Kudos to Lee Nichols for a superb article on the Austin urban rail proposal [“Why Rail?
,” News, April 8], and kudos to the city for creating a process more thoughtful than any I've seen in the 13 years I've been working on this issue. Before we consider spending money on rail, there are an awful lot of questions which need to be addressed. For example, the current subsidy for MetroRail is a shocking $36.69 per boarding; but even the subsidy projected by Cap Metro under ideal conditions was to be $17.44 per boarding. If Austin urban rail achieves its goal of 27,600 boardings per day, the cost of subsidizing this system will be an estimated $175 million per year. If that's not the subsidy, then how will urban rail be more efficient than MetroRail, which runs on its own right of way and only during peak demand hours? If the goal is to deal with intersections around Downtown Austin that are already operating at maximum capacity, how does it make sense to add yet another vehicle to these intersections? What problems does a streetcar solve that a bus can't? And why are we continuing to think of this as a two-dimensional problem when it's clear that real increases in mobility can only be achieved by using all three dimensions? Why aren't we looking at innovative systems like the Urbanaut (www.urbanaut.com
), and doesn't the KL monorail look more like a transit system that solves actual problems (www.monorails.org/tmspages/KLspecial05.html
)? Anyone who's been to Vancouver knows that you can run a highly effective transit system based solely on buses which run every seven to 10 minutes. Why not mimic the example of Vancouver? Finally, voters should be reluctant to support anything new until the rapid bus system promised by Cap Metro in 2004 is deployed, operational, and vetted.