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So uh..Austin Subway*, Light Rail Expansions and $3.2 - $10.2 Billion

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I know there are other transit/transportation threads, but deserves its own, since it's such a massive project.  Cap Metro says Fed grants can get them 40% of the money.

https://www.kxan.com/news/local/austin/austins-unveils-multi-billion-dollar-transit-plan-with-possible-light-rail-expansion-downtown-subway/

"After months of speculation and rumors, Austin is getting a glimpse Tuesday at a massive transportation plan which is aiming to fund a new generation of transit for a growing city. 

At a joint work session of Austin City Council and Capital Metro Board of directors, Tuesday afternoon discussed an update to Project Connect, a plan to create high-capacity transit in the Austin area. For the first time publically, they explained which transit options are on the table and how they might pay for it. 

The transit plans these groups are looking at range from $3.2-$10.2 billion dollars, depending on the features they opt for. CapMetro explained they believe they can pay for 40% of this amount through federal grants."

"The city is looking at other options for how to foot the bill for the remaining 60%. City staff explained to KXAN that all their main options for doing so include putting this transit funding plan to a public vote in November. 

One option for a public vote to pay for this plan could be a transportation bond election, as the city has attempted before. Another option the city is now looking at would be a tax rate election."

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Edited by atomheartbevo

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"“This is the moment and the opportunity to actually change our future to change our future in a big generational, once in a generation kind of way,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “If we don’t do it, then quite frankly I don’t want to hear people complaining about congestion over the next twenty years, because now is the time if we are serious about doing something, that we can do something.” 

In Adler we Trust, amirite?

I will say, this is a helluva a lot more comprehensive than I was expecting.  And talking about elevated (but no gondolas?)

Edited by atomheartbevo

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$3.2-$10.2bn.  With federal grants covering 40%. 

So I asked, 40% of $3.2bn or $10.2bn.  Because grant percentages don't always move up as the project cost moves up, but you know that as a city employee who writes federal grants, right?  

I haven't gotten back an answer. If it's just $3.2bn and the feds kick in almost $1.3bn, leaving us with less than $2.0bn which we do with my bond float advice and that plan above, I think we're in business and I'll go on TV and advocate for it.  But I have a bad feeling, it's gonna be $1.0bn from the feds and $9bn from us over two bond floats that fucks us forever.  But I'm waiting to hear back and proven wrong.  It'll be a challenge to be heard over the campaign lies told about this thing in November.  

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I'm not voting for anything that puts Capital Metro in charge of a single dollar.  They have shown absolutely no ability to build, let alone manage and operate, an efficient mass transit system.

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2 minutes ago, Lobo said:

It'll be a challenge to be heard over the campaign lies told about this thing in November.  

Do you think it actually makes it on the ballot in November with solid information?

I know that's what they are aiming for, but it doesn't feel like there's that much time to get it out there in the public conscious before we are overwhelmed with federal election bullshit sucking up all of the airtime.

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2 minutes ago, Ghost of LL said:

I'm not voting for anything that puts Capital Metro in charge of a single dollar.  They have shown absolutely no ability to build, let alone manage and operate, an efficient mass transit system.

Who should be in charge then?  City of Austin?

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Well voter turnout in Austin will be at a record high.  We're still sorting through the affordable housing bond reporting "chassis", and then we had hoped to move on to previous bonds to find extra unused/already floated money to clean up a decade of financial mismanagement and see how it can help the current homeless situation.  the Bond Advisory Task Force also has its hands full, but I'm sure will drop everything to give a quick and tacit endorsement to light rail in October.  For the record, I'm not wholly opposed to spending a few billion on this, I just know from 5 years of deep experience with this shit at City Hall, we're gonna half-ass it to get it on the ballot and our paper sale schedule will be a shitshow because it'll be sold as "No, no man...it's cool we're getting our 40% from the Feds next week bro.  It's all good."  that's one thing with ten million here, 100 million there.  With middle 10-digit numbers, that can fuck up a city's books for a generation.  

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4 minutes ago, atomheartbevo said:

Do you think it actually makes it on the ballot in November with solid information?

Yep. 

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Cap Metro said the elevated option is a worse case scenario and they won't need elevated for most of it. It seems like the tunnel option is popular with everyone because of the big operational advantages that would allow for longer trains.


I think the most likely option for the system is between 6-8.4 billion. The amount of time it takes to build will be dependent on the tax rate chosen for the November ballot. 

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11 minutes ago, Ghost of LL said:

I'm not voting for anything that puts Capital Metro in charge of a single dollar.  They have shown absolutely no ability to build, let alone manage and operate, an efficient mass transit system.

Randy Clark is the new CEO of cap metro and he's legit. 

