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Here is an update about Austin's planned commuter rail line from the Austin-American Statesman.

They've added the Highland Mall station back into the plan, and are planning to build a rail bridge over the Union Pacific tracks.

Capital Metro has unveiled plans about its rail project, including renderings. Stadler, a Swiss company, is building six train cars for Capital Metro at a cost of about $38 million. The cars each will be 138 feet long and have 108 seats.

image_4628752.jpg

Details emerging on commuter rail project

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Wow, great news. Looking forward to seeing this project move forward.

The article mentions that the rail system will be called MetroRail and that 8 of the 9 station locations have been selected. The three stations that are the furthest out will have park and ride facilities while the rest will have little to no parking.

image_4629346.jpg

Edited by eastsider

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How many years will this take to happen?

If you are referring to the 32-mile Leander to downtown Austin line, then the answer to your question is it will be operational in 2008.

If you mean the Georgetown to San Antonio line, then I really have no clue. I believe it will not be done until Union Pacific moves off those tracks. There are negotiations taking place to build new tracks east near the new TX 130 turnpike that would not have any at grade crossings of roadways, and be in a much less populated area, therefore allowing much, much faster speeds for the freight trains.

The voters of Texas approved the creation of the Texas Railroad Reloction and Improvement Fund last year, and hopefully this will help to speed these new tracks construction up, and we can have the current tracks for commuter rail soon.

Edited by Nic

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Austin-San Antonio rail map:

4c1gs1w.gif

I believe the proposed station locations are:

Georgetown

Round Rock

Pflugerville

North Austin

Austin

South Austin

Kyle

San Marcos

New Braunfels

Schertz

Live Oak

San Antonio

Kelly USA

Edited by Bartholomew

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Austin-San Antonio rail map:

4c1gs1w.gif

This line will really spur alot of developement between Austin and San Antonio. It will be cool to go to San Antonio without having to drive there. I will be one of the first to ride once its up and running.

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On the 32 mile Austin MetroRail, does anyone have construction pictures or details of how the system transitions from the traditional "rail" corridor to blending in with traffic? Any help would be much appreciated. I've checked the metrorail website and they don't have a lot of details.

Thanks

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Austin CapMetro has awarded two contracts for the MetroRail project.

The first is for a 2,000 foot long overpass above the Union Pacific tracks near McNiel Rd. Austin Bridge & Road was awarded the $5.5M contract.

Muniz Contracting will recieve $914,000 to build the station at Lakeline Blvd. and Lyndhurst St.

The contract includes building pedestrian access ramps, platform foundation, grading, drainage, landscaping and electrical work. The construction of architectural finishes and amenities will be part of a separate contract in the future.

Austin Business Journal: Cap Metro board approves key contracts for rail

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Work on the MetroRail line is on time and on budget and will be running in mid-2008. Construction on the Leander and Likeline stations are currently underway.

Regular Cap Metro buses will connect the train station with nearby destinations. Specially-marked Capital MetroRail shuttle buses will link to major destinations, such as Downtown Austin, the Capitol, the University of Texas, the Mueller Community and East Central Austin.

At first, the six cars will run every 30 minutes during morning and evening rush hours, with one midday round trip planned. Each of the six trains will consist of one car capable of holding 225 passengers. The trains are equipped with high-back seats, bicycle and overhead racks and Wi-Fi connections. Some seating areas will feature tray tables.

News 8 Austin: Commuter rail project rolling along

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Lightrail Usage?

I was in Houston this week stuck at a stop light at the inner loop around 3pm. The crossing guard came their light rail trains came by in both directions. It's really cool but the cars only had about 3 people each in them. Hopefully Austin will better support our mass transit but I'm somewhat doubtful Texans will get out of their cars. Also, I really hope that the rail get extended out to the airport. It's only about 7-8 miles from downtown and would be very useful.

Travis

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Lightrail Usage?

I was in Houston this week stuck at a stop light at the inner loop around 3pm. The crossing guard came their light rail trains came by in both directions. It's really cool but the cars only had about 3 people each in them. Hopefully Austin will better support our mass transit but I'm somewhat doubtful Texans will get out of their cars. Also, I really hope that the rail get extended out to the airport. It's only about 7-8 miles from downtown and would be very useful.

