Opinion: We Deserve Project Connect: Transit Forward executive director makes the case for the city’s ambitious transit expansion – Chronicles

You’re sitting in traffic, on 35 or MoPac. Maybe you’re on your way to work or heading to the airport. It’s slow. it’s hot. Or maybe it’s raining with slow roads and dangerously smooth. You crawl past a gas station and can’t believe the price. The days of traffic jams have returned and you wish there was a better way.

Luckily, Austin voters overwhelmingly embraced Project Connect in 2020, so that path is coming with new buses and trains providing better options for all of us. How?

Project Connect will bring rapid transit bus service to major transportation corridors in the region, connecting downtown to Colony Park and South Austin, as well as all of Pleasant Valley. The service will be in place by next year.

Orange/Blue Line trains will provide faster, consistent access to dense areas along Drag and Riverside, while providing more options at major sites like the downtown convention center and an Austin airport which continues to set passenger records.

These will connect to the Red Line and the new McKalla station at Q2 Stadium, which expects to see 20,000 fans at every Austin FC game.

Each commuter bus can remove up to 50 cars from the road, each train up to 150. Thus, Project Connect benefits the people who use it. and those who still drive.

The benefits don’t stop at more options and less traffic:

· Project Connect’s increased transit services will allow people to travel less expensively. People who take public transit instead of driving can save $10,000 a year, and that number will only increase as gas prices rise.

· Greater use of public transport can halve the number of road deaths. This is extremely important as deaths on national roads are at the highest level in 16 years.

· We have had one of the hottest summers on record and we are living with the consequences of climate change. Light rail commuters emit on average 5 times less carbon than an SUV driver.

· Workers will have easier, cheaper and less stressful ways to get to work, and employers will have a greater incentive to participate in Cap Metro’s MetroWorks Bulk Purchasing Plan for their employees.

Project Connect will create jobs, including in construction, the new operators needed for the system, and in the wider economy as businesses (especially in the tech industry) want to start and grow in places with systems robust public transport.

· These new lines will provide better access to events, reducing traffic congestion around Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Fall Saturdays and Q2. This will also be a benefit for downtown music venues, as everyone in the community will be able to see concerts more easily without parking hassles.

· Transit-oriented mixed-use development will provide more affordable housing for our residents while allowing them to live close to train and bus stations, which can further reduce bills.

· The new bus and train routes will complement the city’s corridor improvement efforts to provide more last-mile options for pedestrians, cyclists, scooter users and our friends and neighbors with disabilities.

We know Project Connect isn’t perfect. People will always need cars, and there will always be traffic jams and accidents after it’s built. And we understand that some tough decisions need to be made as designs and cost estimates are finalized, not everyone is happy with every decision.

But we cannot go back. Austin is a growing, modern city, and Project Connect is an essential piece of the puzzle that makes it easier for all of us to access jobs, hospitals, schools, and parks. We deserve a robust and modern public transit system, including train and bus systems working together, that will bring us closer together.

Let’s all stay engaged, educated and united as we move this project forward.

Bill McCamley is the executive director of Transit Forward, a local nonprofit whose mission is to educate and engage Austinites about public transit.

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