transportation

Smartphones may soon be able to precisely track users’ position and orientation to the centimeter using GPS technology, according to researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering. 

Engineering assistant professor Todd Humphreys and engineering professor Robert W. Heath and their research team developed the technology, which has a variety of applications for cell phones, virtual reality and transportation. 

Centimeter-precise GPS technology could virtually connect people across the world in a real-time, 3-D environment, according to Humphreys. 

“Imagine games where, rather than sit in front of a monitor and play, you are in your backyard actually running around with other players,” Humphreys said in a statement. “To be able to do this type of outdoor, multiplayer virtual reality game, you need highly accurate position and orientation that is tied to a global reference frame.”

Ken Pesyna, electrical and computer engineering graduate student and researcher, said the research team has dramatically reduced the cost and price of GPS antennae, so they can fit on a smartphone or on top of a car. 

“Our real breakthrough is that you don’t need expensive antennae,” Pesyna said. “They can be made smaller and cheaper.” 

Pesyna said precise GPS technology could help autonomous cars drive passengers safely to their destination. 

“Eventually, in the future, we won’t be driving our cars,” Pesyna said. “Our cars will be driving us, and, to do that safely, the cars will have to know where they are relative to other cars very accurately down to a couple centimeters.”

Pesyna said this GPS technology could prevent car theft and drunken driving before fully autonomous driving comes to market. 

“We’ve done research in this area for security to be able to detect if it’s you driving your car, or if it’s someone else with different driving habits,” Pesyna said. “We can ultimately use it to detect drunk driving behaviors. There might be obvious signs in how you drive that can be noticed in the centimeter accurate trajectories.”

Research transportation engineer Jennifer Duthie said researchers from UT’s Center for Transportation Research are hoping to pilot a project this summer to gather data from the movement of bicycles and motor vehicles using GPS. 

“We’re hoping to do a pilot this summer where we put [the technology] on a few bicycles and just see it how we can use this data for better bicycle planning,” Duthie said. “You can extract certain driver characteristics, look how people make turns.”

Anthony Foxx, right, U.S. secretary of transportation, tours the TACC Visualization Laboratory on Friday.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Anthony Foxx, U.S. secretary of transportation, discussed the future of technology as it relates to transportation in a meeting with UT researchers, faculty, and graduate students Friday.

Foxx, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013, said the administration hopes to encourage new technological developments that will improve processes such as cargo shipping.  

“Freight is … a huge issue in this country because we are going to see 45 percent more freight moving around our country over the next 30 years,” Foxx said.

Different governmental bodies must work together to implement new technologies, according to Foxx.

“Metropolitan planning organizations, state departments of transportation, local departments of transportation, federal department of transportation — all those players have to intersect in order for us to get the most out of the 21st century,” 

Foxx discussed “Beyond Traffic,” a federal initiative which will outline traffic trends and the way they shape the U.S. population’s needs over the course of the next three decades. According to civil engineering graduate student Kristie Chin, the program might help increase traffic control and make people more aware of the problems traffic causes, but possible
technological applications for transportation extend far beyond traffic monitoring.

“We can increase market penetration [with Beyond Traffic], but then we also looked at [using] more futuristic, higher levels of automation like 3-D printing, drones [and] automated trucking,” Chin said.

Technology could make U.S. transportation systems safer and more efficient, said Andrew Kerns, electrical and computer engineering graduate student.   

“[We could] use managed lanes for connected and automated vehicles, especially for freight transportation, and … drones for situational awareness during traffic accidents,” Kerns said. “I’m particularly excited about the advent of connected and automated vehicles. The future is not very clear, but there are a lot of opportunities coming.”

UT’s Center for Transportation Research, which has received funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation, works on projects that help improve driver behavior, traffic congestion and intelligent transportation systems. UT’s innovation with technology and transportation is one that should be emulated in the rest of the country, Foxx said.  

“We need to be thinking about the future — about how technology plays a role in transportation — and that kind of thought process is happening right here [at UT],” Foxx said. 

Mayoral runoff candidates Mike Martinez, Austin City Council member, and attorney Steve Adler squared off in the last of KLRU’s Civic Summit debate series and discussed different issues including affordability, transportation and public safety.

During Sunday's debate, Martinez criticized how race issues in Austin and the United States are handled, dismissing any “sugarcoating” of police shootings in Austin and across the country.

“When something in our community happens you have to address it straight on,” Martinez said. “100 percent of all fatal officer involved shootings have been with an African-American or Hispanic man. That’s a problem. We have to solve it. We are seeing the ill effects of lack of trust with police all across the country. We have an issue here and we eroded that trust through our own actions. They’re called mistakes, and we have to own up to it."

