Austin
12:06 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

The Red Line, One Year Later

Capital Metro's Red Line train service turns one year old this Tuesday. Officials are pointing to higher rider numbers in recent months as proof that the commuter rail is catching on.

"Most of last year our average daily boarding were in the 800 to 900 range. In January that bumped up to about 1000, February to 1,200, and in March with some of the special service and huge crowds for South By Southwest we've seen much higher numbers just looking at the daily estimates so far," said Adam Shaivitz a spokesperson for the Transit Agency.

Shaivitz credits the rider increase, in part, to a decision to run more trains at midday, and drop the cost of a ticket. During South By Southwest, the agency also ran evening trains on Fridays to get people to and from downtown festivities. That proved popular with conference goers, and Shaivitz said that regular evening service was "definitely a possibility."

As transportation reporter Ben Wear points out, other factors, including an increase in fuel prices,  have played a role in increasing ridership.

The agency combined two Northwest metro area express bus routes in a single bus route that, for some commuters, was less convenient and had the effect of driving some bus riders to MetroRail.

Increased ridership has not silenced critics of the Red Line who point out that Cap Metro initially projected passenger numbers far higher than even the increased ridership of the last few months.