The Downtown Austin Alliance is a partnership of downtown property owners, individuals, and businesses devoted to preserving and enhancing the value and vitality of downtown Austin.
At the moment, Downtown Station is the smallest and busiest of the 9 stations that make up the MetroRail Red Line. However it won't be that way for long. Capital Metro is using a $50 million grant to not only expand the MetroRail line, but also to make Downtown Station a destination in itself. The goal is to create a great public plaza that ties together Downtown Station, the Convention Center as well as surrounding hotels and businesses, in order to offer a unique, integrated visitor experience for downtown Austin.
While the station and adjacent plaza will enhance the area's public space, its primary function will be to facilitate connections between MetroRail and other kinds of transportation. Riders will be able to connect to: • Local MetroBus service • Electric Cab • Car-2-Go • B-cycle • Austin's bicycle trails • Expanded MetroRapid service
The station will feature parasol structures mounted on columns. The pentagonal roof atop each column will not only offer a striking visual welcome to downtown, but it'll also provide overhead protection for riders as they wait for, enter or exit the train cars. Similar canopies can be found in locations as diverse as Barcelona and Fort Worth. Another reason for the expansion of the station is to allow the MetroRail line to operate at greater frequencies (15-minute intervals instead of the current 30). This means more riders can take advantage of a service that operates at standing-room-only levels during the morning and evening commutes.
A larger waiting area and improved crowd control operations are essential for the station. During events like SXSW or Pecan Street Festival, huge crowds arrive and depart in short periods of time, and Downtown Station needs to be able to handle the rush. New waiting and ticketing areas will reduce platform crowding during these times, and the tracks will be set 18”-22” below grade so that the platform will be even with the sidewalk. The final phase of design and engineering for the station is now in motion. The design process for the accompanying pedestrian plaza is being led by the city of Austin. The new Downtown Station will serve as a public gathering space and an iconic landmark for a thriving part of Central Austin, an architectural gateway into downtown.
Cover photo by Van Sutherland via Flickr