Adler named transportation and water conservation as two of his top priorities for the mayor’s office and said he looked at his priorities as mayor through an affordability filter.

“Affordability [is] key in this city,” Adler said. “Transportation; that impacts affordability.”

Transportation issues in Austin are land-planning issues and should be treated as such, according to Adler. Although Martinez said expanding bus services would help alleviate traffic problems, Adler disagreed.

“I think we need to look at transportation in a long-term way,” Adler said. “People voted against Proposition 1 because they didn’t see how that would help them. It’s a land planning issue as much as anything else. I’m not convinced buses long-term are the answer. Ridership is half of what it was in 2006 and 2008 and costs twice as much.”

Martinez defended expanding bus services and said the urban rail plan was only one facet of Project Connect.

“With the growth that is here, no matter what we build and how many lanes we add, there’s going to be traffic and congestion in Austin,” Martinez said. “What I see it as is progress. Do we make progress in giving you true alternative modes of transportation? Project Connect is a 50-year visioning on how we make progress. Prop 1 was just one small piece of that. It’s new lanes, toll lanes, bike lanes, expanded bus service. Transportation is much like any other public service — it’s for the entire community.”

The two agreed that avoiding growth was not the answer to solving traffic congestion.

“Growth is going to come to our city as long as we have the state Capitol and the University of Texas,” Adler said. “I think that would be a difficult thing to do, but there are ways to manage growth so it doesn’t manage us.”

Martinez said the city could control its growth with the comprehensive land plan, Imagine Austin.

“I believe we set the path for how we want to grow as a city through Imagine Austin,” Martinez said. “We need to make sure the growth coming is in the right places — that it’s growth we need. With the growth that’s coming, where is it best suited?”

Adler held 37 percent of the vote during the general election while Martinez won 30 percent. The runoff election is set for Dec. 16.

A bicyclist makes his way up 24th Street on Monday afternoon. UTPD and Parking and Transportation Services launched an initiative last week to promote safer transportation on campus.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

UTPD and Parking and Transportation Services are looking to promote cooperation between different modes of transportation on campus with a new safety initiative. 

The initiative, launched last week with help from Student Government and the Office of the Dean of Students, aims to raise awareness of campus safety issues for pedestrians, bikers, carts, buses and vehicles. The campaign includes a website, safety booklets for bicyclists and signs encouraging students to share the road around campus.

Blanca Gamez, alternative transportation manager for PTS, said the department has been working on developing the initiative since early summer. 

“It’s really about being aware of everything happening around you, instead of just being on your phone all the time,” Gamez said. “Everyone is traveling here in a different way — skateboards, bikes, pedestrians, cars — and we’re trying to promote safety and awareness among all those students.”

The initiative — which comes on the heels of the Austin Police Department’s WAVE campaign, which encourages drivers and cyclists to share the road — is part of a growing focus on traffic and pedestrian control in Austin. 

Gamez said the reason behind the initiative is a general concern for safety on campus because of increased bicycle and pedestrian traffic, not because of any specific increase in accidents.

“[The campaign] is more of a ‘Let’s see what else we can do to promote safety’ effort,” Gamez said.  “A lot of these pedestrian and cycling incidents [on campus] go unreported, which means we don’t have a good estimate of them. But if we can help save someone from being in an accident or prevent even one bike from being stolen, it’s worth it.”

UTPD and PTS have also partnered with resident assistants in on-campus dorms to hold presentations on pedestrian and bicycle safety. The presentations feature topics such as how to properly lock one’s bike, rules of the road and how to protect oneself in dangerous situations, such as a robbery or assault. 

William Pieper, UTPD officer and crime prevention specialist who runs the safety presentations on campus, said there are many simple steps bicyclists can take to protect themselves on campus. 

“If you’re riding down the road, please, share the road,” Pieper said. “If you see a crosswalk, slow down just a little bit — it will make a big difference. Obey the traffic laws because you are a moving vehicle.”

Blake Kappel, an international relations and global studies sophomore who attended one of the safety presentations, said he appreciated the campaign’s focus on traffic safety, especially because of congestion on campus when he walks to class. 

“I liked how they got into stressing traffic safety because I know that a lot of people and a lot of bikers don’t stop at stop signs, and I think that’s important to get out there — that it’s the law,” Kappel said.

Gamez said she hopes the campaign will lead to more visible awareness of safety on campus.

“It helps give our department and UTPD a face and helps build that community,” Gamez said.

Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Randall Stephens for Mayor of Austin | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: In the run-up to the November election for mayor, the Texan has been running Q-and-A’s with the candidates. This is the last in our series. Early voting began Oct. 20 and ends Oct. 31. Election Day is Nov. 4. Students can vote on campus at the Flawn Academic Center. This interview has been condensed from its original length.

