Project Background | CapMetro Engage

Project Background

Project Connect

Central Texas is rapidly changing. Our population just hit 2 million and it’s projected to double by 2040. In that same time, road capacity is expected to increase by only 15 percent. Instead of wondering how we can fit more cars on our roads, we need to think about how we can move more people. We call this bold vision Project Connect: a complete system of reliable and frequent transit.

Long Term Vision Plan. Map showing current High Capacity Rapid Transit, MetroRail, and MetroRapid lines as well as potential future expansions of the Blue Line, Orange Line, Green Line and alignment of MetroRapid route.

Policy Framework

Austin Strategic Mobility Plan mode split goal

The City of Austin has established a policy goal to improve the mode-split (diversity of travel methods) to more efficiently move the most amount of people. Today, about 75% of all work commutes are people driving alone. City Council unanimously voted in favor of working towards a mode-split goal whereby 50% or less of the City of Austin is commuting alone in a car by 2039. This plan is known as the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan or ASMP.

TODAY:

Today pie chart

2039:

2039 pie chart

Using transit to move more people

The game-changing approach Project Connect is taking to help foster the 16% transit ASMP mode-split goal, is to introduce dedicated transitways into the transit system. Dedicated transitways would allow traffic-free movement of transit vehicles thereby maximizing the number of people that can move along our streets.

Transit in mixed traffic:

Transit in mixed traffic. Graphic showing transit vehicles in all four lanes of traffic.

Transit protected from traffic in a dedicated transitway:

Transit protected from traffic in a dedicated transitway. Graphic showing transit vehicles using dedicated transits lane in center of road.

Purpose and Need

The Purpose of the Blue Line high-capacity transit investment is to meet growing corridor travel demand with a reliable, safe, cost-effective, time-competitive, state-of-the-art high-capacity transit option that serves Austin’s airport.

The Blue Line would address the following needs (or problems) within the corridor:

Icon illustrating increasing number of people

Sustainably support Central Texas’ population and economic growth

Icon illustrating transportation network

Increase transportation network capacity to meet increasing travel demand

Icon illustrating air travel

Support Austin-Bergstrom International Airport’s growth in air travel

Icon illustrating better transit linking affordable housing and jobs

Provide better transit options linking affordable housing and jobs

Icon illustrating connectivity

Support growth of and connectivity to activity centers

Note: Purpose and Need has evolved and will continue to evolve as the process progresses.

The Evaluation Process

Capital Metro adheres to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) process in order to be eligible for capital funding. These formal guidelines require a thorough alternatives analysis and dictate the required steps necessary to complete it. Adhering to the FTA process increases competitiveness for federal funding.

After the alternatives analysis process, Capital Metro and its partners will select and seek approval for a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). Then, Capital Metro will ask the FTA to initiate the NEPA process to evaluate the LPA’s environmental benefits and impacts.

FEDERAL FUNDING AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROCESS:

Federal Funding and Environmental Process. Step 1: Conceptual Definition and Evaluation. Step 2: Detailed Definition and Evaluation. Alternative Analysis: During Step 1 and Step 2 of the Alternatives Analysis Process, different alignment options, transitway options, modes, and station configurations are studied, leading to a preliminary recommendation of an LPA. LPA Selection. LPA and NEPA: After the LPA is selected, the potential environmental benefits and impacts of the project are studied in greater detail during the NEPA process. NEPA Environmental Process. Project Implementation.

Work Done to Date

Results from Step 1 of the evaluation process

Blue Line Corridor. 1-Highland segment from ACC Highland to Hancock. 2-Hancock segment from Hancock to Medical School. 3-Central segment from Medical School to Lakeshore. 4-East Riverside segment from Lakeshore to Metro Center. 5-Airport segment from Metro Center to AUS.

Blue Line Corridor

The Conceptual Evaluation of Step 1 established a method for carrying forward transitway options for each segment to the Detailed Evaluation of Step 2. Segments were identified along the Blue Line which share similar characteristics such as right-of-way width and neighborhood context. The transitway options that were carried forward into Step 2 Detailed Evaluation are shown below.

1. Highland; Street Level: Yes; Elevated: No; Underground: No. 2. Hancock; Street Level: Yes; Elevated: Yes; Underground: Yes. 3. Central; Street Level: Yes; Elevated: Yes; Underground: Yes. 4. East Riverside; Street Level: Yes; Elevated: No; Underground: No; 5. Airport; Street Level: Yes; Elevated: Yes; Underground: Yes. Note: Elevated and Underground are not necessary due to limited street-level tradeoffs.   Note: Following the Step 1 evaluation, “Cut-and-Cover” and “Tunnel” options were consolidated to a general “Underground” option for future phases of evaluation.

Blue Line Outreach to Date

80% of participants in public outreach held during July “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with the approach to Step 1 evaluation.

A series of images of people inside around a table in conversation during an outreach meeting, people looking at presentation boards during an outreach meeting, and people outside at an information table.

Table summarizing outreach conducted to date, including a total of 2,582 attendees and 947 comments between the Purpose and need scoping meetings and the Step 1 conceptual evaluation meetings.