Project Connect: Orange Line
This past Wednesday we attended the project connect open house and workshop. We are super excited about the train coming to our neighborhood and how it will impact all of us. I wanted to report back about how the workshop went for those of you who wanted to attend but couldn’t.
We arrived at the North Austin YMCA and made our way back to the room they had reserved. I brought our 12 year old son with the good intention of exposing him to this conversation. They organized the event with small round table discussions of 10 people and the entire room was set for around 30-50 people maximum. I have a few photos that are terrible because I didn’t want them to think I was creepy. Anyway, the presentation boards lined the room and they also had a digital presentation. All of the people in the room were genuinely interested in the transit they are promising to bring, so I’d say it was mostly active citizens who are up on the conversation and have used transit in the past.
At the round table discussions, we had the opportunity to ask questions, which I took advantage of. They wanted to know how we felt this train will impact our neighborhoods, if we liked the transit stops on the map, how we would use it and what design options we liked: on the street, elevated, partial subway, and subway.
I was dying to know if the plan was to just do a train and then leave the sidewalks, bike lanes and streetscaping to the transit corridor people. The answer I got was, project connect will do the bike lanes and sidewalks but the street trees are part of the city corridor department and will come much later and are not in the budget now (we were lucky to have two Lamar corridor people at our table). Personally, I think this is a terrible idea and that we need to somehow pass a bond that will do the whole job including beautifying the streets (something people expressed that they want).
As for the design of the train system, they did say that it will vary along the line as each part of the street has different issues as far as street width and ability to fit the train. In other words, it will be subway in some places and perhaps at ground in others, and perhaps . elevated in some places. None of the options showed moving the cars below the street, which I think would be something to consider if we really want this to be successful. I can imagine a city where cars are not the visible priority and that people moving between transit and places they want to go free of the fear of being hit by a car.
In summary, I felt that my voice was heard and my questions answered because of the small table discussions.