October 1, 2019
Like most folks in Austin, I’m not a native species. I’m part of what you might call an “invasive species.” I got here way back in 1981, fell in love with the place and set down roots.
At the time, there were less than 600,000 people living in the Austin area. Today, almost 2 million people call the region home and many of them are stuck in traffic on I-35, MoPac, 360 and 183. And a whole bunch of other roads. Now, imagine what happens in 2025, 2030 or 2040 when our population is expected to have doubled.
It would be impossible — as well as a terrible idea — to rely solely on building new roads to accommodate all the growth. While the population doubles over the next 20 years, road capacity is expected to grow only 15% – there’s only so much space and money for asphalt and concrete.
There’s no single solution to the sticky problems of the 21st century and that includes mobility and all the downstream effects. But there is one investment that will help us make significant strides in the right direction.
Transit for Austin
We’re a big city now, no matter how much we’d like to pretend otherwise. And we’ll get bigger, no matter how much we’d like to pretend otherwise. We need a big-city transit system that will get people a real option to get out of their cars. Mobility is tied to so many of the challenges our community is facing – transit can help transform our future, change the path we’re on. We’ve got to think big and smart, be bold and act now.
On Monday, I helped launch a coalition focused on educating and engaging the community to that very end. The Transit for Austin coalition is deep and wide. More than 50 community organizations have signed on. So have businesses and individuals. The coalition represents a diverse array of interests, areas and ideas, but we’re all headed in the same direction. We’re all working toward the same goal.
The group has already been hard at work talking to experts in regions of similar size to Austin, places like Denver, Seattle and Indianapolis. Denver, for example, has three million people and eight light rail lines while the Austin area has two million people and one MetroRail line. Austin has two MetroRapid routes, and neither of them have dedicated pathways. Denver has seven rapid transit routes all in dedicated transit ways. If they can do it, why can’t we?
Denver and other peer cities have come to grips with traffic by designing a mix of transit services such as rail lines, dedicated bus lanes, and strategically-placed transit hubs. The cities that coalition members visited may have envied Austin’s culture, the Hill Country and our strong jobs numbers, but the Austinites certainly envied their transit systems.
I’m very proud of our community. We have strong values and great expectations for our future. In order to meet those expectations, we’ve got to stop complaining about congestion and start doing something about it.
Yes, working from home when you can helps. Yes, commuting via your bike, your feet or in a carpool helps. But what will be transformative for our community is a big, bold investment – and, yeah, it’s going to take a lot of money. How much? We don’t know yet. There are a number of questions that will help answer that question, and we’ll have a better idea of the range of costs for different options by the end of this month.
So we all need to roll up our sleeves and make sure we get the transit system we want, making sure it meets the needs of the world we’re going to face in 2040.
It’s too late to do nothing…Think big. Be bold. Act now. Start by joining Transit for Austin.
In 2 Days!