Regardless of the outcome of Proposition 1 on Election Day, I pledge to make Austin a transit-oriented city, and I’ll take concrete action towards improving transit within my first 100 days in office.
Austin is an economic success story. Our economy grows even when they’re shrinking in the rest of the country. But our transportation situation is truly an emergency that threatens to end our winning streak. If people can’t get to their jobs, those jobs will go to other cities, and some Austinites will have to move to other cities to find jobs. It could be your friends. It could be you. I will do everything I can to prevent that from happening.
Many of our streets can’t be expanded. Transit is the most efficient way to increase the people-moving capacity of our street network. The next time transit is on the ballot in Austin, it won’t be controversial. The benefits will be clear, because I’ll follow these principles as we plan our transit system:
- I pledge that our next rail plan will reduce our costs like good rail plans do around the country. It’s smart to make a large investment up front to reduce the annual costs to move each person via transit. That’s the point, and it’s what cities with great transit systems do. Those savings help cities afford expanded transit service. However, both the Red Line and the rail line proposed in Proposition 1 have higher annual costs per person than before rail. We must improve our transit planning to protect our economy and our tax dollars. Before putting any new plan on the ballot, I pledge to give voters an estimate of when operating our next rail investment will give Austin lower operating costs than the buses it replaces.
- I pledge to spend as much effort improving our bus system as I do on rail. Even when we build more rail lines, the vast majority of transit riders will be on the buses that run through the whole city. If we don’t work to improve bus service too, the parts of the city without rail will be stuck without good options to get where they need to go. Rail will only serve small parts of Austin, but I pledge to ensure that the rest of the city has great transit, too.
- I pledge to support the density required for great transit across the city. Capital Metro isn’t the biggest problem with our transit system. The problem is that Austin is too spread out for transit to be great—the last census says we’re 24% less dense than Houston! That leads to buses that only run every half hour in many neighborhoods, which isn’t great transit by anyone’s standards. We have frequent bus routes in parts of the city, but our land use rules make it illegal to build more housing near them. I pledge to improve our transit lines by letting more people live near them so more people can ride transit without a long wait.
- I pledge to prioritize appointing transit advocates and transit riders to the commissions that advise city council on transportation and land use. Council members should be getting input on issues that determine the success of our transit system from citizens who have proven their willingness to dig through the data and research that must guide our transit policies. I pledge to fill our commissions with citizens who won't just represent me, they'll teach me and inform me. I pledge to use our transit system at least twice per month to understand its intricacies.
When you vote on Tuesday, November 4 (or vote early October 20-31), vote for candidates who pledge to make Austin the transit-oriented city it needs to be to preserve our prosperity and quality of life.