Thursday, February 26, 2009

MetroRail Testing Update

Capital Metro is in the process of extensively testing each component of the MetroRail system in preparation for the launch of service anticipated for March 30. Thorough testing allows us to identify and resolve any issues that may arise. When issues are resolved, Capital Metro’s rail operator will complete training of dispatchers and engineers and we will finalize rail schedules.

As part of this testing Capital Metro discovered an issue with shunting, the circuit detection system that activates as a train moves on the tracks. Shunting allows dispatchers to properly dispatch trains and controls crossing signals. To resolve this issue, we brought in a nationally recognized shunting expert to recommend remedies.

As other issues arise during testing, Capital Metro will work diligently to resolve them to ensure a safe, reliable passenger rail system. Safety will always the top priority in any decisions we make that may potentially affect the anticipated start of service on March 30. Click here to view the MetroRail status update presented at the Board of Directors meeting February 25.
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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Welcome to Crestview Station

In addition to the event at MLK, Jr. Station today, we'll also be at Crestview Station from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., showing off the MetroRail train, helping people navigate the station and the new ticket vending machines, and generally getting Austinites ready to ride!

Eight of the nine MetroRail stations are ripe for transit oriented development, and a TOD is already up and running at Crestview Station. Midtown Commons is the transit oriented development adjacent to the Crestview Station. The development is still in progress. You can already lease retail/office space there, and the leasing office for the residential units has just opened.

When you swing by today to tour the train, you can sign an apartment lease to live next door!

Crestview Station Open House
6920 North Lamar Blvd.
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
very limited parking available at the adjacent TOD

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Welcome to MLK, Jr. Station

Capital Metro continues the MetroRail Station Open Houses today. Today you have your choice of two stations: MLK, Jr. and Crestview, both from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Yesterday the group of Capital Metro staff who are volunteering at the open houses took a bus to MLK, Jr. Station to be trained on the use of the ticket vending machine and to tour the station. I snapped a few photos--it's beautiful!

This station has a musical theme, with musical notes portrayed in the metal guardrails and on the glass canopy shelter above. The station paving stones are made to look like piano keys.

The MLK, Jr. Station is one of two stations that will have rail connector bus routes direct to major centers of employment. There will be two connectors from MLK, one to UT and another serving the Capitol Complex.

MLK, Jr. Station Open House
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
1719 Alexander Ave.
very limited parking along Alexander
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Friday, February 20, 2009

Our Share of "the Stim"

We recently heard from the feds that Capital Metro may receive about $26.1 million from the economic stimulus plan (or if you prefer the long name, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009).

Our initial proposed project list includes many possibilities, all of which would be key components of a regional transportation system that this area needs to remain economically competitive and to retain and attract businesses.

Here’s a quick summary of some those potential projects:

-Bus and paratransit fleet replacement and expansion: More than half of Capital Metro’s fleet will require replacement over the next several years.

-MetroRail Red Line Expansion: A likely first step would be to add some additional track siding which would allow increased service.

-Construction of new park & ride facilities: Possible locations for new P&Rs include South IH-35 and the city of Manor.

-Expansion of Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Technologies: Expanding the ITS system would allow us to provide real-time information for onboard audio and visual announcements to notify customers of upcoming stops. This would also result in more predictable service and improved operating efficiency.

-Upgrade of bus stop signage: Improved bus stop signage would provide information more effectively.

-Rail with trails: Over the years the community encouraged Capital Metro to plan for bike and pedestrian trails along our rail line.

Capital Metro is working diligently to determine the best use of this stimulus funding to provide maximum benefit for the community. We should have more detail in the coming weeks.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009


One more time: Do not stop on the tracks. We can never say this enough. Today Capital Metro participated in an Austin Police Department rail safety news conference near the 51st Street crossing. TV cameras captured many shots of people stopping on the railroad tracks. At one point, cars were stopped on the tracks as the gates were coming down and a train was approaching.

I hope that having images like these on TV will help raise awareness about rail safety:

Note the moped on the tracks in this one:

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Belated Love on the Bus

Valentines Day came and went, and without a single hokey/snarky/cynical/sentimental mention on our blog! Perhaps you were out yesterday and saw Carla and David Houston's bus, two riders who met on the 1L/1M, and then fell in love and got married. Carla entered her love story in the i-Ride contest, and now their image decorates one of our buses. All together now: Awwwww.

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority earlier this week asked riders to submit their tales of love and romance on MTA subways, buses and trains. The best ones would get posted on the MTA Web site on Valentines Day.

Here in Austin, I had a grand idea of collecting your own stories about love and romance and Capital Metro. Austinites are at least as creative as New Yorkers, and perhaps some masterpiece date ideas would emerge--you know, for Valentines Day. Unfortunately, I got sort of busy and it never got posted. But since a burgeoning romance can spark between cross-town riders on any ol' day of the year, I hope you'll still offer up your stories.

I'll start, with a true story of a blind date I had in 2007 that involved Capital Metro. That date went the way of most blind dates... nowhere; however, it was a pretty clever blind date idea, if I do say so myself.

Remember Gibson's Austin GuitarTown project? Several 10-foot art guitar sculptures were placed all over downtown and beyond. My blind date with Jon, who I believe was a bass guitar player in a band, began at the art guitar painted with Mexican free-tailed bats at the edge of the Congress Avenue Bridge near the Radisson. The plan was this: we'd walk or ride Capital Metro to visit all of the guitars, and take pictures of each one. (I had conveniently already mapped out the location of the sculptures on a Capital Metro System Map.) It's a little nerdy, yes, but it worked pretty good for a blind date because there was a project to complete, taking the pressure off a little.

