Evaluation of Alternatives | CapMetro Engage

Evaluation of Alternatives

The Community’s Local Choice

Elements that make up a “Build Alternative”

Icon illustrating concept of alignment

ALIGNMENT

The Blue Line Corridor would cross Lady Bird Lake near Trinity Street or at a potential shared crossing with the Orange Line Corridor near S. 1st Street.

Icons illustrating street-level, elevated, and underground transit ways

TRANSITWAY

The Blue Line Corridor would operate in a street level, elevated, or underground dedicated transitway.

Icons illustrating bus rapid transit and light rail transit

MODE

Two options are being considered for the vehicle type that would operate on the transitway: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) or Light Rail Transit (LRT).

The Build Alternatives are compared to:

Icon illustrating a bus

DOING NOTHING

As required by the FTA, we always carry forward a “No-Build” or “Do Nothing” alternative for comparison. For the Blue Line Corridor, this would include making no changes to the existing local bus services.

Icon illustrating a bus

NEW METRORAPID

This alternative would upgrade local bus service by introducing a new MetroRapid route with transit priority treatments along the Blue Line Corridor alignment.

Transitway Options

Dedicated space for transit within the right-of-way

STREET LEVEL

» A dedicated transitway running along an existing street

» Operations are affected by conflicts with traffic signals, pedestrians, bikes, intersections, and other street level uses

Graphic showing a dedicated transit way running along an existing street. Center lanes are now the transit lane with other traffic restricted to outside lanes.

ELEVATED

» A dedicated transitway built up above street level along an existing street

» Stations are above street level and are accessed by stairs, escalators, and/or ADA accessible elevators

Graphic showing a dedicated transit way built up above street level.

UNDERGROUND

» A dedicated transitway under the roadway

» Stations are underground, and are accessed by stairs, escalators, and/or ADA accessible elevators

Graphic showing a dedicated transit way in tunnel under existing street.

Alignment Alternatives

Two alternatives are being evaluated for crossing Lady Bird Lake: a crossing near Trinity Street or a potential shared crossing with the Orange Line Corridor near S. 1st Street.

Alternative 1: Trinity Street. Crossing near Trinity Street connecting Republic Square to Downtown Station. Continues Blue Line corridor across Lady Bird Lake crossing east of Congress Avenue.

Alternative 2: S. 1st Street. Connecting Downtown Station near Trinity Street to Republic Square Continues Blue Line corridor across Lady Bird Lake crossing shared with Orange Line near S. 1st Street.

Transit Mode

Both BRT and LRT vehicle fleets would be fully electric. Either mode would benefit from off-board fare collection, larger stations with level boarding, and intersection signal prioritization.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Rubber-tire vehicles operating in a dedicated transitway. High-capacity transit vehicles powered by electric batteries. Stations with transit information, level boarding and off-board ticket payment. Signals and communication systems to keep everything running smoothly.

Light Rail Transit (LRT). Steel-wheel vehicles operating on tracks in a dedicated transitway. High-capacity transit vehicles powered by overhead electric lines. Stations with transit information, level boarding and off-board ticket payment. Signals and communication systmes to keep everything running smoothly.

People on Board

Both BRT and LRT vehicles can carry large numbers of people at a time.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). BRT buses usually have 50-70 seats plus room for 40-50 more standing passengers. There are doors on both sides of the bus to allow people to board and exit from either side depending on where the station platform is located. About 115 people can fit on each BRT bus.

Light Rail Transit (LRT). LRT train cars can usually have 60-70 seats plus room for 100-110 more standing passengers. There are doors on both sides of the train to allow people to board and exit from either side depending on where the station platform is located. About 172 people can fit on each LRT train car.

Level of Service Scenarios

High-capacity transit would help meet the mobility needs of Central Texas for many decades to come. As the region continues to grow, transit service could expand to keep up with demand. Increasing BRT and LRT service works in different ways.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). To carry more people on BRT, more buses are added during the busy times of the day. This means that buses are more frequent and pair up during peak hours, which requires more bus drivers. To carry 690 people per hour, one bus every 10 minutes. To carry 1,380 people per hour, one bus every 5 minutes. To carry 2,760 people per hour, one 2-bus pair every 5 minutes.

Light Rail Transit (LRT). To carry more people on LRT, train cars are linked together. The length of Austin's downtown blocks can accommodate up to three train cars at a time. To carry 1,032 people per hour, one 1-car train every 10 minutes. To carry 2,064 people per hour, one 1-car train every 5 minutes. To carry 4,128 people per hour, one 2-car train every 5 minutes.

Evaluating Project Goals

Following the FTA process, the Detailed Evaluation phase (Step 2) analyzes how well different combinations of alignment, transitway type, and mode meet the project’s goals.

