You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

breaking news

Weather Service confirms tornadoes struck Williamson County overnight

Cassidy: Prop. 1 is a chance to finally do something about mobility


Austin has a bad habit of putting things off until it’s nearly too late. It can take decades to come to a consensus on how to respond to the city’s most pressing challenges, because for too many people, doing nothing is always going to be more comfortable than doing something. We have allowed policy paralysis to keep us from meeting the demands of a growing region, and we are paying the price through a transportation and affordability crisis.

Doing nothing is what we at the Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA) believe will happen if voters reject the Mobility Bond on the November ballot. Yes, it’s a big proposal — the largest bond, by far, ever proposed to tackle Austin’s enormous transportation challenges. But it’s about time we realize that if we’re ever going to relieve congestion and gridlock, which Austinites have long said is their number one policy priority, we need to make big investments in new approaches to meeting our mobility needs.

Opponents of the bond have put forth a number of complaints about the proposal, some of them contradictory. For example, we hear the package is too big for taxpayers to afford, yet at the same time not big enough to fully implement the corridor and active transportation plans on which the mobility bond is based. That type of conflicting analysis embodies the hallmarks of the “do nothing” approach – too big for some, not big enough for others, so let’s do nothing. But this time we cannot let that mindset stifle progress on our most critical issue. We need to move forward without delay, and get as many of the Mobility Bond projects done as soon as possible, rather than waiting until some day in the future when these improvements will be even more expensive and we will have paid even a steeper price in lost jobs and more time spent sitting in traffic.

Those who are concerned about the size and fiscal impact of the bond package cannot also honestly complain that the proposal does not fund enough new capacity. New roads and lane miles are costly not just to build, but to maintain for years to come, and adding lanes on Austin’s urban corridors would mean acquiring significant amounts of expensive right-of-way and displacing many homes and businesses. There are more cost-effective ways to improve congestion in those corridors, allowing property to be preserved and utilized to build out the new housing that Austin desperately needs, or commercial projects that can help expand the local tax base.

At RECA, we pay close attention to the cost of government and its impact on affordability. We would not support a proposal like the mobility bond if we did not believe it would really deliver the congestion relief that Austin needs to retain its economic prosperity and quality of life. These are the kinds of investments of tax dollars we should support as a community, because they will deliver results now and produce dividends in the future.

In addition to the size of the package, detractors point to the “rushed” process by which it came together to make it onto this year’s ballot. To us this merely reflects the urgency of our mobility crisis, the Mayor and those council members supporting the proposals should be commended for seizing the opportunity to make a real difference. This approach and timeframe shows that we can break free from policy paralysis and it should serve as a model for other decision-making processes at City Hall.

Even though the mobility bond came together relatively quickly, the various transportation plans that underlie the proposal — including multiple corridor studies and the city’s bicycle and sidewalk master plans — were developed over several years, in full view of the public, with extensive stakeholder input. They reflect both what Austinites say they want and the best practices in the mobility field, which are informed by the expertise of some of the nation’s leading planners and engineers. They include innovative approaches to allow more people, including more cars, to get to where they need to go, and they call for improvements that will have a positive impact on travelers across the entire city.

Finally, the mobility bond is structured to ensure that it can deliver on its promises and achieve the mobility outcomes we need. The bond resolution calls for corridor improvements that prioritize reduction in congestion and delays at intersections, and requires that those proposed expenditures be supported by metrics demonstrating that they will have a positive impact. The resolution also establishes a unique, legally enforceable “contract with the voters” that guarantees the bond funds won’t be redirected to other projects or turn into an ill-managed slush fund. Again, this measure of accountability — which City Hall has traditionally worked hard to avoid, including in past bond measures — should be a model for how Austin does business in the future.

The time for a serious, substantial response to Austin’s mobility crisis is now. It’s up to us as voters to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the mobility bond to change the game in Austin and keep our beloved community moving forward. It’s time to quit doing nothing.

Cassidy is board chair for the Real Estate Council of Austin.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Herman: Wrestling with gender identity

As we navigate the brave and befuddling new world of gender identity, Mack Beggs was inevitable. And so was Madeline Rocha. Both are accomplished high school athletes to be celebrated for the time and sweat it takes to become such, especially in their grueling sport of choice. Beggs, 17, of Euless Trinity High School, heads to Cypress this week to...
Commentary: Picking fights with Mexico will be at our own peril
Commentary: Picking fights with Mexico will be at our own peril

The relationship between the United States and Mexico is at a historic low. Months of threats and Mexico-bashing by President Donald Trump have left our neighbors to the south with a mixture of anger, resentment and anxiety. The rhetoric has created a breach that threatens to become a profound chasm. We need to remember that while Mexico needs the...
Letters to the Editor: Feb. 21, 2017
Letters to the Editor: Feb. 21, 2017

Re: Jan. 27 article, “Why Trump’s border wall won’t be easy to build in Texas.” Dear Gov. Abbott, I am concerned about the future of some of our iconic landmarks in West Texas. Namely I’m worried about Big Bend National Park, Balmorhea State Park and the McDonald Observatory. These places must remain preserved, pristine...
Mona Charen: Patriotism, not nationalism
Mona Charen: Patriotism, not nationalism

National Review has sparked an important debate about nationalism. As someone who has been accused throughout her life of excessive love of country (can’t count the number of times I’ve been reproached for arguing that despite slavery, Jim Crow and the internment of Japanese-Americans, our country is eminently lovable), I feel a bit awkward...
Smith: Serving up lies to 'Intimidation and Customs Enforcement' raids
Smith: Serving up lies to 'Intimidation and Customs Enforcement' raids

Remember when Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican state officials hated the federal government? Why, a few years ago former Gov. Rick Perry even tossed the word “secession” into his poisonous mix of anti-President Obama rhetoric. He was, we were told, just kidding. Think back to 2015, when Abbott and others feared that run-of-the-mill...
More Stories