Austin: Voters to Decide on City’s Comprehensive Transit Plan
Featured Illustration (above): A rendering of the Republic Square station along Capital Metro’s proposed downtown tunnel, which would link existing and new rail lines. Image: Capital Metro
by Art Benavidez
Austin (Travis County) — Austin voters heading to the polls must decide whether to approve the city’s comprehensive transit plan known as the Project Connect Initial Investment measure, also known as Proposition A.
If secured by voters, the ballot initiative would raise the initial funding needed for the city’s comprehensive transit plan to build a new rail system and downtown transit tunnel, and expand electric bus service.
According to Capital Metro’s website, the measure would raise property taxes by 8.75 cents per $100, (approximately 4%) annually.
In August, the Austin City Council voted to include Project Connect’s Initial Investment on the November ballot. The council vote set in motion a referendum on funding Project Connect Initial Investment of $7.1 billion, with up to half the cost covered by federal grants and commitments.
If the measure passes, it would expand the rail system to include 27 miles of rail service and 31 stations, include a downtown transit tunnel that would travel underground designed to improve on-time performance, expand bus service with nine new park and rides and one new transit center, four new MetroRapid routes, three new MetroExpress routes and 15 new neighborhood circular zones.
A map of the proposed new rail lines and downtown tunnel connection in Capital Metro’s Project Connect. Image: Capital Metro
The Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) would serve as a single entity vested with the authority and resources to implement Project Connect.
Managing day-to-day operations and the execution of the design and construction, the ATP would have full transparency with the community and have oversight from the Austin City Council and the Capital Metro board.
“With Austin’s population expected to double by 2040, Project Connect is the right plan for a public transportation system capable of responding to that growth,” Capital Metro Board Chair Wade Cooper said in a June press release.
“Getting final approval on the plan is a major milestone as we move forward on realizing this bold vision for Austin’s future. We’re proud to have worked closely with the community to ensure Project Connect has a positive impact on our future.”
“Now more than ever, Austin needs a transformative mobility plan and we finally have one – created and embraced by our entire community,” Mayor Steve Adler added in the release. “This comprehensive transit system will make our city more equitable while helping us fight climate change and ease congestion.”
In June, VBX reported that several groups have voiced concerns about how the project would be implemented, transit equity in low-income neighborhoods and the plan’s impact on taxes.
Art Benavidez (Construction News Reporter, Central Texas) is a seasoned journalist with over 15-years of experience in writing breaking news and in-depth features at the local level. He honed his research and reporting skills in newspapers and magazines throughout South and West Texas along with expertise in crafting digital content as Managing Editor of New Image Marketing Research Corporation. Benevidez is a Texas native and graduate of UT-RGV.