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

Rich DePalma

City Council, District 8

The City of Austin has a duty to guarantee safe, efficient, and equitable transportation options. Transit ridership has a different definition than it did a decade ago when we thought merely of bus, shuttle, commuter rail, light trail, and subway. I support a robust public transit system but I am also supportive of today’s new transit solutions and services such as ride hailing, bikeshare, e-scooters, and carshare. These solutions will help decrease reliance on cars. We must continue to improve how these solutions are implemented to encourage use and address our mobility challenges much more rapidly.

The majority of Southwest Austin/District 8 is residential or protected land and has very little commercial/mixed use development or cultural centers compared to the rest of our city. Due to sprawl and extremely limited public transit options, it will be a great challenge to implement high capacity transit and give up our reliance on our cars as we still need to get to school or work and back. That said, as commuters, time spent in traffic drastically affects quality of life and has environmental impact – most of us would love to offset this in some way and I feel like the City and Capital Metro could do more to incentivize less reliance on single passenger vehicles such as HOV lanes, expanding/better marketing the vanpool program, carpool rebates, etc.

I am eager to see how the Capital Metro Remap will progress. We lack any transit options in District 8, so I’d love to see our area have more than just a few stops on a public transit map for starters, however there is much to be done for us to redevelop land and have the cultural/town centers that our residents want to visit. If the routes are data driven, the CapRemap can establish a strong backbone routes to guarantee long-term sustainability and ensure that there is transit to/from where needed most – thus aligning with the goals of Imagine Austin and increased density on corridors. The modality agnosticism, but commitment to mass transit routes and infrastructure improvement lays the foundation for future evaluation and implementation of new options such as expansion of light rail, autonomous vehicles, etc.

Additionally, work with Austin ISD and other large organizations to address what more might be done on their ends to address high capacity transit – needs and solutions. Currently AISD doesn’t offer bussing for students unless they live greater than 2 miles from their school or on a route deemed “unsafe.” As a result, we have 82,000 students and their families hitting the roads at peak transit hours – and since many of the most over-crowded schools are on or near corridors, there is no doubt that there is a major effect on traffic congestion.

Of course, mass transit and new transit options are not the only options – walking and biking remain key to reducing reliance on cars. Transit Oriented Development promoting mixed-use projects will help promote walking and biking. To encourage walking and biking the city must finish implementing existing plans such as the 2014 Bike Master Plan, the 2016 Sidewalk Master Plan/ADA Transition Plan Update, the Urban Trails Master Plan, and all the corridor plans that are key to creating a walkable and bikeable Austin. An Austin where every community has the safe option of getting to a neighborhood store, school, park or other resource. For neighborhoods closer to the urban core or regional/town center, implementation of these plans will provide safe options for both work and play. In the urban core and regional/town centers, the city MUST incentivize the building of employee showers in commercial buildings so bike
riding, walking or running is an option. Beyond just public transit, I believe that we also need to improve inter-regional solutions and inter-agency representation and relationships increasing our stake in CAMPO – and identify opportunities to obtain additional federal, state or other funds that could be used to develop and sustain high capacity transit projects as well as create a pathway for the private sector to introduce new ideas for consideration so as not to impose the capital costs on drivers as tolls, or tax increases.