St. Edward’s students skeptical about new MetroRail

Sam Farias

Students have doubts about the newly opened Capital MetroRail.

Due to its operating schedule and ticket prices, students at St. Edward’s University are likely to find the new railway an inconvenient method of transportation.

The MetroRail, which opened March 22, is a new passenger rail system that will run between Leander and Downtown Austin.

The MetroRail is 32 miles long and stops at nine different stations and runs from 5:25 a.m. to 9:25 a.m. and from 3:10 p.m. to 7:42 p.m., Monday through Friday. The rail does not run during midday or at night and does not run on the weekends.

Rachael Amador, a sophomore who commutes from Cedar Park, was disappointed in the MetroRail schedule. She regularly leaves campus after 9 p.m. and won’t be able to ride the MetroRail home.

“If it ran longer, then I definitely would use it,” she said. “Our hours aren’t like a nine-to-five job.”

Amador didn’t think students would be able to take advantage of the MetroRail because student schedules do not match the MetroRail’s schedule.

“The main thing I don’t like about [the MetroRail] is that it stops at downtown,” said Paul Alvarez, a sophomore who commutes from North Austin. “It doesn’t go further south.”

Alvarez said most students will opt not to use the MetroRail because of schedule conflicts and because most students live south of downtown.

Alvarez will only use the MetroRail on occasion – only when he has no other option.

Students have also expressed concerns about the cost of using the rail service. The first week of operation was free for everyone. After the first week, however, a one way ticket will cost $2 if riding on one side of the zone line and $3 if riding across the zone line, which lies between the Kramer and Howard stations. Monthly and weekly passes are available for $70 and $20, respectively.

“That’s 20 bucks a week,” said Amador. “I pay that much for gas in a week.”

Many other students won’t be able to afford or won’t want to pay to use the service, she said.

Students may already be making a move toward public transportation, though. The number of undergraduate students who bought parking permits this school year was 2,568 — a decrease of 82 since the year before.

Last year, 2,650 traditional undergraduates purchased parking permits, compared to 2,765 in the 2007-2008 school year. Financial Services Director Doris Constantine said that the gradual decline in the number of parking permits issued could indicate a rise in public transportation use among students.

The MetroRail is the first installation in Capital Metro’s long-range transportation plan entitled “All Systems Go.” The plan is intended to provide alternate modes of transportation for people living in the Austin area and to reduce traffic congestion during rush hours.

“One of the priorities for our region is to provide different options for people to get around,” Shaivitz said.

Additional rail lines are currently in the early planning stages. Plans for several different expansions can be found on the “All Systems Go” website. Capital Metro plans to utilize an existing line to create the Green Line, which will run from Austin to Elgin and branch off north, through Pflugerville and into Round Rock. Another line called the Regional Commuter Rail is in the beginning planning stages but is not being managed by Capital Metro. It will connect San Antonio, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Buda/Kyle, North and South Austin, Round Rock and Georgetown.

“Those are longer term plans,” Shaivitz said. “It’s far too soon to even speculate a date for when they will open.”

Shaivitz also speculated on the possibility that the MetroRail will open for night and day time service, as well as weekend service.

“It’s something we’ll take a look at,” he said. “There are a number of opportunities for expansion with the MetroRail.”

Until then, students will have to continue to deal with the MetroRail’s inconvenient schedule if they plan to use its service.

“It’s all about being convenient for people,” said Nathaniel Collins, a freshman who frequently uses the Capital Metro bus system. “But the way [the MetroRail] is going to be, it’s not convenient for students.”

 

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