Who is riding the Red Line, Part Two

Erica McKewen from Capital Metro let me know that one of the most recent monthly reports does, ed finally, have the subsidy information available for the general public.

Example from page 7 of December’s report, blown up for your perusal below. The most recent subsidy information shows that even with higher ridership after the 2011 changes (closing competing express bus routes, dropping unproductive shuttles, adding a peak trip); the Red Line still requires a subsidy of nearly 35 dollars per passenger per trip. In most other cities with successful light rail lines (that pull boardings well into the 5 digits per day), operating costs are similar or even lower than the bus system as a whole – which, if you can get higher passenger fares, means that operating subsidies on good light rail lines are lower than comparable buses, not ten times as high.

In tabular form, the most important numbers only:

Mode Operating subsidy per ride Notes
Regular bus $3.22 On top of a regular fare of about $1 per trip, $2 for express. High productivity routes like the #1 have barely any subsidy at all.
UT shuttle $1.23 By contract, a certain percentage of operating costs is paid for directly by UT; the rest by Cap Metro – this is fare-free for students and de-facto fare-free for everybody else
Red Line $33.98 Fares were lowered for most people to be as low or even lower than express buses; many to most riders do not even pay Capital Metro taxes

Things are going crazy at my day jorb. So this might be all I get to post. This is a comment I just left on the Statesman article:

Almost nobody inside the city limits of Austin has a reason to use this thing on the weekends – because the stations with parking primarly serve those outside city limits, this web and the stations without parking aren’t pedestrian-friendly (and buses that might connect to them don’t run much on the weekends).

Combine this with the fact that we’d be giving up the $5-$10 the person from the non-Austin jurisdiction would otherwise pay to park their car downtown and this is a truly STUPID move for the city of Austin to even contemplate.

This is something the cities of Leander and Cedar Park and Round Rock and Pfluygerville should be subsidizing, not Austin.

Here’s a summary chart showing the data from Capital Metro from October, stomatology 2011; showing how many people board from each station in the AM peak, health discussed yesterday in more detail.

Why break it up like this? Because as I mentioned yesterday, approved it should be pretty obvious that the 3 park-and-rides aren’t attracting a bunch of people from Austin itself. Nonsense, you say? Lakeline is in the city limits, you say? Let’s look at the map.

Here’s Lakeline Station.

Here’s Lakeline Station after I roughly draw the line representing the Austin city limits (by hand, so please excuse my poor skills). Map updated on 2/9/2012 to include a small section I inadvertently left out in my first poor attempt at freehand.

And here is the same image with an arrow helpfully representing the approximate direction all those transit passengers are going to work (note: Paint won’t let me go off straight vertical or horizontal; imagine it about 15 degrees to the southeast).

Now, here’s the thing: There are a few people inside that little part of Austin sticking up there who might be taking the Red Line. But it ought to be incredibly obvious based on nothing more than this picture (if it wasn’t just from words before) that most of the passengers getting on the train at Lakeline probably came from outside the city limits of Austin – because most people living inside the city limits of Austin would have to backtrack quite a ways to get to the train station.

Howard is the same – except it’s people from Pflugerville and Round Rock freeloading instead of Cedar Park. Any questions?

5 Replies to “Who is riding the Red Line, Part Two”

  1. My question is, where does Capital Metro get their funding from primarily? I was under the impression that the main source of their funding is the 1% it gets from sales tax, in addition to federal subsidies. My parents live in the Brushy Creek area there right on the east side of Great Oaks. Their address puts them officially in Round Rock though technically they are not in the RR city limits, but they’ve always gone to the Walmart, Lowes, and Best Buy there at 183&620. Pretty much they never buy anything in Round Rock cause that means they have to cross over I35 and deal with all the traffic that involves.

    Anyways, when I was living with them and going to the ACC Rio Grande campus, I was driving to the Lakeline P&R station and taking the express bus downtown. Just looking at the map though it’s pretty obvious that for Lakeline station, the majority of the people riding would have to come from Cedar Park. There was one nice guy though that actually rode in from downtown Austin to work at his job that was somewhere around Cedar Park. I think he just took a taxi daily from the P&R to his job.

    Logically, it would make more sense to drive towards a P&R that is along the way to your destination than it would be to drive to one that is away.

    And for some suggestions. If you just go to google maps and search for Austin, TX, it will now draw the city limits for you. And you might want to try using Paint.NET instead of just paint. It’s free, pretty easy to use, and will let you draw your arrow at a 15 degree angle.

    1. Hi Justin, thanks for commenting.

      It’s mostly the 1% sales tax – and if your parents lived in Round Rock but did most of their shopping in the Austin city limits, they definitely contributed their fair share.

      I used the “google draws the city limits” trick but the problem is once you zoom in past a certain level, it stops; so what I actually did was freehand on the picture with the (zoomed out) version in another window.

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