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a rough re-creation of my remarks to City Council tonight

Tonight I spoke at a City Council meeting, for the first time. This post is not going to be an in-depth analysis of the Austin transit planning done so far--there are much better places to go for that--but I wanted to write down what I said to City Council, as best I can replicate it, although there will probably be a closed caption record of it somewhere.


Thank you, Council. My name is Mike Gorse, and I am a resident of the Wooten neighborhood. I think that we can all agree that we want a rail line that is best for the city as a whole. However, I am here because I believe it would be a mistake to include Highland for further consideration while not including Lamar. Highland is being proposed primarily based on future projections which have inherent risk. Lamar, on the other hand, has the 1, which, combined with the 101, is the bus route with the highest ridership by far. To be successful, a transit line needs to allow a large number of people to easily walk to it and ride to frequently-used destinations, such as places of employment, that are in easy walking distance. We need to look at actual routes, which the study thus far has not provided. Guadalupe-Lamar fits that description well, and the ridership of the 1 would buttress that argument.

The other argument being made has to do with the FTA, which boils down to two separate issues. One is that Austin would likely need to reimburse the FTA for the existing BRT investment. Even if this is the case, it would constitute a small part of the total cost of a rail investment, and we could likely recover the funds if we filed a new application to relocate the BRT set-up somewhere else. The other argument being made is that the FTA would not look kindly on a rail investment where BRT is being deployed. If this were in fact the case, then the FTA would be saying that BRT precludes rail for decades, and I don't think it is a precedent that they would want to set given that funding is scarce and BRT can be a good way to improve transit while waiting for funds to become available.

I might feel differently if I felt certain that we would get rail on Lamar in 2028, but this would be predicated on our willing to pass a new bond proposal in a few years after we already incurred significant expense with the current plan. Additionally, a Lamar route may be seen as unjustified for being too close to the Highland route, yet it would be too far for most people near Lamar to benefit.

Thank you.

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July 2014

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