Page Two

Editor Louis Black takes the light rail argument into Austin's farther future.

Page Two
In Portland, Oregon, light rail is a reality rather than a controversy. Up there last week for North by Northwest, I was struck by how everyone took it for granted. More surprising was the number of people who mentioned that a new downtown light rail link was coming, making downtown even more accessible.

Calm down right now if you're planning on writing an indignant letter about how, for all the rhetoric and awareness, ridership on light rail isn't that great. Don't offer that impressive statistical proof that bus passengers have simply switched to rail, at a much greater cost.

If you're voting for light rail because of the impact you think it is going to have on this community over the next 10, 20, 30 years -- vote against light rail. If you're voting for light rail because of the campaign claiming it is going to remove so many cars from the road that congestion will clear up -- vote against light rail. Vote for light rail for only one reason: the future. Not for us, not even for our children, but for our children's children.

Listen to the arguments against light rail.

  • Build more roads: How many more roads can we build? I agree that Austin's overall highway structure needs some thought and improvement. But when we build more roads, we encourage more development, which dumps more traffic downtown, which simply doesn't have the room to accommodate it. If we build ever more roads, we'll end up with ever more traffic.

  • It is going to cost too much. It is.

  • We can't trust Capital Metro. Can we?

  • It will negatively impact on small businesses. Given the ridiculous situation downtown, it's hard to argue with this fear. Road closings can be carefully planned and well done. There is no reason to expect that here in Austin.

    We need to build light rail. We need to build it for the future. We need to build it so when our grandkids go to UT and housing around the campus is outrageous, they can move out of the city. We need it so workers will buy houses on light rail routes that service their places of employment. We need it because the economic development along it will create jobs and invite residential housing. Few people are going to stop using their cars because of light rail, but they may use them a lot less.

    There is too much congestion. We all agree? Downtown is a finite area. Building more roads around Austin and in the Hill Country will dump more traffic into an already full cup. We need an alternative. People say we should take time to consider our options. Think of what considering our options over the last 20 years has cost us. Can you imagine where we would be with light rail today if we had started planning and construction 15, 10, or even five years ago? The more we wait, the more costly and intrusive any mass transit project will be. Eventually, there will be too much traffic in the inner city for movement. Alternatives will need to be found. Light rail will provide a skeleton for the city's future growth and in that growth, decade after decade, will come its success. Few commuters are actually going to switch from their cars to rail. But over the years, people will move into housing along lines that make jobs, schools, and businesses accessible. We build light rail for the future. If we start now, in Austin 3000 this project will seem neither foolish nor too costly. If anything, it may be considered as having been way too small. end story

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