Great Things are in the Works: MetroRail Undergoing Expansion

RailMetroRail riders have experienced some delays in recent weeks due to “technical issues” or “track and systems maintenance,” leading many riders to ask, “Why?” In short, MetroRail is responding to significant growth.

MetroRail’s Red Line is just shy of being six years old but the service has come a long way since its modest beginnings. Ridership more than quadrupled by 2014 — and is growing still. Our trains, which run every 30 minutes during peak travel times, accommodate a lot of riders, but as ridership continues to grow, more capacity is needed to meet the demand. Ridership on MetroRail now averages over 66,000 boardings a month, and riders will tell you they often experience “standing room only” during peak weekday service. The Red Line is also heavily used during multiple mega events (SXSW, ACL, Formula 1, etc.) held in Austin each year.

MetroRail 2014 Ridership Chart
Highlighted figures include SXSW ridership.

 

Capital Metro is happy that more riders are choosing to take MetroRail. Even so, we know that it is crucial to meet the growing ridership demand and expand the service so that more people can ride. Capital Metro recently received important support, a federal TIGER grant and a TxDOT grant, to enhance the existing Red Line.

 

These two grant resources are being used to double the frequency of trains, which will double the capacity of MetroRail and also allow trains to run faster on parts of the track.

MetroRail DP VideoImprovements include:

  • Four new trains
  • A permanent, improved Downtown Station
  • Upgrades to existing track and trains
  • Additional track in some locations
  • Signal technology enhancements

(For more details about MetroRail expansion projects, see the video Driving Progress)

Now Under Construction

Ongoing track maintenance is currently being performed; new track is being installed in some places and electronic operating systems are being upgraded and tested.

Work SignWhile work is being performed or during testing, riders may experience delays. As with road construction projects, slow travel on the track may be necessary for the safety of both riders and workers. We are unable to perform some work during non-passenger service hours because the track is used by freight service during MetroRail’s “off” hours. Our goal is to minimize delays and service disruptions during the expansion process.

New trains have been ordered and work on track expansion-related projects will begin in the fall. The enhanced MetroRail service is slated to be complete in 2018. In the meantime, we’ll continue to notify you throughout the project when delays occur. We apologize, in advance, for any inconvenience this may cause. It is our hope that you consider these growing pains as a sign of good things to come: more trains running more frequently – and faster – so more people can enjoy the ride.

We post service delays of 15 minutes or longer on Twitter and Facebook. In addition, delays of one hour or more are posted on our website and app, and subscribers receive rider alerts.

____________________________________________

dictionaryHere are some handy terms to help better understand postings about MetroRail service delays:

Technical issue – An electrical issue causing a crossing malfunction or signal disruption.

Mechanical issue – An engine or train malfunction.

Unauthorized vehicle on track – A vehicle other than the train stopped or stalled on the tracks or on a crossing.

Unauthorized person on track – A trespasser is on or too close to the tracks.

Incident near track – A situation near the track which is impeding safe travel by the train (examples: gas leaks, ruptured water pipelines, fires, police activity).

Slow boarding – Typically experienced during well-attended special events when large crowds take more time to get on and off the train at stops, causing train delays.

Track maintenance – Performed on an ongoing basis to keep the track in a state of good repair. Occasionally, track maintenance may also be required after an extreme weather event (examples: ice or flooding) or when debris is obstructing the track.

System maintenance – Performed on an ongoing basis to keep signal and crossing systems in a state of good repair.

Bus shuttle – When service is disrupted between two or more stations, buses may transport riders between the affected stations.

Follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook, download the CapMetro App, or subscribe to receive rider alert emails for updates during delays.

28 thoughts on “Great Things are in the Works: MetroRail Undergoing Expansion

  1. Novacek

    I’m very excited about the metrorail expansions. But once those are in place, please begin looking at adding stations.

    The Wooten Neighborhood needs station access. The train literally runs through people’s backyards, and yet they have a 3 mile walk to the nearest station.

    We get the increased noise and increased local congestion from crossings from the frequency increases, but so far see little benefit. Obviously when metrorail was still so capacity-limited, it didn’t yet make sense, but now it begins to.

