Why does Austin face the choice between no rail (for now) and bad

There are several points of view on the City of Austin ballot proposition, but other than the property owners and construction companies who hope to benefit directly, it doesn’t feel like anybody is actually excited about this roads-and-rail bond plan. The anti-tax and anti-growth forces predictably don’t like it. And a large number of pro-transit Austinites, like the members of AURA, believe that when given the choice between no rail and badrail, voting against rail is the right choice to save our transit system. We are concerned this plan will have long-term negative repercussions that could reduce overall transit ridership and hurt the credibility of transit with the larger public, like the low-ridership Red Line has.

We don’t seem to hear genuine excitement about the plan from those proposition supporters who are pro-transit, either. We hear ‘don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,’ as if this is an argument in favor of a bad plan. We hear ‘we have to start somewhere,’ as though we didn’t already flub one ‘start’ with the Red Line.

We also hear ‘we can’t afford to wait another 14 years.’ But why has it been 14 years since the closely contested 2000 rail bond election? Is 2014 really the first time it was possible to bring another rail bond up for a vote? Is rail on the ballot now because it takes that long to get a plan, or because the business community and the public haven’t been ready? No. We think the history shows that poor political leadership is to blame: leaders who dropped the ball and simply didn’t bother to develop, present, and sell a credible plan to improve mobility in Austin.

It is vital to realize that Austin is about to get different political leadership—and there is every reason to believe our next City Council will be strongly committed to good transit. We can reject the city proposition and feel comfortable that we are not ‘rejecting rail’—we are simply making the mature decision to reject bad rail, and simultaneously we are moving on from failed leadership. Voting NO on this city proposition, while electing a new Council, can be a win-win for transit in Austin.

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