A Yes Vote for this plan kills Light Rail, Part XII

In early versions of the All Systems Go literature, the Rapid Bus line on Lamar/Guadalupe was described as a “placeholder for possible future urban rail”. This corridor is the only one in our area which has sufficient existing residential density to support urban rail (light rail or otherwise).

Many of the people who are holding their nose and voting yes on the commuter rail plan appear to still think that they can get light rail on this corridor even if this commuter rail plan passes. I’ve discussed on several occasions the technical problems with that idea – in short: the original 2000 route would be out due to vehicle/track incompatibilities, and a route continuing north on Lamar instead of bending northwest would be out due to speed and demographics (far fewer northeast Austin residents work at downtown/UT/capitol than do northwest residents).

More simply, though, one can simply look at the language of Capital Metro themselves. The current version of the ASG plan drops the “placeholder” phrase entirely – and recent quotes from Fred Gilliam are particularly damning:

What Capital Metro does not intend to do, at least in the foreseeable
future, is have lanes of city streets dedicated solely to bus traffic. When
that occurs, the system is called “bus rapid transit.” Lacking those lanes,
Capital Metro calls its proposal rapid bus. But Gilliam made it clear he’d
like to reverse those two words in the long run.
“My hope is that . . . eventually we will get to bus lanes,” Gilliam said. “But
our plan is not designed around having to have them.”

Back when Fred took over from Karen Walker, he made some pro-BRT and anti-LRT statements which I have been unable to locate. Thankfully his recent comments remove the need for me to do so – it’s pretty clear which way Fred intends to go for Lamar/Guadalupe, and it’s going to be Bus Rapid Transit.
What is Bus Rapid Transit, you ask? Well, it’s Rapid Bus with bus lanes. You get most of the reliability and speed of light rail, but you get none of the comfort, perceived quality (suburbanites don’t like buses, remember?), and perceived permanence. Studies in this country have shown pretty conclusively that you get redevelopment and infill with rails that you don’t get with buses – even Rapid Buses. If that doesn’t make sense to you, consider what it takes to move Rapid Bus service to a different road versus moving rail service.



4 thoughts on “A Yes Vote for this plan kills Light Rail, Part XII

  1. Why is this bad? No one has come up with a practical way for running light rail along the Lamar-Guadalupe-Congress corridor. That is one of the main reasons why we have the Red Commuter Line on the ballot.
    Voting no on this plan will kill any chance for rail before 2020.

  2. Oh PLEASE. The 2000 light rail plan, forced early to the ballot box by Mike Krusee, lost by 200 votes. Any one of ten minor modifications could have put it over the top.
    The reason we’re not voting on light rail in 2004 is because Fred Gilliam doesn’t believe in rail at all, and thinks commuter rail is a cheaper way to prove that it (does or) doesn’t work. It has nothing to do with the practicality of light rail here, which is equally practical as it was in Dallas, Houston, Salt Lake, Portland, Denver,…

  3. Has anyone ever thought that a rail system of any sort is somewhat premature in this town? I’m not sure how I’m voting on rail, but it seems that some of the congestion woes in Austin could be solved in part by HOV lanes, possibly an ACTUAL loop around town (similar to 610 in Houston, 410 in SA, etc.) or even a toll road (NEW road) that circles the city to move some traffic around instead of through this small, but lovely town, like the Sam Houston Tollway in Houston, etc. Anyone?

  4. Building more highways will not solve the bottleneck into downtown (and UT and the Capitol), which is what rail is supposed to be about.
    And Portland wasn’t any bigger than Austin when they started with light rail. Nor was Minneapolis or Denver or Salt Lake City.
    If you’re one of the people who thinks that Texan cities won’t accept rail, then you get to explain Dallas and Houston.

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