Sunday, March 8, 2009

Austin MetroRail: An alternative green transportation

Beginning this March 30, 2009, Austinist can enjoy a new way of transportation: MetroRail. The train will run from Leander all the way to downtown Austin with a few stops including several Austin Park and ride locations. The train will travel a total length of 32 miles and will schedule to service around 30 minutes interval during morning and afternoon rush hour. Ticket can be purchased from the vending machine located at transit stores and rail stations. The two hour one way fare will range from $1-$1.50 depending on which zone your trip crosses. The zone boundary is between Howard and Kramer stations. Passenger in MetroRail will also be pampered with a Wi-Fi internet connection, tray tables, and bicycle racks. Rapid bus will transfer passenger from nearby train stations to final destination with no additional cost as long as it is between 2 hours. According to the Capital Metro spokesman, Misty Whited, "Austin's MetroRail is one of the most financially efficient systems in the country because it's already paid and it runs on existing track. Other cities that build from scratch pay much more, which is generally done with bonds or taxes."

According to the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) at Texas A&M University, in 2006, Austin is one of the top 10 of most congested medium cities (500,000 to 1 million populations) in the U.S. The travel time index in Austin is 1.31 (Austin Business Journal) which means that it takes 31% time longer travel time to the destination during peak hours. Interstate 35, U.S. 183 and Loop 1 are where the congestion are rated the most. The negative impact from traffic congestion on environmental issues is more carbon footprint. The data from Blueprint for American Prosperity shows that in 2005, the average Austin resident produced 1.518 tons of carbon from highway transportation which includes 1.119 tons from autos and 0.398 tons from trucks. This number puts Austin in rank 54th in top 100 metro areas in U.S. Austin MetroRail will have a capacity of 200 passengers. Although this number is relative small and considered during its first year trial it runs only twice an hour, the future expansion of MetroRail will definitely helps reduce the traffic congestion in Austin.




Kathryn Alexander said...

I hope that the new MetroRail will encourage more people to use public transportation and reduce traffic congestion (and resulting emissions). As a native Austinite, I’ve heard the local debate over light rail for nearly the last 10 years. When light rail was narrowly defeated in Austin’s November 2000 election, Capital Metro and the city of Austin had to slim down their proposal from a monorail system (elevated trains) to the commuter train (street level) system that is being launched at the end of this month. Perhaps maglev trains are next. An electromagnetic train that uses magnetic propulsion to travel up to 350 mph, the maglev is a promising solution for inter-city transit like the Austin-San Antonio corridor.

Amos said...

I would say that Maglev would fit higher capacity routes such as commuting or airport to city center.