:FAN: Transportation bond referendum

#1

Mayor Adler is recommending a fall vote on a transportation bond, reported in various publications as ranging from $720M to $800M. Apparently whether to move forward needs to be decided in the next three weeks or so, & Council will be discussing mid-June.

I would ask the Board consider sponsoring a FAN vote that would conclude in time to provide input to that Council discussion. We would not have to take a final position on whether to support the bond or not, just whether we support it being on the ballot. More here:

http://www.mayoradler.com/

Every one of us would spend $800M differently than the other to address mobility and affordability, this approach appears to be a well thought out and prioritized step in the right direction. Who knows - we may have something “everyone” can finally agree on! btw, I see no conflict with FAN supporting this even though it does not completely fund the bicycle master plan, as again, it is a step in that direction, same true for pedestrians, bus and car enthusiasts. If you were holding out for rail, people are talking more now about one under ground - discussion for another day with a much different price tag.

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#2

I disagree with most of that.

  1. There is no way rail gets funded in the short-term if this bond passes as proposed. There is no separate ‘under ground’ rail effort.

  2. This bond is very heavy on roads, especially state highways (far north Lamar, Loop 360), which should be paid for with gas taxes. We already get screwed by the gas tax funding mechanism here; let’s not voluntarily make it worse.

  3. This bond is very very light on things that can actually reshape mobility - bikes and ped funding; and has essentially nothing that would make things better for buses. (Queue jumps improve things for buses, but pull-outs make things worse for buses, so all in all I’d call it a wash).

My preference would be for FAN to oppose the bond package as presented by the Mayor and seek a more forward-looking set of projects that don’t further car-dependence.

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#3

A leading economist in the area, Angelos Angelou, took a favorable position towards subways being the solution, at a widely attended event earlier in the year, which may be why it is getting more air time.

http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/news/2016/01/26/transit-affordability-concerns-mount-in-shadow.html

Here is the summary:

“Light rail is for tourists. It’s not a way to move massive amounts of people from one side of the city to another,” he said. “A subway is a long-term issue that will put people to work. We may not have the density now, but the density will come over time. We are going to fill up every corner of this city sooner or later.”

I’m not taking a position on rail, subway, or the proposal - but we can either debate the proposal & mobility priorities until November, or not, it does not appear any other proposal will be on the ballot. Call me an eternal optimist, but it would be surprising if the transportation projects that have been ranked as the highest priority, do not help - they seem to have quantifiable metrics that indicate otherwise.

In the spirit of democracy, I could support a FAN vote that includes both the question of whether (1) we want to support having the proposal on the ballot, and (2) we want to oppose the bond package as presented. I could also support the FAN Board deciding to be silent at this point.

It sounds like Council will also be taking a position on Senator Watson’s I-35 proposal - which I assume is as good as we are going to get based on the source and his track record. Any issues with it?

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#4

I think it could be a good idea to weigh in on our position on the mayor’s proposal, but it seems as if FAN’s position should be to be to encourage Council to increase funding for bicycle and sidewalk infrastructure. Our membership already voted in support of bike/ped safety (FAN’s position on the COA Bicycle Master Plan) and our board voted to add FAN’s name to Bike Austin’s coalition in support of fully funding all high priority sidewalks and the COA Bicycle Master Plan.

Before sponsoring any additional votes, I’d like to see more of the membership express interest in a vote by weighing in on the forum.

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#5

On his Keep Austin Wonky blog, Julio Gonzalez Altamirano wrote this in-depth analysis on the corridor programs that are the focus ($500 million out of $720 million) of Mayor Adler’s transportation bond proposal.

The dollars spent on most of these corridor plans, according to Julio’s analysis, tend to emphasize car traffic throughput and don’t provide as much for improvements that would support walking, biking, and public transportation.

But are these corridor plans generally sound and better than what we have now? Do the proposed dollars spent on implementing these corridor plans reflect the appropriate priorities?

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#6

I just wanted to bump this to the top. Since there’s been a lot of interest in the bond and weighing in on it we’ll be having a vote on it at the same time that we vote on the city council candidate preferences.

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#7

For those wanting to learn more about the mobility bond, FAN and AURA are co-hosting a Reddit AMA tomorrow at noon where panelists will answer your questions. Panelists will include Mayor Steve Adler (or a representative from his office), Peter Baird, @jcrossley, Carrie Gammell, Caleb Alan Pritchard, @ted Siff, and @tomwald.