Now, your turn!
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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Welcome to Plaza Saltillo

Welcome to Plaza Saltillo!

Today Capital Metro welcomes the community to beautiful Plaza Saltillo Station to tour the Capital MetroRail train, pick up schedules and learn to use the new electronic ticket vending machines.

Plaza Saltillo is unique and beautiful. Inspired by the plazas of Mexican cities, and named for Austin's sister city of Saltillo, Mexico, Plaza Saltillo was built in 1998 and boasts a beautiful courtyard and fountain, a space for outdoor vendors, and a bandstand. The city of Saltillo donated the ornate, traditional benches that are found throughout. Plaza Saltillo was a collaborative project between the city of Austin, Capital Metro, and an east Austin cultural group called Ole Mexico. Since 1998 it's been the site of many celebrations, and today we can add one more to the list.

The presence of the bright red MetroRail steel framing for the platform--an identifying hallmark at every station--as well as the electronic ticket vending machines (not to mention the uber-sleek train itself), lends a modern edge to a plaza that is steeped in tradition and full of community memories. Soon it will serve as a gateway to downtown business, and as the first welcome to passengers who exit the train in east Austin.

Today you can be a part of it all, and be one of the first to see how fitting Plaza Saltillo is as host for Capital MetroRail. We'll be there, as will the train, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Plaza Saltillo Station Open House
TODAY, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
412 Comal
Bus routes: 4, 320
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Friday, February 13, 2009

Join the Capital Metro Team

Capital Metro is hosting a career fair on Saturday, Feb. 21 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The fair will be at Capital Metro Headquarters, located at 2910 E. 5th Street in Austin.

Currently, Capital Metro is seeking diesel fleet mechanics. If you are interested in other positions, you are also welcome to attend. The fair will provide potential employees the chance to learn about career opportunities and the benefits of working at Capital Metro.

Applications are available on and at the fair. For more information you may call (512) 389-7473 or (512) 389-7521.
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ticket Vending Machines 101

This morning Fox 7 filmed a demo of Capital Metro's new ticket vending machines that are being installed at all of our MetroRail stations.

You can try out the new ticket vending machines at one of four remaining open houses this month, beginning with Plaza Saltillo this Saturday. Here's more info.
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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Great Turnout in Leander

Wow! More than 1,000 people joined us today for the Capital MetroRail open house at the Leander Station. Visitors had the opportunity to tour the train, practice using the ticket vending machine and ask lots of great questions. With just a few weeks to go until the big grand opening event (Saturday, March 28-- mark your calendar), it really was a amazing to see and hear how excited people are.

If you didn't make it to today's open house, we have more coming up this month. See Gerardo's post for the complete schedule.

In addition to the MetroRail train, we also had an Express bus on display at today's open house; and our friends at the Leander Fire Department showed off some of their trucks and equipment which were especially popular with the kids.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

"This is only a test"

If you happened to be traveling on 183 through Leander last Thursday, you may have done a double take at the Leander Station. Several fire engines, police vehicles and ambulances were on the scene participating in a Capital MetroRail emergency preparedness drill.

The scenario: A car has collided with the MetroRail train at the Leander Station crossing. Eighty passengers onboard the train, as well as the driver of the car, have varying degrees of injury. Ready? And, go!

At 10:58 a.m., the train engineer called into dispatch to report the collision, and thus set in motion the drill. Within minutes the Leander Police Department was on the scene, followed by the fire department and EMS. The drill lasted almost four hours, and every angle of the response was analyzed and evaluated by safety experts.

What was the point? Obviously the main answer is to help us prepare for this kind of situation. "It's new," says Leander Deputy Fire Chief Bill Gardner. "It gives us a good opportunity to practice a unified approach." If a crisis of this magnitude actually occurred, it would require the help of and response by multiple departments in surrounding communities.

Following the drill, the participants debriefed and got useful feedback from the evaluators. A few other drills are planned between now and the Red Line debut on March 30.

Here is some footage from the drill taken by Joe Wrubleski in Capital Metro's training department. In the video, yours truly plays the part of newscaster. Note to self: don't give up day job.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Come one, come all...

I hear the train a comin’, It's rollin' 'round the bend…….

Well not quite yet but we are preparing our community for MetroRail service starting March 30th by hosting five educational MetroRail Station open house events in February.

We are approaching very exciting times in our community with the ushering in of MetroRail service for our region. In anticipation, we are hosting community wide MetroRail Station open houses during February. At each open house event there will be a Capital MetroRail train for people to tour. We will help people understand the new ticket vending machines that will dispense rail and bus passes at each station. Capital Metro staff will be on hand to answer all of your questions about riding the train, including schedules, connector routes, riding the train with bicycles, and rail safety.

The open houses are free and open to everyone in our community. Stop by anytime during the event. Except for the Leander Open House, parking will be limited. Riding the bus or carpooling is encouraged.

Capital MetroRail Open Houses:

Leander Station – Saturday, Feb. 7
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
800 N. US 183

Plaza Saltillo Station – Saturday, Feb. 14
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
412 Comal Street
Bus routes: 4, 320

Crestview Station – Saturday, Feb. 21
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
6920 North Lamar Blvd.
Bus routes: 1L/1M, 101, 300, 320, 350
Access St. Johns for limited parking at adjacent development

MLK, Jr. Station – Saturday, Feb. 21
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
1719 Alexander Ave.
Bus routes: 18
Limited parking next to station

Downtown Station – Friday, Feb. 27
2 p.m. – 7 p.m.
401 E. 4th Street
Bus routes: All local and ‘Dillo routes

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