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Austin Downtown/Northwest Commuter Rail Service

This service will run from downtown Austin northwest to the town of Leander.

The total length of the line is 32 miles with nine planned stops. The length of the trip end to end is expected to take 50 minutes. Trains are envisioned to run every half hour during rush hours, less frequently during mid-day, and not to run at night.

Rider estimates:

2,000 daily in 2008 when it opens

17,000 daily by the year 2025

austinrail29ib.jpg

*The red line is the northwest commuter rail line. Orange areas around stations are circulator connecting stations with surrounding areas via shuttles.

The stations locations:

1)Convention Center 2)Plaza Saltillo 3)MLK Blvd. 4)Highland Mall 5)Lamar Blvd./Justin Lane 6)UT Pickle/Braker Lane 7) Howard Lane 8)Northwest Park & Ride 9)Leander

Capital Metro already owns the track. Its is expected to cost $60 million for upgrades and $5 million annually in operating costs. Voters approved funding in Nov. 2004 and service is expected to begin in 2008.

Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority

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Austin - San Antonio Intermunicipal Commuter Rail District

This rail line runs 112 miles from south San Antonio to Georgetown on existing Union Pacific rail line. The Texas DOT is working with Union Pacific to re-route their freight trains to a line located west of these cities.

map-service-area.gif

The cost of the track upgrades, trains, and stations are expected to be approx. $600 million. The annual operating cost are expected to be $41 million. A final feaibility study is being conducted and then development of an application for federal funding in the "New Starts" program. If everything goes through without any holdups, the ASA commuter rail line could begin in 2009.

The ASA commuter rail is expected to run hourly with a total of 14 stations. The 79 mile portion from downtown Austin to downtown San Antonio will take about 1-1/2 hours to ride.

Population estimates

Metro Austin in 2025 - 2,082,679

Metro San Antonio in 2025 - 2,272,644

These two combined will be about equil to what the Dallas - Fort Worth metroplex is today.

ASA Rail

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That's correct. It will be interesting to see how these play out. As far as I can tell there will be no common stops/transfers between them. In the first map, you can see the Union Pacific line going through Austin, so they do cross north of town. In the future, the Austin Northwest line may be extended to the old Seaholm Power Plant (which recently selected five designs for redevelopment) in the southwest corner of downtown. I don't remember the exact location of it, but I think it will be another crossing point for these lines.

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Interesting artilce from the San Anonio News Express discussing how the ASA Commuter Rail Line should run through the city. San Antonio officials currently want the line to run west of town so it can serve the airport. Supports for the east side say a station at the airport would limit development and visitors would still have to use a taxi or shuttle to get downtown.

Should the downtown stop be on the east or the west? The east has the clear advantage in existing destinations that could draw passengers to commuter rail

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San Antonio Express-News article on the chosen route for the ASA commuter rail line through San Antonio and the process applying for Federal Transit Administration's New Starts program.

The Austin-San Antonio Intermunicipal Commuter Rail District will file an application for federal funding by Aug. 15 that will favor a route through San Antonio with a station at the airport instead of an East Side route roughly parallel to Interstate 35.

The decision to go with the San Antonio route with stations at Rolling Oaks Mall, the airport, west downtown and KellyUSA industrial park could still be changed, however. The alternative route has stations parallel to I-35 from the mall to downtown, continuing to KellyUSA.

The airport route had been on the drawing board throughout the commuter rail planning process, but support for the East Side route surfaced during a round of district public meetings in March. East Side route supporters said they need the option for commuter rail because they use the congested I-35 the most.

But a meeting last week among the Metropolitan Planning Organization, developers, city of San Antonio and district consultants confirmed the airport route, at least for federal funding application purposes, said consultant Dennis Newjahr of PBS&J during a district board meeting Friday.

Full story here.

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Austin American-Statesman article about a potential ordinance in Austin that would encourage higher density development around future transit stops.

 

The name is dry-as-toast -- "transit-oriented development" -- but it signifies a vibrant vision: dense, pedestrian-friendly communities with shops at ground level, housing above and a commuter rail stop a short stroll away.

For years city planners have envied these hip transit hubs as they popped up across the country. On Thursday, the City Council came close to passing an ordinance that loosely defines the rules for developing seven transit districts around commuter rail stops planned for 2008.

But late Thursday night, they abruptly postponed the vote because there were too many amendments in flux.

