Capital Metro is spending more than $50 million to put its commuter train on the fast track. They're doing this: to alleviate the growing trend of over-crowded trains.
The mid-day train Tuesday pulled into downtown with only a handful of riders. But looks can be deceiving; the trains during the morning and afternoon rush hours are usually packed.
"I think it is worth it, I think people know that it’s an option and others find it helpful, the more people will ride it and the more convenient it is. The more it will get used,” said Sophie Levihn-Coon a typical Metro Rail Rider.
A picture sent to FOX 7 of a full Southbound train early New Year’s Eve also represents how packed rush hour can also get. The tight conditions – were documented on a YouTube video posted by David Scroggins. The video showed how tempers flared resulting in some pushing and shoving. The situation was quickly controlled by security officers.
Cap Metro Communications Manager Francine Pares said there is a plan in place to keep people moving safely on the rails during peak times.
"They are never going to be left behind, so our trains on all of these special events, we run them late into the evening, 2:30 in the morning sometimes, so if you are catching that last train and you show up and there are 100 people at the station and you don’t think you are going to get on, please know you will get on the train,” said Pares.
For those who don’t want to wait- extra buses are also put into service. It’s not a train ride - but you'll get home.
The contingency plan for special events and the daily rush is no silver bullet. Trains will continue to be crowded, which is why Cap Metro is expanding the capacity of the Red Line.
$28 million has been spent to purchase four new train cars That expenditure which will double the number of trains running on the rails to eight starting in 2017.
To help the extra trains mover faster up and down the route more side track is being added at the Crestview, Howard Lane and Lakeline stations. The overall investment could increase the frequency of train departures from 30 minutes to every 15 minutes.
"And we do think this is going to help address the popularity of the train,” said Pares.
Another plan is in the works to redesign the downtown station. To manage large crowds, the existing location will be transformed into a pedestrian only common area.
A new larger loading platform will be built a block away - providing access to not one but three tracks. The $22 million project is expected to be completed in 2018.