A recently published master's thesis found that a high-quality San Antonio to Austin train would have the highest ridership out of any other city pairs in Texas. Modeling results show that a train between the two cities would have a ridership of over four million each year, more than 1/5th of the mode share between the two cities.
Christian Budow, a recent graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, created a transportation modeling analysis with data derived from 2021 Next Generation National Household Travel Survey (NextGen NHTS). The data, collected by the Federal Highway Administration since 2020, uses origin-destination data to track movements between cities including travel by car, train, and plane.
In 2021, NextGen NHTS data recorded that about 20 million people traveled between San Antonio and Austin by car, 4,500 by train, and zero by plane, given that there currently are no commercial flights between the two cities. The travel between the two cities was the highest out of any city pair in Texas.
Budow’s simulation modeled how many people would use a high-quality rail service (meaning it was fast, frequent, and reliable) instead of driving or flying to city pairs across Texas based on comfort, cost, and time savings. His model predicted that under current land use conditions, a rail connecting San Antonio and Austin would shift more than 20 percent of the mode share away from single occupancy vehicles to trains, the most out of any city pairs in the state.
“More than four million people would use the train per year, and that’s a conservative estimate given that the model uses 2021 travel data,” Budow said, referring to the ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.