Here’s What Austin’s Light Rail Trains Could Look Like

Trains on Austin’s light rail lines would have low floors to make boarding easier and faster. Each train would have five passenger entrances per side. And all-electric vehicles should include a strip of colored LEDs on the outside to indicate the route you’re taking: the Orange Where Blue line.

These are some of the details revealed by Project Connect planners as they piece together their aspirations for a fleet of vehicles that would run along Austin’s voter-approved light rail lines in 2020. Routes include more than four miles of subway tunnel to downtown and South Austin.

Austin Transit Partnership

Trains could have an exterior LED strip near the roof to indicate which route the train is running on.

The Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) will include the wish list of train features when it begins contacting manufacturers next year. Officials said it was still too early to know when they would buy the trains. ATP will procure them, but the vehicles will belong to Capital Metro.

“We need to put design criteria in place for the proposal,” said ATP’s head of architecture and urban design, Peter Mullan. “But then you put it up for auction to get the best possible deal on the market.”

Passengers won’t be able to board Austin’s light rail lines until 2029 at the earliest. Construction is expected to begin in late 2024 or early 2025.

But those times could be pushed back to spread the rising costs of light rail. Inflation and design changes nearly doubled the estimated price of over $10 billion.

An illustration of a CapMetro light rail train traveling through a subway tunnel

Austin Transit Partnership

Austin’s light rail plans include over four miles of subway tunneling through downtown and south Austin.

The decision to choose trains with floors close to the ground means that passengers will not need to climb stairs or ramps to an elevated rail platform at each station.

“We really pushed for a 100% low floor, just seeing more benefits, especially for this community,” Dave Kubicek, executive vice president of systems and vehicles at CapMetro, said in a statement. online presentation. “Accessibility is key to all phases of the service.”

The lower floors have some drawbacks, including trains that don’t go as fast. But Kubicek said they should still hit around 55 miles per hour.

As of now, ATP plans to use trains powered by catenaries called catenaries. The trains would also have batteries to operate on stretches without overhead lines.

The trains wouldn’t have doors between the cars, so you could walk the full length of the train inside. The feature, known as an “open gangway” in railway parlance, allows passengers to spread out more evenly when routes are busy.

light railtrans_ATP_060722

Austin Transit Partnership

This interior illustration, subject to change, shows some of the interior features such as bicycle storage.

Inside the vehicles, cyclists could have space to store their bikes. Electronic screens would display information about the route and possibly the weather. The emergency intercom buttons would be illuminated so you can see them more easily.

Vehicles should meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and include space for wheelchair users, among other accessibility features. The seats would have handles for those with limited mobility to get in and out. Audio alerts would tell people which station they are at – a familiar sound on modern public transit systems.

An illustration of a train interior, still subject to change, showing electronic information screens and arrows pointing to emergency intercom systems.

Austin Transit Partnership

This illustration of a train interior, still subject to change, shows electronic information screens and arrows pointing to emergency intercoms.

Concept artwork is still open to to input and subject to change. But these early designs give audiences their most detailed glimpse of what will one day become a familiar feature of the streets of Austin.

Jose P. Rogers