The Red Line Parkway is a 32-mile trail and transit corridor that will serve Central Texas mobility, recreation, economic, parks, arts, affordability, physical & mental health, and public space needs. It is poised to become an iconic & welcoming Austin destination, creating the backbone of a metro-wide urban trail network connecting Austin’s urban centers. The Red Line Parkway Initiative will ensure successful planning, implementation, and activation of the parkway through coordination of stakeholders & experts, facilitating a strong parkway culture, and hosting events along the corridor.
About the Initiative
The Red Line Parkway Initiative (RLPI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2017 that empowers diverse communities to enjoy, develop, and enhance the Red Line Trail and Parkway corridor to serve Central Texas mobility, recreation, parks, arts, affordability, social equity, physical & mental health, public space, and economic needs.
The Red Line Parkway is a proposed linear park and public space along the planned Red Line Trail, extending 32 miles from Downtown Austin to Leander. Our vision is a thriving, inclusive, multi-functional parkway that provides convenient, enjoyable, car-free access to transit, parks, public art, and other urban, suburban, and rural destinations.
Read about our name.
Donations made to RLPI are tax deductible as charitable contributions.
The Red Line Parkway is a proposed linear park and public space along the planned Red Line Trail, extending 32 miles from Downtown Austin to Leander. The 12-mile urban component of the Red Line Trail follows (from south to north) the Capital Metro Red Line from Downtown Austin, to Boggy Creek in East Austin, to Highland, to Crestview, and to the intersection of the North MoPac Trail and the Northern Walnut Creek Trail in North Austin. About half of the 32-mile trail is identified as a top priority (Tier I) trail in the City of Austin Urban Trails Master Plan (UTMP). Currently about 10-20% is completed or funded: Walnut Creek to Braker Lane, adjacent to Highland Mall, Boggy Creek Trail (part of EastLink Trail), and the Crosstown Bikeway (Lance Armstrong Bikeway). Community interest in a trail along the Red Line dates back at least to 2000. In 2004, voters approved the MetroRail proposal after a campaign that raised the possibility of a trail along the rail line.
Our Initial Vision
Our vision for the Red Line Trail includes a paved surface, separate parallel trails for bicycling and pedestrian access where feasible, complete grade-separation from motorized street traffic (bridges and tunnels at streets), and gentle inclines of 1-3% grade. Tributary connections will provide additional access to the Butler Trail around Lady Bird Lake, Shoal Creek, Waller Creek (both downtown and near Highland Mall), the Northern and Southern Walnut Creek Trails (eventually creating a continuous 30-mile trail loop), Mueller, The Domain, Wells Branch, and UT Austin. The Red Line Trail will enhance existing trail assets, creating a central part of a continuous 200-mile trail network. Since the trail serves Central Austin, it will connect its population center to all existing and future trails extending into South Austin, suburban, and rural areas. Implementation of the Red Line Trail will raise the bar and build demand to increase investment in protected bike lanes, sidewalks, and active transportation accommodations in Austin.
How the trail can fit
within constrained urban space
The existing MetroRail right-of-way provides enough width for both a double-track rail line and for the trail in all or nearly all of the corridor. Adjacent commercial sites, brownfield sites, other transportation rights-of-way, and other parcels offer opportunities for creating wider trail corridor segments.
We have developed several demonstrative cross-sections showing how the trail can fit within the corridor. These are based on varied conversations with industry experts and initial conversations with local government stakeholders. Further research, planning, engineering, outreach, and conversation will be conducted to determine more refined parkway corridor cross sections.
About Our Name
Our organization’s name, Red Line Parkway Initiative, has its origin in the name of the Capital Metro MetroRail Red Line approved by Austin-area voters in 2004 that the Red Line Parkway will follow. The City of Austin has been using the name "Red Line Trail" for over a decade, including in their 2014 Urban Trails Plan (e.g., on p. 3-24) on their website.
We added the term "Parkway" to emphasize and to create a vision that this corridor will not just be a strip of pavement, but will consist of trails, parks, and other public spaces to be enjoyed. In general, parkways originated as greenspace corridors for people to enjoy as they travel through them. While many such-named places are still enjoyable as park corridors, the term has over the decades been used more and more for large roadways that do not resemble parks.
The final term in our organization’s name, “Initiative,” recognizes that creating this corridor requires a special initiative in order to complete it. The concept and effort to create this corridor has existed for over 20 years, and the Red Line Trail was due to be completed in 2019. The project is in the purview of two of our largest local institutions, Capital Metro and the City of Austin, but despite that momentum, as of 2020, less than 20% of the trail has been completed.
We have learned that for some people, the term “Red Line” immediately evokes the racist practice of redlining, i.e. the systematic denial of home mortgages and services to people of color. From the beginning of our effort, a central part of our vision has been for the Red Line Parkway to be a place for all people to safely and comfortably enjoy, regardless of racial or ethnic background. Because of the concerns regarding the term “Red Line”, and that use of the term works counter to our goals of inclusion, our board officially committed in June 2020 to change the name of our project and organization. We are currently developing a timeline for making this change, and will post updates as they become available.