A well-meaning but critically naive person wrote in response to a post on one of the many local discussion groups that the attacks on Capital Metro were not fair. I’ve posted my response there and here:
In ANCtalk@yahoogroups.com, (Cap Metro defender) wrote:
I think it’s great that there is so much discussion going on around
the commuter rail proposal. but the information included in Tom’s
message is not accurate […]
In fact, most of Tom’s information was fairly accurate.
Ridership it will serve: estimated 17,000 by 2025 based on the
federally required and created ridership model that does not account
for reverse commute,
This will only happen if the system is drastically expanded, which it
cannot be without an additional election. Our leadership have declared
“let’s ride and then decide” – so if the initial line doesn’t do well,
there will be no expansions, because the voters have been instructed
to watch the performance of the first route (with only rush-hour
one-way trips ending in shuttle-bus distributors).
Length of time for the trip: 55 minutes (it takes over an hour in
the car during peak time according to a friend that makes the samem
commute daily during peak commute time)
This does not include the shuttle-bus transfer, which will be highly
unreliable (some days it might be fast; others quite slow). It also
does not include drive-time to the park-and-ride and waiting time at
Will people ride it if it takes this long? the ridership model takes
into consideration length of trip, as well as many other factors
Capital Metro has not modeled ridership on this route in the way that
most people would consider appropriate – that being a direct
comparison to an individual’s car trip.
Number of riders to break even: fact of life – all transportation
modes are subsidized, including roads, buses and rail
Will fares cover the operating costs? see above
One needs to ask this question, and not accept the answer glibly given
above. Note: I’m a strong supporter of light rail (i.e. a starter
system which delivers passengers where they actually want to go
instead of to a shuttle-bus), so the typical response won’t work
The subsidy per rider on Tri-Rail’s South Florida commuter line and
Seattle’s commuter railroad is huge compared to that on recent
successful light rail systems. Guess which one this ASG plan is more like?
Also, there are 9 stations, 8 of which are IN THE CITY OF AUSTIN.
This is true but extremely misleading. There are no stations in the
urban core of Austin; and most of the stations within the city limits
will function as drop-off only (i.e. there aren’t a lot of people
within walking distance of the station, and they won’t have big
parking lots for drive-in commuters).
Realistically, the major stations where people will get on in the
morning are at the big northwestern park-and-rides. Since this ride
doesn’t go near any dense residential areas such as West Campus or
Hyde Park, virtually nobody will be walking to the station – and
nobody who can choose to drive will accept taking a bus to the rail
station just to ride the rail a couple of miles back around to
downtown only to get on ANOTHER bus to get to where they’re going.
And remember that reverse commutes aren’t going to be an option
without further expansion of the system (i.e. the initial line only
runs inbound in the morning and outbound in the evening).
This line is nearly useless for Austin, especially for the urban core.
And yes, I hope that people from Cedar Park and Williamson county
ride it in droves, less people on 183 and MoPac (no matter who they
are) is good in my book.
This is a good thing if those people are willing to get back into
Capital Metro and pay the sales tax. If they’re not, I don’t think
it’s appropriate to subsidize their transit at the expense of the city
of Austin, which has always been a strong supporter of transit both
economically and at the ballot-box.
Urban Transportation Commission