Arguments Against Prop 1
"Austin, Texas! Come for the ______, stay because you're still in traffic" should be the motto of the Lone Star State's capital city. Over the 28 years that I've lived in Austin the population has doubled to just under 1 million people. For a city that has been reluctant to appropriately address this issue, Austin's traffic has experienced quite a bit of increase - much to the dismay of many commuters. This fall Austinites have the opportunity, in addition to voting for national, state, and local officials, to cast their vote on a transportation bond - Prop 1 - that aims to provide a measure of relief to Austin's many traffic woes.
There's a good deal we could talk about in regards to the various merits and criticisms of Prop 1 ranging from taxation philosophy, recent city council activity, and years worth of city history, but my goal here is to stick to the "nuts and bolts" of how this bond could influence the average Austinite, particularly in the realms of cost and overall effectiveness.
First off, what is the bond's price tag? Prop 1 is $720 million. It's one of the most expensive transportation bonds in the city's history. To bring that price tag closer to home the personal cost translates to ~$56 dollar/year increase to the property taxes for a home with a median taxable property value of $250k (Here's a tax calculator provided by the city to give you a better picture of what the impact will be on your property taxes should the bond pass). ~$56/year might sound like a paltry amount to some for the promise of reduced traffic congestion, but that cost isn't in a vacuum. It'll add to the already high cost of living that Austinite's enjoy. We'll touch on that more in a bit.
Second, how does the bond address its intended purpose? The city claims the bond will relieve traffic congestion through a variety of strategies (here's a good summation of where and how money will be spent). The strategies range from increasing the number of dedicated and protected bicycle lanes, improving and expanding urban trails, streamlining transit operations (buses and such), and improving sidewalks and pedestrian crossings. As you've probably noticed, while those strategies sound well and good, they don't speak at all to the source of Austin's traffic problem - cars.
Austin has a car problem. That is to say, most folks in the Greater Austin area travel primarily by their own personal vehicle. The daily increasing load on our infrastructure that is struggling to keep up is where the bond's concern should be - not on bicycles and urban trails. With Austin chiefly being a personal car city, a bond focused on unpopular alternative transportation methods seems unwise, manipulative, and ultimately a poor investment of our taxpayer dollars.
Prop 1 will cost a chunk of money that will further contribute to Austin's already high cost of living. Ironically, this high cost of living has already run many people out of Austin proper causing them to commute from the nearby cities and further adding to our traffic problem. Given today's economy, it'll have a tangible negative effect on folks already on a tight budget and those on fixed incomes like many of our senior citizens. And all for what? Mostly bike lanes, urban trails, sidewalk improvements, and studies for future transportation bonds.
To summarize, the way I see it Prop 1 will cost taxpayers money and not achieve at all its intended goals. It's a dream designed by urban developers that envision an Austin that doesn't exist in reality. For these simple reasons I will be voting 'no' on Prop 1 and it is my hope that other Austin voters will do the same.