Transportation
1:53 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

The $2.2 Million Question: Expand Cap Metro Rail Service?

Plans to expand Capital Metro’s rail service haven’t enjoyed a smooth roll-out.

The transit authority told KXAN yesterday its plans on launching weekend service on its MetroRail commuter line during this spring’s South by Southwest festival.

However, a report from Austin American-Statesman‘s Ben Wear notes there’s still no agreement between Cap Metro and the City of Austin, which is expected to fund the extra rail service. He quotes Austin City Council member and Cap Metro board chair Mike Martinez as saying, “The bottom line is, there’s no deal.”

The soonest any formal action could occur on the proposal is next week. At their Feb. 9 meeting, city council is slated to take up an item providing for the extra funding. The cost of expanding Friday rail service into the evening and running the service on Saturday is tallied at $2.2 million annually, with two optional year-long contract extensions.

Wear notes another outstanding issue between the parties is just what form the payment would take:

City officials reportedly have pushed for an arrangement wherein the cost would be deducted from a $45 million debt owed to the city by Capital Metro.

The transit agency, on the other hand, would prefer that the city pay the money upfront. Simply subtracting it from the debt would require that Capital Metro pay the actual costs now. 

This year will bring the second anniversary of the Red Line’s launch. Cap Metro officials have applauded a growth in ridership since service began, although critics question whether the city will be subsidizing a service that benefits nearby suburbs more than communities in Austin.