2020 Election Results: Austin Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Transit-Related Ballot Measures
Austin voters overwhelmingly approved two transportation-related ballot measures on election night, investments that promise a lasting transformation of the region’s infrastructure.
Proposition A, which would raise property taxes in the City of Austin to help pay for the Project Connect transit improvement plan, had close to 60% of the vote as of about 11:30 p.m.
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The expansion includes two new light rail lines, a new commuter rail line and a new bus rapid transit line that would run in its own right-of-way so it doesn’t mix with traffic. A new downtown transit tunnel would also be built. The plan includes three new MetroRapid limited stop bus routes, as well as more park-and-rides and neighborhood connectors.
The plan also includes $300 million in investments to prevent people from being forced out of their homes and neighborhoods by potential development sparked by new transit stops.
According to the City of Austin, the anticipated annual impact for a home valued at $250,000 would be $219, while for a home valued at $500,000, it would be $438. The median value of a home in Austin is around $400,000, so the impact would be roughly $350.
Leaders opted to use property taxes to fund the expansion because it allows a dedicated funding source, a key factor in getting federal funding to help with at least some of the projects.
“We feel confident that it's a bipartisan, very well supported program in Washington, D.C.,” said Randy Clarke, president and CEO of Capital Metro. “One of the most important things is the local community saying they are putting money forward for the local match tonight. The community has spoken and that goes a long way to getting the security of the federal funding.”
The win was a victory for transit advocates, still smarting over transit plans that met defeat at the ballot box in 2000 and 2014. The effort this time had wide support from city officials to the Chamber of Commerce to social justice and environmental groups.
“These will be changes that will be with us for generation after generation, our kids and our children’s children will be looking back and saying this was a really big moment in Austin,” said Wade Cooper, chair of the Capital Metro board. “So we ask you to hold us accountable, to be engaged as we go forward and to be proud of what we accomplished."
Proposition B, which would allow the city to borrow $460 million for a host of infrastructure improvements, including new sidewalks, bikeways and street repairs, had even more support, with roughly two-thirds of the vote as of 11 p.m.
Advocates and city officials saw the plan as complementary to Project Connect, as the improvements will help people get to the new transit stops more easily.
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