Project Connect’s Regional Transit Plan Moves Austin Forward

September 13, 2013 by Kate Harrington

The only thing that seems to draw more ire from Austinites than sitting in traffic is debating the projects proposed to alleviate it. So get ready for the gloves to come off this fall, as the Project Connect team starts to roll out its regional transit plan to the public.

Project Connect is a partnership between Central Texas transportation agencies with the goal of implementing a high-capacity regional transit system. Partners include the city of Austin, Capital Metro, the Lone Star Rail District and CAMPO. The group has spent the last several months poring over transportation corridors and modes of transit, and has now come up with a vision map.

Image credit: Project Connect

The map includes local service, like existing bus lines and Capital Metro’s Red Line, as well as regional rail like the proposed Lone Star Rail from Georgetown to San Antonio and expanded rapid bus and urban rail options. The plan encompasses four Central Texas counties and 13 cities.

The system as proposed would offer frequent, reliable and congestion-proof transit options that would be a realistic and convenient alternative to car travel. It’s gained some backers in the business community, as well as endorsements from organizations like the Downtown Austin Alliance – now Project Connect has to sell that vision to the public.

While some of the modes of transit included in Project Connect’s regional plan exist or are in the pipeline — including managed lanes on MoPac and bus rapid transit — there are some high dollar components that would have to be built. Some of the funding for the roughly $4 billion plan would come from federal sources, local fees and taxes. But bond elections would also make up a significant part of local funding.

Austin has failed to congeal behind proposed transit systems before. In 2000 a vote for a light rail system was narrowly defeated, leaving Capital Metro to tread much more cautiously with the route of the Red Line once that came up for public consideration. Safety delays and budget woes surrounding the Red Line train left many with a sour taste for more rail projects.

Project Connect’s leaders are well aware of this history, which is why they are taking strides to engage the public as much as possible this time around. Over the next two months Project Connect will hold public meetings to present its plan and gather community input: Sept. 25, 26 and 27 and Oct. 2; a webinar public meeting on Sept. 27; a Central Corridor Advisory Group meeting on Sept. 20; City boards and commissions briefings; and neighborhood and community group briefings.

For more information visit Project Connect’s website here.

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Written by Kate Harrington

Kate is a former reporter, most recently for the Austin Business Journal, where she covered real estate, economic development and transportation. Since 2010 she has been running Thumbtack Communications. Thumbtack provides writing, editing and marketing services. Before moving to Austin in 2002 Kate lived in her native New England, which she still visits often to escape the Texas heat.