Big projects for CapMetro moving forward

Officials at Cap Metro said it’s time to stop talking about transportation innovations and to start getting to work on making them happen. Wednesday, key players on several different projects provided an update.

Metro rail trains currently roll in and out of downtown on one track. But that's changing. Design teams, in June, are expected to start wrapping up the plan that will transform the area next to the convention center.

The project involves building two additional tracks, new loading platforms, and replacing 4th St. with an expansive courtyard. Ground breaking is targeted for the middle of next year.

"I think it will be really nice for the community to sit-down have a cup of coffee. There's talk about a possible farmers market and food trucks in the plaza. So even if you are not riding the train, you can enjoy that space right next to the station,” said Cap Metro Project Manager Marcus Guerrero.

Tuesday, Cap Metro planners got together to talk about projects they want to move off the back burner. One is already gaining steam under the Project Connect campaign. Six potential corridors have been identified for high-capacity transit. They include routes to the Airport, Manor, Round Rock, and Georgetown. Using portions of I-35 and the Union Pacific right of way, as well as double tracking the Red Line.

A survey to rank the most popular option wraps up Wednesday night. Long Range Planning Director Javier Arguello told FOX7 the type of service that may be provided is not limited to rail. 

"You have probably heard about gondolas, or autonomous vehicles, we are looking at new technology too, we are looking at street cars,” said Arguello. 

Work could start in 4 years, although a way to pay for the expansion has not yet been identified.

Cap Metro is also running an experiment that essentially morphs their big buses into the ridesharing phenomenon.

The idea is to use mini- buses like this one for door -to-door pickups.
Ordering a ride will be done by using a smart phone app. The ride-hailing service area while free is currently limited to northeast Austin. It could lead to a major shift in how mass transit is provided in the future.

"We’re trying to improve efficiency instead of having empty buses driving around on the street, in the same street every day,” said Mobility Specialist Tony Lynch.

The ride-hailing experiment is scheduled to last a year.

Next month a ground breaking ceremony will happen at Plaza Saltillo. The 11 acres next to the plaza is going to be transformed into a new transit oriented residential development. The new district, according to Cap Metro will be among the largest of its kind in Austin.