A. Austinites work and commute to and from all corners of the city. Work centers are not centralized, nor should be a mass transit system that properly accommodates them. Centralized mass transit only works in cities where work centers are relatively centralized.
For a mass transit system to become useful enough for people to truly consider using in Austin and surrounding areas, it must be capable of connecting them from their small corner of the city or suburb to their destination in another corner or suburb quickly and efficiently. The current system and recent proposals clearly do not accomplish that, hence most of us continue to use our own transportation.
B. Before a workable mass transit system can even be proposed, analysis of the best means to connect the majority to their final destinations efficiently needs to be determined, summarized and clearly communicated. Easily said, but no small task here in Austin due to the plethora of non-centralized work centers. This is by far, where the real work needs to be done.
C. After sufficient analysis, a tenable set of plans will become apparent. These will need to be reviewed with feedback from all of us, as we are the potential users. (Until we all agree the plan is useful enough for each of us to actually use, it will need more work.) In this context, "sufficient analysis" means taking a honest look at commuter true needs and psychology and create a system that fully accommodates the realities.
D. When there is public consensus that a set of tenable proposals exists, then the system can be built, step by step, starting with the areas of highest need and usage first.
E. What is this system that can accomplish the seemingly impossible?
Conceptually, it is a combination of extremely well-planned N-S and E-W rail in the four corners of the city; combined with smaller, nimble commuter shuttles, buses and/or trains at each of the criss-crossing hubs, that distribute people to/from their final/initial destinations - the spokes of each wheel.
Implementation: The prior paragraph introduced the concept. Analysis will reveal the need for more than four major intersecting rail points. It will likely be ten to twelve, three of which will be distributed through central Austin, the remaining being at major distribution points at the corners of the city: 71/290 W, Hwy 360 center and at each end point, E. Ben White, S. Cedar Park, Specific Loop 1 segments, Parmer and others. Additionally each rail will need to have multiple trains running simultaneously, with a side tracks built to support segmented group stops per train, the concept being that some trains on the track only travel end-to-end, while others divert to localized stops along the track path and then rejoin the main track. Like any train system, the user will need to know which train letter or number goes to the desired end-point. Precise timing between trains is required and easily accommodated with today's technology. Frequently tested, fail-safe track safety measures are a requisite.
F. Much more could be written on the actual intersecting hub locations and the satellite commuter shuttle system - that is left to a proper study of forecasted needs. The goal here is to simply introduce the vision that a functional non-centralized system is required. With the correct vision, and good planning, the pieces can come together, bit by bit.