Neighbours, a quick update and request for action regarding the City’s attempts to run rail where it doesn’t make much sense.
An advisory board is due to make a recommendation Dec 6th to the City on where to run rail, and November 2014 their plan will be turned over to the voters in a bond election. Their favored choice, and the City’s, continues to be the option that serves Mueller, the new UT Medical School, and the UT stadium. Considering that the advisory board, the CCAG, was appointed by our Mayor, and includes the Mayor, Seton CEO Greg Hartman & UT VP Pat Clubb, we have a sneaking suspicion that their recommendation will, once again, be Mueller / UT Medical School / UT stadium. The UT student government has voted against this, and in fact, supports the obvious Lamar / Guadalupe option as it serves West Campus.
You may notice that the chosen corridor is labelled “Highland”, but this is disingenuous at best. The corridor extends north from UT down Red River to Highland ACC. However, the rail plan terminates at Hancock. While they may connect Urban Rail to the Red Line Commuter Train in the future, you’d need to change trains to move further north. They have however detailed how Urban Rail will be extended to Mueller.
Red River (AKA “Highland”) and East River Side were chosen because, according to Project Connect, they have the greatest congestion and possible economic development. Much of their decision was based on future projections, when current data shows that North Lamar has the highest transit ridership, highest population density, and is one of the top 4 congested roadways in Austin and ranked in the 100 most congested roadway in TEXAS according to TxDot. Additionally, rail on Lamar and Guadalupe would put tracks within a 10 minute walk of 31% of the jobs in the city. The development possibility is based upon where they WANT growth to go, because where the rail goes developers will follow.
HNA has signed a resolution endorsing Urban Rail on Lamar-Guadalupe as recommend in the 2003 Neighborhood Plan, and based upon the support for a Lamar line in an online poll distributed through the list serves. Efficient and convenient public transport down Lamar and Guadalupe would serve Highland residents who are faced with congestion at every southbound route from Highland.
Once again, we need neighbours, friends, Austinites, to take a few minutes to sign the rail petition at the end of this article and to call and email City Council to state support for rail on Lamar and to ask them to put West Campus back into the Lamar corridor. There are groups working against the City’s plans, and as long as they can submit overwhelming evidence for what the people Austin and the people of Highland want, they can get the City to look at ALL the data and see the reality of where rail should go.
There’s a quote regarding this situation that sums it up well –
“Austin cannot afford another badly designed urban rail implementation”.
If the City spends the money to build more rail (and it will do so), it needs to be effective. It needs to serve as many people as possible. It needs to reduce congestion on some of the most congested roads in Texas. What it does not need to do is serve the private interests of our elected officials and large businesses.
Here is the petition :: http://www.change.org/petitions/i-want-to-ride-light-rail-on-guadalupe-north-lamar
If you’d like to read a summary of the current situation, this is a great article :: http://nextcity.org/theworks/entry/transit-advocates-none-too-pleased-austin-light-rail-corridor-selection
A little more detail from Jace Deloney, a member of the Austin Urban Transportation Commission, who is also skeptical of the “Highland” choice http://jacedeloney.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/project-connects-sub-corridor-recommendation/
The Central Austin Community Development Corporation is spearheading the grassroots effort for rail on Lamar and Guadalupe, along with the biggest rail advocates in the city. Their Urban Rail page explains in detail why rail to Lamar is superior to Mueller.
If you’d like to see a much more detailed history of what’s going on, have a look at this excellent blog that exposes some pretty distasteful details :: http://austinrailnow.wordpress.com/
If you’d like to discuss this or have questions, I would strongly recommend emailing the HNA Chat List – we have a number of neighbors involved who can answer questions and share their knowledge. Join the discussion here