The Federal Transit Administration awarded Capital Metro a $900,0000 grant to support the planning and anti-displacement efforts of Project Connect.
Project Connect is a $7.1 billion transit plan. Austin residents voted overwhelmingly to support a city property tax rate increase that will help pay for it in the Nov. 3 election. Local property tax revenue will only pay for about half of the project's estimated costs; the remainder will need to come through federal grants.
The $900,000 will be used to study a 12-mile corridor that includes North Lamar Boulevard, Guadalupe Street and Riverside Drive and will be used by both of the light rail lines proposed under Project Connect. The outcome of the study will be a series of recommendations for how to prevent displacement and support affordable housing projects along the corridor.
Although Project Connect proponents say the plan will help make Austin a more equitable city by ensuring residents have access to an affordable and comprehensive transit system, there are also concerns that it could exacerbate inequity by driving up real estate prices along new routes.
In other U.S. cities, transit investment has accelerated gentrification and displacement. Researchers at the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University found that the "predominant pattern" or neighborhood change following transit investment was "one in which housing becomes more expensive, neighborhood residents become wealthier and vehicle ownership becomes more common," according to a 2010 report.
This has happened in Austin. The construction of MoPac in 1971 led to the destruction of nearly one-third of the homes in Clarkesville, one of the earliest freedmen's communities established west of the Mississippi and, during segregation, one of the few remaining Black neighborhoods west of I-35.
Similarly, the building of I-35 in the 1960s "both displaced existing Black communities and reinforced the de facto and de jure segregation of Austin" codified in the city's 1928 master place, according to the Austin Justice Coalition.
For these reasons, Austin City Council allocated $300 million of the project's budget for anti-displacement initiatives, such as developing new affordable housing and providing financial assistance to residents.
Opponents of Project Connect and the property tax rate increase that will help pay for it raised concerns about whether the city of Austin and its transit agency, Capital Metro, would be able to secure the federal funding it requires.
"The … grant award comes only one month after Austinites made a historic decision to fund Project Connect, and it is the first example of federal funding Capital Metro expects to secure in support of the program," the transit agency said in a press release Tuesday.
- The pros and cons of Austin's $7.1B transit plan Project Connect ... ›
- Austin City Council, CapMetro approve Project Connect - austonia ›
- Austin voters' guide to Proposition A and Project Connect - austonia ›
- City takes next steps on Project Connect after Prop A passes ... ›
- Austin voters ask: How feasible is Project Connect's $7.1B price tag ... ›
Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.
The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.
Salute the support. 👏
It's only the beginning for @AustinFC. pic.twitter.com/TduorqYr2y
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 18, 2021
Eleven players took the stage as Austin FC players for the first time, with five starters making their MLS debut. "Ringleader" Alex Ring took the captain's armband and wore it well. The defensive midfielder could be seen leading his teammates through their first ever match, but it wasn't enough to stage an Austin takeover in LA.
In the signature style of Head Coach Josh Wolff, the team played with quickness and intensity, nearly connecting on several fast breaks. It was harder for them to stay in front, however, something that Wolff credits with quick decision making and a tough LAFC defense.
"We have a quick attacking team, but I think when you make quick attacks and it fizzles it's just about some decision making," Wolff said. "Are we in position to finish attacks? If not, can we reestablish our attack and get stuff better?"
The club was given some generous breaks from No. 2 LAFC, who had one or both of their star DPs out for the half. While forward Diego Rossi is out for the entire match due to a hamstring injury, Carlos Vela was accidentally pulled too soon on what turned out to be a miscommunication.
"He gave us the sign that he needed to come off," LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley said on broadcast. "I can't say more than maybe it's my fault."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Jhohan Romana has pulled his weight in getting the ball out of goal, and a 34-year old Matt Besler held his own in center back.
As the second half commenced, however, it became clear that LAFC had the advantage over Austin's first major league team.
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal. He didn't have much time to prepare, either: in the first 30 seconds of play, Stuver had already made a save to keep the match 0-0.
LAFC finally connected in the 61st minute of play as Corey Baird shot one into the bottom right corner. The team capitalized off their momentum and put one past Stuver a second time, drawing roars of approval from the LAFC crowd.
While some last-minute attempts from Jon Gallagher and others were made, Austin FC didn't have the endurance to bring a tie. After seven additional minutes of stoppage time, the club lost their first match 2-0.
While the scoreboard tells one story, Wolff said that the team did well considering the skill of LAFC and the pressure of their club debut.
"We've got to be realistic," Wolff said. "This is the first time this organization has been in front of TV with an opportunity to show itself and I think there were some promising moments. And we're going to maximize those and continue to try to develop those, but there's lots to build on."
The team may have lost, but it still won the support of thousands of Verde fans, dozens of which made it to watch their team's first match. When Stuver and the team made it to bthe stadium, Los Verdes fans were already there to show support, and Stuver said his wife saw the same back in Austin.
"The moment that we pulled into the stadium, we saw Black and Verde fans cheering us on as we got to the stadium," Stuver said. "During warm up, you can just look around and see different groups sitting in different sections of the stadium and it's just truly amazing to see the support in our first game. We know that we want to give the fans everything, because this we play for the city and we play for them."