The plan could dramatically transform Austin's landscape, pushing for tall, dense buildings in some patches of the city that are sleepy or suburban. Rail thrives, the theory goes, when there are plenty of riders living near it.

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Austin American-Statesman article about a potential ordinance in Austin that would encourage higher density development around future transit stops.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I couldn't read the rest of the article 'cause you have to register, so this might be answered in it: Does ordinance mean it will allow for these developments to occur because they are somehow prohibited now? Or is this going to somehow foster their growth? I'm a little confoozed.

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From what I can tell their just trying to come up with land-use guidelines. Here are a few more exerpts from the article.

The plan doesn't lock in any special zoning yet; that comes later. But it does say the densest buildings should be built close to the rail stops, while less-dense housing and shops will stretch outward at least 1,500 feet.

Exactly how the districts will look -- and whether they'll be a success -- is still a mystery. Neighbors, city planners and Capital Metro will crank out detailed designs for each hub in a second planning phase starting later this year. Those designs could dictate everything from building heights to street lighting to the size of parks or civic spaces

The group Austin Transit Communities Coalition asked for affordable housing mandates tailored to the average incomes in each transit hub. What they got was a promise that the city will write an affordable housing strategy for each district.

The goal will be that 25 percent of all transit-district housing is affordable, for families who earn $57,000 or below for homeownership and incomes of $43,000 or below for rental units. Late Thursday, the council was still haggling over what the affordability levels should be, and whether East Austin hubs should have lower income targets than other areas.

Those goals might be pie-in-the-sky; it's not clear how the city will persuade developers to build so many low-cost units. Council Member Raul Alvarez suggested creating a goal of density bonuses -- more space and height -- but the council didn't warm to that idea.

Alvarez also fought to exempt areas that already have neighborhood plans, such as Plaza Saltillo, from transit-district planning, fearing that it would be redundant and that the greater density could displace long-time residents.

Plans aside, bustling transit hubs are still a long way off. Developers might not jump at the chance to build densely in these areas unless they feel that such buildings could thrive and be profitable on the more rural and suburban tracts.

The city might have to offer incentives such as waiving permit fees or quickening site-plan reviews, developer Perry Lorenz said.

"It's risky because the city is presuming density before we even have the thing in place that will drive that density: transportation," Lorenz said.

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To follow up on last weeks story about the development guidelines around stations around the downtown/Leander rail line, an article from todays Austin American-Statesman: Austin coulcil approves plan for transit development

The City Council put the finishing touches Thursday on a plan to create transit districts around seven commuter rail stops planned for 2008.

The plan broadly defines the rules for developing the districts, which will extend outward at least 1,500 feet from each rail station.

City leaders want to create dense, mixed-use communities in line with cool transit hubs in cities such as Portland, Ore.

The plan passed Thursday is something of a sketch. City staff members, rail neighbors and Capital Metro could modify the ideas significantly when they create detailed designs for each district during a second planning phase, slated to start later this year.

Another much-haggled-over item was affordable housing.

The council considered requiring developers to build affordable units but ultimately agreed to establish only affordable housing goals and write a specific affordable housing strategy for each district.

The goals they settled on: that 25 percent of new housing in the districts be affordable and that the housing remain affordable for 10 years for homes and 30 years for rental units.

For most of the transit districts, "affordable" means homes for families with incomes less than $56,000 and rented units for families with incomes less than $42,650.

The affordability levels will be even lower for the two East Austin hubs, at Plaza Saltillo and on East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, whose neighborhoods have lower average incomes. The goals will be homes for families with incomes less than $42,650 and rented units for families with incomes less than $35,550.

To discourage the use of cars and encourage walking and rail use, the district rules also require new buildings to be built close to the street, lower the amount of public parking and do away with some auto-related businesses, such as car repair shops.

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Yes.  However, I think these are two different commuter rail systems.  One for Austin and another running from Austin to San Antonio.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

This thread is about two different rail systems. One is just Austin's commuter rail, and the other is San Antonio/Austin commuter rail. The latter is joint between Austin, San Antonio, Bexar County, Travis County, and some others.

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I think some could get confused...the Leander Park and Ride is for the Austin commuter rail, not the one that goes to San Antonio. The Leander/Downtown Commuter Rail Line is the only rail line with funding at the moment in Centex. All others are plans and developing.

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The Williamson County Commissioner's Court approved the county joining the Austin-San Antonio Intermunicipal Commuter Rail District. Williamson County is located at the north end of the line and includes the cities of Georgetown and Round Rock. The county will pay a fee of $49,500 per year for its membership in the rail district, allowing them to have a voice in the planning process.

