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Cap Metro board looks at rail stop connections

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Capital Metro board members on Monday got a look at preliminary plans for increased bus service to the nine stops along the “Red Line” commuter rail that will connect Leander to downtown Austin later this year. The agency plans to boost regular and express bus service to those transit stops and to implement a new connector service designed to shuttle commuters from some of those stops to nearby high-traffic destinations in under ten minutes.


Initial plans call for direct connect service from the stations on Kramer Lane, MLK, and the downtown station near the Austin Convention Center. From the MLK station, Capital Metro will run two direct connect routes circulating to UT and complex of state office buildings around the State Capitol. “Those routes will be there for the train. Passengers will board the buses and they will express to their final destination. They’ll meet the train every single time,” said Annette Polk, a Senior Transportation Planner with Capital Metro. “They have designated stops where we know commuters are heading.”


The direct connect routes from the downtown stop would also connect to the Capitol, although on the south and west sides of the complex, and to City Hall as well as TxDOT and ACC on Riverside Drive.


Other transit systems around the country have similar connectors to major employers and large-volume destinations, Polk said. “This should distribute everybody in the best way,” she told the board. The staff will draft a public involvement plan for the board’s approval this spring and return with finalized routes for those connectors in April or May. The exact schedules for those buses will likely not be set until September or later, since they will be timed to coincide with the commuter rail service.


Council Member Brewster McCracken, who serves on the Capital Metro board, asked the staffers about the possible alignment of a streetcar or light rail connection from the MLK station to UT. While no route has officially been set since no rail-based connector system has been approved, Capital Metro staffers said Manor Road would be a more likely route for a light rail or streetcar connection to UT. While much of the property along MLK is zoned residential, the land along Manor Road is zoned commercial or mixed-use. Additionally, it is easier and less expensive to build tracks along Manor Road at I-35, since it crosses the freeway at grade level, rather than building on a bridge along MLK where it passes over the freeway.

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