Cap Metro to open new temporary downtown rail station

A new temporary downtown rail station will open at the end of the year with a permanent station in progress and set to open in 2021.

David Dech, Cap Metro's Vice President of Rail Operations, spoke about the new station.

"The station is in place. The track is in place," Dech said.

The old station has been closed since the spring to make way for the construction.

"We have a lot of testing we have to do on the signal systems and the crossings," Dech said. "So the station's good, we're on track to be open by the end of the year with the station."

Good news for Capital Metro is that overall, systemwide ridership was up more than eight percent in September over last September.  

Not surprisingly, while typically standing room only in the mornings and evenings, MetroRail ridership was down about 33 percent in September. Cap Metro attributes that to the downtown station closure. Since spring, riders have had to take a shuttle from downtown to get on the train at Plaza Saltillo.

"I do want to thank our customers and riders, they've been very patient with us. The process isn't over. You'll have to be patient with me a little longer but we'll get there," Dech said.    

Dech says the work being done to improve the MetroRail product for riders has been "astronomical."  

Cap Metro has opened four new passing sidings this year.

"What that does is provide you with all these little places to meet and pass trains," Dech said.  

The idea is to increase the MetroRail frequency. A speedier ride from Leander to downtown could also be on its way, Dech said.

"I'll get there as soon as I get the Positive Train Control and everything else installed. Then I can concentrate on optimizing the system and try to get some more speed on it," he said.  

Saturday service will resume at the beginning of the year, which Dech says is new and improved.

"Instead of just being Lakeline into downtown, that Saturday service will be expanded to include Leander so it will be Leander to downtown starting at four in the afternoon," Dech said.  

Cap Metro is also considering the Green Line, similar to the Red Line, that would go out to Elgin.

There are also the Orange and Blue lines, proposed dedicated pathways that Cap Metro is working with the community on to figure out what mode to run on them, which could be light rail, bus rapid transit or something autonomous.

Voters will have a plan to weigh in on by next November.

"From my perspective, I love trains but as long as you're riding transit, we've done our job," Dech said.  

Austin City Council will be meeting later this month to discuss Project Connect and what input the community has given so far.

In the meantime, Cap Metro says they still want Austinites' input on what transit comes next