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And for the road warriors, Austin has experienced unprecedented expressway investment for the last 15-20 years, and the next decade is going to bring even more.  I-35 is finally going to be rebuilt, 290 West through Oak Hill is gonna finally get done, and 183 North is gonna get the Katy Freeway treatment.

Its time to put some real money towards transit in this city.  Transit that doesn't clog up or get stuck in traffic, or sit through traffic lights.

It's time to put on your big boy britches, Austin.

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1 minute ago, Armybrat said:

You can probably just double the cost of any such project right now.

Hope it works out though.

They have done a lot of due diligence and pre engineering to get these estimates and they include a contingency bump. Next week, officials from other US cities are coming to peer review the plan and estimates to give their take on the methodology used

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3 hours ago, Pasken said:

Randy Clark is the new CEO of cap metro and he's legit. 

has he spent time in brockway, ogdenville, and north haverbrook?

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10 minutes ago, futureman said:

has he spent time in brockway, ogdenville, and north haverbrook?

No, but his surly handle is Pasken.

Edited by Poolflood

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Let's see, what do we do about the homeless epidemic we created?  

Oh, hey everyone!  Let's build a new train instead!

 

Thanks for never disappointing me Austin....

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Mass transit needs to be accompanied by zoning/land development reform to truly be effective. I'm not sure I believe that will happen given the voting population in this town. All about density, affordable housing, transit, etc. until it comes time for them to put up or shut up.

That said, it's finally starting to dawn on people that the strategy of simply adding more expressway lanes does nothing but make the problem worse. I look forward to the process playing out, hopefully Austin can learn the lessons, both good and bad, from other cities.

Edited by gmr548

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They floated out some high percentage of federal grants They were going to get on the red line project and they knew from the first day of planning they weren’t getting them. They flat out lied. It’s what they do. 
 

I can’t wait to hear all of the people that complain about how expensive it is to live here while simultaneously talking about how they voted for this plan.

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They have done a lot of due diligence and pre engineering to get these estimates and they include a contingency bump. Next week, officials from other US cities are coming to peer review the plan and estimates to give their take on the methodology used


How many endangered-spider/salamander/whatthefuckever colonies have they accounted for? Because if it’s less than 9, the time/cost is going to increase.

That being said, I almost always vote yes on these. Gotta start somewhere

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6 hours ago, Somnio said:

 183 North is gonna get the Katy Freeway treatment..

Calling you on this deceptive bullshit.

The Katy Freeway added an additional frontage, freeway, HOV lane and 2 toll lanes on each side.  That’s 4 free and 2 free dedicated for 4 tolled.

183 North is getting a couple of sidewalks, zero new frontage roads, zero HOV lanes, a single lane that’s only goes for 3 additional miles (to correct a 4>3 lane bottleneck between Braker/McNeil) and 2 (9 mile) lanes on each side.  That’s .3 free lanes and a sidewalk for 4 tolled.

I wouldn’t call that the “Katy Freeway treatment” I’d call that getting fucked and I’m going to be pissed as a mother fucker starring at those two basically unused toll lanes on the opposite side of 183 when I’m still sitting in traffic twice a day since only an idiot (or someone who gets to use them for free/on the taxpayer) will be taking the toll North in the morning or South in the evening.

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4 hours ago, TKthunder2 said:

Calling you on this deceptive bullshit.

The Katy Freeway added an additional frontage, freeway, HOV lane and 2 toll lanes on each side.  That’s 4 free and 2 free dedicated for 4 tolled.

183 North is getting a couple of sidewalks, zero new frontage roads, zero HOV lanes, a single lane that’s only goes for 3 additional miles (to correct a 4>3 lane bottleneck between Braker/McNeil) and 2 (9 mile) lanes on each side.  That’s .3 free lanes and a sidewalk for 4 tolled.

I wouldn’t call that the “Katy Freeway treatment” I’d call that getting fucked and I’m going to be pissed as a mother fucker starring at those two basically unused toll lanes on the opposite side of 183 when I’m still sitting in traffic twice a day since only an idiot (or someone who gets to use them for free/on the taxpayer) will be taking the toll North in the morning or South in the evening.

Lol.  3 current expressway lanes in each direction, and there will be 6 expressway lanes in each direction when it's complete.  It'll be pretty damn close to the Katy Freeway, but I wasn't attempting to mislead anyone that it was going to be an exact replica.

And if you think the toll lanes will be unused you haven't been paying attention.

Oh, one other thing.  Your taxes aren't being used to build the 4 toll lanes, Chief.  CTRMA is going to issue a half billion dollars or so of bonds to pay for those.  Bonds which the people paying tolls will pay off.  Those same people paying the tolls, which paid for the lanes they're driving on, are no longer clogging up your precious "free lanes".  Everyone wins.  But I know...."Tolls are bad!!!!"

