In an effort to help improve movement throughout the capital city of Austin, the Capital Metro was launched on March 22, 2010. Although the project was delayed three times over a two year period, including a one year delay caused by construction and safety issues, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority was finally successful at getting the transportation system constructed.
In addition to serving as an expansive commuter rail system, the Capital MetroRail project also included expanding local bus services and streetcar systems connecting the Texas State Capitol complex to the University of Texas of Austin.
Interestingly, the Capital MetroRail was mostly built on pre-existing freight rail lines. As such, the system services downtown Austin as well as north central Austin, east Austin, northwest Austin and the Leander area. Although the system is considered to be a commuter rail service, it implements a tram-train operation system and makes semi-frequent stops in the downtown area of the city.
Within its original plans, the Capital MetroRail line was intended to be a light rail system. Since the final system utilizes the main-line tracks that are used by freight trains and because its infrequent rush hour service, however, it cannot be truly considered a light rail system.
The first rail line within the Capital MetroRail system, the Red Line, consists of nine stations stretching across 32 miles of track. The Red Line begins at the Leander Station to the north and the Downtown Convention Center to the south, with the stations in between being Lakeline, Howard, Burnet/Kramer, Crestview, Highland, MLK, Jr. and Plaza Saltillo. Each of the stations along the Red Line features ticket vending machines, informational displays and bike racks along with varying canopy designs. The stations located in a more suburban setting also feature Park & Rides for commuters, while urban locations feature parking in public garages located nearby.
The Capital MetroRail system has many plans for expansion in the future. A freight line from Downtown to Manor and the abandoned MoKan Corridor have both been identified as potential sources of expansion, though another referendum will be necessary to make it happen. Capital Metro has also determined that there is a need for a rail service from the downtown area to the town of Elgin. As such, the company has made plans to add a new Green Line to the service. This line would operate in the same way as the Red Line, as it will operate on existing freight rails with necessary adjustments being made to allow for a passenger rail service. Capital Metro is also making plans for a shared station with the planned Austin-Bergstron International Airport Commuter Rail Connector, from which the line would continue on to Elgin.
Another proposed addition includesthe MoKan corridor, which would end near the Red Line's Plaza Saltillo Station in the south or possibly near to the Walter E. Long Municipal Park. The north end of the line would end in Round Rock near Dell Diamond and could potentially intersect with the Austin-San Antonio commuter rail line that has been proposed. This expansion would help add the services to northeast Austin as well as the suburbs of Round Rock and Pflugerville.