A Look Between the Lines of City Council's Competing Transportation Bond Proposals

Jun 15, 2016

It looks like either way you slice it, there will be a mobility bond up for a public vote in November. The real question is, what will Austin voters be deciding on? 

Mayor Steve Adler has drafted one proposal, while Council Members Greg Casar and Leslie Pool have written another. And then there's Council member Ann Kitchen's proposal.  

One thing the Mayor's and Casar's plans have in common is the $720 million sticker price, but both proposals allocate those millions differently.

First, the Mayor’s plan. He wants $100 million put towards regional mobility projects – this includes work on suburban highways. But, Council Member Greg Casar wants no local bond money put towards these projects. He spoke at a press conference Tuesday.

“Instead, our plan dedicates those $100 million to local projects, to neighborhood projects, to those projects that can really transform the everyday lived experience of Austin families,” Casar said.   

Those local projects include initiatives like the city’s Sidewalk and Bicycle Master Plans (more on that here) and the city’s Vision Zero plan for traffic safety (more on that here.)

While Mayor Adler’s plan puts $120 million aside for projects like these, Casar wants more – he’s saying $220 million.  

There are other numbers, of course, but an easy way to sum up the differences is this: Adler’s plan is more car-focused than Casar’s. The Mayor says his plan represents a consensus – serving both those wanting MoPac to be more efficient and those who want more bike lanes.

“I hear voices in the community that are saying, ‘Don’t spend money on the arterials and instead spend that on additional sidewalks and bike and pedestrian [improvements].’ And I hear other voices that say ‘Take the money out of bicycles and pedestrians and spend it on more arterials.’”

And then there's Kitchen's plan, which cuts the total bond amount by more than half. While she'd like to see more money put toward regional mobility projects (unlike Casar), Kitchen's plan allocates a good percentage of funds towards local mobility projects -- including spending on sidewalks and infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Council members will discuss the competing bond proposals at their meeting on Thursday. The Mayor says he hopes they can agree on something in time for ballot language to be decided in August – so one of these bond proposals can go to voters in November.

Below is a breakdown comparing the three proposals: