Capital Metro has been working to put in place a positive train control (PTC) system along the 32-mile MetroRail line. We have now met an important threshold by completing all of the statutory requirements to qualify for an extension to the federally mandated deadline of Dec. 31.
PTC is a technological upgrade of the nation’s rail lines designed to create an additional layer of safety to rail. Congress mandated the improvements back in 2009 and gave rail operators until the end of this year to implement PTC.
The good thing is that Capital Metro has met all of the statutory requirements, which enables us to request the extension. Essentially, that means we’ve demonstrated sufficient progress on the project to convince the government that we’re on our way to full implementation. The Federal Railroad Administration is now reviewing our request, and we expect to receive notice of approval within 90 days. Until then, Capital Metro will continue to operate and continue work on PTC implementation. That means that customers will still occasionally experience disruptions to MetroRail service during this work.
Cap Metro is among many rail operators across the country to request this extension, including Caltrain in the San Francisco Bay area and New Jersey Transit. It allows the agency another two years to fully implement the PTC system, a goal that we are committed to reaching.
Capital Metro will put in place a new MetroRail schedule next week for evaluation. We’ll operate on this new schedule beginning the week of March 19 and evaluate how the service performs. The new schedule was developed in response to recent service disruptions on the MetroRail Red Line.
Please refer to these schedules, beginning March 19:
The agency is currently working on two major construction projects along the 32-mile rail line. These projects are an investment in the future of MetroRail, and will pay off with doubled frequency and capacity. Capital Metro is building additional passing points along the MetroRail route that will enable the service — once the new Downtown Station is completed — to double its frequency and capacity. The other project is implementing a federally mandated positive train control system, which will ensure the long-term safety and security of the service.
The projects will continue throughout 2018, and some service disruptions can be expected for the remainder of the year. During the week of March 19, though, we will evaluate the new schedule, which should minimize service disruptions. To ensure the transition will be seamless, routes for rail connector buses have been adjusted as well.
MetroRail riders — and probably anyone within regular earshot of MetroRail riders — have noticed that the service has had difficulty as of late keeping to its schedule. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused and for the disruption to your plans. But let us try to explain what’s happening, what’s causing the delays and what we’re trying to do to remedy the situation.
First, the delays themselves.
Since January, MetroRail trains have experienced delays of anywhere between 5 and 45 minutes. It hasn’t happened every day, but often enough. And, once it starts happening, it’s difficult to get back on schedule, and so brief delays in the morning rush hour can turn into lengthier delays by the evening. The best thing to do is to use the Next Departure feature on the CapMetro App and on our website to determine when your train’s gonna be there.
But what’s causing all this, you’re asking yourself.
Well, here’s the deal … it’s not just one issue, unfortunately. The delays stem from two separate projects that are under construction at the same time. We’re building additional passing points along the MetroRail route that will enable us — once our Downtown Station is completed — to double the frequency and capacity of the service. We are also implementing a federally mandated positive train control system, which will ensure the long-term safety and security of the service.
Train service will be affected in June when Capital Metro makes scheduled upgrades to the MetroRail Red Line on a bridge between Lakeline and Leander Stations. But don’t worry, Leanderites — Leandereans? Leanderthals? Leanderers? Leandermenandwomen? — we’ve got you covered whatever y’all call yourselves.
The last morning departure from Leander to Downtown Station and the first afternoon train from downtown to Leander will not run between Monday, June 5 and Friday, June 30. Capital Metro will instead provide bus service between Lakeline and Leander Stations for those affected by the stoppage.
West Austin Studio Tour is one of the great things Austinites look forward to each spring. Now in its sixth year, 309 participants will open their studios, workshops and galleries for two weekends of self-guided art, exhibition tours, hands-on activities, and more, for visitors of all ages. With only a limited amount of time it’s hard to see it all but, with help from your art-loving friends at Capital Metro, we can help you discover dozens of creative spaces across South Austin.