 

The Daily Texan: What are your views on transportation and urban rail?

 

Randall Stephens: … My wife works here at UT, and can take an hour and 15 minutes getting into work from Avery Ranch, and it’s only about 17 miles. I can beat that on my bicycle … What I fear is that very soon we’ll see …  a city where cars can’t flow, can’t move, pedestrians and bicycles weaving through them, and that can happen on our freeways …

The urban rail decision is going to cause problems that we don’t have today and don’t want in the future and those are going to cause east-west flow problems … The urban rail system they want to put in runs on the surface, and it will stop traffic every five to seven minutes at every street it crosses. The frequency at each station is planned for 10 minutes, for northbound and southbound trains … I don’t like anything about the Proposition 1 urban rail plan … That’s not going to solve any of our problems with the commute. It’s not going to take anyone off of our freeways  If you can’t elevate urban rail in a city, then you shouldn’t do it.


 

DT: What made you decide to run for mayor?

 

Stephens: I have certain skillsets and I want to serve. I see things for the way they are. I’ve been a problem solver for the past 35 years in my career. From my first five years in the Air Force, as a young sergeant, I’ve always stepped up into leadership roles. For me it’s just a natural thing to do. But you didn’t hear about me because I’m just a person in a big company. I worked 30 years for American Airlines, stepped up and managed workflow in an environment where you have people from every part of the planet working together for a common cause … Not everybody I worked with grew up speaking the same language I did or looked like I did, but because we listened to each other and worked together for a common goal, we’re a team. And this is what a community has to do. So I respect and understand people, and I listen to people … We love this town, it’s a wonderful place. I can’t think of a more exciting and interesting job than to be the mayor of this wonderful city …        


 

DT: What do you think are the main issues students should be concerned with in this election and how does your campaign aim to solve these issues?

 

Stephens: Cost of living is very important to students … The cost of living is horrendous today. It’s gone up, we have these pressures, we’ve become an urban center now. We’re not a small Texas city anymore. Having more opportunities in housing will be something we need. We have to create that opportunity by creating an attractive investment for builders.


 

DT: What sets you apart from your opponents?


Stephens: I believe that this is a great opportunity for the voters of Austin to find someone who isn’t wedded to downtown money. I’ve setting myself apart as a person who absolutely isn’t going to speak to a lobbyist about a donation … It’s not about money; it’s an interactive age … I believe in people, and I believe we can inspire Austin to change for the better.    

Austin mayoral candidates debate issues concerning the city Wednesday evening in a forum at the Belo Center for New Media.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Six Austin mayoral candidates debated issues, such as water conservation, transportation and emergency protocol, at an on-campus event Wednesday night.

The forum, hosted by KUT at the Belo Center for New Media as part of its “Ballot Boxing” series, was limited to candidates with a website.

The candidates discussed the low water supply in Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan. Candidate Randall Stephens said there was a simple solution to address Austin’s water crisis: Quit wasting water.

“We need to make sure we address our infrastructure needs and that we’re not losing water through leaking or breaking pipes,” Stephens said. “We need to move to a southwestern mode of landscaping. We need to make smart choices and inspire other Austinites to work with us and conserve water — not waste water.”

Current Austin City Council member Mike Martinez said conservation was most important in solving Austin’s decreasing water supply.

“Our community has embraced conservation like no one would ever would,” Martinez said. “The first thing we need to do is implement a rule that everyone drawing from the same source needs to abide by the same conservation methods.”

If Proposition 1, which allocates bond money toward an urban rail line, fails on the ballot, Martinez said that would not affect the efficiency or purpose of City Council.

“On Nov. 5, we have to go back to work, dealing with the gridlock and congestion we face,” Martinez said. “We go back to adding bus rapid transit lines and working on road infrastructure. We don’t have an option to sit and not do anything. I realize it’s ultimately up to the voters. If that means adding more bus lines, Capital Metro is capable of handling that next step.”

Candidate David Orshalick referred back to his six-step plan to save Austin, including three tenets, he said, are directed toward Austin’s transportation problem.

“We currently don’t do very good transportation planning,” Orshalick said. “It is amazing to me that I-35 is failing, and we have no plans to fix it.”

Orshalick also said the decreasing African-American population in Austin is exacerbated by the city’s rapid growth and gentrification.

“We have a critical mass of African-Americans in Austin that is missing,” Orshalick said. “We have a very small African-American population; other cities have a much larger population. We need to grow jobs internally and focus on more than just high tech.”

Cole said maintaining equal quality of life for everyone was crucial for keeping African-Americans in Austin.

“I think many African-Americans are leaving in concern for the opportunities for their children, educational opportunities [and] economic opportunities,” Cole said.

