If what M1ek said in the comments of a previous post is true about the route for light rail in Austin being the Streetcar route that Capital Metro has put forth, they are making a really bad politically motivated move. I'm tired of Austin getting a raw deal from it's political deals and this is clearly a political deal with outgoing Republican Mike Krusee (just like the commuter rail line was) and the University of Texas, both of whom seem to not care about the needs of the population.
It's been stated before that Krusee plans to use the streetcar as a redevelopment tool to turn over some of the parking garages at the State into redevelopment opportunities. I'm all for redevelopment and streetcars as I've said before, but if this line gets built, they're risking possible expansion and political will by not building where people really want to go. There is one route that is a home run that will guaranty expansion...Guadalupe.
Here are 4 reasons why Austin needs to start light rail with the best starter light rail line possible
1. 1994 Denver - Built a very successful starter line and used that success to go after a 119 mile expansion plan
2. 1999 Salt Lake City - Opened North South Line connecting major destinations blowing out ridership projections. Recently passed a sales tax to build 5 new lines.
3. 2004 Houston - Built a starter line through the center of the two largest job centers in the city. Ridership is highest per mile of any new LRT line in the United States. 5 new lines are being planned and 2 are expected to be funded by the FTA later this year.
4. 2004 Minneapolis - Built Hiawatha line which exceeded 2025 projections. 30,000 riders and the DFL party just forwarded a bill that will give the region 8 corridors by 2020.
Let's take a look at how to do this in Austin because you don't often get a second chance.
Through the Capital Complex
The red line is the "preferred alignment" by Capital Metro and the political backroom dealers. As you can see, the blue are parking garages and the red is existing dense development that is served by the most used bus corridor in the City (#1). Which one makes more sense? Go where the people are? or go where the cars are housed?
Through the University
UT is one of the largest Universities in the country. There is a large concentration of students going to classes every day in the area I've labeled main university where the Guadalupe alignment should go. On the left side of the Guadalupe alignment, the West Campus area where the highest concentration of students live has just been rezoned for high density mixed use. Think the Pearl District and South Lake Union. The Back Room alignment goes by all of the facilities that people use perhaps 8-10 times a year. The swimming pool, the track, the stadium, the LBJ Library and the Bass Concert Hall. The problem is, people don't go there often from Downtown or from up North. The area east of the red alignment is generally dead space...I spent most of my time at UT running around that track and just outside its walls. Not too many people there.
Next we'll talk about the more northern options but lets do the first section right this time.