People got a chance to climb aboard the possible future of Austin's mass transit system on Thursday. Kinkisharyo, a Japanese-based streetcar manufacturer, is taking its new prototype on an American tour.
The streetcar runs on a combination of power from batteries and overhead wires, storing energy when the train brakes and eliminating the need for overhead wires in parts of the route, Kinkisharyo project manager Bill Kleppinger said.
“What that really leads to is significantly lower project costs,” Kleppinger said.
Austin is already courting the idea of expanding rail service in the downtown area.
City planners have developed a proposed light rail system for Austin which would run 16.5 miles of streetcar-like trains in the downtown area.
The routes would connect new and existing Capitol Metro routes with the Central Business District, the Capitol and The University of Texas.
“For us, [Kinkisharyo’s event] is more informational about what the city is pursuing with this urban rail program,” Austin’s urban rail program manager Scott Gross said.
The city is likely to vote on the proposed rail plan in a 2012 bond election.
If approved, the project could be completed in 2018, Gross said.