Where Are You Going?

Where Are You Going?

In the latest draft of possible urban- and light-rail alignments, we generally see the same routes we’ve been looking at for the past year.  Alas, it’s important to understand that rail will not simply be delivered, it will evolve over decades to serve more and more people.  The Statesman has a nice graphic that shows the heart of the system being envisioned.

Indeed, I can begin to imagine using this system.  I suspect many Central Austin commuters can too.  But a lot of them been left out.  Below are some of my notes.

Running rail from the Metro Station along Trinity, weaving between the Four Seasons and the new Waller Creek boat house, then across Lady Bird Lake on a bridge to-be-built.

Not a single stop is envisioned anywhere south of Barton Springs, or west of The Long Center. This excludes: 1) all of the density of South Congress and South Lamar. 2) all of the recreation of Barton Springs Pool and Zilker Park. These seem like obvious destinations for Austin’s citizens and visitors.

Rail is a symbol of getting to recreation without using your car, IMO.

It looks like they are finally contemplating putting rail on Guadalupe (near campus).  Also, a rail corridor aligned on San Jacinto will complement the Waller Creek District Master Plan, and bolster the urban renewal development we want to see in the northeast quadrant of Downtown Austin.

About Jude Galligan

Jude Galligan, REALTOR, Principal of TOWERS Realty and publisher of Downtown Austin Blog (aka. "DAB"), spends his time matching remarkable people with remarkable properties in Austin’s urban core. A resident owner in downtown Austin, Jude has served on the Board of the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA) and the City of Austin Downtown Commission. Contact Jude.


  1. I’m a huge fan of light rail (when it is done right – Portland), but I have my worries about this plan. It projects to increase mobility around downtown quite a bit, but as Jude pointed out, with the exception of the UT area, it doesn’t tie in some of the major population centers of the city. For that reason, I don’t see how this will alleviate rush hour traffic on the major automobile arteries throughout the city. I hope that as the project evolves, this is taken into consideration.

    Also, this may or may not be related, but personally I would prefer to see an I-35 relocation effort (underground through downtown?) be the beneficiary of 1.3 billion dollars. As the city grows up around the elevated freeway, it will only become more expensive to resolve it. And no city planner with half a brain would deny that that major partition needs to be addressed. Dressing it up with funky LEDs does not change the fact that it has destroyed the core of this city.

  2. I really can’t see South Congress ever letting light rail on it. There are some areas of Austin that embrace the urban density and all that it brings, and some areas that to me are much more of “Small town Austin.” Much of those who live in South Austin prefer that small town feel and I know more than a few that wish Austin stopped growing 40 years ago. =)

    I think light rail would do great on South Lamar though even if many of the NIMBYs would fight it to death. However I do not think it is really necessary to take it all the way to Zilker. I think it would be very distracting and just kinda mess up the more relaxing atmosphere over there. I’m sure most reading here have walked down Barton Springs plenty of times for events that make parking an issue over there like ACL. Walking down Barton Springs is kind of part of the experience, and having people walk down it is good for those businesses.

    • Residents near SoCo actually voted for LRT in 2000. The center-city approved it overwhelmingly; even neighborhoods in opposition like Crestview had surprisingly strong support. It actually lost mainly due to Krusee’s rigging the election (forcing it early to coincide with W’s presidential election which dragged out a ton of suburban conservatives who would naturally and predictably be anti-transit).

      As for South Lamar, that’s a very bad corridor for LRT. Horrible pedestrian infrastructure, no appetite at all for density from the neighborhoods on either side and hardly any existing residential density, another highly constrained ROW stretch a la Guadalupe 27th-30th; and actually a state highway to boot.

  3. Residents along South Lamar has fought density by exempting most of the lots from vertical mixed use and South Congress businesses fought the last light rail plan hard. Riverside isn’t fighting density.
    I think that is just the political reality. And I think we’re starting to see the beginning of the center of downtown shifting east. I think that will be one of the biggest trends over the next 20 years.

    • Interesting notion, Tim. I can see a confluence of efforts that might indicate a shift the center of downtown eastward (Waller, Rainey, Rail on San Jacinto, new development east of Congress, growth east of I-35). However, once Seaholm, Austin Energy, and GWTP get under way it could be a wash.

      • I definitely agree the majority of density will be downtown. I was just saying with regards to the light rail that the area West of Congress and South of the River is probably not going to get much more dense and so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to run light rail to it.

        My guess is that in the future we’ll think of the current “downtown” as the captiol/business district and it will be on the densest west end of a much larger downtown area.

  4. Two things:

    1) No, there is no rail on the drag under this plan. It is still shifted over to San Antonio for good or bad (personally, I think this is good).

    2) This is a starter plan, remember?! The rail will eventually be extended up San Antonio/Guadalupe to the Triangle, west into Zilker, west into Brackenridge if UT develops it densely, and south down both Lamar and South Congress according to everything that has been put out by both the City and detailed by the Statesman.

    • Lance Hunter says

      It would be nice if they could get it to go further down S Congress, but I think the businesses there will put up some serious fighting to stop it. (For some unfathomable reason they are really devoted to keeping those parking spaces on the street.)

      I really like the idea of it going as far North as the triangle. I dream of the day I can party all night with my friends (who throw spectacular events at their house just across from Epoch coffee) on a Saturday night, and then Sunday morning just be able to walk down, hop on a train, and get dropped off at my doorstep.

    • Actually, this is more like a 20-year plan with staged buildouts, not just a starter (the starter is going to be one of the two or three lines this plan actually entails). And there’s absolutely no way this plan goes up Guadalupe to the Triangle – because to succeed on the Drag it’ll have to have its own lane, and the constrained stretch between 27th and 30th makes that impossible to sell politically when it would carry far fewer boardings than the 2000 proposal would have (i.e. in 2000, with 40k boardings/day combined suburban/urban ridership, you could just barely justify removing 3 of the 4 vehicle lanes in that stretch to make LRT go through, but with, say, 20k boardings, it’s no longer going to work – you’d actually be lowering person-carrying capacity of the corridor).

  5. Lance Hunter says

    I think the stops around the Congress/Riverside intersection and at the Long Center will actually serve the S Congress and Barton Springs Pool/Zilker area just fine. Things are tremendously walkable in that zone, and I could definitely see people getting off at either of those stops to then walk the short distance to Zilker or down Congress for the various shops and restaurants. On the Congress end, this could mean the absolutely gorgeous and giant sidewalk on the Congress-facing side of the Texas School for the Deaf could start to get the use it deserves. On the Zilker end, it’s not uncommon to see groups of people on warm sunny Sundays walking from Zilker along Barton Springs road all the way back to the apartments and condos that are on S 1st.

    S Lamar is definitely getting the shaft with this plan, though.

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