More Red Line Service On the Way

Those of you who use the MetroRail Red Line to commute on a regular basis know it’s packed most mornings and evenings.

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 1.05.07 PMWhile Capital Metro has known that a time would come when it needed to expand the Red Line to carry more people, the agency simply hasn’t had the money to add rail and buy more cars. What’s more, the other usual source, federal funding, now has too many entities competing for limited rail or transit dollars. Which is why it’s all the more impressive that Capital Metro has done a creative Texas Two Step in seeking new sources of new funding.

Late last year, Capital Metro applied for federal funding, competing against all transportation projects nationally, and received $11.5 million to improve the tracks along the Red Line. This will allow more trains to run and all the trains to run at faster speeds. The improvements look like they’ll be complete by early 2016, and could cut travel times by as much as 20 minute each trip from end to end.

Then just last month, in a rare investment in urban transit, the Texas Department of Transportation awarded Capital Metro $50 million. This money allows Capital Metro to end the Two Step with the essential twirl.

New Rail Cars – $28 million

Four new rail cars will double the capacity of the current rail system and allow up to 2,400 passenger trips during the morning and again in the afternoon peak with 15-minute headways. MetroRail currently provides more than 2,700 trips per weekday with a majority of these passengers going through the downtown station.

MetroRail Downtown Station – $22 million

The MetroRail Downtown Station will replace the current facility that was designed to be temporary and connect the Red Line with future urban rail and local bus service. The new Downtown Station will include three tracks and two platforms to accommodate future system expansion and better serve large crowds during special events. This station configuration is estimated to cost between $30 million and $35 million, part of which will come from local partners.

As State Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin said, “It’s encouraging that TxDOT is looking for and supporting multimodal strategies to help tackle our congestion challenges. It’s not possible to meet the demands of a thriving economy and fast growing population by only investing in roads. We need to embrace every available option to provide relief.”

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