Building out a system of high-capacity transit for Austin is one of my top priorities in running for mayor. This city will be paralyzed by traffic in the coming years if we do not get started now. In addition, it is critical for our environment, as vehicle emissions will soon overtake electrical generation as the main contributor to greenhouse gases in the Austin area. As our city continues to grow, we must find ways to significantly reduce the number of vehicles on our roads. As mayor, I will work with residents, Cap Metro and other governmental partners to build high-capacity transit in Austin.
A successful transit proposal must be community-driven and must gain the support of broad coalitions, including organizations and individuals committed to the environment, job access, equity, and public health. It will also require an innovative, realistic and transparent finance plan.
Additional keys to success require appropriate and realistic attention to potential impacts of implementing such a system. We will need proactive plans to stabilize local businesses during construction and to stem displacement of residents and businesses in areas whose growth will be spurred by the new system.
And last but certainly not least, the process for developing options for a high capacity transit system must be based upon well-founded data and analyses that are transparent and open to discussion and iteration.
Many other cities, including some in Texas, have made recent strides in implementing high- capacity transit, and we can learn from their successes. We must also learn from Austin’s past mistakes. A major failure of the most recent light rail election was the planners’ rejection of community input on the proposed route, which undoubtedly contributed to its defeat at the polls.
At the same time, we must work to increase the use of transit and active transportation with the implementation of more dedicated bus and bike lanes. The City and Cap Metro should also partner on a campaign targeted to residents near transit corridors to get them out of personal vehicles – including ride-hailing cars – and onto transit. Combining humor, guilt and environmental awareness, the campaign should portray transit as the hipper, greener way to get around – if you care about our planet, you’ll walk the walk and ride the ride.