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What is your vision for the future of high capacity transit in Austin?

Danielle Skidmore

City Council, District 9

For the sake of our environment, we finally need to go big on public transportation. That means embracing technology to ensure faster, safer movement around our city, but also going back to the basics: a robust bus service, and sidewalks that that allow our citizens to walk (or roll) to where they need to be. Less driving means more living. I envision a walkable, bike-friendly Austin, with transit options that fit within or improve families’ budgets and lifestyles. In order to realize a more sustainable Austin, we must create more affordable and market rate housing in walking distance to transit corridors.

Austin needs a core network of high capacity transit, just like we have core highway network. With Senator Watson’s recent statements, I’m glad that transit is becoming front-and-center in people’s minds and the city’s conversations. As to what that looks like, we have modes of transportation that we know work—and we have room to innovate too. With the original advent of railroads across the US, tracks were made to guide the vehicles most safely and efficiently from point A to point B. Now we have new technologies to guide them, even in the form of autonomous vehicles. Considering this, it’s not as important to me what what the ‘track’ looks like. What is essential is that our high capacity transit cannot be stuck in traffic! We absolutely need dedicated space for transit.

I would also say that for the highest capacity corridors, we should be considering a long-term solution that is fully separated from other vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

We should make the decision, but not based on which mode takes the least time to build build… it should be the right plan for the next 100 years, not simply the cheapest and easiest option over the next couple of years. This is our chance to make up for inaction in the past by building real, sustainable and affordable mobility options for Austin’s future

To implement this transportation reboot in Austin, we need someone with the both the technical skillset and political will to guide that process to fruition; we need someone with a long term vision that necessarily includes making policy changes to save the environment, such as going big on public transportation. If we want public transportation to be as big as it should be in Austin, we must give commuters these alternatives and provide relatively inexpensive incentives to use transit. Movability Austin is doing good work in this area. People make behavioral economic decisions all the time when it comes to commuting—whether it’s deciding whether or not to drive in the toll lane, or whether to take an Uber or Lyft. We’ve been talking about asking people to shift their behavior out of the goodness of our hearts, but why don’t we make it a decision that makes sense for our schedules and pocket-books. This will affect the change faster.