Open Up the Rail Dialogue

RECEIVED Tue., Feb. 26, 2013

Dear Editor,
    I am a transit advocate and support rail in Austin. The city has not allowed for open discussion and input by the public on the current rail proposal. Two recent reviews of the urban rail plan by expert panels from the Urban Land Institute and the American Public Transportation Association both concluded that there needs to be greater public involvement and discussion of routes, ridership, and goals. So far, there is no indication that the city staff or the City Council plan to follow those recommendations. Mr. Spillar told the Council last fall that the route from Downtown up the east side of campus to Mueller is set. When the city goes to the public this spring, it will not be for any substantive input on the plan, but only to show the federal government that they went through the required steps to get public involvement.
    If the mayor is serious about urban rail, he needs to go to the citizens to open up the dialogue and gain broad-based support. That would require standing up to the staff who want to push ahead without any meaningful conversation with the public. Unfortunately, the mayor seems loathe to do that, which could mean the failure yet again of urban rail in Austin.
Susan Pantell
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