Another wishful thinking balloon has been punctured, this time by the CIty of Austin in a semi-public transit update. Focus on pages 4 and 5:
- The initial line from Capital Metro will not make it to Seaholm. No way. It won’t even make it to Congress. And the eventual line going to Seaholm has some serious problems navigating the transition from 4th to 3rd streets which are going to be expensive to solve.
- The city agrees with me that requiring a transfer to distribute passengers to destinations other than the Convention Center (where the proposed line terminates and where nobody actually works) is going to be the kiss of death for ridership.
It’s time for center-city people to wake up and smell the coffee. This commuter rail line does not serve the needs of downtown workers, state workers, or university workers. And modifying it so that it serves the needs of downtown workers is going to be expensive enough that it will absolutely NOT happen on the initial line. When you combine that with the fact that it doesn’t go near any of the densest residential neighborhoods, it’s clear that this plan is a huge loser. Running empty trains from Cedar Park to satisfy Mike Krusee might make it easier for Capital Metro to fend off attacks from the state legislature, but it’s not going to do anything for downtown Austin.
And for those who say “build it now and improve it later” – you’re being incredibly foolish. Areas which followed this plan (San Jose, South Florida) by developing “easy” starter systems that were unattractive ended up with a much tougher row to hoe with expansions than did areas which made sure their starter lines were going to be a success (Dallas, Portland, Denver, etc.). You run the risk of the “build half a bridge” syndrome – building a bridge halfway across a river is often half as cheap as building the whole bridge – but it doesn’t provide half the utility, does it?
Additionally, this system, as I discussed earlier, eliminates the possibility of rail lines which could service the UT and Capitol areas which are the two largest pockets of possible transit riders in the city.