AUSTIN, Texas — Austin drivers deal with traffic on a daily basis, but a new Capital Metro plan is aimed to help mend some of those issues, and we now have a look at what the future CapMetro could look like.
CapMetro on Friday unveiled its plan for a new transit system that includes a light rail and an underground transit tunnel. This comes after the public transportation provider announced in January the Project Connect transit system.
CapMetro shared the plan with the Austin City Council on Monday.
The underground transit tunnels would be under Guadalupe Street from Cesar Chevez Street to 14th Street; under Fourth Street to Trinity Street; and under Trinity Street from Fourth Street to Lady Bird Lake.
"It also helps facilitate the service, make it go smoother, make it more reliable and allows us to carry more people that way," said Jackie Nirenberg, CapMetro community engagement manager. "What we're finding from a lot of the other agencies around the country is that they wish they had constructed a tunnel when they started constructing their system because it does facilitate quicker movement and the capacity to carry more people so we feel we need to do that from the beginning."
The project will also include new and expanded MetroExpress routes, seven new MetroRapid routes, the Gold Line Bus Rapid Transit route and 14 'Park and Rides.' Nirenberg with CapMetro said they need to act now with Austin's population projected to double by 2040.
"That's a lot more people a lot more cars and no space to put them, so we have to give people an alternative to sitting in that horrible traffic and being able to get to the work, the educational opportunities, the people they want to see, the fun things they want to do in Austin and really be able to enjoy and get the most out of this city," said Nirenberg.
These are renderings of the proposed project.
PHOTOS: CapMetro's Project Connect plan
According to the transportation provider, here's a detailed look at what the plan includes:
Light Rail Transit (LRT) – These are high-capacity transit vehicles accommodating up to four times more passengers per trip. It would be operating in transit-only lanes that operate out of car traffic. Operating on the proposed Orange and Blue Lines:
- Orange Line:
- Light Rail from North Lamar Transit Center (US Highway 183 and North Lamar Boulevard) along the North Lamar/Guadalupe corridor, University of Texas campus, downtown to Lady Bird Lake and along South Congress to Stassney Lane.
- 801 MetroRapid bus service will continue from North Lamar Transit Center to Tech Ridge and Stassney to Slaughter lanes. These routes would be converted to LRT as resources become available, approximately in the 2040s.
- Blue Line: Light Rail transit service to and from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, providing service along East Riverside Drive, across Lady Bird Lake to the Convention Center and west along Fourth Street to Republic Square, operating along the Orange Line to US 183 and North Lamar Boulevard.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – These are high-capacity transit vehicles also operating in transit-only lanes that operate free from street traffic – moving more people and out of car traffic.
- Gold Line: BRT will be from Austin Community College’s Highland campus through downtown to the Convention Center and Republic Square.
Austin Underground Transit Tunnel
- Austin Underground Transit Tunnel separates light rail from downtown traffic, allowing the LRT vehicles to move faster, safer and more reliably through downtown benefitting all system users.
- Light rail on the Orange and Blue lines will use the 1.6-mile tunnel. Underground stations would feature enhanced amenities, such as retail, restaurants, a transit store and service center and public restrooms.
Service Expansion and Improvements:
- MetroRapid: Seven new MetroRapid routes – expanding one of CapMetro's most popular services, bringing faster and more frequent service to all parts of the city. Phase 1 would include the Expo Center and Pleasant Valley routes, as well as the southern extension of the 803 to Oak Hill and Menchaca Road. Phase two would include the Crosstown, MLK Boulevard and ACC to Tech Ridge routes. Phase three would include the Parmer Lane route.
- Park & Rides: Fourteen new Park & Rides with improved connection options and amenities. People can drive to an accessible lot, park their car and seamlessly catch transit. Some locations could include bike shelters and electric vehicle charging.
- Circulators: These new circulators that will serve neighborhoods citywide. Customers could use the service to connect to their favorite neighborhood spots and access additional transit options, like CapMetro's Pickup provides today.
- MetroBus: Additional all-electric, zero-emission vehicles and continued upgrades to stops, digital signage, safety lighting.
New and Expanded Commuter Rail Service:
- Red Line: The first phase would add two new stations at the Austin FC soccer stadium and adjacent to the Domain. A second phase would include additional sections of double-tracking to improve frequency and hours of service and longer station platforms for increased train capacity.
- Green Line: A new commuter rail line operating on Capital Metro’s existing freight track, the Green Line will connect neighborhoods throughout East Austin. The first phase would run from Downtown to Colony Park. The next phases would go further east to Manor and possibly Elgin.
“These recommendations are a bold vision for moving people today and planning for the future of our growing region,” said Randy Clark, the president and CEO of CapMetro. “Thank you to our community for the significant level of engagement in this process. Our community made it clear that they are ready for action, and this plan is the beginning of a mobility transformation that will improve the quality of life for everyone. We would not be here without our partners at the City of Austin, and we’re incredibly grateful for their partnership.”
Some people who ride the bus said this is what Austin needs.
"To have an option where it wasn’t straggled by the traffic problem we have here in Austin would be a boom," said bus rider Brooks Dozier.
Steven Harrell, who also rides the bus, agrees.
"I would definitely ride it," said Harrell. "I think we need something like that because Austin is getting too big.”
CapMetro staff presented their plan to the city council on Monday. Supporters with Transit for Austin rallied at City Hall before the council's work session, saying the plan is a step in the right direction to improve traffic.
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