Wheel Deal

Frequently Asked Questions

The plan is the result of discussions between Julio Gonzalez Altamirano, Susan Somers, and Chito Vela.

Typos and other content errors are Julio's fault.

Dozens of advocates, City Hall staffers, and political insiders also provided feedback on the draft plan and its development.

The draft plan was adjusted and finalized with the help of community input, which is visible on our 'Feedback' page.

However, if you are familiar with Austin's mobility planning and national transportation policy debates, many of these ideas will be familiar. The plan is more of a mix of local plans and best practices than a completely original thought.

If you click the "More" button for each plan component, or if you look at the "Plan Details" section, you'll see the method for our cost estimates.

Figuring out the cost of a bond to the median taxpayer is complicated. As a matter of fact, even the City officials that formally figure out the expected cost of our bond packages tend to be careful in pointing out that many dynamic factors are involved.

The combined total cost of the Wheel Deal components is $5.36 billion.

We reached out the City Finance office to see if they could help us get a sense of bonding capacity and the cost number. They politely pointed out that they can only do a thorough analysis at the request of City Council.

So, we had to rely on past bond project cost estimates.

For the 2016 $720 million mobility bond, the expected annual tax bill impact for the median taxable assessed home value was $57 or 8 cents per million dollars of bonds sold.

If we were to use that rate, the annual tax bill impact of the Wheel Deal would be approximately $428.80 or 1.17 dollars per day.

However, the actual number for our claim should be smaller, for two important reasons.

First, Austin's tax base keeps growing, which means there are more residents and businesses that can split up the cost of the investment. And second, Austin has a renter majority. Most Austinites live in apartments that have much lower assessed values than the median home property, though they obviously don't pay the taxes levied on landlords directly themselves. The tax cost that can be assigned to the typical Austin renter is both analytically- and practically-speaking lower than that for homeowners.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, urban households spent an average of $9,511 on transportation in 2017. The Census indicates that Austin had 361,257 households in 2017. Using the average transportation expenditure, that's a total of over $3.4 billion spent on overwhelmingly car-focused consumer transportation expenses (loan payments, insurance, gas, repairs) in just one year. A year-and-a-half of car expenses (not including the taxes for road infrastructure) are enough to exceed the cost of the Wheel Deal's transformative transportation investments.

This is why, in the long-term, the Wheel Deal can save so many Austinites money. As Austinites substitute car trips and go car-lite, their household car expenses will decrease alongside and many will be spared car-dependence in the first place.

We want to move people, not cars.

Our goal is to use the City's capital project dollars to support the projects that will help shift the greatest number of Austinites into using more sustainable transportation modes such as transit, bikes, and walking.

This is a less technical way of saying that we support the most capital-efficient ("bang-for-the-buck") projects in generating mode shift and access to non-car transportation infrastructure.

The term "mode shift" is a common short-hand description for the concept of helping people use transportation options ("modes") other than single-occupant car trips (i.e. "lone drivers") such as transit, bikes, and walking.

Working backwards, the Wheel Deal needs to win a bond referendum, be placed on the ballot by City Council, inspire a set of Austinites to organize and pressure City Council to put it on the ballot, and get you excited to take collective action. Our hope is that by creating this plan and identifying other community members that want to act on it, that you will help us make a difference.

While we don't take specific stances on every single road segment impacted by the capital projects the Wheel Deal recommends, we do believe that Austin roadways should focus on moving the most people (not the most cars). Given limited road space, rail, buses, and bikes are going to move a lot more people than cars.

The bus-based investments we suggest do not depend on autonomous capabilities. When the technology is ready, CapMetro will decide how to implement it. That is not a part of this plan, though, depending on the pace of technology breakthroughs, it's quite possible that this package could fund the purchase of autonomous buses.

There is no formal organization behind the plan. It's an all-volunteer effort. We pay our tiny expenses out of our own pockets. We don't have staff. And we don't intend to launch a new organization or fundraise.

Investments should be prioritized based on how many people they move per dollar spent.