San Antonio: the Next Light Rail System in Texas?

Interesting op-ed on mySA, about the need for light rail in San Antone. Will they be next Texas city to realize the attractiveness of light rail?

That'd mean that the 3 largest cities in Texas would all have LRT lines; Dallas with the soon to be even more amazing DART system, Houston, with it's one line, and now San Antonio? There's no doubt that LRT can work in sprawling cities (San Antone is definitely one), since the first LRT systems of the light rail renaissance were in the very un-dense cities of Edmonton and Calgary, then add to the fact that LA and Dallas both have great and/or improving systems, then there's no way that this isn't possible in the Alamo City.

And think if the LRT system connected at least the Alamo, and maybe some of the other missions, with the eventual ASA Rail, and even Fiesta Texas? Talk about potential traffic! Besides, LRT's ability to allow for densification and the renewal of downtowns could ease some of the pressure on the Hill Country west of SA, that's being ravaged by overzealous development of ugly box houses.


How Will MetroRail's Viability Be Affected By ASA Rail?

I went looking around at information about the Austin-San Antonio Commuter Rail District, and after finding this (PDF) presentation on their website, I started thinking about how the construction of a rail line between Georgetown and San Antonio, that connected with the MetroRail Red Line at McNeil, would affect usage of the CapMetro commuter rail line.

Due to the range, and having, at least initially, to run on a moderately-heavy traffic, single-track freight railroad, the ASA line would probably use the established method of separate engine and cars. Maybe something like the MPXpress and those Bombardier double-decker cars? A definite contrast to the Stadler DMUs used by CapMetro!

But how would the establishment of the ASA rail line affect usage of the Red Line? Any commuters from Leander and Cedar Park could now travel direct to San Antonio and San Marcos, etc, as well as Round Rock and Georgetown (though rail might not show a significant advantage over car travel in the Leander-Georgetown trip, due to a much longer distance via rail). This could increase the viability of the commuter rail on the northern end of the rail line, but also eliminate part of the need for the Red Line south of McNeil, maybe, as the ASA stop at downtown Austin would actually be closer to the core office area, not the convention center, like the Red Line.

But at the same time, if you look at the people that rail is sold at attracting, the "choice commuter", who doesn't oft like to transfer (and how hard would it be to transfer at McNeil?), then this might not be relevant at all, at least for Leander?Cedar Park-Austin travel. And I have no idea how many people actually commute from Northwest Austin to San Antonio...

But if ASA RAil removed the demand for the Red Line south of McNeil, could the A&NW right of way be used as planned in the 2000 light rail plan, at least in the best possible outcome?


What Now for Austin Rail?

Now that the Capital Metro Red Line is coming closer to completion and the initiation of operations, what is rail in Austin's future? I see several very distinct possibilities.

  • We do as Austin transit-man M1EK proposes, and get rid of the DMU commuter rail system while we can, and replace it with (maybe) a scaled down version of the 2000 light rail plan, which would've hit more densely populated areas.

  • Keep the commuter rail, and add a light rail/streetcar line which could possibly connect up to the Mueller redevelopment, down along San Jacinto, through Riverside, and all the way to Bergstrom, as recommended by Brewster McCracken and ROMA (here)

  • Do nothing, and keep the commuter rail and the requisite shuttle-buses.

I for one, think that either the first or second are the best options, and that the second and third are the most likely; following my logic, I'd say that the second option, if the line was truly light rail, in separate right-of-way, would be the best possible option. Just cross your fingers on this one Austin...


Something MUCH Easier Than LRT...

Why can't there be a national fund for pedestrian transit?

How hard is it to have sidewalks along all the major thoroughfares of a city. I mean, I go to school in Leander, a town of almost 35,000 now, and walking from the high school to the library, there's no sidewalks! What's up with that?

This is walking down the side of a 4 lane, with turn lanes road, with very steep embankments! Our world is not only car-centric, it's pedestrian-hostile, at least in the suburbs!

Installing sidewalks should not be anywhere near the expense of building a new LRT system from the ground up, shouldn't it? I'm not asking for a complete transit system, just a safer way to walk!


Thinking of a DART Trip

I've been thinking of the possibility of first-hand research for my extended essay project; visiting Dallas' DART Light Rail (THE rail success story of Texas) could give me some valuable insight into the effects of LRT on quality of life, especially now that the DART LRT system has been around more than a decade!

First-hand experience of the effects of TOD developments like the Mockingbird area, and the chance to talk face-to-face and observe people who use the train every day.

I also would try to squeeze in an interview with someone in the TOD-related areas of the DART project....