Could a high-capacity public transit system finally be coming to Austin? Capital Metro is planning on it.
Last week, our region’s public transportation provider unveiled a draft of its Project Connect plan, which lays out a massive transit network for the Austin region. The plan lists 11 roads or corridors that could see some type of high-capacity transit, likely either a train or bus rapid transit system.
For now, Cap Metro is remaining mode agnostic, preferring to focus on choosing the right corridors before debating the exact type of high-capacity transit that could be installed.
So how would this be funded? What’s the timeline for this project?
Building an entirely new transit system would not be cheap… or quick. As the Austin American-Statesman reports, estimates range anywhere from $6 billion to $10.5 billion (depending on how much of the system is rail versus bus rapid transit). Funding would likely come from a variety of sources, including federal grants and public bond money.
Because of the system’s large size, it would also likely be built out in phases. Over the next few months, Cap Metro will continue to have community events to collect public input, including six “Mini Traffic Jams.” The first will be held on Wednesday, April 18th from 6:30pm to 7:30pm at the Turner Roberts Recreation Center. The full list of Mini Traffic Jams will be released here>>
Can’t make it to an event? You can also explore and give your feedback on each of the 11 routes via the Project Connect website>>
Once this public input process is complete, the Cap Metro board will vote on the plan in June.
Then comes the difficult task of prioritizing which routes should be funded and built out first. There will be another round of community engagement and public input opportunities before the prioritization plan is approved in the fall.
Cap Metro has also asked the City of Austin to contribute $15 million (from a separate bond election that will likely take place in November) to pay for engineering and environmental analysis for the first round of projects.
And last but not least, this would likely all lead to a bond election to fund the first round of projects in 2020.
A bit of history…
Austin has a weary history with public transportation (and public transportation funding). In 2000, a light rail plan failed by less than 2,000 votes. In 2014, another rail bond failed, with 57 percent of voters deciding against it.
What does all of this mean for you?
If you’re passionate about transportation, now is the time for you to participate in the process. By engaging now, you’ll be able to help influence which corridors are prioritized to receiving funding first and which transportation modes will be built on which corridors. You can explore the entire Project Connect plan (and give your feedback) here>>