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Future Connections Study Central Austin Circulator: Austin Streetcar Financing Study

This study provides the basis for discussion among economic stakeholders at the local level in forming a partnership to invest in the Austin Streetcar Project



Capital Metro retained WHM/HDR (in association with PB Americas, Inc.) to evaluate the costs and benefits of a possible Central Austin Circulator (a.k.a. the Austin Streetcar Project, or the “Project”). The purpose of this study is to provide the basis for discussion among economic stakeholders at the local level in forming a partnership to invest in the Project. These stakeholders include: Capital Metro, the City of Austin, Travis County, the State of Texas, the University of Texas, Austin Independent School District (AISD), and private property owners.

This Final Report describes the Project and its costs and benefits to each of the stakeholders so that they may decide whether to approve an agreement in principle to support the concept of the Project. If an agreement is reached, then the next step would be to enter into negotiations and documentation of a more specific, detailed financing plan.

The Report is organized into the following principal sections:


  1. Project Description
  2. Potential Project Costs, Benefits, and Benefit/Cost Ratios
  3. Possible Project Phasing
  4. Funding Concept for the Project
  5. Partner Analysis Sheets

Goal of the Project

The initial goal of the Project is to provide public transportation in the central part of Downtown Austin between key activity centers, and to underpin and further their ongoing revitalization. The streetcar system is envisioned as part of a larger regional commuting network. Additionally, the Project is anticipated to produce increases in the value of properties along the line, providing economic development opportunities and benefits.

Description of the Project

The project consists of an approximately 6.7 mile, double tracked, modern streetcar line. The assumed alignment starts near the intersection of 3rd and Bowie Streets in Downtown Austin and ends at 51st Street near the new Dell Children’s Medical Center.

Potential Project Costs/Benefits

The total 20 year life cycle cost of the Project is $300 million (expressed in 2008 “NPV” dollars). In other words, if this amount of money was “put in the bank” in 2008, it would cover all capital and operating costs for the next 20 years. The capital cost for the Project is estimated at $210 million. The operating costs over the same period and

expressed in the same terms are estimated to be $90 million. The analysis contained in the Final Report projects a direct quantifiable return to the economic stakeholders of $1.4 Billion collectively in the same time cycle. This means that an investment of $300 m would generate $1.4 B in direct quantifiable benefits.

The report also indicates the amounts that each separate stakeholder stands to gain by the presence of the Project.


The results of the analysis indicate that there is a sound financial/economic/fiscal basis for each of the identified economic stakeholders to commence discussions in support of possible Project implementation. This conclusion is reinforced by significant qualitative socioeconomic benefits which support Austin’s vision of its future as a dynamic, growing but environmentally aware metropolitan region with a high quality of life.