    1. Capital Metro

      Hello Novacek,
      Thanks for your feedback. We’re glad to hear that more people are seeing the benefits of transit in their local communities and neighborhoods. I will pass your comments along to our planning department. ^AP

    2. I’m certainly for adding connectivity to the Rail and Bus stations. Especially through Wooten and Crestview I’ve been advocating for funding and constructing the RedLine trail from Lamar to Anderson and beyond.

      But, I’m curious about the “3 mile walk to the nearest station” for Wooten? Even at the farthest northwest corner of Wooten to the Crestview Station is just 3 miles, yet at that point, you’re just 1.5 miles from Kramer. Is there a walking route or part of the neighborhood I’m missing?

      1. Novacek

        I was using walking distance rather than “crow’s flight” distance.

        Especially for some of the interior Wooten lots, the former is quite a bit more than the later (lack of gridded streets, obstructing highways, etc). Some are closer, but I don’t think any resident of Wooten(even at the edges) is closer than 1.2 miles to Crestview by walking distance (Kramer is much further).

        The Red Line trail (which I also support) would narrow the gap slightly. Or if nothing else, it would be a safer and more pleasant route than walking along Burnet and the 183 access road (with missing sidewalk sections).

    3. Joshua Merritt

      Couldn’t agree more with this. I live in Wooten (near Mullen & Anderson), and the track does indeed run straight through the neighborhood — but it’s a 1.7 mile (33 minute) walk to Crestview Station. Kramer Station, which someone below suggests as being a viable station for Wooten residents, is 3.3 miles, or over an hour by foot.

      A stop on Anderson Ln. would serve a large amount of both Wooten and Crestview residents for whom Crestview Station, which does not have parking, is inaccessible or unrealistic as a viable commuter option.

      Strongly support.

    1. Capital Metro

      Hello Bob,
      Yes, once funding for a project like this is awarded, it takes some time to receive and award bids for engineering/construction contracts, complete environmental studies, install additional tracking, build a new Downtown Station, and order/build new trains. We’re excited to be able to offer this to our riders in the near future! ^AP

  2. Although I’m pleased to see the MetroRail service expanding, I’m concerned about the increased delays that higher frequency will cause along heavy auto traffic areas like the North Lamar corridor. I watch this area back up heavily on a daily basis due to rail blocking the crossing. Is this being taken into account?

    1. Capital Metro

      Hi Tyler, We take traffic flow into consideration. I’ll pass along your comments to our planning department so that they are aware of your concern. ^AP

  3. Haley

    Expected completion is 2018. Will we see any added benefits before then? Like, will more trains be added sooner, resulting in runs every 15 minutes during rush hour? Or will we have to wait until 2018 for that?

    1. Capital Metro

      Hi Haley,
      The expanded service will be launched in 2018. All of the components must be in place for service to be more frequent. Greater frequency is possible when there are not only more trains, but also when double tracking is available in some locations along the corridor, as this will allow trains to run simultaneously in N-S and S-N directions. ^AP

  4. Carl

    I ride the train every day to work downtown so I am excited to hear about increased capacity. One concern I have is if anything is going to be done to address parking at some of the outer stations.

    I ride from the Kramer station and many people park on the street along Brockton Dr and Beatrice Cove. Recently these streets have been completely full of parked cars. There are usually hundreds of empty parking spaces in the parking lots of surrounding businesses but it is either unclear whether parking is allowed here or they have put up signs expressly forbidding CapMetro parking so I avoid parking there.

    At the Highland station it is also unclear if parking is available across Airport at ACC Highland Mall. I understand that other parts of Highland Mall are under construction and that may restrict the available parking, but there are still plenty of open spots there every time we go by.

