We posted an email to Capital Metro stakeholders last week after the presentation of the new Project Connect vision from Randy Clarke asking for more information about why Autonomous Rapid Transit was included in the new vision. The only responses were from staffers at Capital Metro and Kirk Watson’s office, and the answers were all along the lines of “ART is the future, nothing is decided” with no evidence at all to back up claims about ART.
So what should Project Connect look like?
Corridors and Modes
We agree with basically everything outlined by the Austin Coalition for Transit here. It’s particularly worth emphasizing that the plan released in February before Randy Clarke joined Capital Metro was supported almost universally. There are still documents showing the old plans on their site, but I’ve also hosted the old plan here for posterity.
There should be an initial light rail system running on North Guadalupe/Lamar, South Congress, and East Riverside. Everyone who has paid attention to this for the past twenty years knows these are the corridors in Austin that are suitable for light rail. Put it on the ballot in 2020, and it will pass. 2020 will be an election with extremely high turnout for progressive Austinites. A starter light rail system will pass, and activists should demand nothing less. Once it is running, propose additional bonds to fund extensions. They will pass too.
End the ridiculous ART sales pitch
Austin’s elected or appointed officials should not be promoting any non existent technologies based on sales pitches at conferences and YouTube videos. This actually does seem to be the basis for Randy Clarke’s enthusiasm for ART, and Dave Couch was describing platooning autonomous buses from YouTube videos to advocates this week.
There should be no mention of unproven technologies like Autonomous Rapid Transit. There is not a single significant ART system on roads anywhere in the world today, and there are no self driving cars operating without drivers. The CEO of Capital Metro and other stakeholders putting money, time, and energy into a public roadshow for a non existent technology is misguided at best and extremely cynical at worst. The companies promising ART as the future have a profit motive to underestimate the arrival of this technology, and it’s astonishing to watch our public officials repeat that sales pitch to the people of Austin.
That’s it. Transportation is not rocket science. Put rail down in dedicated pathways where people live and work right now and they will vote for it.