November 02 2012

Capital MetroRail Prioritizes People to Create an Accessible, Connected, and Sustainable City

“Rather than being guided, as it should be, by natural systems or human needs, the quality and placement of growth in our regions is largely dependent on the car.“-Peter Calthorpe

Captial MetroRail Red Line @ Crestview Station (North Lamar Blvd.)The newly adopted Austin, Texas city plan, appropriately titled the “Imagine Austin” plan, envisions a less congested and more sustainable city. It turns the conversation away from roadways and brings alternative transportation to the forefront of the transit issue. Under this plan, rail becomes an important part of the solution to people reclaiming Austin from cars. Rail is about creating a mobility system that allows people to connect with their city while moving through it.

You may hear Austinites complaining about the first installment of the Capital MetroRail system known as the Red Line. It is important to understand the purpose, the priority, of this rail line. It is a commuter rail intended to move those who live outside the city into the city where they work, attend school, or otherwise spend their days.

In many ways the Red Line was a trial. By sharing existing track the city made a much safer investment. This being said, I applaud the urban planners’ ability to use this predetermined path to create a foundation for the future transportation network, and by doing so, determining where and how Austin will grow. No small feat!

Keeping this idea, that the Red Line is the foundation, we can better understand the UrbanRail as a component of this multi-layered network. The UrbanRail’s function is moving people within the city core. Its priority is connectivity by providing more frequent stops at high demand destinations. This rail provides access and mobility that the Red Line cannot, and delivers the efficiency a bus cannot while supporting growth with its permanent UrbanRail Current Proposed Planinfrastructure.

The present plan prioritizes the Mueller/Downtown area, while dismissing the car-congested landscape of the North Lamar/Guadalupe corridor. Encouraging growth where growth is wanted is important; however, the Red Line is already addressing this area. It should be the role of the UrbanRail to relieve present high traffic areas and transform these car-oriented throughways into areas made for people.

What parts of the city would most benefit from this?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Bonnie Rodd

Originally from the North-Central area of California, Bonnie Rodd found herself at home amongst the creative, participatory, and sometimes off beat Austinites. She holds a B.A. in Urban Studies with a minor in Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin. Her primary interest is sustainable urban development, focusing on alternative transportation and pedestrianism. Believing that the human element in design is invaluable, she dabbled in some social studies as well. This past spring she explored the three legs of sustainability in her thesis titled “Making a Case for Affordable Housing in Transit-Oriented Developments: Austin,TX” and developed a model for single-family affordable housing delivery in such neighborhoods. Bonnie currently resides in Austin, Texas, and will be exposing readers to environmental design issues present in both Austin and Central Texas.

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This entry was posted on Friday, November 2nd, 2012 at 10:58 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Environment, Environmental Design, Infrastructure, Land Use, Transportation, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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4 Responses to “Capital MetroRail Prioritizes People to Create an Accessible, Connected, and Sustainable City”

  1. Mark Bentley Says:

    I am afraid that the MetroRapid Bus is also primarily a commuter oriented system that will not contribute to circulation in the inner city. Where I live in the South Lamar corridor, it will actually decrease local service by eliminating local stops unless there is new local circulator service that has yet to be announced. With the rapid build-up of multiuse residential along South Lamar, the need is for a way for all those new residents to get around (and not just get to work) without using their cars. And no one is talking rail for that corridor at all.

  2. The Overhead Wire Says:

    Below in the links is my three part response to planning rail in Austin.

    Also, please tell me which parts of the urban rail route is more congested than Guadalupe? Then tell me what the Rapid Bus does other than give people a few more seats to reduce congestion for riders? Nothing. Because it won’t have its own lane and will be stuck in the same traffic as everyone else at 5pm at Dean Keaton.

    The Red Line was a political compromise. I voted for it. I wish I hadn’t. With what I know now, no city should ever start out a transit plan with commuter rail. 2,000 constituents is not 40,000 constituents. You put a rail line down the gut like Houston, you get political cover for expansion. You put it where the red line went, and you get infighting and turmoil. Perhaps it will turn around. I’m not holding my breath.

    Part 1 – Austin Rail History
    http://theoverheadwire.blogspot.com/2012/04/austins-rail-history-route-choice.html

    Part 2 – Politics of Alignments
    http://theoverheadwire.blogspot.com/2012/04/austins-rail-history-route-choice_02.html

    Part 3 – Alignment That Should Be
    http://theoverheadwire.blogspot.com/2012/04/austin-guadalupelamar-alignment.html

  3. Bonnie Rodd Says:

    In response to both of your comments on the Metro Rapid Bus- I agree.

    Mark I appreciate your insight on the situation on South Lamar. I live on North Lamar, and therefore, do not spend much time there, but when I have…wow, the congestion is unbearable.

    As you have stated Overhead Wire the situation with rapid bus is it is stuck in traffic with ever other vehicle. Even if there were designated “Bus-only” lanes it will never be as successful as a well routed rail line. As for your discussion on the Red Line- there is no doubt it was a compromise and I wonder if rail would have made it at all in Austin without making the great concessions that were made to have that project realized. As I bring up towards the end of my post, these kind of compromises concern me with the Urban Rail. The Red Line is there, and connects some far reaching current and future hubs, but it is the Urban Rail, I believe, that will have the greatest impact on congestion reduction. I’m afraid many still see the price tag of such projects and don’t understand the value. Thank you for sharing your blogs. I will surely read through them:)

  4. Will Says:

    Rail hurts bus service. Name one bus service that has a rail line in which bus service hasn’t been cut, or compromised? You can’t. Rail is very difficult to move it is fixed as compared to bus service. The fact the only people who benefit from rail is the Urban planners and transit agencies which get “sacks” from the Federal Government. Otherwise, why is the private sector not building their own “choo-choo” trains? Why do I the tax payer have to foot the bill? Global Warming hysteria, so what. I am more concerned about my children being able to save, and have a future than worrying about traffic congestion. People are still going to Leander via Car, not train. Even Leander’s former Mayor John David Cowman, who was Rail, Rail, and Rail. I wonder how much money he got in kickbacks from Capital Metro’s Rail as he was also a Realtor.

    The OP is from California a state facing bankruptcy, and a very poor BART system which railroad the lower income peoples (playing the Class Warfare card here)

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