Imagine taking a rush hour trip from North Austin's Tech Ridge to downtown's Republic Square in less than 25 minutes. That's the vision if Capital Metro's new $2.1 billion light rail plan stays on track.
On February 12, an Austin transit nonprofit tweeted a draft proposal from CapMetro outlining a 12-mile-long light rail system connecting North and South Austin via Lamar Boulevard. The three leaked pages were part of a 58-page plan later obtained in full by the Austin Monitor and KUT.
According to the leaked documents, the route would run north to south, using North Lamar Boulevard and Guadalupe Street. The light rail would originate at Tech Ridge and include stops at Parmer; Braker; Rundberg; North Lamar; Crestview; Koening; Triangle (45th Street); 38th Street; 29th Street; University of Texas (24th Street); Capitol (12th Street); Courthouse (10th Street); and Republic Square.
CapMetro notes in the draft that the North Lamar/Guadalupe corridor is being considered because it "has been one of the most critical transportation arteries in Austin for over a century."
Included in the documents are two price options for the light rail: a high-investment plan and a low-investment plan, both of which could potentially be up and running by 2025. Coming in at $2.1 billion, the high-investment plan could serve 30,000 daily riders, up from the almost 9,000 daily riders that currently use similarly placed bus routes. The lower alternative would cost $1.4 billion and service up to 22,500 daily riders.
The light rail would be one part of a multi-faceted mass transit system that includes current and future CapMetro bus and MetroRail routes. In a timeline, CapMetro projects construction to begin in two to four years, putting the project anywhere from six to 10 years from completion.
As noted by the "draft" printed on pages of the plan, the document was solely intended for the advisory committee, though CapMetro's vice president for planning and development, Todd Hemingson, told KUT that the organization planned on going public with the plans in late February.
As the Austin American-Statesman notes, no funding for the plan is currently in place, and Austin voters shot down a similar ballot proposition in 2014. It should also be noted, however, that while the 2014 ballot proposition was overwhelmingly voted down, it doesn't mean we've lost the need for real, grown-up mass transportation options to service a real, grown-up city like Austin.
Regardless of why it was leaked or who was behind the sneaky tweet, with the city's seemingly unending growth, not to mention Amazon potentially bringing HQ2 (and 50,000 new citizens) to Austin, let's hope we see more of these plans, leaked or not.