Austin voters will decide Nov. 3 whether to back Proposition A, which would increase the city's property tax rate to fund and maintain a $7.1 billion, 15-year overhaul of the city's transit system.
If approved, Project Connect will expand Austin's rapid bus system and add two new light rail lines, which will be served by a multi-block underground downtown tunnel.
Here is a closer look at the light rail component of the plan:
Project Connect proposes two new light rail lines: the orange line, which will run approximately 21 miles from the North Lamar Transit Center at North Lamar Boulevard and Hwy. 183 to Stassney Lane; and the blue line, which will run approximately 15 miles from the North Lamar Transit Center through downtown and east to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
The orange line is one of two light rail lines proposed in the Project Connect transit plan.(Capital Metro)
Both lines will run along the same route from the North Lamar Transit Center to Republic Square, where they will diverge. The orange line will head south, while the blue line will head east to the Downtown Station before crossing Lady Bird Lake on its way to the airport.
The blue line is the second light rail route. Austin voters will decide whether to approve Proposition A, a tax rate increase to fund Project Connect, this Nov. 3. (Capital Metro)
There is also a plan for an extension of the orange line, pending federal funding commitments, that would lengthen it north to Tech Ridge and south to Slaughter Lane. The extended portions will be serviced by the MetroRapid bus system unless voters approve the plan and federal funding is secured.
A third light rail line, called the Gold Line, was initially proposed but eventually switched to the MetroRapid bus service because of funding concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will run from Austin Community College's Highland campus to downtown.
If voters green light Project Connect, both light rail lines are expected to begin construction in 2024, which is expected to take around five years. The total cost for the two lines is estimated to be $3.8 billion, with an additional $2.5 billion earmarked for the downtown tunnel. As a result, the line rail component is by far Project Connect's largest expense—but it allows for a much higher ridership ceiling than a bus-only system would.
Project Connect massive underground rail tunnel www.youtube.com
Multiple studies determined that bus rapid transit along the orange and blue lines would reach capacity during peak periods by 2040, a spokesperson for the city's transit agency, Capital Metro, said. After a two-year period of technical analysis and community engagement, a light rail was selected as "the locally preferred alternative" because of its increased ridership potential.
Capital Metro, which was founded in 1985, provided nearly 20 million rides between January and July of this year, according to the latest available data. This represents a 21.6% decline in ridership year-over-year, but until the pandemic first arrived in March, the agency had reported increased ridership for 17 consecutive months.
Despite the cost, Capital Metro told council members that community members overwhelmingly support the light rail component of Project Connect based on feedback collected during a three-week virtual open house in May. Of the 3,574 participants, 92% agreed with the orange line plan and 90% agreed with the blue line plan. Overall, 90% of participants agreed with the recommended system plan.
Capital Metro declined an interview for this story, citing election law. But in an interview with local safety advocacy group Farm & City last month, CEO Randy Clarke touted the plan's ability to ease traffic congestion, inequity and climate change.
We're proud to join with @texpirg @CleanWaterTx @PublicCitizenTX and many other environmental leaders in support of… https://t.co/ZaBw9gVOp5— Environment Texas (@Environment Texas) 1600956629.0
"Generally speaking, unless you're completely anti-transit or … don't want to spend any money, most everyone is really positive about this plan," he said.
Clarke also emphasized that infrastructure spending is a long game.
"Project Connect is not about next year," he said. "Project Connect is five, 10, 15, 30 and 100 years. When we're all gone, what (the city will) look like will be massively determined by this November."
An earlier light rail proposal was rejected by city voters in 2014, including some transit advocates such as Urban Rail Action, who said it was limited in scope and included too much funding for highway expansion projects.
Timothy Bray, an AURA board member, said previous efforts didn't go where people actually live, but Project Connect "gets rail right" and will help make Austin a "more sustainable and equitable city."
The investment corresponds with the impact, Bray argued, and does a lot more toward making Austin a modern city than an $8 billion plan to widen I-35, which is also underway.
Project Connect retains vocal opponents, however.
Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty is one of the top donors to Our Mobility Our Future, a political action committee that is against Project Connect, which he said is too expensive, outdated and limited in scope.
"The overwhelming majority of people do not take transit, nor will they ever take transit," he said.
Daugherty added that the cost of the plan will be carried by everyone who lives in the city—regardless of whether they're served by the new lines being added, own property or are facing financial hardships because of the pandemic.
"If you're a renter, get ready, because whoever owns your apartment complex, they're going to pass (the tax increase) along to you," he said.
As an alternative, OMOF advocates that the solution to traffic congestion is micromobility, like electric scooters, and the promise of autonomous vehicles and vehicle-to-everything, or V2X, technology, an argument that pro-transit advocates have characterized as specious.
"Bottom line on this, it is ridiculous for the city of Austin and Capital Metro to promote such large spending on something that is not cutting-edge technology," Daugherty said. "Light rail is not cutting-edge technology."
Voices of Austin, another relatively new group, has also come out against Project Connect, which its staff says is slick marketing with little actual planning behind it.
Is #ProjectConnect good for #ATX? Make sure you’re registered to vote. #VoteATX https://t.co/gjrrrxP5nB https://t.co/49GSt2DcnM— Voices of Austin (@Voices of Austin) 1600452906.0
Ultimately, Austin voters will determine whether the light rail has a future in Austin when they vote on the Project Connect plan as Proposition A this November.
You can learn more about the local mobility propositions, including the ballot language, on the upcoming ballot here.This story has been updated to clarify the orange line route.
