CapMetro proposes transit plan that would cost billions

Austin city leaders are looking for ways to reduce traffic in the coming years. 

On Wednesday, City Council met with Capital Metro to learn more about what options are on the table and how much it will cost to implement them. 

CapMetro said Austin’s population is projected to double by 2040, so traffic will only get worse. 

That's why Council has made it a priority to come up with additional transit options in a plan called Project Connect.

“Most Austinites know about the need. They sit in traffic every single day, but, I think it's important for them to know, today's commute is the best commute you're ever going to have because it only gets worse from here,” said Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza.   

To keep traffic from getting too much worse, City Council is considering options including bus rapid transit and light rail. 

“Do we want something fast that can make an impact really quick? Or are we willing to wait a little while for rail?” Garza said.  

The plan is to expand off of already existing CapMetro bus and rail service areas to bring transit options to underserved parts of the city and quadruple ridership by 2039.  

"We really have a wonderful opportunity to think about how we can, in a big way, make some progress on our traffic congestion, as well as connecting people to their jobs, to their school, to their healthcare and stuff like that,” said Garza.  

Right now, Project Connect offers three different scenarios; underground, elevated, and street-level designated transit lanes. 

“The objective is not to decrease the travel lanes to be able to provide that higher capacity and it is by having those dedicated travel lanes that you can provide it because what it allows you to do is not have the bus sitting in traffic,” said David Couch, Project Connect program officer.  

CapMetro hopes the benefits can convince the community to foot the billion-dollar bill for mass transit.

“Some people will make the choice not to use it. It doesn't mean there's not a benefit for them. The benefit for them is that there's less congestion,” Couch said.  
The estimated cost ranges from $4.7 billion-9.8 billion depending on which option Council goes with. However, CapMetro expects to receive federal funding for 40 percent. 

“It's an exciting time. It's going to be transformational for our city and we will be able to really do something for our city that will change it. We'll change it for my daughter, we'll change it for future generations and we'll make it better for them,” said Garza. 

Council hopes to make a decision on what plan to recommend by January and put the bond on the November 2020 ballot.