The Austin Chronicle

http://www.austinchronicle.com/postmarks/2013-12-17/1501087/

The Question Is Timing

RECEIVED Tue., Dec. 17, 2013

Dear Editor,
    John Langmore's willingness to misrepresent the arguments of the folks he disagrees with is insulting [“The Best Transit Plan Is …,” Postmarks, Dec. 20]. Who said we should "pull the plug on a $48 million investment the month before it opens"? The message he has heard from the citizens who disagree with him is clear: Do not build a rail line to Highland before putting rail on Lamar. Either start with a line on Lamar and move MetroRapid when the rail line opens a decade from now, or start with East Riverside so Lamar can come second.
    As an exercise for the reader, how often do you find yourself needing to head to places on Guadalupe and Lamar? How often for Red River? If you're like most of the Austinites who are forced to waste their time stuck in traffic on the Drag each day, it's clear that there are tons of people who want to go places along the Guadalupe/Lamar corridor. We should put rail there.
    The question before us is timing. Ideally, we'd start with Lamar, which has the jobs and housing that make it the highest transit ridership already. A good plan B would be starting with East Riverside, where ridership is high, and the zoning allows for enough density for the ridership to be even higher. Highland, however, doesn't have the density of people or jobs to make for a blockbuster first line, which endangers our chances of building a second and a third.
    The biggest issue with Highland is that there is no way voters will approve rail down Lamar once there's a line to Highland. A second line through Hyde Park before the rest of the city has seen any rail won't seem fair to most people, and I don't blame them. Rail to Highland means rail on our best transit corridor won't happen until the middle of the century. If the places that people want to go can only be reached by buses stuck in traffic, people will stay in their cars, traffic will stay terrible, and we won't become a city where it's normal to take transit for decades.
    This is the future that the citizens who have been paying attention are trying to avoid. We're not trying to "pull the plug" on MetroRapid. We're trying to avoid making the mistake of allowing the backbone of our transit system to remain slow for decades. Join us, and tell City Council that if they put a rail line to Highland on the ballot, you'll vote against it.
Niran Babalola

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