Edited by Somnio

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8 hours ago, freyguy said:

Let's see, what do we do about the homeless epidemic we created?  

Oh, hey everyone!  Let's build a new train instead!

 

Thanks for never disappointing me Austin....

If you build a subway the homeless can just live in the tunnels and ride trains all day. 

Edited by Hate

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15 minutes ago, South Austin said:

I’m all for this, until collective Surly tells me I should be against it.

Well the accusations of deception and corruption have already begun.  You know cuz if you support mass transit you're either stupid or corrupt.  Or even worse, poor.

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15 hours ago, Pasken said:

Randy Clark is the new CEO of cap metro and he's legit. 

Is he?  Because I've seen no evidence of any changes.

It's the simple blocking-and-tackling of running a mass transit system that CapMetro falls down on.  Look at 8th Street between Brazos and Congress.  It's down to one lane.  It has been for months (and will be for quite a long time) while the City does utility work.

A competent agency would reroute buses up to 10th.  Or at least eliminate the stop at 8th and Congress.  But not CapMetro--they keep the bus stop there, which makes that one-lane street completely impassable (even to their own buses that get caught in the backlog behind the stopped bus).

CapMetro could rationalize its bus routes tomorrow.  That's what Houston has done, and Houston has seen a huge increase in ridership.  But CapMetro wants shiny trains that cost billions, rather than thinking about effective solutions utilizing the resources it has in hand.

One wonders why that might be.

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I assume all large governmental works projects all over the globe involve some level of kickback and corruption.  Maybe I'm jaded, but that argument doesn't move the needle for me anymore.  With that, other cities still produce pretty kick-ass mass transit.

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6 minutes ago, Somnio said:

Well the accusations of deception and corruption have already begun.  You know cuz if you support mass transit you're either stupid or corrupt.  Or even worse, poor.

That's because in every instance that this city has proposed a transit plan, it has been filled with deception and/or corruption. Why should we believe that THIS time will finally be different? 

Name a single transit plan that came within $100M of the original estimated cost.

Name a single transit plan that has solved a traffic congestion issue.

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9 minutes ago, South Austin said:

I assume all large governmental works projects all over the globe involve some level of kickback and corruption.  Maybe I'm jaded, but that argument doesn't move the needle for me anymore.  With that, other cities still produce pretty kick-ass mass transit.

That may be true.  I'm not even complaining about the corruption, if the process (corruption included) ends up with a quality product.

But what in CapMetro's history would given anyone any basis to believe that, after spending $10B, we would end up with anything that accomplishes the goal of providing usable mass transit?

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15 minutes ago, Ghost of LL said:

But what in CapMetro's history would given anyone any basis to believe that, after spending $10B, we would end up with anything that accomplishes the goal of providing usable mass transit?

The fact that it currently provides usable mass transit.

You obviously hate Capital Metro.  I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you're not a transit user in Austin.

I'm pretty sure no information I can provide will change your mind.

But here's an article from last year about Capital Metro's ridership growing very substantially.

 

Quote

Bucking national trends, Capital Metro now has seen consistent increases to its transit ridership for several months in a row, including a large jump in May that agency officials said places them among the fastest-growing transit systems in the U.S.

The transit authority saw an 11.5% jump in its ridership last month compared with May 2018, an increase of 274,271 passengers, according to a Cap Metro monthly ridership report. Through the end of May, Cap Metro had carried 20.8 million passengers this fiscal year, nearly 1 million more than at the same time last fiscal year.

https://www.statesman.com/news/20190624/cap-metro-rides-positive-trend-in-passenger-numbers

Edited by Somnio

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So a less than 5% increase YoY?  That doesn't strike me as very impressive for an area growing as fast as Austin.

Specifically, what improvements has CapMetro brought about to encourage new ridership?  

And no--I'm not a transit user.  Because guess what--CapMetro's shitty system doesn't run buses anywhere close to my house.

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35 minutes ago, South Austin said:

With that, other cities still produce pretty kick-ass mass transit.

A lot of other cities didn't have a choice - older cities with established cores were fairly locked in before automobiles were a thing, so they were never going to be able to handle everybody having a car.  The only solution was to design a mass-transit system on a large-enough scale, and that had to work from the beginning, and that had to carry everybody  (not just the poors and students).

We are building from a much smaller-scale - we started with a system that ran limited routes that catered to poors/UT students/people that didn't want a car, in a state where car ownership is a part of the fabric of the state (and said state doesn't have a decent mass-transit system between cities, because it keeps getting shot down by special-interest groups).

