Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Austin Votes on Their Streetcar

Why Can't We?

In 2000, Capital Metro proposed spending $1.9 billion for a light rail system with 52 miles of track on existing streets. The referendum was narrowly defeated at the polls. In 2004, after four years of additional lobbying by Capital Metro, a commuter rail plan — to be built on pre-existing freight rail lines — won voter approval. Capital MetroRail's new line was scheduled for completion by December 2008, but the opening has been delayed indefinitely due to continued construction problems.

Texas state law requires a referendum on rail projects for cities smaller than 750,000 people. This only applies to the capitol city of Austin, and may not once the 2010 census figures are released. Nevertheless, Austin remains committed to voting. They are considering a modern streetcar, and their highest priority is the vote.


The Austin Chronicle asks: Will Austinites ever get to vote on building the dang thing? Both Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Transportation Department Director Rob Spillar say they're doing everything possible to prepare for a "mobility referendum" in November 2010.

To allow policy-makers and the community to decide the issue at an election, the Trans­portation Department has established an ambitious schedule of planning, environmental assessment, and preliminary engineering work. Meanwhile, different consultants will be creating a citywide Strategic Mobility Plan. They'll need to deliver the essential facts within six months. The full scope of work includes public vetting, technical proofing, accurate cost estimates, a funding plan, and more. Good, hard numbers are essential for voter confidence and future-phase federal funding.

In late October 2007, former Mayor Wynn called for a rail transit referendum in November 2008. That rally failed due to lack of effective leadership, Watson's decision to prioritize CAMPO process over calling an election, Cap Metro's troubles, general political fumbling, and – most importantly – no clear funding plan. Every six months, another missed election opportunity rolls by: May 2009, November 2009, May 2010. So for those who lust after rail transit, November 2010 looms large. For years, there's been consensus that a well-conceived system with a strong funding plan would win voter endorsement. We just can't seem to call an election.

"We're going to do everything possible to put the information on the table, within six to eight months," Spillar pledged. "Then this spring, the policy-makers are going to decide whether to go forward with an election or not."
Austin respects its citizens, and sees them as partners in the ongoing development of the city. That's why they view voting on the plan as more important than the plan itself. We want Cincinnati to be just as thoughtful and inclusive. Issue 9 will accomplish that. Vote YES ON ISSUE 9.


  1. You previously had said that we need to make sure Cincinnati is safe before we worry about wasteful things like protecting small businesses and building better neighborhoods, but it looks like safety is doing pretty well.

    Seriously, I want to know if you care about small businesses, and if you do, how do more roads and highways help create dense neighborhoods where small businesses can thrive?

    In the end, Issue 9 is not about voting on the streetcar, it is about putting up roadblocks (pun intended) wherever possible to make sure Cincinnati doesn't have passenger rail any time soon. Vote No on Issue 9.

  2. With all due respect Chris, for many people Issue 9 is exactly about voting on the streetcar. There are plenty of people out there who are ambivilent about passenger rail, but are 100% sure that they don't want the silly streetcar.

    We can all jump up and down and scream and shout that it's about more or less, but it's up to the individual to decide for himself. In the end, the voter decides for himself what he cares about and what issues are important to him.

  3. Stop the Streetcar!

    Pass Issue 9.

  4. I'm sure for some people, Issue 9 is racist in nature. In either direction really. But I don't really care about what is in someone's heart: people need to consider what the universal consequences of their vote might be. I believe COAST is intentionally trying to increase the number of voters who are voting only on the streetcar. Why? Because that is probably less popular than passenger rail in general, as you acknowledged.

    If COAST et al had wanted to write an Amendment about the streetcar only, they could have. If they had, I would still vote against that, but I wouldn't be so fearful for Cincinnati's further-sprawling future as I am if Issue 9 passes. There are people who say that if Issue 3 passes, churches will be banned from having casino nights. If that is true, people should know that. The casino backers shouldn't try and pull the wool over people's eyes by focusing on only part of an issue and ignoring another. That is what Issue 9 proponents are doing: focusing on a less popular rail transit option in order to kill rail transit in Cincinnati, hopefully forever (to paraphrase Chris Finney). I can't force people to care more about rail in general than stopping the streetcar, but I will sure as heck try to make sure they know the full consequences (unlike COAST). If your only concern for the future of Cincinnati is stopping the streetcar, by all means support COAST and NAACP in their attack on the charter.

    Vote No on 9 to save passenger rail as an option in Cincinnati. Vote No on 9 to protect a vision of Cincinnati that isn't paved over with highways and parking lots.

  5. Quick question for COAST..Why is it that three republican candidates endorsed by COAST is against the Amendment?? Is it because Murray, Ghiz, & Zamary is supported by COAST but do not support COAST? Just curious??? No on Nine!!

  6. Anonymous 7:56 - That is one of the worst examples of poor grammar that I have ever witnessed. Can you please rephrase your question using the King's English so we know what you are trying to ask?


    Confused in Cincy

  7. While we applauded Ghiz, Murray and Zamary for signing the no tax pledge we chose to not endorse them for various reasons, including not advocating a Yes on Issue 9.

  8. Its not Austin's fault they're stuck behind a Texas state law that breaks representative democracy.

    Simply elect representatives that represent your views on the policies. It works pretty well when you have a chance to vote for people that are in charge.


We follow the "living room" rule. Exhibit the same courtesy you would show guests in your home.