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 cities that have added passenger rail back into the commuting mix.

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

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 up¬†three cars at a time and run¬†them every 15 minutes.¬†

Metro shelled out $105 million for its¬†rail system, a figure that doesn’t include some direct costs, the Statesman said.¬†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 to¬†spruce up¬†a bus route¬†into¬†rail-like¬†service from downtown to the Medical Center,¬†which will start in¬†2012.

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

Sources:

 

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