Wheel Deal

Anonymous 2


Section I - What I Like

I like the plan’s commitment to light rail at low cost, which I see as an absolute necessity in Austin, and the focus on connectivity at stations to other modes.

Section II - Changes I’d Like to See

The blue line should not fork at the downtown station. The blue line light rail is currently planned to have two legs, one to Republic Square and the other up to UT. This is undesirable partly because of expense, but mostly due to operation and service issues. When a rail line has two branches (and the line is only double-tracked) service on one branch must necessarily be worse to accommodate trains from both branches on the main trunk. This works well for regional rail lines branching in outlying areas where coverage may be prioritized over frequency, and branching may in fact justify more frequent service on the trunk line. It is not a good idea in the urban core of a metro where frequency is crucial to transit’s success.

Reverse branching like this will also affect reliability in both branches, with say a car-accident at a level crossing or a power outage or a fire somewhere on the trunk line. As it stands service from Republic Square and UT would be negatively affected, if we’re thinking ahead to the future maintenance issues at the airport or a hypothetical river bridge could lead to delays or cancellations on commutes from Highland to Downtown. If instead either branch is done as part of a later independent rail line that doesn’t share these tracks, service will be unaffected. It’s very difficult and expensive to go back and fix interlining as Dallas is learning with the D2 subway after years of running all four lines with a short shared stretch of track.

This may be getting too specific for an activist plan but I’d like to bring attention to it.