Change gonna come

Get used to seeing more regular posts from me.

In the short time I have to write this one, I can report that the world of Austin transit has felt some seismic waves this week.  A bus service that many loved, the Dillo, has suspended service as of the end of today.  The CEO, Fred Gilliam, resigned earlier this week.  The opening date for rail service along the commuter “Red Line” has, once again, been pushed back (to 1st quarter 2010).

All of these moments will, I think, eventually benefit transit and Austinites.  Gilliam, whom I don’t know personally and have never met, was perceived to have done some things well as CEO of Cap Metro and some things not so well–particularly labor relations.  At the end of the day, the buck must stop with the CEO, and he must accept most or all responsibility for the interminable wait, and frequently changing start for, commuter rail.

I fully expect that both his interim and permanent replacements will experience the likely dramatic opening of rail service in Austin–a moment that, I am confident, will transform the transit talk of the town and make the vision of a truly multi-modal transportation system a reality.  The Dillo service, while treasured by many, had become an albatross for an agency struggling with finances.  If they deliver, as promised, on more efficient east-west service along the Dillo corridor, they may have lost an important icon but they will gain more passengers.  And no matter who the new CEO is, I expect she or he will build greater public and employee confidence in the agency’s ability to deliver.  At least, I hope it is so.

I had a positive experience with transit in San Diego on a recent business trip.  I was a little dumbstruck by the $2.25 fare per ride (regardless of length or mode); day passes were around $5, I think.  But the trips I took on bus and light rail were very efficient and smooth.  The train, which I took around 9 PM on a weeknight, was a little dingy, but I imagine that’s typical for trains everywhere after a full day of heavy use.  While I did stay largely within the central part of San Diego, access to and from the airport (via bus) was easy: <20 minutes each way, picked up right in front of my hotel and dropped me right at terminal, ran frequently.  I guess I only wish there were some way for me to have bought a bus pass at the airport.  It took me a while to get two single dollar bills to go through the farebox, and I would have preferred to buy a stored-value card.  But beggars can’t be choosers, and I saved a ton of money.  I could buy such a card/day pass for the trolley and I did.

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3 responses to “Change gonna come

  1. I don’t know why somebody with experience with Tri-Rail would be ‘confident’ that the Red Line will make much of a difference. What Tri-Rail showed me is that choice commuters stay away from shuttlebuses like the plague.

    • I suppose I am simply a romantic in matters of the heart and the train, Mike. I certainly understand your qualms with shuttle buses, but Tri-Rail trains I’ve ridden have been full or close to it, so I am more optimistic. We shall see. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Larry, Tri-Rail still carries about a third of a good light rail line like Houston’s – despite running every 20 minutes all day long over 70+ miles of track through a catchment area of many millions of people – people who were predisposed to give transit a shot since so many of them came from the northeast to begin with.

    If it weren’t for the magnet school kids and the choiceless commuters, the trains would be empty (they don’t have a large-scale bus system alternative like we do).

    I understand the optimism; I really do; but at some point the question has to be asked: what does a rail failure look like if not Tri-Rail?

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