Travis

Dallas ridership has far exceeded expectations. I thought Houston was doing pretty well on ridership, but I could be wrong on that....

And of course Austin isn't getting light rail anyway....

Edited by ccosart

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Stadler Rail Group has completed the first diesel-electric commuter rail train for Austin Capital Metro. It is undergoing static testing at their facility in Switzerland and will go through track testing through the fall when it will be shipped to Austin for testing on the MetroRail line.

railcar1ik8.jpg

railcar2jw5.jpg

http://www.capmetro.org/news/news_detail.asp?id=1918

Also the Leander Park and Ride facility recently opened.

Edited by eastsider

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I'm a bit late finding this discussion. Forgive me.

As for "transition into traffic" - it doesn't run in the street (except for the two block section west of I-35; and there's really no 'transition' there). This isn't light rail, remember.

As for how it's going to work: follow this crackplog and the links to Christof's recent article about circulators, and why they don't work. We're doomed - choice commuters will stay away in droves (like they have from Tri-Rail) when they learn that they actually need to take a shuttle bus to their office from the train station.

nwtc-front-pic.png

Edited by m1ek

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I'm a bit late finding this discussion. Forgive me.

As for "transition into traffic" - it doesn't run in the street (except for the two block section west of I-35; and there's really no 'transition' there). This isn't light rail, remember.

As for how it's going to work: follow this crackplog and the links to Christof's recent article about circulators, and why they don't work. We're doomed - choice commuters will stay away in droves (like they have from Tri-Rail) when they learn that they actually need to take a shuttle bus to their office from the train station.

I would argue that it is light rail. It's certainly not a "streetcar system" or tram, but it's obviously a lot lighter than a standard diesel train, and it has the capability of traveling in embedded tracks (or so it appears). I don't know what the turning radius of these Stadler trains are, so I don't know how it rounds street corners (if at all). My question was more from a technical standpoint of how/where it goes from traveling in a rail corridor to the street, but that's OK.

Not having to transfer would be an ideal situation, but sometimes it's just not feasible. If you can run an uninterrupted track into the city center, that's great. But a lot of times, it means either creating massive elevated tracks or running underground. But even with Portland's MAX it runs in embedded track through the streets sharing the lanes with cars. And in cities where they have massive parking lots on the outskirts of downtown that already have shuttles to downtown, there's no change really in service to the rider if you provide an efficient transfer station from train to either shuttle bus or a streetcar circulator.

I think a system like Austin's is great, especially for only $90 Million for 32 miles (including 6 trains).

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I would argue that it is light rail. It's certainly not a "streetcar system" or tram, but it's obviously a lot lighter than a standard diesel train, and it has the capability of traveling in embedded tracks (or so it appears). I don't know what the turning radius of these Stadler trains are, so I don't know how it rounds street corners (if at all). My question was more from a technical standpoint of how/where it goes from traveling in a rail corridor to the street, but that's OK.

Not having to transfer would be an ideal situation, but sometimes it's just not feasible. If you can run an uninterrupted track into the city center, that's great. But a lot of times, it means either creating massive elevated tracks or running underground. But even with Portland's MAX it runs in embedded track through the streets sharing the lanes with cars. And in cities where they have massive parking lots on the outskirts of downtown that already have shuttles to downtown, there's no change really in service to the rider if you provide an efficient transfer station from train to either shuttle bus or a streetcar circulator.

I think a system like Austin's is great, especially for only $90 Million for 32 miles (including 6 trains).

It's actually about 120 million now, and yes, these transfers are going to destroy ridership among choice commuters just like they did in South Florida. We have some modest park-and-rides on the edges of downtown which are serviced via the Dillo which are a completely unattractive option to automobile commuters - so providing that same level of service for our train line is particularly useless.

Today's crackplog about Crestview Station is probably worth a read. Note that the 2000 light rail proposal would have brought people directly to UT, the Capitol, and downtown, in a fashion similar to other successful light rail starts. The model we're following for this commuter rail project has never succeeded in this country (shuttle-bus OR streetcar transfer).

