Capital Metro, transit advocates aim to gain momentum on rail planning

The Central Austin Community Development Corporation worked with Civic Analytics to propose a light rail alignment using census data.

The Central Austin Community Development Corporation worked with Civic Analytics to propose a light rail alignment using census data.

More than a year after voters turned down Austin’s $1 billion urban rail and roads bond, transit advocates, including Capital Metro planners, are hoping rail planning can gain steam.

During the city’s Urban Transportation Commission meeting Dec. 8, members heard updates on improvements to the MetroRail Red Line and proposed Green Line to Elgin, Lone Star Rail District’s proposed commuter line connecting San Antonio to Georgetown, Capital Metro’s high-capacity transit planning in the downtown core, and a light rail proposal on Guadalupe Street and North Lamar Boulevard.

UTC members agreed to discuss rail planning efforts at a future meeting where someone from the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization—which coordinates regional transportation planning—could answer questions about how the plans could work together.

“I don’t want to wait another 14 years [for a rail bond],” UTC member Jonathon “JD” Gins said. “I want to send a sense of urgency. Some of these plans have already been out there for a long time. This is the first time they all were presented alongside each other in one meeting. I want to make sure we’re working together on all these ideas.”

Central Corridor The original Project Connect Central Corridor included a core representing the downtown area. The agency plans to incorporate input from the community for future high-capacity transit planning.[/caption]

Central Corridor study


Javier Arguello, Capital Metro’s director of long-range planning, said the city’s transit agency plans to use the remaining $3 million in federal and local dollars from the previous bond election to start a new process for examining high-capacity transit, which includes rail, in the downtown area.

After two failed rail bonds in 2000 and 2014, Arguello said Capital Metro does not want to repeat the same mistakes, and this time it will rely heavily on the community for input. He said the data compiled during the Central Corridor planning process for the rail bond would be used again and reanalyzed.

“How do we address those particular problems the community has already identified?” he said. “We will concentrate on that. It’s just one example the community has highlighted as immediate actions Capital Metro and their partners have to respond to.”

The new process will have four scopes, Arguello said:

Improve existing high-capacity transit investments, including MetroRapid: Arguello said the community has requested better amenities near the line’s stations to be more successful. This include more lighting and wayfinding signs.

Look at future high-capacity transit investments in the Central Corridor: Arguello said during the rail bond planning only one of 10 possible rail corridors was chosen. He said the process will revisit all 10 of those corridors.

Develop a financial plan: This would include public-private partnerships, grants and local funding, Arguello said.

Incorporate community involvement: Arguello said the new Central Corridor process will use existing Capital Metro service plans and partner with its 2025 service plan update that is underway.

“We will identify approaches for each corridor and the cost to show a complete picture of what the system in the Central Corridor will be in the future,” he said.

Gins recommended Capital Metro tries another brand for the new process.

“The well has been poisoned on [the name Project Connect],” he said.

He said he believes voters would approve more money for rail, but for a bond to be successful, voters need to know how they could benefit from rail.

“We ignore the suburbs,” Gins said. “People hate the traffic, but if you need the voters in Circle C and Northwest Hills, then we have to show what’s in it for them.”

Citywide light rail system proposal The Central Austin Community Development Corporation worked with Civic Analytics to create a light rail route using census data.[/caption]

Light-rail proposal


Scott Morris, a rail advocate and director of the Central Austin Community Development Corporation—an organization that aims to make the city a livable, safe and diverse community—brought his citywide light rail system proposal to the meeting.

Morris and many others opposed the city’s rail bond because of the proposed route along East Riverside Drive, Trinity Street and Red River Street to the Austin Community College Highland Campus. Instead he supported a route along Guadalupe Street and North Lamar Boulevard.

That route was one of the top 10 proposals recommended by the community in the MobilityATX initiative designed to gather solutions to traffic congestion. Civic Analytics worked with the CACDC to create a new light rail route using 2010 Census blocks. The groups plotted the densest areas and connected the dots using major arterials.

