The Austin Chronicle

Better Transit Proposals Needed

RECEIVED Mon., April 21, 2014

Dear Editor,
    Suppose that you have $800 million to spend on urban rail. Since the federal government will not contribute more than half, Austin taxpayers would have to provide at least $400 million [“Project Connect: Central Corridor Options,” News, April 18]. The Chronicle cites $65-80 million per mile for urban rail, so you could build 10-12 miles (slightly less since the per-mile cost does not include a maintenance facility).
    How would you spend this money to maximize the benefit to the community? If you built the two tunnels that Project Connect proposes, that would cost $705-765 million. That leaves money for about one additional mile of rail.
    How would you decide where to build the rail? Would you consult with local bus riders and rail transit advocates with detailed knowledge of projects in other cities? Would you consult with affordable housing advocates, who are concerned with higher property taxes, not only from the bond but the inevitable property value increases from rail? Would you build the rail to maximize the ridership and access to jobs and other services? Would you build as many miles as possible, to access Downtown, as well as South, East, and North Austin?
    Unfortunately, Project Connect has not consulted with those interested parties, nor would its proposal maximize ridership or rail miles built.
    What if instead we built surface rail with the lowest-cost bridge option? What if we built it where there is already high demand for transit, along the most dense residential and commercial corridors? What if we kept costs as low as possible, so that we could build as much as possible?
   I strongly support better transit in Austin. But if we're going to spend the money, we need a project that serves the people well, and the current proposal does not do that.
Susan Pantell

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