Austin leaders want you to stop driving alone

When it comes to Austin's horrendous and seemingly growing gridlock, wheels are in motion so to speak to fix the problem.

There's the City's "Strategic Mobility Plan" that looks ahead 20 plus years. "We've never had that kind of plan in the City of Austin and now we're adopting one, it's presented to the council, it's going to be worked on.  Final vote in March," said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

The plan includes lofty goals like discouraging driving alone which is the case with the majority of cars on the road, according to Adler. "The goal is to take that percentage from 74% down to 50% some time in the next 25 years.  To do that we have to give people options and choices that make getting out of the car by yourself something that is more convenient and costs less and is faster," Adler said.

Speaking of options and choices, CapMetro has ramped up their Project Connect plan.  Buses, light rail and "autonomous rapid transit." Some of that could end up being on the ballot in November 2020.  

The Mayor says he doesn't know what that will look like just yet. "High frequency, high capacity, mass transit for this city and for the region.  We've tried that for decades, we need to get it done," Adler said.

"It would be folly for us to go deep into debt in this city, more in to debt I should say, for a transit system that would be obsolete before we can complete it," said Roger Falk with the Travis County Taxpayers Union. Falk says transportation is the reason why he joined the group, he's passionate about the topic.

According to CapMetro, all fixed route transit in January was up 5.5% from January of last year. MetroRail ridership was up 11.9%. MetroExpress buses that use the MoPac Express lanes were up 55% from last January. 

"If they get a good month, boy they're tooting the horns, 'look, look' but if you look at the long term trends, including Capital Metro, they're losing ground," he said.

Falk says on-demand, doorstep to destination transportation is the answer. He says it's nonsense that the rise of autonomous vehicles won't fix traffic congestion.  He says a roadway is like a pipe.

"As long as it's unobstructed, you can run a lot of water through that pipe.  But what happens, just like a pipe, people...human error, operating vehicles on that conduit, do something dumb...want to change lanes every couple of minutes," Falk said.

He says autonomy will eliminate a lot of that which will move more traffic.

Falk says the funding CapMetro receives would be better served elsewhere.  

Take the 1 cent sales tax and use it to make a deal with rideshare companies. "Give us a special rate 'We'll give people transit passes on Lyft and Uber when they come in they get a special rate and we'll pay that difference for their rides' and we could be giving free rides to people and they could be getting picked up at their house and taken to where they want to go," Falk said.

CapMetro says Project Connect was adopted in November.  They plan to get all finalized before the end of 2020. As far as MetroRail, ground will be broken on the brand new downtown station in March. CapMetro also says they're working on finishing up 4 passing tracks on the Red Line that will support increased frequency on trains.

That work is scheduled to be finished this summer.



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