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Austin sits at roughly the midpoint of Amtrak's Texas Eagle line, which snakes in a great V from Chicago through Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, southern New Mexico, and Arizona before ending up in Los Angeles. Trains depart from Dallas daily at noon, arriving in Austin at 7 pm and then traveling on to San Antonio, with a 10:25 pm arrival time—a nearly 3½-hour journey that by car you could do in half the time.
As is common in much of the U.S., cargo gets priority over people on the rail lines, so keep in mind that your trip may be delayed as you sit in your stopped train watching the many freight trains go by.
Austin's Amtrak station is located conveniently downtown near the intersection of 3rd and Lamar, on the north bank of Lady Bird Lake. Although there are many shops within walking distance, there's little to the station itself other than a ticket counter and waiting room. The ticket office is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 am to 9:30 pm.
As for local rail travel, although voters narrowly defeated a Light Rail proposal at the ballot box in 2000, a Cap Metro Leander-to-downtown commuter rail service using existing lines is set to begin in the fall of 2008, and Austin's progressive mayor, Will Wynn, is pushing hard for a modern, rapid urban streetcar system. However, most of the powers that be in Texas have focused in recent years solely on building ever larger, longer and more intrusive highways and toll roads.
Amtrak (250 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX. 512/476–5684. www.amtrak.com.)
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