Heritage Streetcars coming to Center Avenue!

With proposed service cuts to City and Rural Rides/Central Texas Rural Transportation District, local citizens are rightfully concerned about getting around town. Brownwood is not pedestrian friendly, nor is any town in the southwest in the summertime. Riders attended a meeting on Monday afternoon where they shared concerns and heard proposals from CARR management on how the venerable busette system would continue operating with a $1mil budget shortfall.

Many riders were unhappy with CARR’s proposals, citing the end of weekend service and reduced operating hours. One man even loudly stood up during the town hall meeting and declared he hoped CARR went out of business. With revolt in the air, CTRTD officials had no choice but to cede control to the designated local authority, which is now Travis County’s Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Residents may be unaware of this fact, but once Brownwood joined the Hill Country region and left the Panhandle Plains, Austin became the largest metro region within a 5-county radius. Much as DART in Dallas serves adjacent counties, Capital Metro serves regional partners. Abilene was Brownwood’s previous municipal control city.

Cap Metro will initially operate two express bus routes and one heritage streetcar route for a 24-month period, with potential expansion to follow. We’ve obtained a systems map and are proud to be the first to reveal the “Brownwood 2020 Transportation Plan”. However, our scanner is broken so we will append the map to the article at a later time.

As readers may note, the routes will be named rather than numbered. “The people of Brownwood, while we love them and value them, aren’t the brightest and tend to have hard times remembering more than 2 digits in a row.” stated regional planner Patrick Murray.

Take a Trip in Time on the Trolley!

The streetcar route, “Downtowner” is sure to be a favorite with tourists who would rather not drive in the crowded, often dangerous region. Operating a traditional loop route, the “Downtowner” will stop at many landmarks. From the Post Office to the Public Library to Good Samaritan to the Brown County Court to the Red Wagon and back, riders can complete an entire days worth of tasks without driving. Future expansions will take riders to the Lehnis Railroad Museum, and a pedestrian bridge will allow for speedy egress to the Depot. The depot will be a link to future interurban rail services, initially allowing riders to quickly travel to North Austin and back, with a dedicated stop at Lakeline Mall on the “Speedy Shopper”.

The streetcar, which will be repainted maroon and white prior to installation in Brownwood.
The streetcar, which will be repainted maroon and white prior to installation in Brownwood.
MetroRail train "Speedy Shopper"
MetroRail train “Speedy Shopper” at Lakeline Station

Cap Metro heavily invests in community improvements to attract riders.  “We envision a thriving downtown, with storefronts, music, and people of various ages, heritage, and interests freely congregating. An arts district! With the gallery on Fisk, the Lyric on Center, and, um, well I guess that’s it right now.. but anyhow, the arts district will grow with ridership.”

Murray continued by suggesting Cap Metro will help to kickstart the Brownwood renaissance by installing 2 pieces of public artwork, honoring those who helped make Brownwood great. “Some of you have been to Austin and seen the 6 foot bronze Willie Nelson on 2nd Street by the ACL theater. We have noticed many tourists stopping to visit Ole Willie. While Brownwood never had a famous musician of Nelson’s caliber, there were still many colorful characters in the past. The best art is local, so we’ve partnered with the TSTC welding department to construct a statue of Bert Massey holding his trademark cigar. Many citizens yearn for the days when Massey would be seen around town at civic events, doing mayor-y things and eagerly awaiting a chance to light his stogie up.”

Traditionally, Cap Metro serves high density residential areas downtown, so the Brownwood Manor will have a dedicated stop. Cap Metro has entered into negotiations to purchase 2 diesel streetcars from the defunct Galveston Island Trolley. A traditional, modern electric trolley manufactured by Kinki Sharyo was considered, but Murray stated “There are senior citizens operating motor vehicles, and that means we’d be replacing the trolley wire stanchions at least once a week due to single car accidents. We’d have more live wires on the ground than the Gaza Strip.”

Bus or Bust!

A demographic study was conducted by Cap Metro, which shows that the majority of riders in Brownwood are a combination of the elderly, the legally challenged, and the infirm, so express busses are tailored to serve their specific needs. Riders can look forward to taking the “Medical Park Flyer” with stops at the Vicksburg, Songbird Lodge, and a final stop at the Brownwood Regional Medical Center. All area physicians and specialists will be a short walk away. A future helipad will be installed at the VA, allowing for quick travel to Temple and back. “Heritage railways, streetcar lines, and even busses are increasingly popular, so we figured why not have a heritage helicopter? We’ve bought a Vietnam era Boeing CH-47 Chinook for this purpose. We looked at a Bell AH-1 Cobra, but the rider capacity was too low. Sadly, the American Military would not sell us one, so we had to buy one from the Japanese Self-Defense Force. This might upset our WW2 era veterans, but it couldn’t be helped. Driving to Temple is hell on Earth, and I wouldn’t want my loved ones to be on I35 any longer than they had to. Flying in a Japanese helicopter is worth the temporary loss of pride.

The "Temple Traveler", especially for VA patients.
The “Temple Traveler”, especially for VA patients.

Riders who are not in need of medical aid but rather legal aid will be pleased to know that the Brown County Courthouse will be Grand Central Station for the “Freedom Express”. With stops at Brownwood Housing Authority properties and the Law Enforcement Center, riders can take care of their legal matters with ease. As with the “Downtowner”, a pedestrian walkway will be installed by the jail so riders needing to visit their bail bondsman will not have to cross Highway 84. “The next time you go to jail for Engaging in Organized Crime, why not ride Cap Metro? We’ve also partnered with area parole officers, so if you do something bad, you can just ride the bus back to your jail cell. No more worrying about which contract towing service will take your car, and since half of you are driving without licenses, it’s one less bail to post when you do go back to county.”

Both the “Freedom Express” and the “Medical Park Flyer” will stop at the Courthouse, allowing for transfers to the “Downtowner” or other bus lines.

Murray also stated that unlike CARR, the yet-to-be-named Brownwood Cap Metro affiliate would operate a traditional mass transit schedule. “Calling 24-48 hours ahead of time just to get a ride is a pain in the ass, did people really think that was a good idea?”

What about funding?

When asked how Cap Metro plans to pay for these improvements, Murray mentioned a story that The Examiner has been closely monitoring. “The whole “Drain Lake Coleman” thing would greatly benefit Lake Brownwood, but draining Lake Brownwood would do wonders for the Highland Lakes. We’ve spoken with the Brown County Water Improvement District and have introduced them to several shareholders representing the Lower Colorado River Authority. We think a compromise can be reached where Brownwood will release water to Lake Buchanan. This will start a rapid chain. Buchanan can release to Inks. Inks can release to Marble Falls. Marble Falls can release to Travis. Initially, Lake Brownwood will need to be drained 100% while we retrofit the dam to contain a few hydroelectric generators. Austin Energy is in need of as many megawatts as we can get. We will force Lakes Coleman, Hoards Creek, and Cisco to release into Brownwood once the retrofit is complete so y’all won’t go dry.”

“Oh, and I heard y’all used to have parking meters downtown. Bring those back.”

CARR will continue to accept questions, concerns, and suggestions regarding the proposed changes until August 20, via written communication mailed to PO Box 712, Coleman, TX, 76834. Coleman still doesn’t have the Internet, it seems.


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