Texas and innovative rail transit are not usually thought of in the same sentence. But this U.S. State, famously known for oil and gas, big highways, (and for fiercely small “c” conservative politics), has a growing network of rail transit, including commuter/regional rail, LRT, and streetcars.
And last November, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic that has literally driven away transit riders, residents of the state capital, Austin, voted strongly to back expansion of its Capital MetroRail regional rail, build LRT and bus rapid transit, and provide more bus services.
Known as Project Connect the Austin plan will cost $7.1 billion, 55% which will be financed by the voters, who approved a dedicated 8.75 cent increase in their property taxes, and by Capital Metro. The federal government will be approached to finance the balance: 45%. With the pro-transit Biden Administration having taken the reins those funds are but guaranteed.
No doubt helping to convince residents to approve Project Connect is their experience with Capital MetroRail. First opened in 2010 and known as the Red Line it uses modern, accessible TramTrain diesel multiple units (DMUs). They operate on a shared freight rail line starting at Leander, 32 miles (51km) — about the distance from Duncan to Victoria —accessing downtown Austin on street trackage.
Thanks to Project Connect there will be more Red Line stations; the downtown terminus is already being expanded. And there will be a new Capital MetroRail route, the Green Line, which will link the city centre with Colony Park and eventually Elgin. The same pattern could play out on Vancouver Island.
What are we waiting for here in our democratic republic of BC? All political factions, Democratic, Liberal, Green, and Conservative British Columbians have ALL EXPRESSED SUPPORT! Interested in helping? Join the cause today!