Focus areas discussed today:

Customer Experience Icon

Customer Experience

What it means:

Increase efficiency, attractiveness and utilization of high-capacity transit service within the corridor.

How it’s done:

Provide a travel experience that is competitive with the automobile.

Reliability Icon

Reliability

What it means:

Provide frequent, reliable high-capacity transit service along transitways within the corridor.

How it’s done:

Efficiently use the existing transportation network, provide dedicated transitways for transit to operate free from other traffic.

Implementation and Operations Icon

Implementation and Operations

What it means:

Develop and select a community-supported high-capacity transit investment for implementation.

How it’s done:

Develop a project with strong public, stakeholder and agency support. Develop a project that balances costs and benefits.

Other areas:

Sustainability Icon

Sustainability

What it means:

Contribute to a socially-, economically- and environmentally-sustainable transit network.

How it’s done:

Mitigate the rising cost of living by providing safe, affordable alternatives to car ownership, reduce energy usage and pollution while minimizing impacts to the natural, cultural, and built environment.

Land Use and Policy Icon

Land Use and Policy

What it means:

Support “compact and connected” land use and development patterns.

How it’s done:

Expand transit access to local and regional destinations, activity centers and employment centers.

Blue Line Ridership

Ridership forecasts estimate how many customers the Blue Line would draw. Many factors influence whether or not people ride transit. Studying these factors provides an estimate of how many people would use each Build Alternative on a typical day.

DENSITY

Ridership tends to be higher in areas with more people, jobs, and activity centers.

RELIABILITY

When people can depend on fast, frequent transit service, they tend to use it more.

CONNECTIONS

More people ride transit when it makes useful connections to other transportation services.

TRAVEL TIME

Faster travel times tend to make transit a more appealing transportation option.

QUALITY

When transit has great stations and vehicles, more people choose to ride it.

COST

People tend to make choices about how to travel based on what it costs.

POTENTIAL RIDERSHIP DEMAND

Potential Ridership Demand during a typical weekday. New Metrorapid from year 2028 to 2040: 5,000 to10,000 riders. Trinity Street Alternative: BRT from year 2028 to 2040: 20,000 to 40,000 riders; LRT from year 2028 to 2040: 25,000 to 45,000 riders. South First Street Alternative: BRT from year 2028 to 2040: 20,000 to 45,000 riders; LRT from year 2028 to 2040: 30,000 to 50,000 riders. Note: Potential ridership demand above is presented independently from service capacity. Note: Ridership analysis was conducted using the most recent population and employment forecast available from the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) for 2040. This forecast was last updated in 2015 and does not reflect a number of recently completed or planned developments. Ridership estimates are subject to change based on the forthcoming 2045 population and employment forecast from CAMPO.

Travel Times

Four different types of trips showing how fast the Blue Line would travel

Blue Line Corridor indicating four different trip types. Hazel's trip begins at ACC Highland and ends at AUS. Diego's trip begins at Republic Square and ends at St. David's. Ruby's trip begins at Riverside and ends at UT East. Oliver's trip begins at the Austin airport and ends at Republic Square. Hazel starts her trip at Highland and works at the airport. Her current commute by car ranges from 20 to 50 minutes, while her commute by bus is 67 minutes. After Alternative One (Trinity Street): Hazel's Blue Line commute would be 34 to 44 minutes. After Alternative Two (South First Street): Hazel's Blue Line commute would be 31 to 39 minutes. Diego starts his trip at Republic Square and has a doctor's appointment at St. David's His current trip by car ranges from 9 to 28 minutes, while his trip by bus is 26 minutes. After Alternative One (Trinity Street): Diego's Blue Line trip would be 10 to 15 minutes. After Alternative Two (South First Street): Diego's Blue Line trip would be 10 to 14 minutes. Ruby starts her trip at Riverside and works at UT. She does not own a car. Her commute by bus is 24 minutes. After Alternative One (Trinity Street): Ruby's Blue Line commute would be 16 to 23 minutes. After Alternative Two (South First Street): Ruby's Blue Line commute would be 14 to18 minutes. Oliver is visiting from out-of-town and is staying downtown. His current trip by car ranges from 24-45 minutes, while his trip by bus is 40 minutes. After Alt. 1 (Trinity Street): Oliver's Blue Line trip would be 20-23 minutes. After Alt. 2 (S. 1st Street): Oliver's Blue Line trip would be 17-19 minutes. Note: Car travel time does not include time spent finding a parking space.

