Busses and rail and riders, oh my!

Posted by & filed under Politics.

Public transportation always seemed to be a problem in Austin. Ever since I moved here I don’t remember public transport serving many people in areas beyond downtown and the UT area. And that seems to be a problem now, ever since Leander got connected to downtown via the rail system (or, rather, that they decided to re-use existing rail).
When I just heard an announcement about how the Metro Rail would be operating, I was in shock. What’s the point of having limited service, that is only available for a bit in the morning and a bit in the evening during work week (5AM-9AM)? In Europe the primary allure of public transport is that it’s available almost everywhere, can be easily accessed by foot and runs from morning till late at night every day.

I understand that this is not possible in Austin, as rail-tracks were ripped out of downtown in parts, and never laid down in suburban areas, but bus system could be fixed. Primarily I’m talking about having smaller buses. Mini-van or commuter van type of vehicle that can run the same route, but doesn’t need a huge amount of people to be filled, and costs less to maintain.

That way capital metro can still provide service, and wouldn’t have to cram rail system down the Leander riders’ throats. Because that’s exactly how it looks like right now. As ridership of the rail is way-way down, they start cutting “bus routes with low utilization” and suggest that people ride the rail instead (ha-ha-ha). Besides looking bad and not solving the problem, this course of action also pisses people off. And makes them pretty darn sure that the only way to solve their transportation problem, is by moving (which is correct), driving their own car (costly and causes traffic spikes/jams) or doing some other kind of arrangements.

Problem of location seems to be two-pronged. From one point of view I understand perfectly, that not everyone has enough money to live in the area close enough to work, or close enough to bus/train routes. Even though capital metro seems to be wasting tons and tons of money it just can’t serve outlying areas well enough, and their only proposal is more money. Perhaps they should split the agency into smaller companies?

Or what if those funds allocated to Metro were instead spent on commuting vans and/or building affordable municipal housing near areas of economic activity (and rent them out to whoever wants to work in the area instead of building individual family houses).

For everybody else I have a simple question – to what degree should you help somebody who wants to live outside of the immediate work/school/shopping/phone service area. Should taxes on city people be raised to allow more people to live in suburbs? What about the other way around?

3 Responses to “Busses and rail and riders, oh my!”

  1. M1EK

    Wrong conclusions – the hours of service have nothing to do with low ridership (most successful US light rail lines see most of their ridership during commute hours). The problem is that we didn’t build light rail that would actually have gone directly to UT, the capitol, and right through the middle of downtown; we built a useless commuter service which requires transferring to shuttlebuses to get to all three of those places.

    People who drive will not (and have not) find that service anywhere near as attractive as traditional urban rail.

    Check my blog for more – been writing about this line since 2004.

    • Max Smolev

      Oh yeah, I completely agree that new track needs to be built, instead of reusing freight line, but given costs of doing that there’s zero chance it will happen in next 120-173 years.
      I would think that when rail started functioning, it’d be available as close to 24×7 as possible, to see the actual pattern. I still don’t understand why they decided not to run it on the weekends — if people were expected to use it to get downtown, what could be better to get to downtown on a weekend.

      I’ll check your blog. Thanks for the link

      • M1EK

        We had the ability to do it in 2000-2001 (was forced to the polls early by Krusee) and again in 2004 (Krusee strongarmed them into commuter rail instead of a short urban rail line like Houston did).

        Problem now is people are starting to learn the lesson that “rail doesn’t work”. (Of course, my job is to try to keep telling them that this is BAD rail, and BAD rail doesn’t work).

        You could run Red Line trains every minute on the minute and not get many more riders than we have today. The route is the problem, not the schedule.


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