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i don''t know a lot about teh transportation, but I really think all transportation should follow san francisco's. The have a good mixture of light rail, heavy rail, bus, and trollely etc... So I think the options should open up a bit more.

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It's actually about 120 million now, and yes, these transfers are going to destroy ridership among choice commuters just like they did in South Florida. We have some modest park-and-rides on the edges of downtown which are serviced via the Dillo which are a completely unattractive option to automobile commuters - so providing that same level of service for our train line is particularly useless.

Today's crackplog about Crestview Station is probably worth a read. Note that the 2000 light rail proposal would have brought people directly to UT, the Capitol, and downtown, in a fashion similar to other successful light rail starts. The model we're following for this commuter rail project has never succeeded in this country (shuttle-bus OR streetcar transfer).

Under what measurable would you deem a light rail or commuter rail system to be a success? To me, running light rail with traffic is a really bad idea. Stopping at every traffic light, multiple drives on every side, negotiating with left-turners, etc.. You can accomplish the same thing with a bus and not pay $50 - $75 Million per mile. In contrast, it's very difficult to get suburb-to-downtown commuters into buses because of the stigma. Whereas a light rail system using existing infrastructure at a fraction of the cost of light rail ($2 - $3 Million/mile), even if it gets fewer riders than traditional light rail, is a better and wiser investment, IMO.

Take Denver's system for instance. Very little of it runs through downtown, and most of the new FASTRACK corridors follow highway ROW's or old rail ROW's. But why Denver is paying so much for something they could accomplish with DEMU's is beyond me.

In addition, specially made DMU's, like the Stadlers that Austin is buying, can be used on a system like this for running through streets. Check out the Camden Trenton River Line in New Jersey for an example, which even with complete rebuilding of streetscapes in several of the downtowns, came in at about $17 Million/mile.

Also, for an example of a successful system like Austin is shooting for, see the O Train in Ottawa, Ontario. $21 Million (Canadian) for a five mile system that gets over 10,000 riders/day now, using Bombardier Talent DMU's (no ugly electric overhead wires!).

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iuf they can mirror a system like ontario I can see it working, but it seems like to much money, without the assurance of getting the riders.

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Under what measurable would you deem a light rail or commuter rail system to be a success? To me, running light rail with traffic is a really bad idea. Stopping at every traffic light, multiple drives on every side, negotiating with left-turners, etc.. You can accomplish the same thing with a bus and not pay $50 - $75 Million per mile.

Every successful (defined as "brings new people on to transit - i.e. people who previously drove") rail system in the last 20 years in this country has included some elements of street-running. You're confusing streetcars (really ARE stuck in traffic, and no better than buses) with LRT (has its own lane; controls the traffic lights; far far far faster and more reliable than buses).

Including Denver's. Without running on the street downtown, it would have been a disastrous failure.

As for DMUs vs. electrically-driven traditional LRT cars, DMUs seem nicer until you factor in the pollution, unstable cost of diesel fuel, and the fact that typical DMUs don't turn as well or accelerate/decelerate as quickly as typical electrically-driven LRT trains. This is, by the way, part of the reason why the initial efforts to get the commuter rail line to go all the way to Seaholm fell by the wayside. The trains couldn't transition easily from 4th to 3rd without condemning the middle of a block. (Some parts of the 2000 light rail route might have corners that tight; I can't remember offhand; but also even on a marginally big-enough corner, the train would have to slow down so much that you'd suffer 3 times - once for the poorer turning radius, and once each on deceleration and acceleration).

Edited by m1ek

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Also, for an example of a successful system like Austin is shooting for, see the O Train in Ottawa, Ontario. $21 Million (Canadian) for a five mile system that gets over 10,000 riders/day now, using Bombardier Talent DMU's (no ugly electric overhead wires!).

I know very little about Ottawa, but I looked at the system a bit this morning - it is very similar to Austin's, but at the "circulator" end it hooks up to a true BRT system running on what they call "the transitway" -- i.e. like if our Rapid Bus system was ever going to get built, AND had its own lane, AND had overpasses of most major intersections AND still got to change the remaining lights to green as it approached, then it'd sort of be the same thing.

