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Urban Transportation Commission asks Austin City Council to consider placing light rail, high capacity transit on Nov ballot

The Urban Transportation Commission officially restarted the City of Austin's conversation about light rail and other high capacity transit investments by finalizing and adopting a resolution requesting that the Austin City Council plan for and consider placing a such a project on the November 2016 ballot. It is the first significant step by a City of Austin body to discuss the future of rail mass transit since voters defeated the $1 billion roads and rail ballot measure of Austin Prop 1 on November 4, 2014.

The UTC adopted the following resolution on a vote of 7-2:

WHEREAS, Mayor Adler has declared 2016 to be the Year of Mobility;

WHEREAS, the Chair of the Mobility Committee, CM Ann Kitchen has set the intention to develop policies and programs which move people and not just cars;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Urban Transportation Commission recommends the City Council direct the City Manager to develop and present a high-capacity transit plan, including consideration of rail using existing data, that prioritizes high-density corridors and high-diversity populations, including a timeline and staged process for completing the plan in a timeframe which allows City Council to place the plan optionally on the November 2016 ballot.

“If there’s a path to putting it the ballot in November ballot, I’d love to see that happen,” said Commissioner JD Gins. “There is a abundance of data," he continued. "There has already been a federally-approved route along other corridors and outside Prop 1 additionally, Lamar was approved by the federal transportation department already once.”  

Referring to leveraging the data collected in 2013 and 2014 during Project Connect’s Central Corridor High Capacity Transit Study, Commissioner Mario Champion said, “If that bond had passed, we would be building off that data. We don’t need another 30 months’ study.”  

“You don’t want to continue to do studies that people have already done,” said Commissioner Eric Rangel, adding with regard to Project Connect's public involvement data, “We’ve outreached that component.”

“I really support this, only because I think the city does need to take the lead,” said Commissioner Vicente Mantero. “This is the first time someone has decided to step up and say, ‘Okay, we are going to take at this holistically'." He added, "The leadership part, I think, it is absolutely critical right now that the city takes it on.”

"I take the Urban Transportation Commission's recommendation seriously, and I look forward to discussing it with my colleagues and the community," said Council Member Greg Casar in an interview published by the Austin Business Journal responding to a January discussion at the UTC. 

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