10 Mar 2010, 10:23pm
Commuting Passenger rail:

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Austin back in the passenger rail game

Promo image from Capital Metro

Promo image from Capital Metro

After a 70-year hiatus, much debate and then a yearlong delay, Austin will soon join American citiesĀ that have addedĀ passenger rail back into the commuting mix.

On March 22, Capital MetroĀ will start running diesel trainsĀ on a 32-mile route with nine stops from Leander to downtown Austin, the agency recently announced. AĀ one-way trip will last a little more than an hour and the regular fare will beĀ $3.Ā 

Trains will come by every 35 minutes during peak travel times, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Nearly 200 people can fit in a car, including standing room.

To match the capacity of a highway lane, you’d have to hook upĀ three cars at a time and runĀ them every 15 minutes.Ā 

Metro shelled out $105 million for itsĀ rail system, a figure that doesn’t include some direct costs, the Statesman said.Ā Still, at about $3.3 million a mile, using an old rail line, the city struck a bargain as far as rail projects go.

Austin commuter rail route

Austin commuter rail route

Consider that:

  • Phoenix paid $70 million a mile when it joined the league of rail cities a year ago, leaving San Antonio as one of the largest U.S. metros without rail service.
  • Houston and Dallas spent $45 million a mile to build light rail, says a now dated 2005 San Antonio report.
  • San Antonio is spending some $12 million a mile toĀ spruce upĀ a bus routeĀ intoĀ rail-likeĀ service from downtown to the Medical Center,Ā which will start inĀ 2012.

And, to throw an apple in the cart, a San Antonio toll authority last year was eyingĀ a $472 million price tag to design, buy land and reconstruct just under eight miles ofĀ U.S. 281Ā to add six toll express lanes. That’sĀ $60 million a mile; $20 millionĀ per two-way lane mile.Ā 



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