And still, with all of that, only 10,000 per day - which is pitiful compared to light rail starts most recently in Minneapolis and Houston.

I also don't know what their downtown is like. Transfers from rail to (something else) work better as parking difficulty/cost rises, but there's always (no matter what) a huge drop-off in choice commuters once you require that transfer.

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Actually, the Hiawatha Line is very much built like your Capital Metro Rail (although it sounds like Metro Rail ends further from downtown?). It only has 3 "downtown" stations and only extends about 3 blocks into downtown. The rest is all rail ROW in a not very dense area. The main reason why I think they have picked up so much ridership is because they have downtown on one end and Mall of America on the other, and the VA Medical Center in the middle, not because it travels in the street. A lot of different users and destinations. I think that can be attributed more to the success of it rather than the technology used.

In addition, A Diesel Electric Hybrid DEMU gets better gas mileage than a bus (40% more) and from what I've read is quieter than electrified light rail. Also, the difference in acceleration of the two is 2 mph/ps as opposed to 3 mph/ps. On a 10 mile route with 3 stations, you're really only talking about adding 20 - 30 seconds to the entire route, which is negligible when talking about the difference in cost of $50 Million vs. $500 Million. Our federal government is running at record deficits and debt, and with a 20 year backlog of New and Small Starts funding requests, cities need to be looking at other alternatives to get people off the road, which are more locally funded and a lot less expensive, IMO. And commuters from the burbs are adding the biggest burden to the highway infrastructure now and in the future, not the people in the near "streetcar neighbhorhoods".

I do agree though that adding a transfer at the end is not the greatest scenario and should be avoided as much as possible.

A group of us is trying to gather support to build a locally funded light rail transit system in Grand Rapids much like Ottawa's, the River Line, and Austin's. I'm obviously interested in hearing what is not working as well as what is working. We understand that since it will be "commuter driven", that the ridership will be lower than if it ran through every dense neighborhood in the city. But the big obstacle for commuters now is that the standard bus routes from the suburbs to downtown take an average of 39 - 42 minutes, whereas you can drive to one of the city-owned lots on the outskirts downtown (which over 6000 workers are doing), park, and take one of their free DASH shuttle buses to dowtown in about 20 - 30 minutes, depending on the corridor and time of travel. We'd like to offer something where you can park at suburban park-n-rides closer to your home, get on the train and be either downtown or to an intermediary station in about 12 - 15 minutes.

Check out the River Line in New Jersey. They had specially built trains that allowed for a much greater articulation and tighter turns. I don't know if something like this would have worked in Austin to get further into downtown.

CooperDelaware.jpg

Oh, as far as the LRT vs. streetcar mixup, I'm almost positive that both Denver RTD, Portland's MAX (much like their streetcar system), the Hiawatha Line, in their downtown areas, travel in embedded tracks in lanes that cars can also drive in. They are only traffic separated once they get out of downtown. I'm not sure how the light priority is handled.

http://www3.sympatico.ca/mkostiuk/denverlrt/denverlrt.jpg

http://www.princeton.edu/dew/photo/oregon/...sw-morrison.jpg

http://www.heritagetrolley.org/IMAGES/portland19.JPG

http://thirdrail.smorgasblog.com/images/1lrt0625.jpg

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Actually, the Hiawatha Line is very much built like your Capital Metro Rail

No, Hiawatha added new in-street runningway in order to get all the way to the jackpot, as it were. Critical difference in philosophy - commuter rail usually doesn't add any track at all; they go where the track is already. Yes, they only had to add a small section (not as long as our 2000 proposal would have needed) but the point still stands - they made the train go where the people want to be rather than just running it on existing tracks which don't make it near the activity centers. 3 stations is a non-trivial amount of extra street-running by any measure - similar to many other light rail starts. Austin would've had 3 to 6 in-street stations in their comparable 2000 proposal (not counting the continuation out of downtown to the south, which would have been discarded in a re-float proposal which was being worked as late as '03).

Our "street-running" section for commuter rail is a short part which actually predated the paving of the street in question. Nothing new is being built in the street to bring the train close enough for most downtown workers to be able to walk to work. The only station "downtown" is right in front of the Convention Center - a half mile or more from the geographic center of the big office buildings.

