Do UT Students Use/Care About MetroRail?

Six months after the opening of the MetroRail… Downtown Austin Blog contributor, Nicole Sanseverino, hops on board the Red Line with an update on just how well the $110 million dollar project is doing.

The MetroRail makes its way from Leander to Downtown Austin on 32-miles of existing freight tracks.  It’s a commuter rail that runs only during peak traffic hours in the morning and evening.  UT students ride for free using their IDs.  But, some students don’t even know it exists…

“The MetroRail… I don’t know anyone who takes it,” said one UT student.

According to Cap Metro, less than one percent of the UT community take advantage of the rail. One student who lives in Round Rock says the rail is a convenient way to get to class.

“It’s quick, it’s calm, sometimes I can sleep on it. I don’t get sick like on the bus,” said UT student Anke Sanders.  But, she does wish the rail operated at other times during the day.  “If it could ran more often especially during weekends maybe to go downtown for dinner or something that’d be ideal,” Sanders said.

If the City’s proposed Mobility Bond passes in November, it will launch an effort to expand the rail. CapMetro approved mid-day service beginning in January, but doesn’t have any concrete plans to increase the actual infrastructure of the rail.

“We don’t have any immediate plans for building more. I think what people would see first would be maybe purchasing more vehicles, expanding these rail stations,” Cap Metro spokesperson Misty Whited said.

After its first six months, the MetroRail is averaging 800 riders per day, but the city of Austin and CapMetro hope that as the population increases, so will ridership.

“We think it’s a great success,” Whited said. “We’re operating very well and efficiently, we just would like to see some more riders of course, but with any new service it takes time to develop that ongoing ridership patterns that you would like to see.”

Despite some bumpy tracks near its beginning, the rail chugs along.



  1. Only 800 riders a day, thats pretty god damned pathetic.

  2. this project was an obivious flop from the beginning. running a long lengthy time consuming route through the least dense parts of the city was destined to fail. note they have not really admitted to such a failure. this type of rail project is favoring urban sprawl.. and now you have city officials talking about running rail to hutto and elgin? what?? didnt you just fail with the redline to north austin…

    you get what you pay for. The redline is like we as a city just opened a brand new fancy high end japanese restaurant in the middle of a ranch in west texas….looks nice but no one will every use it and you cant even get fresh fish which is the main ingredient.

    the original rail line should have been placed from the south from william cannon or ben white up congress going north then going up guadalupe past UT and then over to lamar or burnet with end point around domain, jollyville, arboretum area. south congress from ben white to UT should have been completed first. it would have encompassed cbd, two mixed use higher density development areas, two universities, the downtown capitol area, tourist areas of 6th street, south congress, warehouse district, west 5th area. i would prefer subway over light rail but we cant even get conversation started.

    I dont know what special interest had them build the red line but build where people will use it. Also dont let them come up with anymore ideas like a rail to hutto? why do we in austin need to provide the infrastructure to leander, hutto, elgin, and round rock. why do we reward urban sprawl and non sustainable developments? how about some smarter development instead of special interest group with rail lines to nowhere. Isnt the purpose to try to increase convenient public transportation with high ridership to take cars off the street?

    Also Pedestrian bicycle corridors in texas will not work.. it’s 100 degrees in the summers. how many people in suits or work clothes can bike in 100 degree weather to work and then back home. I believe this is a waste of money and just disrupting car traffic flow. taking away car roads and putting in bike lanes. doesnt make sense. i see one or two riders a day these bike lane. its too hot, doesnt work. two riders versus 30k cars (duval road was taken from 4 lanes to two to make room for bike lane creating traffic congestion), i just dont understand the logic of it.

    Imagine austin campaign and prop 1 talks nothing of rail public transportation. are we as a city as a whole just decided not to go for public transportation. sorry for my rant.

    • Hmmm. Jude didn’t like my first reply, I guess.

      Try reading my blog, or googling for “Dahmus Box And Horn” for a good intro of WHY we ended up here.

      • Mike,

        I appreciate your zeal and informed opinions. When you insult me and my staff, and make inaccurate assertions/implications about what we personally support (or don’t) then you cross a line. I can’t influence what you say on other blogs and websites, but we’ll continue to moderate personal attacks on DAB.


        • As best I can remember; there was no insult; there was no personal attack; there was just a reference to you being among those who had cheered the Red Line at one time or another. I even went and checked and found a link which backed up that claim.

          If there’s something else in that comment that bothered you, please let me know so I can avoid said insult in the future.

  3. Also, a student in Round Rock isn’t in the service district – meaning the taxpayers of Austin are subsidizing him/her to the tune of $30/ride.

