Anyone driving in central Austin during rush hour can tell you there is a tremendous congestion problem. It’s no secret. And for the third year in a row Austin landed the number one spot on Forbes‘ list of America’s 20 fastest growing cities (and Houston and Dallas took the second and third spots). Austin’s estimated population growth rate for 2013 is 2.7 percent. That’s roughly 150 people moving to Austin and an additional 77 new cars on the roads every day.
And with home prices high in Austin, people are moving further from downtown and commuting in during the work week (myself included), meaning there are even more cars on the roads for longer periods of time.
I had the pleasure of attending Texas Lyceum‘s conference last Friday on Transportation Infrastructure. One particularly thought provoking panel was Moving Texas & Texans by Sea, Rail & Air where one of our client’s Linda Watson, President and CEO of Capital Metro Transportation Authority was a guest speaker. She pointed out that we need 14 lanes south bound and 12 lanes north bound just to handle the traffic Austin has now. She also said we have about five years before major corporations that are headquartered here relocate to other cities because Austin will be in gridlock. That is a very tangible threat to Central Texas’ economic development. Mass transit needs to be a part of the Austin transportation solution.
Capital Metro provided more than 33 million trips in 2012 and is on track to increase that number in 2013. Linda was also encouraged about progression in transit supported land use. Last week the Austin City Council scrapped the downtown parking requirements for new developments. This could incentivize Austinites to take public transportation.
It’s going to take time to get Texans out of their cars and trucks, but shifting that state of mind among choice transit riders is one place to start. And I am excited to be a part of the team that hopes to change Texas public opinion on mass transit.