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Author of Blog: Daniel Day
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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Commuter Rail is Dead, Long Live Commuter Rail

A saying I read in a forgotten book which had a passage that said, "the king is dead, long live the king."  and if you been following the Austin/San Antonio Commuter Rail also known as the Lone Star Rail District this past year, my title fits perfectly.
57.1

Back in February 2016, Union Pacific Railroad decided to walk away from negotiation with the Lone Star Rail District. And since then, story after news story since then always had a headline saying how the project is not dead. They're several source at the end of this post.

On August 17, 2016, CAMPO (Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) board voted 17 to one against the commuter rail. But even then our local KSAT news had the biggest backer of the Commuter Rail, Joe Krier of district 9 pleading to keep the project alive. And to top it off, as I was starting to write this at the beginning of September, the Lone Star Rail District website had a list of CAMPO long range planning meetings urging people to tell CAMPO to keep the project in the long range plans. (image 57.2)
57.2
What most people don't understand, and that includes the backers, that if you want to have the commuter rail, maybe you should ditch the train and get buses running in it's place instead for the only way we're getting a commuter rail if our representatives make a federal or state law stating that Union Pacific will either provide the track or the service and that's not gonna happen ever. Cities like Atlanta, and states like New Jersey already offer intercity commuter bus services using Greyhound like buses. Houston's Metro (image 57.4) already use these type of buses for their express routes.
Now there was a time when San Antonio had such a service using buses and not that long ago. The reason why you never heard about this service is because VIA and CapMetro didn't allow these buses to use their existing bus stops and transit centers and fail to provide links to these services on their websites. There was limited bus service provided by Texas State University between San Antonio and Austin. The Alamo Area Council of Governments offered shuttle service from Palo Alto College to Poteet, Pleasanton, and Jourdation. And today in Austin the  Capital Area Council of governments provides shuttle service from several communities including San Marcos.
57.3

Texas State University use to have intercity bus service called the Bobcat Tram Interurban that between Randolph Park-n-ride, to the University with limited number of stops in New Braunfels, Kyle and Buda. Between 2007 to 2013,  you probably saw a brown bus parked across the street from Randolph Park-n-ride for VIA never allowed it to stop inside their facility. I only used the service three times. A trip to Austin cost $12 and the bicycle rack could hold three bicycles. I decided to buy a multi-ride card (image 57.3) for $40 at the time. In August, 2013, the service was canceled. When the service was canceled in August of 2013, I heard only crickets from the backers of Lone Star Rail District.

It is also worth noting that Greyhound barely provides services to San Marcos. Before Megabus took up residence at 4th and Broadway, Greyhound had several buses stopping there. Today there's only two trips available.

The service that ran from Palo Alto college to Jourdation was provided by the Alamo Regional Transit or ART. Now I don't remember when this bus was running and I never heard of it being canceled. I only found out about it when I went to use the restroom when I was out there. I never used the service because they never did have a bicycle rack on the bus. Today ART provides paratransit services to counties that are apart of the Alamo area Council of Governments.

The intercity shuttle service provided by CARTs (Capitol Area Regional Transit) run several small buses from their transit center in East Austin to several towns including San Marcos and they only run during rush hour. Also like ART, CARTs provide paratransit service to the members of the Capitol Area council of Governments.
57.4

Yes the rail would have been better than a bus, but let's face reality. Dwelling on this project is a waste of time and money. Unless laws are made from Washington DC or maybe Austin forcing Union Pacific to provide this service or the track, this dream will never be. Joe Krier with all his good intentions is simply beating a dead horse. Hey Joe, the horse is dead, long live the horse. It's time to start providing buses instead of waiting on a train in ten years that will never be.



Images:
57.1 Trinity Railway Express arriving at Victory Station in Dallas, TX
57.2 A Screenshot from http://www.lonestarrail.com/ in Sept 2016
57.3 A picture of a sample 10 ride ticket for the Bobcat Interurban bus.
57.4 A Metro Commuter Express Bus on I-69 in Houston, TX

Sources:
Despite setbacks, Lone Star Rail Project still on the table
http://kxan.com/2016/04/15/new-development-for-central-texas-commuter-rail/

Rail line from SA to Austin may be up for discussion again soon 
http://www.ksat.com/news/rail-line-from-sa-to-austin-may-be-up-for-discussion-again-soon

How Austin-San Antonio commuter rail backers plan to get back on track 
http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/news/2016/04/15/how-austin-san-antonio-commuter-rail-backers-plan.html




Future of San Antonio-Austin passenger rail could hinge on local planning group 
http://www.expressnews.com/news/local/article/Future-of-San-Antonio-Austin-passenger-rail-could-7379356.php

Derailed: Union Pacific puts brakes on Austin-San Antonio commuter rail
http://smmercury.com/2016/02/12/derailed-union-pacific-puts-brakes-on-austin-san-antonio-commuter-rail/

San Antonio To Austin Commuter Rail Not Dead Yet
http://tpr.org/post/san-antonio-austin-commuter-rail-not-dead-yet#stream/0


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