Austin’s Prop 1 uniquely tied to students

G. Elliott Morris

Austin doesn’t need a subway system. Austinites don’t want an elevated rail network or to shell out more tax dollars. City Council members want to fix our traffic problems, so what can we voters do beyond demanding a perfect solution to a dire, dire problem? We can vote for Prop 1, Austin’s largest transportation bond ever.

Proposition 1 is a bond package written by Austin Mayor Steve Adler which will provide funding to fix major roads and “transportation corridors” (roads frequently used by multiple modes of travel) in and around the city. The package includes language to construct remote-timed stoplights, bike lanes, sidewalks and bus lanes along large roads such as Lamar, Guadalupe, MLK, Airport, Burnet and Riverside. All of this and more, the city says, at a cost of only $5 per month for owners of homes valued at $250,000 or more. It can be posited that homeowners will save at least $5 per month by savings in gas, time, stress, etc. Much of the burden of fixing Austin’s transportation network will also fall on the state and federal balance sheet, as the bond package is only partially funded by Austin residents.

As the saying goes, you have to spend some to save some  — and $5 is, ultimately, not a substantial amount of money (and that buys me ramen dinners for a week, so I know what I’m talking about).

But what about Austin’s most frequent users of the transportation networks — students? With a lot of student transportation occurring in the Lamar and Guadalupe corridors, we have a vested interest in making our voices heard on Prop 1. We have the most to gain from better bus and bike lanes, thus we also have the most to lose from perpetuating the status quo. Some particular scenarios are as follows:

Scenario One: How many times have you been making great time driving south on Guadalupe when, suddenly, four buses all converge into the same lane at 24th street. Did you sit in the extra five minutes of traffic, or did you whip into the left hand lane and speed past? Lucky for you, maybe, you made it past the buses and arrived at your destination safely — but this sort of rapid lane change in traffic is a dangerous risk of collision. An added bus lane on Guadalupe (or, decreased car use from increased ridership from transit efficiency) could mitigate this type of risk.

Scenario Two: Imagine, even more appropriately, that your only personal modes of transportation are your legs and a bike — then, it’s very dangerous to travel anywhere beyond side streets on campus and the eight-block bike lane on the Drag. You’re forced to take the bus for convenience and safety’s sake and thus subject to the congestion detailed in scenario one.  Transportation issues are uniquely germane to students, and we deserve the solutions Proposition 1 present us.

It’s a no-brainer that Austin has dangerous and time-consuming transportation issues. What does take a little more thought, however, is why the residents of Austin would vote down a $57 yearly (depending on property value) tax on decreased congestion and better livelihood. Students should vote yes on Prop 1 — if not to pass the bond package then to send a message that we can’t (and won’t!) stand for the horrendous travel situation in the city.

Morris is a government, history and computer science junior. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @GElliottMorris