Monday, July 20, 2009

Let Us Not Follow Austin

Has anyone seen any evidence of the Colt downtown circulator? I was to understand that the service would start this summer and anybody who has followed me for long will know that I am not a fan of the "faux" trolley idea. I, for one, have seen only one of these units on the street, and that was probably just a test run.

As some of you may know, the 2 units that Lextran currently has on site are used, cast off units from Austin, Tx., generously supplied by Lextran's former manager who now works in Austin. They are basically identical to the four that the Knight-Ridder people discontinued some years ago. Lextran has ordered some hybrid units to compliment these for the full service and is waiting for them to arrive before the full rollout.

Austin, that mecca of weird, that sentinel of progressiveness that so many here want to emulate, even though they are about 3 times larger in population and industry, is on the verge of killing off their once popular "Dillo" service or their downtown circulator. They are finding that the wooden seats are uncomfortable and the routes are constantly changing and, best of all, the upkeep is expensive. Is that why they sent a couple to Lexington? Their once free service now charges a fare and averages about 2 riders a circuit, so would ours do any better?

I have written before about the problems that I see in this circulator system but here is a consultants view on downtown circulators in general. Have I seen these situations before?

Maybe we should just skip the "follow Austin" suggestion for now and move right to the "plan to beat Austin" idea, lets build a real streetcar now, to go where the people want it to go and have it in place for when we are 3 times larger than we are now.

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