As for LRT vs. streetcar - yes, the shared-lane vs. exclusive-lane feature is a critical distinguishing factor. Streetcars are the ones that are "no better than buses" in most ways because of this.

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Every successful (defined as "brings new people on to transit - i.e. people who previously drove") rail system in the last 20 years in this country has included some elements of street-running. You're confusing streetcars (really ARE stuck in traffic, and no better than buses) with LRT (has its own lane; controls the traffic lights; far far far faster and more reliable than buses).

Including Denver's. Without running on the street downtown, it would have been a disastrous failure.

As for DMUs vs. electrically-driven traditional LRT cars, DMUs seem nicer until you factor in the pollution, unstable cost of diesel fuel, and the fact that typical DMUs don't turn as well or accelerate/decelerate as quickly as typical electrically-driven LRT trains. This is, by the way, part of the reason why the initial efforts to get the commuter rail line to go all the way to Seaholm fell by the wayside. The trains couldn't transition easily from 4th to 3rd without condemning the middle of a block. (Some parts of the 2000 light rail route might have corners that tight; I can't remember offhand; but also even on a marginally big-enough corner, the train would have to slow down so much that you'd suffer 3 times - once for the poorer turning radius, and once each on deceleration and acceleration).

Whether a vehicle is low floor, electric, diesel, traffic or dedicated running it's light rail -- just so long as it's physically light and light in carrying capacity. Streetcar is a subset of light rail -- so it is considered LRT. It has less to do with signal extending devices, power source or where it runs that qualifies it for that distinction. For instance heavy rail vehicles (FRA crash worthy) run in street in Michigan City, Indiana. To the best of my knowledge these vehicles run in traffic without traffic signal extending devices. It has more to do with what your load is, the vehicle weight and its capacity to move people.

Anytime you run any rail car on street it must obey traffic laws. Unless the rail car is in a separated non-traffic lane it will not be better than bus no matter what type of rail car. In terms of sensitivity to traffic volume, trains no matter what persuasion, will be just like any street vehicle constrained to the amount of available space and speed limit.

Is Austin trying to fill the role of circulatory with commuter vehicles?

Edited by Rizzo

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Anytime you run any rail car on street it must obey traffic laws. Unless the rail car is in a separated non-traffic lane it will not be better than bus no matter what type of rail car. In terms of sensitivity to traffic volume, trains no matter what persuasion, will be just like any street vehicle constrained to the amount of available space and speed limit.

That's misleading. LRT, with reserved guideway, can operate at the speed limit of the roadway essentially all the time. City buses (and streetcars) are constrained by the speed of the cars in front of them, which is quite often zero.

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That's misleading. LRT, with reserved guideway, can operate at the speed limit of the roadway essentially all the time. City buses (and streetcars) are constrained by the speed of the cars in front of them, which is quite often zero.

The Hiawatha Line in Mpls stops at red lights in downtown, just like cars. It does have traffic light pre-emption on parts of the route, but not downtown, according to Wikipedia - (Signal Problems Entry). It's extremely difficult to get a guideway in many downtowns because they are already squeezed for traffic space, and non-transit people don't want to give up any traffic lanes. It's easier to do on a boulevard, but then again, there aren't a lot of boulevards in downtown settings.

You're right that with traffic signal pre-emption, the LRV can "get an early or late green" and not be as disruptive to cross-traffic and keep moving consistently, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still in the street and has deal with left-turners, people pulling into businesses, sunday drivers, and everything else that cars have to deal with other than traffic lights. But I think if it's reserved to a small percentage of the light rail alignment (like Mpls and Houston), then it's only negligibly affects the travel time. But the more time it spends in the street, the more time you have to bank in to the headways (or buy more trains) to account for the possible delays. That time effect probably eats up the acceleration/deceleration difference between DEMUs on rail and LRVs in the street pretty quickly.

Not that I don't disagree that the Austin line should have been run further into downtown, but disagree with the assumption that running it on more streets (alone) would amount to more riders (or effectively take more traffic off of the roads).

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