UT hosts discussion about transit improvements

Cameron Castilaw

UT welcomed Christof Spieler, author of “Trains, Buses, People: An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit” on Wednesday for a talk about what the Austin metro could learn from other cities’ metro lines.

Introduced by Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Spieler discussed his book and took questions from attendees about how public transportation systems could improve around campus and Austin as a whole.

“I think one of the most important things we need to do for the city is change the relationship we have with The University of Texas,” Adler said. “The relationship between the University and the city is really more transactional (right now).”

Spieler, a former member of the Houston METRO board of directors, said public transit is a subject he has been passionate about for years.

“My life is better every day because I have a good transit,” Spieler said. “I care about transit because I want to make sure everyone has that opportunity.”

Austin has been trying for years to find a solution to get cars off the road. Capital Metro and the city had a meeting Monday with a plan for a $3-$6 billion initiative to add two bus lines and improve the bus system overall. The initiative would be presented to Austin voters in November. 

“I really do think this is our last and best chance,” Adler said. “(This is) the chance to do something transformational.”

The two potential bus lines for the proposed November vote could consist of one centered around Guadalupe Street and Lamar Boulevard and a second on East Riverside Drive. 

Adler said he believes that improving the bus system has to be done to help Austin take a step in the right direction toward reducing carbon emissions. 

“We’ll never be able to meet our goals in respect to climate change if we don’t do this,” Adler said. 

When asked if Austin should improve its rail and bus systems, Spieler gave a definite yes. 

“You start by planning a system, and then (plan) how you can build upon it,” Spieler said.

Students also attended the discussion to inform themselves about improvements.

“Our professor figured out about the event and told us we should go,” said Tingfon Chang, an architecture and architectural engineering junior. “Our project this year is about affordable housing facilities on (Interstate 35). We weren’t really sure about how it would connect, but it seems like it (did).”