Capital Metro: Exclusive pathways necessary for high-capacity transit

Capital Metro is set to preview its Project Connect Vision Plan in early October.

Capital Metro is set to preview its Project Connect Vision Plan in early October.

Capital Metro leadership at a press event Tuesday morning previewed high-capacity transit options the agency is considering ahead of an upcoming transportation summit Oct. 1.

At the summit, hosted by the Austin Chamber of Commerce, Capital Metro will release parts of its Project Connect Vision Plan that outline modes and methods for regional transit mobility and high-capacity travel throughout Austin proper.

The key to moving high numbers of commuters throughout the region—with little disruption to existing traffic—lies in the ability to dedicate specific lanes to public transit vehicles, Capital Metro officials said.

According to officials, pathways earmarked exclusively for buses and trains are necessary to avoid congested areas during peak traffic hours.

Capital Metro does not retain the authority to acquire right of way, so any move to secure exclusive access to right of way must be done in coordination with the city of Austin and other regional authorities.

The Capital Metro board of directors held a Sept. 14 work session with members of Austin City Council and other transportation officials to discuss aspects of the Project Connect Vision Plan and right of way challenges.

"I thought it was a very good conversation. This, at the end of the day, is a partnership approach," said Capital Metro CEO Randy Clarke. "Compromise is the way things can actually get done."

High-capacity transit options

Several modes of public transportation are being considered by Capital Metro to move commuters around the region, including alternative options not currently in operation in Austin.

Officials discussed three separate rail options—heavy rail, commuter rail and light rail—heading into the Future of Regional Mobility summit. Capital Metro's MetroRail line is considered an existing commuter rail line by the agency.

Capital Metro also outlined specifications for bus-rapid transit and automated rapid transit options. The latter is considered a new technology and has not yet been rolled out in the Austin area.

“What you see on the roads right now being pilot tested are electric buses. Those are different than the autonomous vehicles, which are small, shuttle-like vehicles which we are not currently testing," said Amy Peck, a spokeswoman for Capital Metro.

Autonomous cars are undergoing beta testing in several American cities, including San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Tempe, Arizona.

Additionally, autonomous buses are under design by automotive companies such as Mercedes Benz and Volvo. Autonomous rail lines are already in operation in a handful of cities, according to Capital Metro. Honolulu is building a 20-mile fully autonomous rail line that can carry 800 passengers per train, and the city expects the system to be operations sometime in 2020.

Capital Metro officials estimate autonomous systems would cost roughly the same amount as a Bus Rapid Transit system, and both options are considerably less expensive than transit rail lines.

What is next?

Capital Metro will release its Project Connect Vision Plan at the Future of Regional Mobility summit on Oct. 1. Along with the plan, the transit agency will release two maps showing larger regional mobility plans and route plans focused in the city of Austin.

Jackie Nirenberg, community involvement manager for Capital Metro, said the agency is taking a "multi-pronged" approach to gathering community feedback including surveys and commuter outreach.

“We’re working on a plan to provide service that does not have to compete with traffic. You’re not going to be stuck in traffic anymore, and I think that’s really the message we’re trying to get across," Nirenberg said this morning.

Capital Metro officials will hold a public meeting Oct. 3 at the Ruiz Branch of the Austin Public Library to gather input from the community.
By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.


The 6.5-mile project will be an important connection for the pedestrian, bicycle and transit networks, according to city officials. (Courtesy Austin Public Works)
City of Austin begins design of urban trail on abandoned rail corridor

The city, along with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, won a state award for a Bergstrom Spur Trail study.

Consuelo Mendez Middle School has consistently received poor ratings from the Texas Education Agency. (Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: State could take over AISD school board if poorly-rated campus does not improve; new furniture store to open in McKinney and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Dec. 3.

Derrick Chubbs is leaving Austin for a food bank in Florida. (Courtsey Central Texas Food Bank)
Central Texas Food Bank CEO Derrick Chubbs steps down

Derrick Chubbs is leaving Austin for a food bank in Florida.

Consuelo Mendez Middle School has consistently received poor ratings from the Texas Education Agency. (Community Impact Newspaper)
State could take over AISD school board if poorly rated campus does not improve next year

If the school does receive an improved rating, the state's commissioner of education could replace every member of Austin ISD's school board.

Austin ISD trustee Noelita Lugo argues for breaking down student achievement measures by race in the district's 2021-2026 scorecard, rather than examining only economically disadvantaged students without racial groups. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD considers how to measure equity gaps in academic achievement

Austin ISD trustees are continuing to work out details of the 2021-2026 district scorecard, which measures progress on equity goals.

Austin City Council made changes to arts and library funding among other decisions Dec. 2. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Hall notebook: Arts community, homeless health care program get funding, plus other actions

City Council approved more than 50 items Dec. 2, changing the Office of Civil Rights, doling out funding and more.

Council Member Greg Casar speaks at a press conference outside City Hall ahead of a vote to approve an ordinance granting the Austin Office of Civil Rights enforcement power. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Office of Civil Rights granted new powers

An ordinance passed by Austin City Council on Dec. 2 creates additional civil and criminal penalties for discrimination.

The school board will consider whether to call a special election to fill the vacancy or make an appointment. (Zara Flores/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Hays CISD to hold special meeting on resignation of board member; Montgomery approves plan for downtown and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Dec. 2.

The existing gallery location on South Lamar Boulevard will close on Dec. 20. (Courtesy Ao5 Gallery)
Ao5 Gallery relocating from South Austin to The Arboretum this winter

With the relocation to Northwest Austin, Ao5 Gallery will expand its custom framing services, have better parking, be able to display more art and be able to accommodate more guests for live events, according to officials with the gallery.

Rendering of Tesla's Cybertruck
Tesla officially names Texas gigafactory as its new headquarters

A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing shows the Travis County manufacturing plant as Tesla's new home base.

The state and the city of Austin had already exhausted rental assistance funding from the federal program. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)
Travis County hits pause on rental assistance applications as federal dollars dry up

With surging demand and the scheduled eviction moratorium expiring in December, Travis County is facing a possible shortfall in Emergency Rental Assistance Program funding.