AUSTIN (KXAN) — Project Connect officials gave a glimpse Wednesday into some of the design elements under consideration for the light rail system’s subway stations. The multi-billion dollar transit investment program includes more than 28 miles’ worth of light rail corridors via the Blue and Orange lines.
Paolo Faria with the Austin Transit Partnership said accessibility features are critical in ensuring the program can best serve all Austinites. He pointed to “redundancy” built into the system to ensure people of all abilities can safely access the light rail systems through underground and at-grade subway stations.
Each station will include three central zones: an at-grade or underground entrance pavilion for users to access the station; a concourse where riders can navigate hopping on incoming trains or exiting outgoing ones; along with a platform where the trains will meet.
Accessibility features include ramps, elevators, escalators and stairways for multiple access methods, audible announcements and level-boarding platforms, so users don’t have to climb up or down from the platforms onto the trains.
“Ultimately we have to design for all so the aspiration is to implement universal designs,” Faria said. “So the designs are developed independent of individuals’ abilities.”
Designs also highlight tapping into the use of natural light through inserted windows or other elements, to help users gather their bearings in underground stations.
Some amenities being considered within subway stations include customer service booths for rider information, retail and vending machines, water refill stations, digital information kiosks, bike and scooter rental and parking stations, restrooms and working or charging stations for electronic devices.
Orange Line Subway Stations
When looking along the Orange Line corridor, Andrew Knipp with AECOM said Guadalupe Street between 15th and 17th streets along the Capitol West and Government Center corridor is a critical component of the downtown design, given the number of people working in that area. Knipp said the desire was to have larger subway station plazas, but due to a more condensed downtown urban core, there isn’t as many right-of-way options available. He said officials will need to get more creative with entrance designs and the overall layout.
At Republic Square Station, Knipp said this area is a critical bus transfer zone and will require strong connectivity points for multi-modal uses, as well as people switching between bus and light rail services.
The station also features a longer concourse that will help connect it to the Congress Avenue Station.
When it comes to the South Congress Station, limitations imposed by the mandatory capitol view corridor shifted plans for how long Project Connect’s tunnel system would run in this region. The capitol view corridor runs from Live Oak Street north to the Capitol Dome, meaning the first location 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 impacting alignments and tunneling opportunities.
Peter Mullan, chief of architecture and urban design for ATP, highlighted one area where project heads were seeking public feedback on potential cost-saving measures. At question: Whether or not the Auditorium Shores Station needed an extension of its pedestrian tunnel to connect to the Long Center and Auditorium Shores underground, an estimated cost of approximately $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 standpoint, officials said they are looking at ways to optimize the system while reducing expenditures.
One possible option would be to remove the concourse between the Congress Avenue Station and the Republic Square Station, as well as the concourse between the Rainey/ESB-MACC Station and Brush Square. There would still be multiple access modes to and from the station’s platforms, as well as about a quarter-mile walk between the stations.
Project Connect officials are expected to release updated, 30% design and cost estimates for the program this summer.