    1. Matt

      >>because the Red Line sucked up all the capital we needed

      No, it didn’t. Red line was $100 Million or so. A “surface-running rail network that could duplicate the functions of this map” is _Billions_. The red line is in the noise of the inevitable cost overruns.

      1. Matt, the Red Line cost us about $125-$150 million, depending on who you ask. It also was 100% locally funded, and its operating cost overruns have added on somewhere in the high single digits of millions since it was built.

        A starter urban rail line would only need to be 50% locally funded. But, yes, it would cost more than we’ve spent on the Red Line – the point I was trying to make (poorly) is that without the money we wasted on the Red Line, it’s hard to even get enough together to START urban rail. We need $250M, and we just wasted $125M, and there isn’t any more lying around.

  3. Matt

    >>and is currently blowing holes in the operating budget (subsidies still around $35/ride last data I got).

    Which according to my calculations works out to about $3 Million /year. Sure, let’s cancel the Red Line, and we’ll have enough for your surface rail network in, let’s see… , about a thousand years or so.

  4. Will

    Rail Stinks,Yeah Yeah, Rail Stinks.

    Anyone up for a refremendum divesting Capital Metro? Have the City Of Austin take over the core routes being served by Capital Metro and rename it back to Austin Transit.

    Capital Metro can keep the train and the routes serving the burbs. Let UT run their own bus system, Have the City of Austin Sales Tax only go to the routes it would be running under Austin Transit.

    You want to run Capital Metro like a business than quit taking federal funding, grants, and sales tax. Then with 3 different transit providers: Austin Transit, UT Transit, and Capital Metro which would only run the routes to the suburbs of Austin, and their toy train.

    But wouldn’t you possibly put people out of work?

    YES the overpaid Transit Executives paid for by the working class.

    Oh remember with running a transit agency like a business you have to open yourself up to competition.

    Councilmember William Micheal Martinez, you know so much about running a company like a business? Why don’t you try the abovementioned idea for starters?

    Then if Capital Metro wants to build a subway system like this one as described they can do it on their own revenues which would not be tied in with the sales tax, my tax, or anyone elses.

    That’s a 9-9-9 you can think about!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I am drafting the proposal right now, and when I am finished it is time to petition the City Council and the Mayor Of Austin, and get enough signatures on the ballot to accomplish this task.

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