AURA’s membership has taken a vote on which options they prefer out of the proposed Project Connect light rail options. Our members voted in favor of the On-Street 38th to Oltorf to Yellow Jacket option, with On-Street: North Lamar to Pleasant Valley coming in a close second. The remaining light rail plans still had strong support among AURA members, especially compared to a “No Build” option which received little to no support. This demonstrates AURA’s continued support of Project Connect and moving forward with building light rail.
As part of Project Connect’s public input process, we wrote a letter to Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) Executive Director Greg Cannally reflecting the endorsements of the Project Connect Working Group and AURA as a whole. Here is the full text of the letter:
On behalf of the membership of AURA, Austin’s largest grassroots, pro-transit organization, we wanted to share our feedback regarding the current ATP Project Connect options.
First, we want to express our appreciation for ATP staff and engineers for their availability and helpfulness during the public input process. Throughout our discussion process, ATP provided detailed information and answered numerous questions. This was crucial for the success of the AURA Project Connect Working Group and allowed us to conduct a comprehensive and holistic evaluation of each Project Connect option. We appreciate their support and engagement.
To analyze all light rail options and the future of transit in Austin, the all-volunteer AURA Project Connect Working Group built a robust evaluation framework. Our goal was to equip Austinites with the necessary information to understand and contextualize each option’s impact on the city. Additionally, we aimed to provide a formal recommendation to inform an official endorsement vote of the AURA membership. After extensive research and investigation, the AURA Project Connect Working Group confidently settled on a specific recommendation: On-Street 38th to Oltorf to Yellow Jacket with the South 1st river crossing.
While all options are undoubtedly better than the current lack of any light rail, the working group has recommended the 38th to Oltorf to Yellow Jacket option because it lays the best foundation for the city overall. It balances every key criterion while providing a foundation that enables us to quickly and iteratively expand the system, achieve our mode shift goals, and connect every part of Austin. Although the lack of grade separation and connections to valuable destinations such as the airport are valid concerns, the working group believes that these issues can be mitigated or resolved while retaining the strengths of this initial build option. You can see the full output of the working group (recommendation, evaluation matrix, and reports) at https://aura-atx.org/project-connect-working-group-recommends-on-street-38th-to-oltorf-to-yellow-jacket-light-rail-option/
The AURA membership also chose to endorse the On-Street 38th to Oltorf to Yellow Jacket rail option, but to also support all of the rail options.This choice shows continued, strong support for Project Connect, and that any of the light rail plans would be vastly preferred to Austin’s current lack of light rail. It’s worth noting that the vote was narrowly won, the On-Street North Lamar to Pleasant Valley option was a very close runner-up. We believe this shows the membership greatly values high ridership and believes that the significant compromises necessary for full grade separation through downtown are not worth it. In making this decision, we recognize that without grade separation our shared responsibility as transit planners and advocates will be even greater to ensure that private vehicles are given as few opportunities as possible to interfere with our more efficient and higher capacity transit options. AURA members also voted with a strong preference for the South 1st crossing and that the Austin Airport connections should not be a high priority for Project Connect’s initial phase.
Thank you for carefully considering our input and we are excited to collaborate with Austin Transit Partnership, Austin City Council, and CapMetro to make Project Connect an historic success.
Cc: Members of the Austin Transit Partnership Board