Public Transportation

Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News

Capital Metro’s Red Line will start running late into the evening on Fridays and Saturdays. Austin City Council voted 6-1 this evening on this resolution directing city staff to finalize the deal with Cap Metro. Kathie Tovo was the only council member to vote against the proposal. 

The new schedule will see commuter trains run hourly from 7 p.m. until midnight on Fridays. On Saturdays, they'll run every 35 minutes 4 p.m. until midnight. That schedule takes effect Friday, March 23.

Photo by KUT News

Austin’s public transit agency has known for a while that its fledgling commuter rail service could see a lot more riders if they let people take the train on Friday and Saturday nights. Back in May, we reported on how Capital Metro broke ridership records when they did that during the Pecan Street Festival.

But the problem was always money. Six months ago, the cost estimates were around $1 million annually for Friday and Saturday night service.

“That’s arguably a million dollars we don’t have,” Cap Metro Board Chair and Austin Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez told us in May. The head of Cap Metro, Linda Watson, said the agency was in talks with the city to secure funding.

Fast forward to the present, and costs estimates are now closer to $2.7 million per year, but it appears the city is willing to pay for it.

Daniel Reese

As if awaking from a two year hibernation, a sub-committee of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) held its first meeting this afternoon with a new leader and new members. The Transit Working Group (TWG) was restored in time to prepare for Austin’s soon-to-come vote on an urban rail system.

The working group was first established in 2007 under Austin Mayor Will Wynn. He decided the city needed an urban rail or street car system. But nothing really came out of it. Now, Mayor Lee Leffingwell is leading the TWG.

“The big difference between this group and the one of that before is our focus is going to be regional,” Leffingwell said.

Image by Transit Authority Figures

Update (June 17, 2014):  This story from 2011 is enjoying a second-life on the Austin Reddit page. After being posted there it inspired a discussion with over 160 comments. For more on a potential Austin subway, see this report from StateImpact Texas: Why Texas Doesn't Have Subways.

While there are no plans for a subway, Austin's plans for Urban Rail are proceeding rapidly. See KUT's combined reporting on Urban Rail here. And read our latest reporting:

Original story:  A piece of wall art making the rounds online depicts a subway system for Austin that would put this city’s public transit system on par with densely populated cities in the Northeast. The creation is produced and sold by Transit Authority Figures, based in Northampton, Massachusetts.

The poster had many people wondering aloud why Austin couldn’t just go ahead and build a world class subway system. We called up Capital Metro’s vice president of strategic planning and development Todd Hemingson and asked him ourselves.

KUT News: Why can’t we have an amazing subway system like this in Austin?

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.

Image courtesy flickr.com/loudtiger

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced $2 billion worth of funding today to expand high-speed intercity rail travel.  $15 million of that is coming to Texas.

We can quibble about the accuracy of this tool, but it definitely an interesting way to visualize public transit data. French software developer Stefan Wehrmeyer invented a Google Maps mashup that shows how far you can travel by public transit or on foot from any given point on the map.

Go here and just drag the marker to any place, then use the time slider in the bottom right to adjust the size of the blotch.

Here's their video explaining the concept. 

Capital Metro bus in downtown Austin
Photo by KUT News

Capital Metro is holding another public hearing tonight on a proposal to increase the price of taking public transit. The hikes are intended to help Cap Metro balance its FY 2011 budget. Most of the agency's operating revenue comes from local sales tax. Cap Metro says that's an unreliable source of income because of fluctuations in consumer spending.

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