Frequently Asked Question Reports (FAQs)

The FAQ Reports below provide detailed information and analyses grouped by topic.

FAQ Icon


Federal process

(National Environmental Policy Act) faq

Information about the federal process, timeline and analysis of proposed design options.


Ridership FAQ

Ridership estimates for each option, by station, based on modeling data as of February 2023.


Finance FAQ

A funding plan for the development, construction, operations, and maintenance of light rail.


On-Street FAQ

A report detailing the opportunities and challenges for an on-street light rail option.


Expandability FAQ

An analysis of the future expansion to the core light rail system.


Are on-street light rail options safe?

Light rail operations (both on-street and grade-separated) are designed and managed to operate safely as proven in on-street and grade-separated systems all over the US and world. Any light rail project based on its complexity with other modes moving through a city such as pedestrians, cyclists, automobiles, buses, etc. will be subject to risk analysis, safety reviews and must be safety-certified before operations.


What is the ASMP?

The Austin Strategic Mobility Plan (“ASMP) was adopted in 2019 and is Austin’s first comprehensive, multimodal transportation plan, and guides our short- and long-term transportation projects, programs, initiatives, and investments. The ASMP plans for managing all the ways we get around Austin by including future goals for the number of people using various modes of transportation. This includes driving, walking, bicycling, rolling, and public transportation. High-capacity transit is key to reaching our mobility, affordability, and environmental goals.


Has COVID changed the way people travel?

Some riders, including essential workers, have and will continue to ride transit no matter what.  Ridership on all modes in the existing CapMetro system has returned to roughly 80% of pre-pandemic levels and continues to grow each month.  We are continuing to collect data on travel patterns as it emerges, to make sure we are responsive to travel demands of our community. 


How does on-street light rail work, and how can traffic impacts be managed?

Please see our On-Street FAQ report for more detailed information on this topic.


What are expandability opportunities & challenges with the light rail options?

Please see our Expandability FAQ report for more detailed information on this topic.


Why are we discussing one lake crossing instead of two?

The lake crossings are one of the most expensive components of the system, and it was determined that crossing Lady Bird Lake once for the initial core light rail system, as opposed to twice, is a viable solution to reducing costs.

About the Options

Options reference increase/decrease in light rail travel time. By how much?

Light rail travel times are based on a variety of factors including but not limited to the following: how frequently does the service stop (at stations), travel speed, separation from or interaction with other traffic, and alignment geometry (curves), etc. The various light rail options all have different factors that may impact travel time speeds, including underground or elevated options downtown to separate light rail from the street level versus interactions with other modes, such as drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians at intersections.

For trips THROUGH downtown, the options that are on-street rather than grade separated (underground or elevated) add travel time to a light rail trip.

For trips TO/ FROM /WITHIN downtown, this additional travel time in the on-street options is reduced through quicker access to station platforms (boarding and off-boarding) without the need for stairs/ escalators/ elevators to access the stations.

Light rail travel times should not be reviewed in isolation and should be considered relative to speed and comfort of other modes as light rail becomes a transportation choice. Light rail and vehicular traffic operations will continue to be studied as the project advances.

Please see our On-Street FAQ report for more detailed information on this topic.

Why aren’t any options extending to South Congress Transit Center or Stassney?

Options extending to South Congress Transit Center or further south to Stassney would require a maintenance facility sited near South Congress Transit Center. The southern maintenance facility alternative that was analyzed would require a substantial number of business displacements, major utility relocations and relocation of the Bergstrom Spur trail. The south maintenance facility also has additional complexity to connect to the main light rail corridor. These characteristics lead to a higher cost for options extending to the south and preclude the ability to reach high ridership stations at UT and Pleasant Valley within the budget envelope. The current budget would not allow us to reach either of the other maintenance facility alternative sites (North Lamar Transit Center or near Riverside at SH 71).

Why is the NLTC option only at-grade through downtown?

The major factor used to determine the at-grade features of the “On-Street: North Lamar to Pleasant Valley” option was cost. Grade-separating (taking the light rail up or down) increases costs, and the length of this option precluded the ability to grade-separate.


Will these options be taking traffic lanes for light rail?

Retrofitting right of way to accommodate all modes of transportation is something the City of Austin has been doing well for over a decade. We will take a similar approach for balancing traffic lane modifications for light rail. In some options, where right of way is limited, vehicle lanes may be reduced to accommodate the light rail.


What are the noise considerations for these options downtown?

Operation of the light rail can cause noise, however light rail operations are traditionally quieter than commuter rail—like the Red Line—because they are lighter in weight, all-electric, less disruptive in urban environments where there is existing background noise such as vehicular traffic. As design progresses, noise studies will be completed and potential impacts and proposed mitigation shared with the community.


Will the boathouse be impacted in either river crossing option?

The Trinity St. Crossing option would impact the boathouse. The project team is coordinating with Parks and Recreation Department (“PARD”) about this possibility.


What does it mean for the on-street options to require a trench from 7th to 9th Streets on Guadalupe? Similarly, what would be required for transitions to elevated/ underground along Guadalupe?

The on-street options through downtown require a light rail trench from 7th Street to 9th Street along Guadalupe due to the hill that is too steep for light rail operation. The trench would prevent through traffic along 8th Street to cross Guadalupe, meaning drivers traveling along 8th Street would have to turn on Guadalupe Street rather than travel straight across Guadalupe Street. An illustration of the trench concept is shown in the image below and would continue to be refined as design advances.

Please see our On-Street FAQ report for more detailed information on this topic.


What is the cost / budget of the project?

Please see our Finance FAQ for more detailed information on this topic.


Why not just improve the bus service?

Transit systems are most effective when multiple services and transit modes are employed, each providing a critical function within the overall system. Bus service provides the most flexibility of the modes and provides the transit system with broad reach into the community. Light Rail – with a dedicated guideway – will serve as a fast, high-capacity transit spine that provides reliability, capacity, and speed not present in the current bus network. These systems complement each other to provide the community with multiple transportation options.


What will the existing bus system look like after light rail is built?

Although not yet determined, the existing bus service will be modified to complement and feed the light rail line. Bus routes will be connected at key hubs, transfer points and at stations along the light rail route. Local bus service may also continue based on level of frequency and connectivity needs that may vary along the corridor. The bus and MetroRail services will be reviewed holistically to best support the full transit network when light rail opens.


What is the timeline for NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act)/ROD (Record of Decision), construction, opening?

Following the current process to affirm the light rail project definition in May/ June 2023, the project team will work with FTA to analyze project impacts and advance the NEPA process. We anticipate coming back to the public with a Draft EIS in 2024.  Final design and construction schedules that would follow the completion of the NEPA process will be informed by the delivery models ATP is considering.


Will construction occur at the same time as I-35?

Likely, yes, there will be overlapping construction schedules.  Various mobility and safety projects are scheduled for construction throughout Central Texas over the next 10 years. Agencies such as ATP, CapMetro, the City of Austin, CTRMA, TxDOT and others will be closely coordinating construction schedules and outreach plans to ensure our city keeps moving. Each of these entities are jointly partnering in the Construction Partnership Program to create a centralized source of coordination and communication regarding construction impacts throughout the City.