Foxx Brings TIGER To Austin

Capital Metro President & CEO Linda S. Watson is by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx
Capital Metro President & CEO Linda S. Watson with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx following the announcement of Capital Metro’s TIGER Grant award.

Thursday marked a historic day for Capital Metro. Joined by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Capital Metro President and CEO, Capital Metro Board Chair Mike Martinez and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, announced that Capital Metro was a recipient of an $11.3-million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grant.

The grant will enable Capital Metro to advance a number of rail improvements, including increasing the speed at which MetroRail trains operate, and beginning or completing several state-of-good- repair projects. Additionally, the funding will provide operational flexibility for future service enhancements.

The $11.3-million TIGER grant will support several commuter and freight rail enhancements at Capital Metro, including:

• Railway and signal timing improvements that will help reduce vehicle delays and rail traffic congestion.

• Commuter rail improvements, including additional sidings and double tracking in the most critical areas, which are projected to increase ridership capacity by 15 percent and reduce commute times by five to ten minutes.

• Freight rail enhancements, including the replacement of several bridges, and rail rehabilitation and realignments that will increase speeds and enhance safety while doubling freight capacity and improving reliability.

“These TIGER projects are the best argument you can make for investment in our transportation infrastructure,” said Secretary Foxx. “Projects such as Austin’s efforts to improve its freight and passenger rail network, ensure a stronger transportation system for future generations by repairing existing infrastructure, connecting people to new jobs and opportunities, and contributing to our nation’s economic growth.”

The reality is, MetroRail ridership is booming. Since the Red Line launched in 2010, ridership is up 225%, proving if you build it, they will come.

Rail Ridership Graph

And come they have. MetroRail is now averaging over 65,000 boardings a month, with trains at full capacity during peak hours. In 2012, we saw our one millionth passenger trip and it’s very clear to that demand is only going to increase as the region continues to grow.

It’s also clear that people have come to view MetroRail as one of their best options to connect to the places and events they want to go.

Take South by Southwest as an example. MetroRail first served the annual conference in 2011 and since then, ridership has increased by over 65%. But it’s not just SXSW — During the inaugural Formula 1 race at the Circuit of the Americas, MetroRail had nearly 14,000 boardings, including almost 2,000 on the special Sunday service that was added to accommodate the demand. We’re expecting even more demand for MetroRail when race fans return to Austin this November. Also, nearly 22,000 people have taken MetroRail to get to the popular Pecan Street Festival since 2010.

The Red Line certainly gets people moving, and gets them to the places they want to be. It also gets them there on time. Historically, MetroRail has an on-time performance record of 99%.

But it’s not just MetroRail ridership that’s increased — economic development along the Red Line is booming.

For example, Midtown Commons is a transit-oriented development located next to Crestview station. Prior to MetroRail, this area was a brownfield—which means it was a former petrochemicals plant. Now, it’s a vibrant and modern, mixed-use development that includes a brewery, retail shops, live & work units, and apartments—with an integrated transit plaza that provides easy access to a wide variety of destinations.

In fact, Midtown Commons Manager, Heidi Piper, has said they located their development at Crestview as a commitment to providing housing in transit-rich locations.

MetroRail has been a factor in more than $95-million in new development so far around Capital Metro’s nine stations, with another $283-million in various stages of development.

Capital Metro was one of 52 recipients of TIGER grants.

More than 585 applications totaling $9 billion in requests were received for this round’s availability of $474 million grants. The money is designated as investments in high-impact port, road, rail and transit projects.

MetroRail's Downtown Station
MetroRail’s Downtown Station

One thought on “Foxx Brings TIGER To Austin

  1. Teleri

    This is not a comment about the rail.
    This is a question + a complaint. I would not use this if the comments and
    complaints sections were up and working or if I could find the section at all.
    I would like to know why the front facing seats in the up front sections of the
    disability section of these mostly older regular buses; they are kept up now. We, the passengers are not allowed to use them. They are kept in the up position. I was riding the # 10 northbound today around 4-5 pm today and those seats were up, as they have been for more than a month and there is a sign posted on them that they are supposed to stay up! I; another
    disabled lady with a cane like myself, and another lady had to stand in the front of the bus. It was extremely painful for me to stand and not fall when the bus started and stopped and braked. I think everyone knows very well, that drivers, never, ever get involved in the bus seating. ( exception-blindness)
    There were 5 grown men who were not disabled sitting on the seats that are sideways. Of course, they did not offer them to us elderly women, even though these seats are designated for disabled passengers.
    What is Cap Metro’s reasoning behind this? It is not helping the passengers.
    When there are no wheelchairs being used, the loss of the 2 extra seats, which can seat at least 2-3 people each is causing a severe disservice to us
    elderly people, handicapped people not in wheelchairs, many mothers with
    small children, plus just simply contributes to overcrowing. We the people demand our seats backs. The only reason I can see is for the benefit of the bus drivers. Are they tired of bending down
    to lower the seat after the people in wheelchairs get off?
    If this is the case; we the people know how to lower these seats ourselves.
    As a matter of fact, the first time I saw the seats up; I did try and I was stopped.
    PPlease respond as soon as possible.
    A disgruntled handicapped passenger.

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