Rail in Austin

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How do you feel about rail in Austin?

Screw rail!
1
3%
Why don't you just say trains!?
4
12%
Oh yeah, baby...
27
82%
Who gives a rat's ass?
1
3%
 
Total votes : 33

Rail in Austin

Postby apiaryist » May 9th, 2012, 4:16 pm

What are the chances that we'll ever have viable city-wide rail in Austin? An elevated train seems like the perfect solution to our traffic woes.

Pros? Cons?
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Postby Ruby W. » May 9th, 2012, 4:28 pm

There should be an option of "how about we had stops to the CURRENT light rail so that people can actually use it"
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Postby happywaffle » May 9th, 2012, 9:02 pm

Ruby W. wrote:There should be an option of "how about we had stops to the CURRENT light rail so that people can actually use it"


We don't have light rail now, we have commuter rail, which is an actual train that runs on normal, existing train tracks. So we could hypothetically add more stops along the rail line, but we can never have the commuter train go to places that people actually live and work (UT, downtown, 78704).

For that we need actual light rail, which is smaller, lighter, and designed to run on city streets. For it to be actually effective, it needs to run in its own dedicated lanes—otherwise it's even worse than a bus. Elevating it is one idea, but spectacularly expensive. Only by starting 100 years ago did Chicago develop such a nice system.

To answer the original question: in 2000, we got within 500 votes of approving a truly impressive light-rail system that was going to run down Lamar, Guadalupe, and Congress. It was exactly what Austin needed, and it failed by the slimmest of margins, which is a damn shame. Now it's 12 years later and getting around town still sucks.

And just to give some historical perspective: from 1880 until 1940, Austin had an elaborate streetcar system that was first pulled by mules and later electricity. Then we tore it all up in favor of buses. :(
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Postby Ruby W. » May 9th, 2012, 9:29 pm

happywaffle wrote:
Ruby W. wrote:There should be an option of "how about we had stops to the CURRENT light rail so that people can actually use it"


We don't have light rail now, we have commuter rail, which is an actual train that runs on normal, existing train tracks. So we could hypothetically add more stops along the rail line, but we can never have the commuter train go to places that people actually live and work (UT, downtown, 78704).
(


yes - thanks for the verification. However the commuter rail does go pretty close by Troy's house and whatnot and I'd DEFINITELY ride it to downtown (it stops relatively close) if they had stops.
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Postby mpbrockman » May 10th, 2012, 3:35 am

happywaffle wrote:...but spectacularly expensive...


True, but short-sighted. Average EU petrol prices are currently around 7.75/gal. USD (9.95/gal. USD in Italy). The only reason my corner gas station is currently selling at 3.65/gal. is b/c of oil company subsidies and price controls.

The long view is that petroleum is a finite resource. Drill, baby, drill all you want and you buy a few more years, maybe a decade or two. Do we bite the bullet now (incidentally creating jobs) or wait until crunch time?

I admit it will take a massive PR campaign to convince people to give up the "freedom" of their autos.

The b*tch of it is that I'm still going to have to drive damn near everywhere to haul my gear. Thppppppppt... my next car will be a hybrid.

BTW - anybody realize that the most efficient (energy out/energy in) form of transportation extant is still the steel wheel on the steel rail? Perhaps the new advances in maglev tech will render this out-of-date, but for the moment...
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » May 10th, 2012, 9:09 am

i remember having this debate back when i first started college, and here we still are. i think we all just assumed we'd have jet packs by now. :P

personally, it wouldn't make much practical sense to use it. but i absolutely think it should exist. especially after seeing the dystopian nightmare that a bus based public transportation system can become in L.A. shudder...
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Postby mpbrockman » May 10th, 2012, 4:41 pm

Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell wrote:i remember having this debate back when i first started college, and here we still are. i think we all just assumed we'd have jet packs by now. :P


"Here we still are" using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and kerogen shale (once thought to be stupidly expensive, but crude prices have made it practical). We're running out of options unless asteroid mining yields light, sweet crude or pure synthetics become practical too. I'd take a jet pack, tho'

Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell wrote:... but i absolutely think it should exist. especially after seeing the dystopian nightmare that a bus based public transportation system can become in L.A. shudder...


Oof... yes, this.
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Postby ratliff » May 10th, 2012, 10:59 pm

I live in far east Austin (Airport & Oak Springs). I work in far north Austin (Metric & Kramer). I can drive to work in 20 minutes, but on the way home it can take me closer to 45 during rush hour.

The bus stops within a block of both home and work, but it requires a transfer and takes about 45 minutes one way.

The train takes about 20 minutes no matter what traffic's like. I'm in between stations, so I have to bike for 10 minutes to get there, but I can take the bike on the train if I want to or park it at the station. For me it's a noticeably more pleasant and relaxing commute than driving, and twice as fast as the bus with no transfers.

The problem with gauging the convenience of mass transit is that almost everyone is starting with the reference point of a car that drives directly from your driveway to exactly where you want to go, whenever you want it to do that. Mass transit is always going to suffer by comparison if those are the benchmarks.

It will also never come out ahead if you really love driving, as many people do. But as far as I'm concerned, the extra effort is worth it not only for abstract ecological reasons but for the more pleasurable experience. I can relax and read the paper on the way to work instead of playing car hockey on the freeway.

Mass transit definitely requires more planning and flexibility than a car, and when it sucks it really sucks (like waiting for a late bus in the rain), but I would like to arrange my life so that it's my primary way to get around, and so far the Austin system has met most of my needs. But faster is usually better, so yes, I would love me a goddamned train.
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Postby mpbrockman » May 11th, 2012, 12:27 am

ratliff wrote:... as far as I'm concerned, the extra effort is worth it not only for abstract ecological reasons but for the more pleasurable experience. I can relax and read the paper on the way to work instead of playing car hockey on the freeway.


Also yes ^ Big yes ^
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Postby Terry » May 11th, 2012, 6:22 pm

To answer the original question: in 2000, we got within 500 votes of approving a truly impressive light-rail system that was going to run down Lamar, Guadalupe, and Congress. It was exactly what Austin needed, and it failed by the slimmest of margins, which is a damn shame. Now it's 12 years later and getting around town still sucks.


I'm just just going to stick a, "HEY GO VOTE TOMORROW!" reminder here.
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Postby shando » May 18th, 2012, 9:36 am

Having lived in a city with a very robust tram system, I can testify that it makes for a very very civilized experience. For one thing, old people could get around. I find the generational segregation of American life pretty appalling. Not saying that it would happen in Austin, since our residential patterns are pretty established, but transit changes the way people live, not just how they get around.
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Postby mcnichol » May 18th, 2012, 11:27 am

^^^OTM!

Also, when considering this some people compare how a train would work against today's driving time and traffic. As Austin continues to grow and get thicker with people, the commute time on a given train line remains relatively constant, while the traffic will just get worse and worse. And given the projections for the number of people moving here in the near and far future, everyone driving a car everywhere here just won't be feasible.
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