Wheel Deal

Anonymous 1


Section I - What I Like

I like some of the components I know the least about, to be honest. MetroRapidPlus, The Bike Network, Shade fund, and Vision Zero components all appear appropriate and progressive.

Maybe lead with MetroRapid Plus, phased in. Run the numbers on them and make the case – then take the lane (Perhaps just during peak hours at first, as diamond lanes?) and make it so.

I am particularly excited and interested in the Sidewalk Component, and Orange and Blue Lines, but recommend changes that are more cost effective and scaled, given funding opportunity costs where the public dollar has to serve multiple services and not just transportation. Details below.

Section II - Changes I’d Like to See

The Sidewalk component is exciting, but should be scaled to be more practical for what the city is able to deliver while still retaining its stretch-ambition goal. The budgeted amount for it should be adjusted to 1/3 of the $635 to $210 million. My reasoning for these changes are:

The public works department can currently deliver approximately 16.6 miles of sidewalk per year, despite self-reported ‘scaling up’ for the 2016 Bond (doubling the number of sidewalk crews and contracts, approximately) – much of the priority lane miles to be delivered are beyond low hanging fruit and require engineering/drainage/neighborhood deliberation. PWD are efficient in delivering product, having many of the early out projects from that bond. But the scale of the available processes in the city is limited (contractors, professionals, staff, materials, crews etc) before one gets to diminishing or lower quality delivery, needs to be considered.

Trend Source (Sidewalk infrastructure program)

Given the ambitious goal of this bond, suggest that a doubling of capacity for this existing, operating program would be ambitious, but more practical as a stretch goal. Doubling of the last 5 years of actuals would represent 33 linear miles of sidewalk.

Suggest adding a 10-year horizon bounding the program’s budget/ Typically bonds are done on a 6-8 year horizon for expenditure. Here, 10 years would make a nice round number and be a more efficiently ambitious 333 linear miles of sidewalk, estimated. At 1/3 of the $635 initial budget estimate. (33 miles per year x 10 years)

Note – the sidewalk program staffing would need to be augmented in order to deliver this. So there will be additional operational costs on top of these capital costs. Maybe 2-4% of the total, but a detail to consider.

Orange and Blue Lines – much ink is spilled. On the balance of projected, anticipated land uses and costs, I believe that BRT would be more optimal and cost effective for the Austin market.

Since Austin’s land development code is unlikely to accommodate for even/only the next 10 years of projected growth, I would not focus too strongly on the 25 year projections for station-specific capacity estimates. Sorry. Planners aren’t that good, and even if they were – reality begs to prove differently.

Consider that CAMPO’s regional demographic projections are used for regional transportation scenario comparisons and are not prepared with the level of scrutiny appropriate to a corridor-based transit ridership projections. Travel demand models have a tendency to undershoot transit mode splits (which ridership est. are based on), requiring more judgement applied, post processing. One would assume that, with the resources available to Cap Metro and the city, they would be able to revise the land uses along the corridor that would be drawn to one mode or the other for a more accurate projection.

Consider that The STOPS ridership estimate model you are familiar with is fine and the standard for FTA grants. Capital Metro and CAMPO don’t always see eye to eye, and the different perspectives reflect their different world-views. Each has an appropriate view, given their positions, but it’s probably not as productive to force one lens on the other.

Playing fast and loose with numbers, therefore, the cost of providing almost as good a BRT service as LRT over the time horizon is something like half that of LRT.

Get faster implementation of BRT = Get to mode shift more quickly. BRT also should, conceivably also be a lower embodied carbon footprint up front. Think Globally, act locally.

Dedicated lanes for BRT would also serve the other bus transit in bits or pieces. Every little bit helps, whereas LRT would be too exclusive to really help bus with the dedicated lanes, I think.

TL;DR So, save a billion here and implement both lines with BRT, more quickly on the ground.

Land Acquisition Fund. I pretend to be pretty wonky, but can’t grok this one on a first read.

Operations Financing. Instead, I’d propose a Tax Increment Finance zone within a ¼ mile along the Blue & Orange lines (or within ¼ mile of stations, depending on how the math works), to capture the value of:

a) the public investment of high capacity transit and

b) the rezoning being proposed by the LDC/#CodeCronk rewrite as drafted. (See also the now defunct LoneStar Rail district station-agreements with municipalities for potential structuring.)

At the risk of being fast and loose with numbers, again, Capital Metro and City may pass a 2020 bond, but they will need significant sources of dedicated, new operating funds beyond discretionary FTA grants and beyond the paltry 1 cent sales tax growth to up the ante on service expansion. If there’s an alternative, it hasn’t been presented. The Council session in January should bear this out.

TL;DR – TIF to capture and earmark increased property tax revenues in order to fund transit operations.

In Summary: Same functionality, ~$2.5B rather than $4B, faster implementation, and adds operational funding for Transit to boot.