I’ve got to be honest. I like the idea of light rail. It’s cool. It’s different. But the more I look at non-light rail projects like Capital Metro’s Red Line and light rail projects like Dallas and Houston’s. I don’t know if they justify the cost.
When I look at transportation there is one massive problem, and it exists whether we’re talking about rail or buses. Transferring sucks.
In Austin the best case transfer takes 25 minutes. For the bus that goes closest to my house that could go up to over an hour. So no matter how awesome some potential rail line is, I still have to plan to get my transfers as close as possible. And if I miss my transfer coming home, I’ve got an hour to wait.
I think at the end of the day, the best thing that CapMetro can do is run more buses. They get a lot of flack for empty buses, but I think they could counter this with a convenience message. If their goal is to make sure that you can take a bus and never wait more than 5 minutes for a transfer, then the bus becomes much more convenient for getting places. And if a commute takes 45 minutes rather than 65 minutes, that’s a huge difference in deciding to ditch a car. And if a trip to the grocery store takes 15 minutes by bus rather than 35 minutes, I’d be much more likely to consider the bus.
We’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars just to build the new Red Line, what kind of additional bus service could we get for that?
And what about a line going up and down 360 with WiFi? It seems like no one would take it, but I’d contend that with good advertising it could be a packed route. There are a lot of workaholics on 360 and if you could let them work on their commute they’d jump at it. I think this is a big difference between the potential audience on 360 and the audience currently being shuttled into downtown.