We have heard so many comments in the community that rail, as it has been presented, is just too complicated. The content below tries to boil it down a bit. It just went out to ANC and 6,800 along the Guad-Lamar Corridor. Please consider forwarding this series to your own community groups.
And, congrats to Marla and our Highland NA partners on tonight's resolution!
This Friday, November 15th, Project Connect staff will create a formal recommendation on which part of the city may receive consideration for a new light rail. This step will mark the beginning-of-the-end of a 40-year debate on where the first investment of light rail will be made.
This is part 1 of a 3-part series examining the topic.
Congestion's Impact on Life
With its explosive growth of people and cultural vitality, Austin provides nearly endless choices for things to do. At the same time, there are more constraints placed on how to get there. Congestion, parking limitations, and unpredictable travel times make trip planning an unpleasant part of our busy urban lives. And, people who live in or near the center of the city are the lucky ones. For those who live outside Austin's core, the task is far more onerous. Every day, cars and buses carrying over 200,000 people clog Austin's streets to get to Central Austin's employment centers. People can spend over an hour and a half in their cars just to get to work and back, and many have given up making discretionary trips to downtown. In the future, Austin will have a new transportation choice. We may be able to vote next November on one solution, a light rail plan that is being developed right now.
What is Project Connect?
Project Connect is a broad regional planning initiative under the aegis of the Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO). It is currently conducting a Central Corridor study of our area to plan light rail. That study is defined in an interlocal agreement that was created in April 2013 between the City of Austin, Capital Metro, and Lone Star Rail District. Kyle Keahey, of the firm HNTB, was hired as the urban rail planning lead for the Central Corridor. This process re-start began as a fresh look; all options and all alignments were on the table. Ten areas, or sub-corridors, of the city were defined and are under evaluation, including Guadalupe-North Lamar and Mueller. On November 15th, Mr. Keahey's group will narrow the choice of sub-corridors, recommending which part of the city will be prioritized to receive light rail. That recommendation will go to advisory boards, then to city council, and the boards of Capitol Metro and Lone Star Rail this winter for approval. A referendum may be offered to the voters in November 2014.
Light Rail's Effect On Congestion and Land Use Plans
On a weekday morning in the future, a 2-car train may pull into a downtown station with several hundred passengers. If all of those passengers were instead drivers in single passenger vehicles, they would form a line of cars 2 miles long. Instead, with 5-7 minute headways, a light rail system can bring thousands of workers each hour into Central Austin employment centers without their cars. It can also bring thousands to attend downtown festivals over the weekend, and send full trains into the entertainment districts every night of the year, returning people safely to their home communities.
Future development can occur without the enormous and expensive parking garages that add as much as 40% to the costs of new construction. Parking pressure on residential areas near the line will be reduced. In the years following the 2000 referendum, many neighborhoods participated in light rail workshops during the drafting of the Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan, the Crestview-Wooten Combined Neighborhood Plan, and the Brentwood-Highland Combined Neighborhood Plan. These were detailed rail plans for Guadalupe Street and North Lamar Blvd. and included station locations. Residents from these communities agreed to those plans' density increases but these areas did not receive the needed transportation infrastructure to support those new populations.
On the list tomorrow: "What [exactly] is Light Rail?"
Central Austin Community Development Corporation