    1. Capital Metro

      Hi Carl, Yes, we recognize that we need more parking so that more people can take the train to downtown and other Austin locations. We are in the process of adding parking at some of our Park & Rides; Lakeline and Howard being the first two. We are looking to expand others as well–and build additional Park & Rides. Please see 2:05 on our Driving Progress video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5G1e8Vth_Y . We also regularly seek additional parking for our riders, working with businesses located around our Park & Rides. Surrounding businesses may decide, however, to save their parking for their customers, and not allow transit riders to park in their lots. ^AP

    1. Novacek

      That article is a bit hard to parse (it seems to be missing punctuation). But I interpret

      “$28 million has been spent to purchase four new train cars That expenditure which will double the number of trains running on the rails to eight starting in 2017.”

      to mean the # of trains is doubling in 2017, not the frequency yet.

      1. SR

        The # of trains doubling implies more capacity (cars) then before 2018, even if they aren’t running any faster? Is that accurate that this is coming in 2017?

        1. Capital Metro

          Hello SR, We’re expecting to launch the additional train cars into service in 2018, when sections of additional tracking, the new Downtown Station, and signaling enhancements are complete. ^AP

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  6. UM

    I was excited for my kids start taking CapMetro and bus to school this year to help ease the burden of the Leander – East Austin daily commute. However, I was extremely disappointed to find out that it’s too crowded for this to be a viable option for the commute home. We drive north to the Leander Station in the morning so that they can get guaranteed seats next to one another. However, for the commute home, they are not comfortable pushing their way into the train car which they need to do at the Highland Station during evening rush hour. We’d be ok with standing room only but it truly requires pushing into a crowd of people just to board the train. I’m not sure the 31-day commuter pass is worth it to only be able to commute one-way (in the mornings). I wish there were some other options other than waiting two years.

  7. Kerry Watson

    That’s just great, but what about parking? Ridership is limited by FULL CAPACITY LOTS! Riders all cram onto early trains so they can get a parking space, then later trains are empty. Where is the parking planning, please?

    1. Capital Metro

      Hi Kerry, Thanks for asking about this. You’ll be happy to know that there is a plan and we are already working on some of these projects. In fact, we broke ground on Lakeline Park & Ride expansion back in October and it is expected to be complete in March. The Howard Park & Ride expansion will follow soon after. Those are currently the most-used. We are also looking to add Park & Rides to the system and are working with local communities to do so. ^AP

  8. Gabriel Chavez

    Will Howard Station is going to have later southbound hours. Like after 7.

    Will Downtown Austin have a late northbound hours on weekends?? like after 2-3 am?

    I’m not able to use MetroRail for work, not for going out… Truly sucks.

  9. Melissa Lynn Pollard

    It would be nice if you would serve West Austin. All the way from Four Points, down 620, to Oak Grove Plaza. All of this is Austin and there is NOT ONE bus there. In Impact Magazine, a Capital Metro rep said there were van pools, and that way, you wouldn’t “HAVE TO TAKE THE BUS.” Why is it a HAVE TO in order to take the bus. What if you WANT TO or NEED TO? A van pool serves such few people. What about a bus? Austin pays taxes for Capital Metro bus. Why doesn’t Austin get the bus throughout Austin? No wonder we needed Uber and Lyft and etcetera. Because Capital Metro isn’t doing its job! It is inefficient and doesn’t get me to where I need to go. So I can’t ride it. How about taking some cars off the road? How about really doing the research? How about getting paid based upon the areas and the people you are serving? How about leaving Austin and letting a new company come and serve us properly!!!

    1. Novacek

      No it’s not.

      Down 620 southwest of 4 points to Oak Grove Plaza isn’t in Austin.

      It’s in Austin ETJ or Lakeway. A small portion is in Austin limited purpose.

      So no, it’s not paying Austin taxes.

      Oak Grove Plaza is in Lakeway. If you want bus service in Lakeway, get Lakeway to join CapMetro.

          1. Melissa Lynn Pollard

            Novacek, Thanks! Wow. That is GREAT information. Why in the heck didn’t anyone explain this to me before? I have dropped in on a CAMPO (yes I know it’s not Cap Metro) workshop and all they said was there was a problem crossing the river since there are only so many places to cross. I looked at the pdf map you gave a link to. Thanks TONS! I’ll leave my post up in case it helps anyone else. *sigh*

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