January 12, 2015
Transportation advocates were dealt a heavy blow in November when the $1 billion rail and road ballot initiative was soundly rejected by voters. Unlike the 2000 rail-only initiative, which was broader and almost passed, this one wasn’t even close with only 43 percent of the electorate giving it a thumbs up.
It got me thinking. Where do we go from here? Do we need another large-scale rail project to consider? Or do we already have alternative transportation assets to improve, grow and leverage as Austin continues to expand?
As in everything in life, I'm all for choice whether it's for schools, paper or plastic (oops, strike that one) or whether I want room for cream in my coffee. It's the quintessential trait that defines our culture. Likewise, I want choices in how I get around town. Living just south of Ben White in the Southwood neighborhood, I primarily use my pick-up truck to get around town. But as I write this blog on my smartphone on the #5 Capitol Metro bus heading downtown to work, I also occasionally take the bus to mix things up. And I also use Lyft, Uber, Yellow Cab, Car2Go, BCycle and my bicycle to get around.
It's no secret that Austin has developed over the past 50 years with the automobile as the chief mode of transportation. Today, we can argue whether that was the right choice or not but in post-World War II America, it certainly made sense with the promise of single-family, suburban homes, cheap gas and relative prosperity.
Is it possible to live, work and play in these Austin city limits without an automobile? Are there enough modes of alternative transportation to make it happen? I don't know but I’m about to find out. Tomorrow I’m starting my “30 Days Off the Road” experiment. Please follow me on Twitter (@wardtisdale) as I recount my experiences. Better yet, try it out yourself. #30DaysOffTheRoad.