I appreciate your recent coverage of urban rail planning currently underway in Central Texas [“Urban Rail: Which Way to Connect?
” News, Dec. 13]. If nothing else, the controversy over which corridors to serve first has generated interest deserving of this critical initiative.
From my vantage point as an advocate for public transportation and compact growth, I arrived at my support of the broad outline of a first urban rail investment (emphasis on first, as opposed to final) based on the following: Lamar is undeniably an important transit corridor and that's why the region has spent the last 10 years planning to serve it with MetroRapid. We can't pull the plug on a $48 million investment the month before it opens. Furthermore, I can't fathom telling Austinites we're going to begin urban rail by taking two lanes of traffic off Lamar and subjecting that corridor to years of construction. That seems a more certain path to failure at the ballot than serving other corridors the data said should unequivocally do well with urban rail. Lastly, one of urban rail's most beneficial features is its ability to shape land uses. The Highland and East Riverside corridors offer dramatic possibilities in that regard based on development we know is coming from some of Central Texas' largest institutions (UT, ACC, and Seton Medical Center, to name a few). To support those planned developments with transit is at the heart of every plan we have for how Central Texas should grow over the next 20 to 30 years (namely CAMPO's 2035 plan and Imagine Austin).
I can only hope the transit community will come together over the well-reasoned plan that has virtually unanimous institutional support as well as broad public support. To undermine urban rail's greatest prospects for success in the last decade would be a travesty we can ill afford. There's much work left to be done, and we'll need the help of everyone who wants passenger rail as part of our future if we're to succeed.