Capital Metro to Try, Try Again

Having lost two light-rail ballot measures at the polls, and having built a semi-commuter-rail line that flopped, you’d think Austin’s Capital Metro would have learned its lesson. But no, twice as much to start, as originally projected, now costs nearly ten times as much per vehicle mile as Austin commuter buses, yet still only carries around 1,400 round trips a day. As the Antiplanner never tires of saying, it would have cost less to give every daily round-trip rider a new Toyota Prius every year than to run this.

On top of this, Capital Metro has lost 19 percent of its transit riders since 2012. Capital Metro hasn’t significantly cut either bus or rail service, so most of the lost riders were probably taken by ride sharing.

So, ridership is falling with no end in sight. Capital Metro’s one try at rail transit was a disaster. And voters hate light rail. What else is there to do but plan another light-rail line?

“The problem for the $2.1 billion plan, as always, is funding,” says the Austin Statesman. No, the problem is that light rail is a stupid idea and the agency shouldn’t be wasting any resources on it.

Speaking of light-rail waste, Minneapolis wants to build a light-rail line north to the suburb of Brooklyn. Eight of the 13 miles of the line were to share right of way with BNSF freight trains. But now BNSF says the line would violate “long-standing passenger principles we use to evaluate passenger projects on our property.” In other words, BNSF doesn’t want to have to worry about a freight train derailing and killing light-rail passengers.

BNSF already insisted that Metro Transit plan to spend $20 million on a ten-foot-high wall separating 1.4 miles of freight right-of-way from another planned light-rail line. A similar wall on the Brooklyn line would cost well over $110 million.

It may not matter. President Trump’s proposed 2019 budget includes zero dollars for either light-rail project, or in fact for any new rail project. Just one more reason why Austin’s Capital Metro should stop wasting money planning light rail.


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