Capital Metro is taking an exciting step on its way toward doubling both the capacity and frequency of MetroRail service. This week, we received shipment of two new trains from the manufacturer in Switzerland!
The trains were loaded onto a barge in the city of Bussnang in February for a one-month journey to Galveston, arriving last week. From there, they began their journey to Austin on six 90-foot trucks, with three additional escort vehicles. The caravan arrived in Austin around lunchtime today and was escorted by Metro Security and the Austin Police Department to our railyard in North Austin. The trains were unloaded and assembled onto the tracks.
The Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix is returning to Austin Nov. 15 – 17, and Capital Metro is in on the action!
During Formula 1’s premiere in Austin in 2012, the total weekend attendance was over 260,000. As a result of its expanded MetroRail service last year, Capital Metro saw a dramatic surge in weekend ridership, including a 435 percent increase over a typical Saturday.
This year, F1 fans can again take advantage of Capital Metro’s expanded MetroRail service during the weekend. Trains will operate from northwest Austin to downtown on the following schedule:
Saturday, Nov. 16: 8 a.m. – Midnight (Service to all MetroRail stations except Leander)
Sunday, Nov. 17: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Service to all MetroRail stations except Leander)
MetroRail’s route is divided into two fare zones. The cost to ride one zone is $1, or $2.75 if you cross the fare zone boundary between Howard and Kramer stations. You can buy a MetroRail pass at ticket vending machines on station platforms or at the Transit Store, located downtown at 209 W. 9th Street.
The Nov. 15 – 17 weekend will prove to be a busy one, not only because of F1 but also because of Austin Fan Fest and the Nov. 16 UT football game. Buses will run as usual throughout the weekend, though riders can expect some route changes in the downtown area. Detours will begin on Nov. 14. Access all downtown routes – with the exception of MetroAirport – along Guadalupe and Lavaca from Nov. 15 – 18.
MetroAirport service from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to downtown will run its regular schedule from early in the morning until late at night.
Plan your fun! Find the latest F1-related transit information including routes, schedules, detours and a helpful trip planner at capmetro.org/f1.
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.
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.
Capital Metro is among eight transit agencies that were awarded Operation Lifesaver (OLI) rail safety project grants. This grant is part of Capital Metro’s ongoing commitment to safety and will enable our agency to further our efforts in keeping safety our top priority.
What are our plans for the grant?
We’ll target middle school students, by blitzing them with educational materials, a youth-produced video and a 15-month outreach campaign involving peer mentors and lesson plans for educators, a new website and school outreach events.
“Capital Metro has the highest commitment to safety and is very pleased to receive an Operation Lifesaver Rail Transit Safety Education Grant, which will be used for an innovative, yearlong rail safety education program for middle school students,” said Capital Metro President/CEO Linda S. Watson. “This grant affirms our continuing relationship with Operation Lifesaver, and will allow us to partner with Creative Action, the largest provider of after school arts programming in Central Texas, on a totally unique rail safety video that the students themselves will create. Studies show that young people are leaders in public transit usage, and this project will encourage our local students to lead the way in transit safety, as well.”
The evolution of Capital Metro’s commitment to a walkable, bicycle-friendly, connected region continued Friday, August 02, 2013 as the urban trail connecting Crestview and Highland stations officially opened. The nearly one-mile long trail, created in conjunction with the City of Austin, connects transit hubs, businesses and the forthcoming Austin Community College (ACC) Highland Campus.
“The Crestview/Highland trail is really about connections and Capital Metro has been working hard to develop a comprehensive regional system, through efforts like Project Connect, to address the needs of a growing region,” said President/CEO Linda S. Watson. “Providing sustainable, safer transportation options like this trail extend the reach of the transit system and encourage healthy habits that will improve the quality of our communities. It also means we can offer more choices for people to get out of traffic and navigate the community in other ways.”
Joined by partners including the City of Austin, who displayed a demo of the forthcoming bike share program, Bike Austin, Bike Texas and CAMPO, the event showcased the best of what collaboration can do to create meaningful, useful solutions for everyone.