A recent Nextdoor post, written by the husband of an Austin City Councilmember who voted for Project Connect, accuses Voices of Austin and our lead spokesperson of manufacturing facts to make Project Connect’s Proposition A look bad. The post linked to an Austin Chronicle article that also accused Voices of Austin and our spokesperson of lying about Project Connect / Prop A on Tuesday’s ballot.
The fact is Voices of Austin hasn’t manufactured anything. We don’t need to. What we have done is research and organize facts, records of action by local government entities, and studies of those actions by other government organizations. Here are some of those facts:
- The average homestead in Austin is assessed at approximately $401,644. If Project Connect passes, the city taxes on that home will go up approximately 24.6%. According to the Travis County Tax Office, that amounts to $423.53. And on business and rental property, the increase will be about 26.2%.
- Remember, that’s just the city’s part of your property taxes. You also see the following tax adjustments: Travis County’s tax bill will see a $15 increase, Austin Community College’s tax bill will increase by $4, the Travis County Healthcare District tax will go up $15, and the Austin Independent School District tax will actually decrease $67.
- Project Connect is a $7.1 billion rail system with very limited potential. It would not serve many of the areas of the city where most Austinites live and wouldn’t transport its passengers where most Austinites want to go.
- Our City Council and Capital Metro never really looked into alternatives to a greatly expanded rail system. Rail is not the only possibility. Many large and growing cities across the country — San Antonio, TX, Tampa Bay, FL, St. Petersburg, FL, Clearwater, FL, Indianapolis, IN, Columbus, OH, Raleigh-Durham, NC, Oklahoma City, OK, Memphis, TN, Richmond, VA and Louisville, KY all investigated building metro rail systems and finally opted for comprehensive bus systems instead, using different types and sizes of buses for different areas and different routes.
- A regional Mobility study conducted by the Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) based on 2040 projections with all five rail lines operational estimates that only 1% of Austin residents would actually use the new commuter rail; less than l% of the potential ridership in the 3-county service area.
- The Project Connect campaign has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television commercials, prints ads and mailers to convince Austin taxpayers that voting to spend $7.1 billion right now on a rail system makes good sense. However, the facts and unanswered questions raise serious questions about the wisdom of charging ahead to build such an expensive urban rail system with so little real research and information.
- And all this comes at a time when our economy and a lot of our population are seriously struggling financially because of the COVID 19 pandemic.
- Beyond that, no engineering studies have been conducted on the massive construction planned for the downtown area, even though plans include two rail lines and a major passenger station in tunnels under the downtown area. Capitol Metro claims that there is no need for engineering studies until the bonds pass and construction begins.
- No environmental impact studies have been conducted on the proposed rail construction. Capitol Metro has stated repeatedly that it will wait until after the bonds pass to conduct these required studies to obtain Federal funding.
- And there have been no traffic studies to determine the impact of years of rail system construction on some of the city’s major traffic arteries, or even which major traffic arteries would be totally altered by train tracks down the middle of the street, in addition to bus lanes and bike lanes.
Why would our City Council push so hard for such a risky and expensive venture? Take a look at who is paying for the Project Connect campaign. Here are the six largest donors:
- HNTB Transportation Engineering firm $155,000
- Austin FC (A soccer club with a rail stop planned at their stadium) $100,000
- Brandywine Operating Partnership $100,000
- Endeavour Real Estate Group $100,000
- HDR Engineering (transportation-engineering) $60,000
- AECOM (Architectural Engineers Co.) $100,000
This $615,000 is from businesses with an interest in working on Project Connect, or who will directly benefit from it. This is also more than 60% of all the money the PAC has raised.
Voices of Austin does not favor the status quo. We do not suggest for a minute that we can leave our transportation system and network as they now are while Austin continues to grow so rapidly. But we do think such extensive and expensive plans for our rapidly growing city need and deserve careful study. We need to look carefully at all the alternatives before we make a very expensive decision on the best way to keep Austin a wonderful place to live.
Voices of Austin (VofA) is a grassroots citizen’s organization formed to speak out for the vast majority of Austin citizens and organizations. VofA is a registered 501c4 nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. It is not a political action committee and will not endorse or oppose candidates or propositions in an election or make financial contributions to candidates or campaigns.
News Media Contact: DeVondolyn Arrington, Press Secretary
(512) 320-9043 | [email protected]