AUSTIN (KXAN) — Project Connect officials previewed some of the design elements under consideration for subway stations in the light rail system on Wednesday. The multi-billion dollar transit investment program includes more than 28 miles of light rail corridors via the Blue and Orange lines.
Paolo Faria of the Austin Transit Partnership said accessibility features are key to ensuring the program can best serve all Austinites. He pointed to the “redundancy” built into the system to ensure that people of all abilities can safely access light rail systems via underground and at-grade subway stations.
Each station will comprise three central areas: an entrance pavilion at ground level or underground allowing users to access the station; a concourse where passengers can navigate by jumping onto incoming trains or exiting outgoing trains; with a platform where the trains will meet.
Accessibility features include ramps, elevators, escalators and stairs for multiple access methods, audible announcements and level boarding platforms, so users don’t have to climb or get off the platforms onto the trains.
“Ultimately, we have to design for everyone, so the aspiration is to implement universal designs,” Faria said. “So the designs are developed independent of the abilities of the individuals.”
The designs also highlight the use of natural light through inset windows or other elements, to help users find their way around subway stations.
Some amenities being considered at subway stations include customer service booths for passenger information, vending machines and vending machines, water refill stations, digital information kiosks, rental stations and parking for bicycles and scooters, toilets and workstations or charging stations for electronic devices.
Orange line metro stations
Looking along the Orange Line corridor, AECOM’s Andrew Knipp said Guadalupe Street between 15th and 17th Streets along the Capitol West and Government Center corridor is a critical part of the downtown design, given the number people working in this area. Knipp said the wish was for larger tube station spaces, but due to a more condensed urban core downtown, there aren’t as many right-of-way options available. He said officials will need to get more creative with the design of entrances and the overall layout.
At Place de la République station, Knipp said this area is a critical bus transfer area and will require strong connectivity points for multimodal uses, as well as people switching between bus and light rail services.
The station also has a longer concourse that will help connect it to the Congress Avenue station.
With respect to South Congress Station, the limitations imposed by the mandatory Capital View Corridor have altered Project Connect’s tunnel system operating life plans in this region. The Capitol View Corridor runs from Live Oak Street north to the Capitol Dome, meaning the first place the train can surface is south of Live Oak Street.
Auditorium Shores is a unique station location, officials said, due to the large number of utilities located along Riverside Drive, which impacts alignments and tunneling opportunities.
Peter Mullan, head of architecture and urban design for the ATP, highlighted one area where project managers were seeking public input on potential cost-cutting measures. In question: whether or not Auditorium Shores station needed an extension of its pedestrian tunnel to connect to the Long Center subway and Auditorium Shores, an estimated cost of around $100 million.
Downtown Transit Hub
The downtown transit hub will feature the convergence of the Orange, Blue, Red and Green lines. From a cost savings perspective, officials said they are looking for ways to optimize the system while reducing expenses.
One possible option would be to remove the concourse between Congress Avenue station and Republic Square station, as well as the concourse between Rainey/ESB-MACC station and Brush Square. There would still be multiple modes of access to and from the station platforms, as well as approximately a quarter-mile walk between stations.
Project Connect officials are expected to release 30% updated estimates of the program’s design and costs this summer.