light rail defeated narrowly, but approved by Austin voters
Capital Metro's light rail proposal was defeated this past November
(7 November 2000) by an extremely slim margin of slightly more
than 2000 votes, it was nevertheless PASSED by a MAJORITY of Austin
voters. 50.6% of voters within the City of Austin actually voted
in FAVOR of Capital Metro's light rail plan.
support for light rail was even stronger along the proposed routes
in precincts within a half-mile of the starter system
routes, 57.3% voted FOR light rail and 55.9% within a half-mile
of the entire 52-mile system voted in favor.
there is widespread community support for light rail. Light rail
supporters argue that there is a clear MANDATE for proceeding
with light rail, even if initially within the City of Austin or
in a somewhat scaled-down form.
than 25 years and millions of dollars of planning have identified
light rail as the most cost-effective choice for quality, high-capacity
transit in Austin. This investment should not be discarded, leaving
the Austin area's future mobility in greater jeopardy.
11 December, the Capital Metro board voted to continue to move
forward with the Preliminary Engineering-Environmental impact
Study for the light rail plan. Finishing the study was encouraged
by Austin Mayor Kirk Watson, State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, and
several environmental, business and transportation planning officials,
as well as "dozens of Austin residents", according to the Austin
American-Statesman. [9 Dec. 2000] The Federal Transit Administration,
which paid 80 percent of the cost of the study, also gave Capital
Metro a green light to continue the work.
Capital Metro board also voted to approve new options for using
about $69.5 million through 2003 on transportation projects other
than rail. This was applauded by the American-Statesman, which
noted editorially that "... Capital Metro's board must show good
faith in acknowledging the election defeat by reassigning some
of its penny sales-tax revenues." [1 Jan. 2001] As the Statesman
the board has said it would return a quarter-cent of the sales
tax to the communities in its service area for specific transportation
projects, such as sidewalks or street improvements. That amounts
to about $33 million available to communities in this fiscal year
that ends in September. The board also is re-emphasizing its commitment
to provide $91 million to regional transportation funding.
a majority of Austinites want light rail, and approximately half
of the population in Capital Metro's service area. Their wishes
must not be ignored.