Project Connect

Austin residents will vote this November on a new property tax to help pay for Project Connect, a $7.1 billion plan to add a downtown transit tunnel and new train and bus lines to the Capital Metro system.

Capital Metro's MLK Jr. rail station is adjacent to Platform Apartments in East Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

As the Austin City Council looks at ways to combat gentrification and promote more affordable housing ahead of a proposed transit expansion, a new mapping tool is providing a sense of where things stand now.

The tool shows 25% of the city’s 26,663 affordable housing units are within a quarter-mile of a proposed Project Connect transit stop, and 58% are within a half-mile.

Capital Metro's MLK Jr. rail station is adjacent to the Platform apartment complex in East Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin voters will decide in November whether to raise property taxes to help pay for Project Connect, the transit expansion plan. Leaders promise the construction of new train and bus lines will help ease future congestion and provide much-needed jobs.

The Austin City Council discusses the budget during a virtual meeting Wednesday that was projected on screen at the Palmer Events Center.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The $4 billion budget Austin City Council adopted Thursday includes plans to reduce the police budget by about a third – $150 million. Twenty million dollars is being cut immediately, with $3.5 million going to Austin-Travis County EMS, and $6.5 million going to housing assistance for people living on the street.

A train at the Red Line station in downtown Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

The Austin City Council voted Thursday to place two transportation-related ballot measures in front of voters during the Nov. 3 election: a new property tax to help pay for transit expansion and a bond issue that would fund more active transportation projects. 

A Metrorail train is reflected in a mirror at the downtown Austin station.
Juan Figueroa for KUT

The Austin City Council and Capital Metro Board voted Friday to form a new local government corporation to oversee the funding and implementation of Project Connect, the transit expansion plan. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

Addressing a city that has ground to a halt amid a pandemic, save for frontline workers who can’t stay home and protestors in the streets demanding cuts to the police budget, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said this time of turmoil is a chance to rebuild a more equitable city.

Cap Metro's red line metro station in downtown Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Austin City Council voted Monday afternoon to move forward with plans to seek a property tax increase to help fund Project Connect, a plan to build more train and bus lines.

Austin and Capital Metro unveiled a proposal on Wednesday that would fund 70% of Project Connect over 10 to 15 years.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Capital Metro Board and Austin City Council both endorsed the new $10 billion Project Connect long-term transit plan last month. But questions — made more acute by the pandemic-induced recession — remain: how much of the plan to pay for and when to do it? On Wednesday, leaders provided some initial answers.

Capital Metro's Project Connect proposal includes expanded MetroRapid bus services as well as four additional rail lines.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Capital Metro's Project Connect transit expansion plan got some initial OKs this summer. The transit agency's board approved its recommended system plan in June, and the Austin City Council passed a resolution supporting the plan. But this is just the beginning of the line.

Capital Metro's Red Line station in downtown Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Capital Metro board unanimously approved the recommended plan for Project Connect, the regional vision for expanded transit service in the region. But hurdles remain, including coming up with a way to pay for the expansion and oversee its implementation. Voters could potentially decide on a property tax increase in November.

Some of the work in historically underserved areas has already begun, such as the Norwood Transit Center, which opened late last year in Northeast Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Capital Metro Board and Austin City Council are expected to vote Wednesday on a preferred plan for Project Connect, the proposal to expand the region’s transit system. 

The Red Line station downtown
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Capital Metro is closely monitoring data to determine how and where to ramp up transit service that was cut back because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some MetroExpress commuter routes were restored earlier this week, but the bulk of Cap Metro’s bus routes remain on a Sunday schedule.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Capital Metro unveiled plans in early March for transit expansion in Austin, with additional rail and bus lines, along with a downtown subway-like tunnel. The plan was intended to help congestion stay manageable as the region was projected to double in population over the next 25 years.

City Council members and the Capital Metro Board of Directors meet discuss how to pay for plans to expand transit in the city.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Now that Capital Metro has revealed its preferred plan to expand transit in Austin, the question becomes how to pay for it. The Capital Metro board and Austin City Council tackled that question Monday during a joint work session.