This law allowed counties located along the San Antonio-to-Georgetown corridor and cities with a population of 18,000 or more to found rail districts. The Austin-San Antonio District was created February 2003 by a vote by the city of Austin, city of San Antonio, Travis County and Bexar County. The County voted to join then, but the district was not yet created.

The study proposes the following locations for depots, as described in the memo:

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Back to the proposed Austin-San Antonio line

A fifth station is now planned for the San Antonio area in the Schertz-Garden District give San Antonio one-third of the 15 planned stops for the line.

That is significant for at least two reasons.

The district had faced an Aug. 15 deadline to apply for the next round of Federal Transit Authority "New Start" funding. The deadline was postponed, however, and the district now can submit the FTA application in parts during the coming months.

The application requires information on the route segment that would operate first. The district had planned to submit the Round Rock-to-San Marcos segment, said Sid Covington, chairman of the 14-member district board, a decision based on ridership and population projections.

The new stop could change the ridership & population projections which could mean service would begin sooner for the San Antonio area.

San Antonio Express-News: Choice may build steam for S.A.-Austin commuter rail

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Cap Metro Downtown-Leander Line

The Capital Metro board approved its 2005-06 budget on Monday that will have a increase of 47% to $208.3 million. Most of that money will go to BRT and the commuter rail line. The board did approve spending $32.3 million on six diesel rail cars from the Swiss company, Stadler Bussnag AG.

The nature of the cars, set to arrive over a period between fall 2007 and spring 2008 for service on a downtown Austin-to-Leander line approved last year by voters, was no surprise: self-propelled, diesel-powered dual cars, with a cab on each end and an engine for each half. Nor was the price: Capital Metro had predicted it would spend about $5 million a car.

Austin American-Statesman: Board approves budget, rail car purchase

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Austin - San Antonio Line

The total cost of the commuter rail line from Georgetown to south San Antonio could reach nearly $2 billion. It would cost $400M - $615M for rail improvements, trains and stations, plus between $28M - $41M per year for operating costs. It would cost $1 billion or more to move the Union Pacific line east of the cities to open up the existing line for passengers.

The ASA Intermunicipal Commuter Rail District has applied for federal funding through the "new starts" program, plus Texas voters will be voting next week on Proposition 1 which is a railroad "relocation and improvement" fund that could supply some money for moving the UP line. The article discusses some other funding options that seem less likely to happen.

Austin American-Statesman: Rail dream a couple billion short

San Antonio Express News: Planners start engineering financing for S.A.-Austin train service

Edited by eastsider

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The city of Georgetown has voted to join the Austin-San Antonio Intermunicipal Commuter Rail District. One reason is for the impact that developments around the stations could bring to the city.

The rail district is assessing the economic impact of the 18 proposed stations.

Currently, the property surrounding most of the stations is valued at $350 million. By 2030, a commuter rail system could propel that number to $4.2 billion, according to early estimates.

Austin Business Journal: Georgetown joins board for commuter rail district

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Article about useing TIF's around future stations to help fund the ASA Rail Line.

That leads to the second task at hand, an assessment of the potential economic impact around the 15 stations along the route. Consultant Charles Heimsath of Capitol Market Research is completing that study, looking at each station individually for its development potential. If local jurisdictions agree, tax-increment finance districts around each station could capture incremental increases in value to fund the creation and operation of the rail line. Or the rail district could, as board member Fred Harless pointed out, buy up undeveloped land around the various stations and hammer out agreements with developers to share the cost of the rail line in exchange for access to station land. That's a strategy that Capital Metro has used to defray the cost of its line.

Heimsath's early economic impact figures, based on a dozen stations, project a potential $353 million in tax dollars over 25 years, which bodes well for the rail district. Heimsath's full report should be available some time early next year.

Austin Chronicle: Rail Revival?

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Cap Metro has approved a $38.6M loan provided by Banc of America Leasing and Capital LLC, and will be used to purchase six diesel-powered rail cars from Stadler Bussnang AG.

Chief Financial Officer Cynthia Hernandez says Cap Metro will use up to $34 million to pay Stadler for the rail cars, $3 million for spare parts, $917,000 for increases due to currency exchange fluctuations between the euro and the dollar, and $625,000 for borrowing costs.

Austin Business Journal: Cap Metro approves loan for rail cars

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