    • I’ve read M1EK’s posts before. I did forget Round Rock isn’t on board with Cap Metro, same goes for Cedar Park, but I bet about half those riders live in Cedar Park and hoping on the train at Lake Line.

      The 2000 light rail plan was brilliant, it sucks it got shot down and we went with this commuter rail plan.

      At least we didn’t have to build the rail for fail rail, maybe we can move those trains to Austin owned transit rail someday. Assuming those trains are diesel electric, maybe we can add a pair of pantographs to them and let them run full electric when possible.

      As massive and sprawl as Dallas is, DART trains are pretty awesome. They even have *gasp* tunnels and most of the stops outside downtown are at fairly dense mixed used developments. I love Austin and would hate to leave, but if a decent job offer came up (that was near a train) in Dallas, I could have a spectacular apartment on the 12th floor of the Mercantile (~3 blocks from Ackard Station) for about what I pay for a small apartment near Barton Springs.

      • The vehicles they use on the Red Line are not suitable for running in the street (they can run a straight line sort-of OK for a little while but they can’t make turns sharp enough to ever go on the 2000 route – or any other in-street route that could go anywhere worth going – nor would you want their diesel emissions down one of our best pedestrian corridors).

  4. MetroRail? I’ve only heard it referred to as FailRail. I really don’t understand how anyone ever thought this was a good idea. I also don’t see any reason a UT student would ride this, it’s nowhere near UT and doesn’t run at the right times or often enough to be convenient.

    Leander? Really? I assume most people that live in Leander work near Leander. I’m not sure what the 2010 census total will be for Leander, but I’ll assume it’s ~ 20,000. $110 Million to service a population of 20,000?

    The busiest bus route in Austin is the # 1, running a huge portion of Lamar and Guadalupe. Lamar and Guadalupe also have a lot of traffic. Why didn’t we spend that $110 million on building dedicated rail down Lamar and Guad. It could have started in North Austin near the Tech Ridge shopping center (Parmer/Lamar Area), crossed under 183 near the North Lamar Transit center, Stopped next to Crestview, The Triangle, North Campus, UT, Capital, Downtown, South Congress, St. Edwards and Cross 290 to stop at yet another Cap Metro transit center and continued on to Stassney, William Cannon and the big shopping center at Slaughter an I-35.

    Granted, building all this rail would be expensive and for it really work, it would take up at least an entire lane of traffic. It should also be electric, with wire overhead. But if we built this, with no shared right of way, it would certainly reduce traffic.

    With this in place, a second line could be added to service the rest of the Lamar from the Triangle into South Austin. And finally, the existing MetroRail would bring Leander/Cedar Park commuters into the Austin Rail system and give them access to the entire city. Eventually we would want to build rail to service Round Rock, which could run the along I-35 and meet other lines near Campus or The Triangle and continue into Downtown and South Austin without riders needing to Transfer.

    Just seems to me, we need to improve transit where it’s already largely used. Make it run faster and more often, more people will ride which will reduce traffic. We need to take some risks and build systems in places that already have congestion. Building and expanding roads is expensive and only encourages more driving and less use of transit. Everyone complains about traffic and everyone is willing to spend millions to fix up a congested road, building transit is a better investment in our city. Its cleaner, greener, safer and will serve the city for generations.

    Also, while I’m on the subject of traffic. Remove the toll on SH-130 and put in a toll at IH-35 North in Buda (at the SH-130/IH-35 Interchange) and on IH-35 South in Georgetown (at the SH-130/IH-35 Interchange) SH-130 should really be IH-35 Alternate that goes around the city. I’m certain this will massively reduce traffic on 35, (which will help Lamar and Mopac) and generate more toll revenue than ever. I’d be happy to pay a few bucks to head back home from Dallas or San Antonio if it means the rest of the time IH-35 isn’t congested. The toll would still be paying for SH-130 and SH-130 would actually get used.

  5. It’s 800 boardings/day (845, actually). Most riders account for 2 boardings, thus, it’s less than 500 people/day.

    This will never help UT more than a fraction – as the required transfer to a shuttlebus to get to campus is a time and reliability killer.

    And anybody in downtown who applauds this thing by sucking up to Capital Metro is an idiot – every dollar spent on expanding the hours of service of this debacle is a dollar taken away from urban rail, which would take you from your condo downtown straight to UT or maybe eventually the Triangle. What are you doing to do with mid-day Red Line service – visit the pasture around the Lakeline station (foreclosed supposed TOD)? Observe the livestock in Leander?

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