An artist's rendering of a light-rail station platform.
Capital Metro

Capital Metro is going big when it comes to transit expansion in Austin. On Monday, its Project Connect team will not only recommend the construction of two light rail lines, but also a downtown tunnel to help them move along faster.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Capital Metro isn't yet sure whether to favor light rail or rapid bus service as it expands its network, but an analysis shows adding trains would cost more, while buses would move fewer people.

Spencer Selvidge / KUT

Austin’s regional transit agency, Capital Metro, is taking feedback from the public on a plan to add up to five new rapid bus lines.

A Capital Metro bus in a dedicated bus lane in Austin.
Spencer Selvidge for KUT

In a 6-0 vote, Austin's transit agency advanced its vision for getting a rapidly growing population around town as fast and easy as possible. But there are several more hoops for the Project Connect plan to jump through before you'll actually see it go into effect.

Pavel Mezihorak for KUT

Local money alone is not enough to improve public transit and ease traffic congestion in the region, Capital Metro CEO Randy Clarke said at a board of directors meeting Monday.

For years, the region’s transit agency has been working to develop Project Connect, a plan to build a transit network that can move more people faster. Austin City Council members joined the Cap Metro board to explore how to pay for it.

Austin's Rail and Roads Bond Defeated

Nov 4, 2014
Jenna VonHofe/KUT

After years of false starts and changed plans for light rail in Austin, voters have decided against a billion-dollar plan that would have brought the city its first light rail line and hundreds of millions of dollars in road improvements. 

Rail hasn't been on the ballot in Austin for ten years (though it did come close), so there was a lot of anticipation about this vote. If it had been approved, a billion dollars in all would have be taken on in city debt, $600 million to partially pay for a starter 9.5 mile light rail line and $400 million for improvements to state roads aimed at easing congestion. (For a detailed explainer on the proposal, we've got you covered.)

The final tally of votes had the proposal losing by a wide margin, with 57 percent of voters saying "No" and 43 percent voting "Yes." That's a 14-point loss for the light rail and roads proposal. (By comparison, in 2000, a light rail proposal in Austin was defeated by a margin of less than a point.) Overall, more people voted on the rail and roads proposition than did in the race for mayor (nearly 15,000 move votes in all). Voters in the urban core voted to pass the measure (map below), but they were outnumbered by voters outside of the urban core that voted against. (You can view an interactive map and see how your precinct voted here.)

Project Connect

Update, Nov. 5: Austin voters decided against the light rail and road improvements proposal, commonly known as Austin's 'Prop 1.' The final tally of votes had the proposal losing by a wide margin, with 57 percent of voters saying "No" and 43 percent voting "Yes." That's a 14-point loss for the light rail and roads proposal. 

Original story, Nov. 4: It's the biggest debt proposal in Austin history, and it comes to a billion dollars in all: $600 million of it for a starter light rail line, with $400 million for improvements to state roads.

There's a lot to unpack here, and plenty of debate on the merits of this transportation proposal. So here it is, the (hopefully) last explainer you'll need this election for Austin's rail and roads proposition, featuring our reporting over the many months (and years) leading up to today's decision. 

Project Connect

Read our full explainer on the light rail and roads proposal here

A big-ticket item on the ballot in Austin this year is the $1 billion proposal to build a starter light rail line and improve state highways in the area.

The proposition, popularly known as Austin's Prop 1 (but on the ballot listed as 'Proposition, City of Austin'), has been a matter of much debate and a perennial talking point for those campaigning in city elections.

In the audio explainer below, KUT's Jennifer Stayton sits down with KUT reporter Terrence Henry, who's been covering the proposal, to talk about what's at stake, and what happens next, pass or fail.

Jeff Heimsath for KUT

Last night, KUT's Views & Brews partnered with the Austin Monitor at the Cactus Cafe to take a look at the past, present and future of transportation in Austin.

