Austin, Texas, is a city built around the car and where drivers spend an average of 104 hours stuck in traffic each year. But after passing two new propositions, the city now plans to invest more than $7 billion in a new public transit system, and another $460 million in new infrastructure centered on walking and biking.
The investment designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion by providing a variety of different transportation options and infrastructure to the citizens of one of the fastest growing cities in America.
Along with a new rail system featuring 31 new stops, there will be four high-speed bus routes, neighborhood shuttle services that will take people to and from the stations, and new park and ride areas to encourage city motorists to use the new infrastructure.
“There were three main arguments that were made,” says Austin mayor Steve Adler. “One was congestion. One was climate change. One was mobility equity in our city.”
The plan will take an estimated 250,000 daily car trips off its streets “by providing people true mobility options which really don’t exist in Austin right now,” Adler says. The majority of affordable housing units in the city will be within walking distance of a proposed station, so it also gives new options to those who don’t own cars.
The plan also includes $450 million for adding cycling and walking infrastructure - such as pedestrian bridges, bike lanes, sidewalks, and urban parks.
Roughly three-quarters of Austin residents drive alone to work now. By 2039, the city wants to shrink that to 50%, so half of the city’s residents are walking, biking, or taking public transit. It’s a major change. Especially for a city in America's largest oil producing state.