The downtown Austin “Red Line” train station is about to undergo a significant makeover, that will add room for two more trains at the station. The capacity upgrade is expected to double the people (from >400 to 800) to commute to downtown from north Austin during rush hour.
However, the final design seems to be departure from any of the proposed concepts.
If all goes to plan, according to April 2016 Cap Metro docs, the construction would start in the middle of 2017, and wrap in 2018.
Here’s the rub: the station’s inspired architectural concepts have been dropped (see those designs). It’s gone from mint ice cream with sprinkles to plain ol’ vanilla sans sprinkles.
This is the practical design and impact:
- Fourth Street will no longer be open to vehicles traveling west from Red River to Trinity. That’s because the car lane on the north curb is going to become train tracks. But also because…
- Fourth Street, between Neches and Trinity will become a pedestrian plaza. This is a welcome design, and one that no doubt comes after careful consideration of a variety of factors in the area given the nearby mega-hotel, fire station, park, bikeway, etc. To accomplish this, the entire train station will move a block east — to be sandwiched between the Hilton and the Convention Center, instead of Brushy Park and the Convention Center. Meanwhile, the plaza will feature food vendors, benches and the like, and naturally expand the taking great advantage of the park, an underused public space. Kudos to everyone who got together on that vision.
Ok, now on to the design of the station from what I can tell by blueprints.
I’ll be honest, it looks extremely “meh” when compared to the three avant-garde design concepts floated a year and a half ago, named the UFO, Sail, and Gateway (see here).
The Austin Monitor and KUT reported last year that the project budget had shrunk unexplainably from $35 million down to $22 million. Given that the money is grant funds coming from the Feds/State, it is possible the money was poached for another project. Or also possible that one or more bureaucrat/activists had a bone to pick with grant funds being spent on avant-garde construction instead of moving butts in trains. (Capital Metro PR staff: This is pure conjecture, and I welcome you to publish a blog post clarifying, which I will gladly link to if you send to me. While you’re at it, can you please post new renderings?)
Yes, I was hoping to see the Gateway concept come to fruition. Though that will not happen, I do still support the plan and design. Incremental progress is still progress.