At the end of the day, Capital Metro estimated that 2,942 people rode the MetroRail on the first day. Only 716 rode the rails in the morning, but as the day went on, the numbers rose. It is estimated that 2226 riders tested the tracks in the afternoon and evening.
"This is a historic day for Capital Metro that will forever change the face of transportation in our region," said Capital Metro Interim President and CEO Doug Allen . "The addition of MetroRail brings us another step closer to providing a premier multimodal transit system in which our community so deserves."
In its milestone launch, the MetroRail is the first modern passenger rail system in Central Texas. Commuters can choose from one of nine trips in the morning - six southbound and three northbound trips. In the afternoon, commuters can choose from 10 trips - six northbound and four southbound trips.
"It's been at least five years in the making, and it's a great day in Austin to see MetroRail trains carrying passengers to work and school," said Austin Mayor Pro Tem and Capital Metro Board Chairman Mike Martinez.
The MetroRail had about 15- to 20 passengers by the time it made its way from Leander to Downtown Austin. Only a few people got on at a time, while the rest of the passengers were quite a few staffers and members of the media.
However, Allen said he's not concerned.
"This is a new system for everybody," said Allen. "They're getting used to it, but I know that over time, people are really going to flock to it."
Passengers during Monday morning rush hour at the 725 boarding station at Lakeline were not greeted by a packed train coming from Leander. A passenger reported trouble with establishing a WiFi connection, but other passengers were able to connect.
Capital Metro Spokesman Adam Shaivitz said one train was one minute late to the Downtown Austin station Monday morning but reported no other problems.
Since the first week of service is free for customers, Allen said people will have the chance to test the waters this week and that they will find out if it's good for them or not.
However, former Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty is not so sure and said he does not think the MetroRail line was cost effective.
"We don't have a comprehensive road system largely due to the fact that we don't have the budget for it," said Daugherty. "I think spending $100 million on 1,000 people versus taking $100 million and do something that I think quit, frankly, would benefit the community is a much greater way."
Martinez said the rail line is a great solution to the traffic congestion that threatens the quality of life for Austin, a "world-class city."
"It [traffic] has negative environmental, health and economic consequences," said Martinez. "MetroRail is part of our region’s solution to protect our quality of life."
The last train out of Leander rolled out at exactly 7:54 a.m. Monday, and the next won't leave until 5:23 p.m. The first train left the Leander station at 5:25 a.m. Monday and arrived in Downtown Austin at 6:27 a.m., arriving back in Leander at 7:40 a.m. The intervals between each trip is set at 14 minutes.
If riders cannot show a ticket, they will we asked to get off the train at the next station to buy one.
As time goes on and this grace period ends, people who choose to ride the train without paying run the risk of getting a citation. Tickets range in price depending on where you ride the rail to.
A one-way pass runs $2 from downtown to the Kramer Station, or Howard to Leander. However, if you cross through both zones or run the entire route it's $3 one-way.
The five-day passes will also be sold for $20, while the month-long pass goes for $70.
Staff and community volunteers will be at each of the nine stations morning and afternoons the first two weeks of service to provide assistance to passengers.
Technical delays and cost overruns plagued the project and by 2007 federal safety inspectors were not satisified with the quality of the line, issuing violations.
However, some are seeing the MetroRail as a new future for Central Texas Transit, but critics fear the line will remain the expensive boondoggle it's been since first approved by voters in 2004.
Several start dates were pushed back and at the end of 2009, Capital Metro changed contractors, firing Veolia and hiring Herzog to finish the job.
Allen said everything was
ready to go for Monday's landmark launch for the Central Texas area.
"It's going very good. Everything worked the way it was supposed to," said Allen. "It's all safe. It's all checked out."
In the meantime, Allen advised the public to mind the crossings and to pay attention.
"If everyone follows what they're supposed to do, everything'll be just fine," said Allen.
Routine maintenance for the crossing arms is in the works for the MetroRail line.
Transportation enhancements for safety
Restriped white stop bars on the road surface with black outlines to increase visibility
Placed orange flags on “Do Not Stop on Tracks” signs prior to the crossings, to increase driver awareness
Installed a pedestrian crosswalk on Kramer Lane at the Kramer Lane MetroRail station to provide pedestrian access to the connecting bus service
Increasing signs and markings visibility at every city controlled railroad crossing within City limits.
Coordinating with Texas Department of Transportation to upgrade the intersection signs and markings at crossings within their jurisdiction
Installed new signal preemption technology to clear vehicles from the tracks
Priority given to following key urban railroad crossings
51st Street at Airport Boulevard: A “Keep Clear” legend will be added Monday to the street surface indicating where drivers should stop prior to reaching rail tracks.
53rd Street at Airport Boulevard
45th Street at Airport Boulevard
46th Street at Airport Boulevard
Kramer Lane at Metro Rail Station
The railroad quiet zones are located primarily within residential areas and have additional protections at the crossing, such as:
gates that close off the railroad tracks with gates that close completely across the road
median islands separating the opposing traffic flows
One exception to this is the Manor Road crossing which is within a quiet zone but does not have quad gates or a median.
The transportation department is working on a temporary measure that would qualify this crossing as a quiet zone until such time as Capital Metro can install permanent devices, and perform needed sidewalk repair.
The Austin Transportation Department will continue to work with Capital Metro and to monitor and upgrade the signs and markings to these railroad intersections on an ongoing basis.