Revisions Looming, Austin’s Project Connect Reveals the Obstacles of Transit Planning in 2023

A once sprawling and singularly ambitious capital investment plan for the Capital Metro system will soon be reduced in size and scope. The episode is more evidence of an emerging era of transit planning austerity.

1 minute read

March 15, 2023, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Electric bus in Austin, Texas

The location of charging stations for Austin’s new fleet of electric buses has been just one fo the challenges facing transit planners working on the Project Connect long-range transit plan. | Roschetzky Photography / Electric bus in Austin, Texas

Project Connect, the Austin region’s far-reaching and sweeping transit investment plan was made possible when voters approved a new 8.75-cent property tax in 2020. Since then, however, Capital Metro’s planning partners have struggled to begin projects, a trend that culminated with an announcement in 2022 that a reduction from the original vision set forth by the plan was necessary.

On the cusp of a community engagement process to consider revisions to the plan, an article published by TransitCenter considers the lessons from Project Connect as transit agencies around the country—most notably in Atlanta and New York City—reduce their planning ambitions amid labor shortages, increasing construction costs, inflation, and stagnant ridership.

The sources quoted in the article discuss the lessons learned so far, about the importance of governance and the challenges presented by unforeseen engineering and political obstacles.

Overall, the message from local advocates is optimistic. Project Connect is still viable, it just has a few hurdles still to overcome.

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