What resulted was a line with termini at North Lamar and Rundberg Lane and at Pleasant Valley Road and William Cannon Drive. The route would run along Lamar, Guadalupe, East Riverside Drive and Pleasant Valley. Within a half-mile of the route 136,450 people would be served as well as 171,206 jobs.

Future phases could include routes to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and to the intersection of Hwys. 290 and 71, and connect to the MetroRail Red and Green lines and Lone Star Rail.

“We think it’s very doable to just have the engineering for the minimum operable segment passed in [a 2016 bond] to authorize the city to fund that,” Morris said, adding another bond could fund the construction.

Included in CAMPO’s 2040 long-range transportation plan is a line item for $498 million for high-capacity transit in the downtown Austin area.

“CAMPO planners had the initiative to put high-capacity transit in the 2040 plan,” Morris said. “They have not given up on high-capacity transit in the Central Corridor.”
By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and later senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 10 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels.



MOST RECENT

The Austin Trail of Lights will open nighly from Nov. 28 through Dec. 31. (Courtesy Trail of Lights Foundation)
PHOTOS: Austin Trail of Lights returns to Zilker Park this week

The traditional holiday light show is open from Nov. 28 through New Year's Eve.

Commissioners on Nov. 22 voted to approve a density change to preliminary plans for The Preserve, a neighborhood that city documents said could include 565 single-family homes at the northeast corner of Teel and Panther Creek Parkways. (Courtesy city of Frisco)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Neighborhood near PGA Frisco could see larger lots; ERCOT says Texas power grid ready for expected winter demand and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Nov. 24.

The utility's board of directors will vote on the proposed changes at December's meeting. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
PEC members ask board to not raise solar rates

The utility's board of directors will vote on the proposed changes at December's meeting.

Local and state officials have made statements welcoming Samsung to Taylor following the announcement that the city will be home to its new $17 billion semiconductor fabrication plant. (Courtesy KXAN)
State, local officials react to Texas governor, Samsung joint announcement

Local and state officials have made statements welcoming Samsung to Taylor following the announcement that the city will be home to its new $17 billion semiconductor fabrication plant. 

Austin City Council will meet for a work session dedicated to housing affordability discussions Nov. 30. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Austin City Hall notebook: Council set for dive into housing, development after Thanksgiving break

A Nov. 30 work session could see city leaders work through a range of adjustments to city development code, rules and processes.

The new initiative will build the communities capacity to address homelessness along with collecting data from people who have increased access to those in need. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
ECHO, St. David's Foundation launch new program to build a community approach to homelessness

The program aims to address inequities in traditional homelessness response.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sits beside Samsung CEO Dr. Kinam Kim as he announces the company is brining a $17 billion facility to Taylor. (Screnshot via KXAN)
Samsung makes it official: Announcement from Governor's Mansion confirms $17B facility coming to Taylor

Nearly a year after Williamson County officials began pitching Samsung to bring a megafacility to the area, the electronics giant has made it official.

Bill Curci is a chief operating partner for Shuck Me, a seafood restaurant in Fort Worth. (Bailey Lewis/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Fort Worth restaurant Shuck Me is fishing- and family-centric; a guide to Houston's 2021 Thanksgiving Day Parade and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Nov. 23.

Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County health authority, discusses Thanksgiving safety at a news conference. (Darcy Sprague/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin health authorities remind community of COVID-19 risk ahead of Thanksgiving

Austin health officials warned of a high rate of community transmission ahead of Thanksgiving.

Lizzy and Brandon Simon are running the North Austin location. (Courtesy Lizzy Simon)
Operation Turkey to provide thousands in need with Thanksgiving meals

One local couple is running a North Austin site with the goal of serving 2,500 meals to those in need this Thanksgiving.

Williamson County officials met with Samsung executives at Dell Diamond in January. (Courtesy Williamson County)
For the love of the game: How baseball may have been perfect start for Samsung in Williamson County

The first attempt to bring Samsung to Williamson County relied on a passion for what is considered America’s pastime.