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Capital Metro readies rollout of Red Line rail service

Thursday, December 11, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

Capital Metro’s Red Line is on track to begin its commuter rail service from Leander to Downtown at the end of March.

The Red Line route is beginning to see progress, in pictures, made at the various stops along the line: the piano keys in the pavement and the musical notes overhead on the rail stop at MLK Boulevard; the rail line that has been completed in Leander; the test stop of the Red Line car at the rail stops at Plaza Saltillo and the downtown station line.

The start date for service on the line is March 30. As early as this week, Capital Metro will take the rail car out for a meet-and-see along the route, giving potential riders a chance to sit in the car and get a sense of the experience of Austin rail.

In a presentation to the Capital Metro board of directors on Wednesday, Doug Allen noted the progress on station stop construction: Leander, Lakeline, Crestview, Highland, Plaza Saltillo and Downtown complete; MLK done by Jan. 31; Kramer done in both directions by March 1; and Howard Lane by March 5.

Track signals, crossings and construction remain on schedule, with all crossings and bridges complete, Allen told the Capital Metro Board. Last week, the first ticket vending machines arrived. Security cameras, station signage and benches will be installed at stops in coming months.

Already, the train car has made visits to downtown and Plaza Saltillo, Allen said. At Plaza Saltillo, the train was met with waves and clapping, he said. In his presentation, Allen showed pictures of the train from both the Downtown stop and Plaza Saltillo, noting the design and construction features, as well as the relationship of the train car to the Lance Armstrong bike pathway.

Directors are still concerned not every stop between US 183 and Downtown has a quad gate. John Trevino noted, tongue in cheek, that it was not just his constituents “but also my cousins,” who might be affected by the noise. Capital Metro officials noted that most of the route would be a designated quiet zone – without train whistles – starting on Jan. 1.

Capital Metro still has final documentation to submit to the Federal Rail Administration. In that documentation, the transit authority must guarantee the ride quality of the car on the line, as well as the quality of the service.

Marketing Manager Rick L’Amie noted that the marketing aspects of the Red Line would begin in earnest in the next three months. While the agency already has made inroads into local elementary schools to talk about safety along the line, the goal now is to read out to potential riders with Meet-and-See events, like ones Downtown this week at the Brush Square station.

The train “Come and Sees” are scheduled between 11:30am and 1pm today at the Downtown Station near Brush Square. A second is scheduled on Saturday, between 2pm and 6pm, to coincide with the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar and the Capital Metro Awards Banquet.

That is followed by various open houses closer to the start time, to teach people how to use the ticket vending machines and the handle train protocol. Outreach efforts also will include civic presentations and school safety events. The tentative VIP events are scheduled the weekend of March 27, with a grand opening event on for the public on March 28.

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