- Project Connect transit plan to be decided by Austin voters - austonia ›
- Austin City Council will put $7.1 billion Project Connect transit plan ... ›
- CapMetro cuts $3 billion from Project Connect due to COVID ... ›
- Dramatic downtown Austin drone shows scope of Project Connect's ... ›
- This was the year for Project Connect in Austin. Then came ... ›
- Austonia's 2020 voter guide: polling places, interesting races - austonia ›
- Transit tax draws attack from the left - austonia ›
- Austin Bergstrom brings live music back to its terminal - austonia ›
- Austin Bergstrom flights delayed - austonia ›
- Revel scooters to leave Austin Dec. 18 amid pandemic - austonia ›
- Capital Metro train hit a car in North Austin - austonia ›
- Unagi debuts scooter subscription service in Austin - austonia ›
East Austin restaurant la Barbecue has been robbed a third time in less than three months, according to a post on the restaurant's Instagram.
In the post, the restaurant included photos of what appeared to be a man exiting a minivan from surveillance footage.
"This guy pulled up in a car full of stuff… he ripped our gate open and stole a couple empty kegs," the post said. "The ring system scared him off so he did not venture back into the area. PLEASE EVERYONE ON THE EAST SIDE BE CAREFUL!!! This guy goes back into his car to grab something before he goes in. I am hoping he won’t be back!!"
The robbery comes as many restaurant and food truck owners have been on guard from recent break-ins. East Austin cheesesteak truck R&B's Steak and Fries has also been robbed three times in around three months, according to owner Kris Elliott. Elliot said the truck was last robbed around a month and a half ago.
"When the weather gets cold, it seems like these things start to happen more often," Elliott said. "We're just happy no one got hurt."
Additionally, he said all 5 of the food trucks in their lot have experienced burglaries. The landlord of the space is taking action by investing in alarm and camera systems. "Been very tough dealing with this problem as us small business owners are just trying to survive during the pandemic," Elliott said.
And it's not just in East Austin. North Austin restaurants Eldorado Cafe and Chez Zee Bistro were both broken into and robbed on the weekend of Jan. 8, while over a dozen food truck robberies and break-ins were reported in the latter half of 2021.
Some, like Chez Zee's Deborah Velasco, wonder if the understaffed Austin Police Department's decision to no longer respond to non-emergency calls is part of the problem. Xose Velasco, owner of East Austin's Discada, said owners are keeping their guard up in the wake of the robberies as he was robbed twice within a month of reopening in November 2021.
"We try to keep the lights on," Velasco said. "We're a little bit more careful."
After 12 months, the long-anticipated massive Tesla factory in Southeast Travis County is up and operating and everyone wants a look inside.
Phase 1 of Giga Texas appears to be tied up as production of the Model Y Tesla is underway, the electric car company revealed on Wednesday in its fourth-quarter earnings call. The factory, located on the former Harold Green-turned Tesla Road, sits on more than 2,000 acres of land in southeast Travis County.
Here's a glimpse inside the factory.
Model Ys will be the first Teslas to come out of Giga Texas with an estimated delivery of August. The wait estimate comes after Tesla noted supply chain issues have affected their factories, which have been running below capacity for several quarters. A deep blue metallic like this goes for $1,000 more than a white or silver Model Y, totaling $61,990.
Model Ys began being produced at Giga Texas at the end of 2020. In general assembly at the factory, the Teslas get their major interior components to finish the vehicle.
Workers at Austin's Gigafactory are attaching seats to a structural battery pack. It's been described by some as the biggest difference between Texas-made Model Y's and the current version at the Fremont, California factory. It shouldn't have a major impact on the owner's experience, but Tesla has updated instructions for the jacking procedure, as the lift points are different.
With a sleek, open office setup, workers can take in a view of the factory from their seats. It's a component CEO Elon Musk wanted for what is now the headquarters of Tesla.
On the Austin, Texas public location Snapchat, a photo of inside Giga Texas has appeared. On the left you can see a sneak peek of a Model Y body.pic.twitter.com/N7zliZ5vkL— Sawyer Merritt (@Sawyer Merritt) 1643081462
With Snapchat's maps, anyone can look at everyday activity happening at the factory. To view these geographically-linked stories, click the bottom left "map" icon and search "Tesla Giga Texas." Once you've found it, you can view the Snapchat story of those in and around the facility. While most stories stay up for only 24 hours, Giga Texas is a designated place on Snapchat, allowing users to view a collection of photos and videos from the inside.
Following Model Ys, Texas-made Teslas will include the Cybertruck, Semi and Model 3. But it might be a while before those other models arrive. EV makers have been hit hard by the chip shortage, and it's thought that changing features are contributing to Cybertruck delays as Tesla works to compete in the electric pickup market.
Joe Rogan paid a visit to buddy Elon Musk this week. The two have been seen around town since both moving to Texas. Naturally, Rogan was impressed with the prototype.
If you're dying to get a closer look at this factory, you just might get to. In December, Musk said the factory would have tours available to the community early this year.
- Tesla driven by drunk teen bursts into flames in Tarrytown crash ... ›
- Tesla can't sell directly to Texans unless law is uplifted - austonia ›
- Tesla 2021 year in review for austin - austonia ›
- Rivian secures spot as latest Tesla challenger - austonia ›
- Del valle ISD partners with Tesla in high school grad program ... ›
- Elon Musk seeks to fast-track $1.1 billion Tesla factory in Austin ... ›
- Austin-based Tesla sees record deliveries in quarter 4 - austonia ›