Building the Project

The cost to build the Blue Line includes:

  • Building the transitway
  • Building stations & station access
  • Building a vehicle maintenance facility
  • Signals & communications systems
  • Building the power supply system (LRT)
  • Relocating utilities
  • Purchasing the vehicles
  • Design and engineering
  • Land acquisition
Icon illustrating station platform

The first graphic is of the Capital Cost Breakdown. Professional services and contingency are included in capital cost estimates but not shown in breakdown. BRT and LRT showing breakdown of Street Level and Elevated (Partial) by Transitway, Stations, Support Facilities, Sitework, Systems, Real Estate, and Vehicles. The second graphic states: BRT Blue Line Alternatives estimated capital cost 1.2 Billion to 2.0 Billion. The third graphic states: LRT Blue Line Alternatives estimated capital cost 2.5 Billion to 3.0 Billion. The fourth graphic states: A downtown tunnel would add 1.9 Billion to 2.5 Billion to the project cost. Footnote: All costs shown in 2025 (mid-construction) dollars. All cost estimates are subject to change as engineering and design advances.

Operating the Project

The cost to operate the Blue Line includes:

  • Paying vehicle operators
  • Routine maintenance of buses or trains
  • Maintaining the stations, transitway, and other supporting infrastructure
  • Purchasing vehicle power
  • Other general and administrative costs
Icon illustrating station platform

Factors that affect operating costs

BRT systems are usually less expensive to operate per bus than LRT systems are per train, but they also carry fewer people per bus than LRT can carry per train. Operating costs for LRT would also be higher initially since LRT technology would require specialized operating capabilities that are brand new to Capital Metro.  

The first graphic shows the Operating Cost Breakdown. BRT and LRT showing breakdown of Vehicle Operations, Vehicle Maintenance, Non-Vehicle Maintenance, and General Administration. The second graphic states: BRT Blue Line Alternatives 14 Million to 20 Million per year. The third graphic states: LRT Blue Line Alternatives 28 Million to 27 Million per year. Footnote: All costs shown in 2028 (opening year) dollars. Operating costs presented above are based on the high-end cost estimates for all alignment alternatives and include an additional +/-5% uncertainty factor. Build examples do not include offset costs resulting from bus service adjustments or impacts on fare revenues. All cost estimates are subject to change as engineering and design advances.

Downtown Transit Tunnel

Results:

  • Conflict-Free transitway
  • Improved frequency
  • Improved reliability
  • Generational investment
  • Portal location conflicts

Option 1:

  • Trinity Street from Lady Bird Lake to 11th Street, 4th Street from Trinity Street to Guadalupe Street, and Guadalupe Street from Cesar Chavez Street to 9th Street
  • Order of Magnitude cost: $2.3-$2.5B

Option 2:

  • Exclude tunnel on Trinity Street from 4th to 11th Streets
  • Order of Magnitude cost: $1.9-$2.0B
Image illustrating downtown transit tunnel options one and two.

Blue Line Preliminary Results


TRAVEL TIME

Travel Time on the Blue Line. Trinity Street Alternative between ACC Highland to Republic Square: BRT: 16 to 22 minutes; LRT: 18 to 24 minutes. South First Street Alternative between ACC Highland to Republic Square: BRT: 16 to 21 minutes; LRT: 16 to 21 minutes. Trinity Street Alternative between Republic Square and the Airport: BRT: 18 to 22 minutes; LRT: 18 to 23 minutes. South First Street Alternative between Republic Square and the Airport: BRT: 15 to 19 minutes; LRT: 15 to 19 minutes.

POTENTIAL RIDERSHIP

Potential ridership demand on a typical weekday (2040). Note: Potential ridership demand is presented independently from service capacity. New Metrorapid: 9,000 potential boardings. BRT: 30,000 to 45,000 potential boardings. LRT: 38,000 to 52,000 potential boardings.

COST TO BUILD

Estimated Captial Cost. All costs shown in 2025 (mid-construction) dollars. All cost estimates are subject to change as engineering and design advances. Note: A downtown tunnel would represent an additional cost of $1.9 billion to $2.5 billion for any option. New Metrorapid: $86.7 million. BRT: $1.2 billion to $2 billion. LRT: $2.5 billion to $3 billion.

COST TO OPERATE

Estimated Annual Operation and Maintenance Cost. All costs shown in 2028 (opening year) dollars. All cost estimates are subject to change as engineering and design advances. New Metrorapid: $13.8 million. BRT: $14 million to $20 million. LRT: $28 million to $37 million.

What Comes Next?

As we conclude the Step 2 analysis, we will incorporate your feedback, refine the alternatives and generate additional data to help us identify an alternative that best meets the project’s Purpose & Need. Capital Metro will release a preliminary recommendation for a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) in 2020, based on the feedback received from agency partners and the community.

The LPA Evaluation will consider criteria that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) uses to score the project for its competitiveness for receiving Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program funding.

How do I
Stay Informed?

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