Cap Metro's 'Orange', 'Blue' Lines could be very different types of transit for Austin

Cap Metro is trying to figure out exactly what their proposed Orange and Blue lines will look like versus the Red and proposed Green lines.

The first open house-type meeting about Cap Metro's Project Connect is scheduled for Monday, April 8th from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Austin Central Public Library.

Cap Metro's Red Line is the commuter rail that goes from Leander to downtown Austin and its proposed sequel, the Green Line, out to Elgin would be similar, program officer for Project Connect Dave Couch said.

That type of technology, building on an existing railroad is for longer distances, said Couch.

But the Orange and Blue lines could end up being something very different for the Austin area, but Cap Metro is trying to determine what that would be.

"What's above ground, what's below ground and then what we call the mode which is what type of service is provided? Is it light rail, is it bus rapid transit?" Couch said. 

The exact routes are still being worked on but Couch says the Orange Line would go from Tech Ridge to Slaughter and the Blue Line would go from downtown to the airport.

"Those are the high capacity and everything else feeds into those lines," he said.

Cap Metro has brought in a consultant to do an environmental and pre-engineering study on the Orange Line. 

He says Orange and Blue will both have dedicated pathways.

"Dedicated pathways is an isolated area where there is no other traffic that is allowed in that area, it is reserved specifically for whichever of the modes of transit it is," Couch said. 

Cap Metro has to figure out exactly where the Orange Line will go and what sort of transit to put on it.

"An example I use is the Drag area where the right of way is so narrow that something is going to have to be done because you can't put the traffic and the high capacity in the existing street footprint," Couch said.  

Couch said they need an alternative because of this.

"That alternative might be above ground, it might be below ground," Couch said. "It could be with the traffic above or below it could be with the transit above or below. Those are the kinds of things that we'll study as we go through the next phase."

As for the type of transit, it could be light rail, bus rapid transit, or even emerging autonomous technology, which Couch says could be integrated into the buses or rail too.

Some form of all of this is expected to be on the ballot in November 2020.