Info and RSVP here.

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#8

This Q&A forum proved to be both popular and informative. We are glad that so many users were able to get their questions fielded.

I hope that the discourse provided there serves as a resource to you our members while making a decision about your support or opposition of this bond initiative.

To review the answers and positions of our panelists please visit the Reddit AMA we hosted in concert with @AURAatx.

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#9

Brian Gannon with Midtown NA here.
We voted to abstain from endorsing or not endorsing bond. And want to explain our vote.

We feel that the bond has benefits for the city, and has a few negatives (mentioned everywhere. don’t need to go into this). Because it skips 0.8 miles on Lamar between Airport Blvd and 183, it skips the area that we live and use daily (since we’re effectively locked out of using Morrow. Thanks Crestview!). We still believe that this will help a lot of the issues NORTH of 183 on Lamar and down Airport Blvd. We also feel that the 183/Lamar/Anderson intersection of hell needs to be looked at which isn’t in this bond but will be under city control (and not TXDOT) if this bond passes. We couldn’t get a majority to vote a definitive answer on this, so we are abstaining from endorsing or not endorsing this bond.

Brian

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#10

Thanks for letting us know your stance here and the results of the MNA vote. I always love a thorough discussion and welcome this kind of input.

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#11

@alyshalynn, @rcauvin, thanks for your work with AURA to co-sponsor the Reddit AMA - I could not attend but reviewed it the following morning, and it was time well spent!

Agree that giving FAN members a chance to vote and possibly take a position on support / oppose / abstain is a good thing, I would like to caution you that is slightly different than what started this discussion, which was Council voting on whether to put it in front of the voters. Accordingly, @Pete_Gilcrease, I don’t see this as resulting in something that impacts the “Council Voting Record FAN Alignment” % calculation. Voting to put it on the ballot, which I think most will agree has resulted in a productive community discussion and engagement, is different than voting as one of 11 Council members who determine policy.

@Brian_Gannon I am not sorry Midtown NA abstained, just that your needs are not being addressed as part of the bond proposal. Do I recall correctly from the Reddit AMA that this section of road was ineligible to be one of the “8” corridors due to “ownership” between the City and State, or is there a sense it should have been one of the top “8” and was not prioritized as high as Midtown NA would have liked? If the former, then perhaps another funding mechanism can be leveraged in due time, agree, that section needs work.

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#12

The city owns the road from Airport Blvd to Morrow.
So that’s a good 0.7 miles out of the 0.8 miles.

TXDOT takes over at Morrow St. (Heading North). This entire section is in the bond (north of morrow).

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#13

I’m not sure if the Vote Tracking table has been edited since you last looked, or perhaps you’re operating on a different assumption (or haven’t look at it at all!), but the Mobility Bond indeed does not count toward any FAN alignment calculation - You’ll see the N/A designation at the top of the row where FAN votes are noted.

@Pete_Gilcrease is the one managing the data in the table, so he’d have to speak to what’s being included and why, but I don’t think the alignment calculations are open to any kind of interpretation: Only if FAN & Council voted on the same issue are tallies made. These votes are the ones with either the Check-mark, or X

Although to play Devil’s Avocado, if you support this bond being on the ballot, wouldn’t it follow that you support this bond?

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#14

The Vote Tracker is great @alyshalynn

I have been frequently accessing the Vote Tracker, and noted the transportation bond was recently added to it. My note was intended as a caution that taking another step today and actually adding the FAN vote in that column, then putting it into the calculation would create an apples and oranges situation. Regret @Pete_Gilcrease if my comment caused any confusion.

As I said some time ago, I supported having the debate on mobility priorities, and having a mobility bond on the ballot was a sure fire way of ensuring one took place. I had really hoped we would be honest with ourselves and say this is a down payment for much more work needed, and it is going to be expensive, so get used to it. I was always inclined to think something / anything needs to be done to get momentum going, but actually just decided how to vote after reading the Reddit AMA. Up to then I had seriously considered abstaining on the FAN vote, so sincerely thank all for that effort.

I am really impressed with how Bike Austin engaged here to get their bond priorities on the table, perhaps a lesson to be learned - but not a lesson in my humble opinion - on how to pick Council candidates to recommend.

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