From roads, to buses, round-a-bouts to rail, guest host Michael Kanin of the Austin Monitor spoke with some of the historians, policy makers and analysts in town, including the Director of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas at Austin Dr. Chandra Bhat, political consultant Mark Littlefield, Greg Hartman of the Let’s Go Austin political action campaign supporting Proposition 1, Roger Cauvin of Austinites for Urban Rail Action, which opposes the plan.

You can listen to the entire discussion below.

flickr.com/dborman2

This fall, Austinites will vote on a $1 billion bond package for a light rail line and state road improvements. Austin's bond proposal is a long one, clocking in at 220 words, and it's an expensive one.

What's behind those numbers? Let's take a look:

How does the price tag of this bond stack up to previous bond elections?

It's the biggest ever. While only $600 million of the bond election is technically voter-approved for a starter light rail line, the other $400 million in improvements for state-managed roads is still debt that will be taken on by the city.

So what does that billion dollars pay for?

$600 million will go the capital costs (studies, engineering, and construction) for one 9.5-mile light rail line, with a total estimated capital cost of $1.38 billion. That line would go along East Riverside, through downtown and the UT campus on San Jacinto, then go over or under (and parallel) a portion of the existing MetroRail line up to Highland Mall. The project would be contingent on getting federal matching funds for the city's $600 million investment.

$400 million would go to road improvements for state roads.

A billion dollars sounds like a lot of money. How much debt does Austin have currently?

Jeff Heimsath for KUT

Austin voters are facing two major decisions this November.

First, Austinites will elect a new city council from brand new geographic districts, and voters will also decide whether to borrow $600 million to build a light rail line.

But, with so many City Hall hopefuls running on Prop 1-bashing stump speeches, what happens if voters approve the measure, and the next council has to implement policy they’ve sworn against?

Spencer Selvidge/KUT News

This November, Austin voters will decide on one of the biggest expenditures in city history: a $1 billion proposal for a new light rail line and road improvements. It’s not the first time light rail has come before Austin voters: 14 years ago, in 2000, rail was narrowly voted down. How and why that plan failed has informed the latest plan voters will decide on this year.

If the light rail plan had passed back in 2000, one thing’s for sure: Austin's transit network would look very different today. The 15-mile line would have gone from Ben White and South Congress through downtown on Guadalupe and Lamar, all the way up past Parmer Lane. Think of it this way: if it had been built, you could have a burger at Hopdoddy on South Congress, then hop on a train up to Anderson Lane and Lamar, where it'd be a short hike or bike ride for another burger at the other Hopdoddy.

"2000 was kind of a pivotal moment, I think, in planning for rail transit in Austin," says Jeff Wood with The Overhead Wire, a transit consulting firm in San Francisco. He's studied the 2000 vote closely. "You had this huge election, and George Bush was on the ballot, and it lost by less than 2,000 votes."

While a slight majority of voters within city limits cast ballots in favor of the plan, the vote was in all of Capital Metro's service area at the time. Suburban voters were seen as pivotal in defeating the measure. That failure has informed the proposal Austinites are considering today.

How? To start with, just take a look at the name. 

Caleb Bryant-Miller/KUT News

The bats that roost under the Congress Avenue Bridge have a hard-flown journey after their nightly show for tourists and passersby.

They cruise over the trees bordering Lady Bird Lake's southern shore – flying up to 40 miles away from the city every night – then come back, roost and feast on insects between Congress Avenue and I-35.

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

This Election Day, Austin voters will decide on the largest single bond proposal in the city’s history. A little more than half of the $1 billion bond package would go towards a light rail line, the other half for road improvements.

Supporters say the package provides a solution to Austin’s traffic, but some wonder if building out more mass transit and expanding roads is really going to make a dent.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrlaugh/6705429685

A major transportation plan took a significant step forward Thursday when the Austin City Council voted unanimously to put it on the November ballot.

It’s a billion-dollar proposition. Voters would agree to a $600 million bond for a 9.5-mile urban rail line, contingent upon two conditions: matching funds from the Federal Transit Administration or another federal or state source, and a future city council securing $400 million dollars for road projects. The ordinance does not specify a source for the additional $400 million.

Pages