Edit: And Austin has grown slower than the spread of cars - Austin was still that fairly sleep little college town, even has car ownership, highways, etc. took off.  With that said, Austin ignored traffic congestion, even back in the 80s.

Edited by atomheartbevo

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5 minutes ago, Ghost of LL said:

 

Specifically, what improvements has CapMetro brought about to encourage new ridership?  

 

Quote

In June 2018, we put in place the most significant changes to Capital Metro's bus network in our history. That made our buses more frequent, more reliable and better connected. We tripled the number of MetroBus routes that operate every 15 minutes and made sure that frequency serves you on Saturday & Sunday too.

https://capmetro.org/remap/

Edited by Somnio

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14 minutes ago, Ghost of LL said:

 

And no--I'm not a transit user.  Because guess what--CapMetro's shitty system doesn't run buses anywhere close to my house.

I get it.  Mass transit isn't for everyone.  If someone hypothetically say lives in one of the suburban areas not well served by transit, it isn't of much use to them.

But a lot of people do live and work in areas of the Austin area with good transit.  And a lot of them use it as well.  If you and your circle of family, friends, co-workers don't, I get it must seem like nobody must.

But they do, to the tune of tens of millions of passenger trips annually.

Edited by Somnio

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16 hours ago, Lobo said:

But I have a bad feeling, it's gonna be $1.0bn from the feds and $9bn from us over two bond floats that fucks us forever.

This is before the inevitable cost overruns that always conveniently trail these rail plans.  MD's "purple" rail was budgeted @ $60M.  Wound up closer to $275M.  

Denver's Regional Transit District (RTD) decided to build the West light-rail line, it projected that it would cost about $250 million. After adjusting for inflation, that’s about $350 million in 2012 dollars, the year the line was completed for $707 million. Moreover, to build the line for $707 million, RTD ended up putting in single track for the last several miles of the line instead of the double track originally planned.

Seattle is staring down the barrel of more than $500M in overruns and still not done.

The "train through paradise" in HI.  Started @ $5B.  Up to $9B so far....for a rail only 20 miles long.

Of course we all know about the doubling and tripling of rail costs in CA.  Yet here we are again....

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5 minutes ago, Somnio said:

I get it.  Mass transit isn't for everyone.  If someone hypothetically say lives in one of the suburban areas not well served by transit, it isn't of much use to them.

But a lot of people do live and work in areas of the Austin area with good transit.  And a lot of them use it as well.  If you and your circle of family, friends, co-workers don't, I get it must seem like nobody must.

But they do, to the tune of tens of millions of passenger trips annually.

On the contrary, I know that plenty of people use it.  I also know that plenty more people have need of it, but it doesn't serve them well.

I don't want to get rid of CapMetro--I want it to work.  There are a lot of people in this area for whom that is their only transit option.  And it does a poor job of serving those people.

The subway is a case in point.  A subway was a great idea in Victorian London or Tammany New York.  Those places were already densely populated.  And when the subway went in, that became a primary mode of transit around which development grew.

Austin is different.  It is a city that has grown around surface automotive transport.  So it makes no sense to graft an ancient mode of transit onto a city that has grown based on an entirely different transportation paradigm.

That's why something that incorporates and utilizes the way people currently experience transportation makes sense.  It's not just that BRT is more economical.  It's that it more effectively provides service to an automotive-developed city.

What we're looking at is a DART starter kit.  DART sucks.  Don't reinvent that stupid wheel.

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11 hours ago, Texas_Rocks said:

Austin is Adler’s Chicago. Setting the city up for kickback corruption on a scale never seen in the city.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Want to know the future or Austin, look at Chicago today.

Like Chicago, money swindling via kick backs on real estate projects is job one. Each area City is their own little fiefdom fighting for their own kick back money and doing what it takes. There is shit ton of homeless and talks of helping them, but not much is really done. I'll give Chicago the nod of winning here though because at least they get it's primarily a drug addiction issue and aren't letting homeless camps sprout up everywhere.

Otherwise, exact path.

I'm for the idea of mass transit in Austin though I no longer live in Austin. That said, this project, like every other one will be vastly more expensive than anticipated and take at least 5 years longer to complete than estimated, because those contractors are not getting paid to finish. They are getting paid by kick backs too, and the longer the project the longer they are paid.

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1 hour ago, Somnio said:

Well the accusations of deception and corruption have already begun.  You know cuz if you support mass transit you're either stupid or corrupt.  Or even worse, poor.

Mass transit is a great use of public funds, if managed and operated correctly/efficiently.  

 

This would have been a great implementation about 20 years ago.  It'll be a disaster trying to accomplish it now.  

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