Where did the Highland alignment come from?

I don’t claim to know Leffingwell’s motivation, what is ed but everything else in this short post from Dave Dobbs via twitlonger is accurate:

“Austin’s Proposition One is a poison pill for democracy and the new 10-1 council.

My view is that when Mayor Leffingwell found himself on the losing end of the 10-1 vote, page he decided to make his prediction that such a council so constituted couldn’t function by saddling that future council with enormous debt and a totally non sequitur urban rail plan that doesn’t go where most people go, symptoms doesn’t address congestion, has far too few riders for far too much cost, will see too little fare box return and that will negatively impact bus service. Additionally, the convoluted rail ballot language politically encumbers the new council with certificates of obligation (CO) for $400 million in roads that will do nothing for Austinites, while at the same time authorizing bonds for a rail proposal that the FTA is not likely to put high on the list. And because Austin changed the original destination from Mueller to Highland ACC, another three years of federal planning (and more money) will be necessary to even get on the list for federal funding.

The bottom line here is that if Austin’s Proposition 1 passes, a new council, awash with voter mandated debt, will have it’s hands tied; subject to the charge that it’s not carrying out the voter’s wishes if it doesn’t spend the money. In short, passage of the rail bonds and the problematic road CO’s associated with those bonds is going to create endless static in council chambers for years. How can anything productive come out of that?”

Dave Dobbs,
Texas Association for Public Transportation

A short interlude from the “urbanists, search seriously, the rail election is important” thread:

As somebody who was involved in the Project Connect Phase 1 process, I can tell you that the inclusion of Highland as a high-scoring choice for the final projects to move forward into Phase 1 was a complete surprise to all of us. Highland is an awful segment of the route. It only works if you ignore every bit of good advice about how to build urban rail – it assumes park-and-rides on the highway for suburbanites are how we fill trains for an urban service. Nobody who was involved in Project Connect Phase 1 liked Highland.

Except, apparently, the Chamber of Commerce.

I’ve made the case lately that the Highland alignment was flat-out chosen for us BY the Chamber of Commerce, based on circumstantial evidence (what other reason could there be?) – and please don’t quote me Project Connect statistics; that entire process was a complete joke. It’s certainly not a good choice on transit grounds (see “urban rail should be urban” series underway at another great blog – CarFree Austin). But when I’ve suggested that the Chamber picked this line, I’ve been attacked by people at the Chamber and told it’s nonsense.

Huh.

Then I got an anonymous tip.

I wonder if you guys would like to see a video.

This is an excerpt from Citizens Communications from 6/13/2014 at the CCAG meeting. The speaker is Beth Ann Ray from the Chamber of Commerce. The full video of the meeting is here at the City, I suggest you click on “Item 5” on the right and then advance to about 15:30.

Transcript of this section, by me:

based on our input, from Project Connect, and the meetings and workshops that we have had with the project staff, you have an LPA that our committee (our transportation committee) selected actually, way back in the beginning in the first workshop we did, and a few weeks ago, that same committtee recommended to our board that they consider supporting the entire LPA from Grove all the way up to ACC’s flagship campus up at Highland redevelopment

Let’s look at that transcript again, with some added emphasis:

based on our input, from Project Connect, and the meetings and workshops that we have had with the project staff, you have an LPA that our committee (our transportation committee) selected actually, way back in the beginning in the first workshop we did, and a few weeks ago, that same committtee recommended to our board that they consider supporting the entire LPA from Grove all the way up to ACC’s flagship campus up at Highland redevelopment

Hmmm. I suppose it’s just a coincidence that nobody except the Chamber liked Highland, and Highland ended up being picked, right?

  • George Purcell

    I dunno. I’ve assumed that it was UT Austin being the big player (particularly after hearing the rumors of the new basketball stadium replacing Irwin on the site of the Statesman).

    • UT is the reason why nothing but San Jacinto was considered near campus – but the place it goes further north is purely a CoC thing. As for further south, UT hasn’t seemed to be that interested in Riverside in my observation; I think it was more a safe assumption that it was in no matter what (note that you’re not alone in believing the Statesman site is a big deal though).

  • mark cathcart

    Mike, I completely agree with your advocacy of transport, and the alignment of rail et al.

    Not sure what you were inferring by the South Congress comment, I was a member of the Bouldin Neighborhood plan contact team at the time, and it was my job to decide what properties we should opt out on the west side of South Congress (Oltorf to Riverside) and the both sides of S 1st. I recommended opting out two sections only, the main south congress drag from Annie down to where Gueros is, only to put a hurdle in the way of those properties being torn down. I also recommended opting out South first properties parallel with the school for the Deaf field, primarily to keep the ‘hood separated from downtown.

    The Planning contact team reject both of those recommendations, an Bouldin went forward with no exceptions or opt outs in favor of the trade-off between parking requirements and affordable housing. If I remember correctly, I even spoke at the city council meeting where this was confirmed. So, while other neighborhoods my have been plotting to undermine VMU, Bouldin was all in and even gave up on some parking spaces to get more affordable accommodation. Of course, in hindsight that might be why we don’t have any VMU on our transport corridors yet, having to make less expensive apartments.

    • Mark,

      Not sure whether you meant to comment to this post or another one? Can you clarify which post this was in reference to? The one it ended up attached to is about how the CoC chose the Highland alignment.

      • mark cathcart

        I swear I posted that in response to Where now for VMU… http://m1ek.dahmus.org/?p=1000

        • Oh, got it. For clarification, the parenthetical applies to (Burnet and S Lamar) not (Congress and (Burnet and S Lamar)).

          • mark cathcart

            Feel free to delete the above, I’ve reposted on the right thread, obvious my screw-up.

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