The candidates spoke about how they would deal with a health crisis in Austin in light of the third diagnosis of Ebola in Dallas. Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said she would ask for help from experts and emphasized the importance of communicating with Austin residents.

“I think it would be central to the mayor’s job to make sure we are having communication with the public and collaboration with governmental entities,” Cole said. “I would make a call immediately to other cities who have faced this crisis to see what they have done and what they would recommend and stay in constant contact with federal authorities.”

According to candidate Steve Adler, a mayor’s job is to rally and support the public.

“If something happened in the city, there is a pre-existing protocol to deal with it, and the mayor needs to make sure it’s being implemented,” Adler said. “It would be his responsibility to communicate with the public because the lack of knowledge can create fear and panic. I would probably also say a prayer.”

At the Texas Tribune Festival’s high-speed rail panel, panelists discussed the possibility of bringing the title mode of transportation to Texas. While the panel had diverse representation supporting high-speed rail, the unexpected absence of the panel’s only rail critic led to a narrow-minded discussion of long-distance transportation options.

The premise of the panel discussed Texas Central Railway’s high-speed rail project aimed at connecting Dallas to Houston — with eventual connections to Austin, San Antonio and Fort Worth — with 400-person capacity “bullet trains” leaving every half hour during peak hours and arriving at their destination in 90 minutes at 80 percent of the costs of a similar flight. High-speed trains are not a new idea in Texas, but what makes this project unique is its attempt to be completely privately funded with zero operating subsidies — an unprecedented feat.

Flights from Dallas to Houston average one hour, and when considering a window of complications and security, let’s round the total commute to about two. It would be naïve to assume no security measures would be put in place for trains, though they have fewer security concerns. With only theoretical commute time information available for rail, the time factor appears fairly equal.

Though time is not an issue, money certainly is. This project aims to be completely privately funded, and if all goes as planned, the net effect would lower the price of this commute by 20 percent, according to Texas Central Railway President Robert Eckels. But, as seen with high-speed rail around the globe, this model is not profitable with the rapidly growing industry of discount airlines.

France’s government-owned Trains à Grande Vitesse is struggling to remain solvent with the introduction of airlines like easyJet, Ryanair and Vueling. While these planes don’t offer capacity for 400, they offer prices starting around $35 that would bankrupt a private enterprise rail. It is only a matter of time before these airlines and their ilk spread to the U.S. and render this project futile.

Addressing the monetary consideration, an audience member at the panel questioned Eckels about how much the project would cost and how much has already been secured in private funding, a question he easily dodged throwing out the very precise figure of “billions.” The inability to secure funds in a timely manner is what caused the high-speed rail project to fail 20 years ago. By dodging this question, Eckels was unconvincing that this project would not meet the same fate.

Rail transportation is not a traditionally profitable industry. That’s why it is commonly — almost uniformly — taken up as a government project. In typical American style, the Texas high-speed rail proponents champion the free market and want to apply the private model to this industry. But making this endeavor financially successful will take a feat of unparalleled innovation. Instead of spending this significant amount of funds and innovative effort on a project that would have to defy all odds to succeed, these same private investors should invest in creating American-based discount airlines as a preemptive measure for the inevitable arrival of their European counterparts.

Kathie Tovo, Austin City Council member and District 9 council seat candidate, spoke about transportation and housing at Tuesday’s Student Government meeting.

Photo Credit: Xintong Guo | Daily Texan Staff

Ahead of the Austin City Council meeting Thursday, the Student Government assembly approved a resolution in favor of transportation networking companies at a meeting Tuesday.

“It’s basically just saying that we students support transportation companies like Uber and Lyft and having them legalized in Austin and that they hold safety to a very high standard and that we ask City Council to approve them,” said Jamie Nalley, chair of the Student Affairs Committee.

Olivia Arena and Robert Svoboda, co-directors of SG’s City Relations Agency, said they met with the city’s Urban Transportation Commission to express support for the proposal.

According to Arena, the agency’s survey of almost 200 students found the majority of respondents were in favor of the resolution supporting ride-sharing apps, such as Lyft and Uber.

“Students wanted new transportation options with regulations, background checks, with insurance.” Arena said. “It’s not like students just want to get in a car with anyone.” 

In the survey, Arena said they asked questions about student transportation, especially in regard to transportation after going out on weekends.

“One of the most important questions we asked was, ‘Have you ever been in a situation where you or a friend chose to drink and drive intoxicated because you did not feel comfortable with the transportation options?’” Arena said. “Over half of the students said they had [chosen] to drive intoxicated or gotten in a car with someone who was intoxicated.”

The City Council is scheduled to discuss a legalization plan for transportation networking companies at its meeting Thursday.

City Council member Kathie Tovo, who is also running for District 9 council seat under the city’s new 10-ONE structure, spoke at the meeting and said she plans to work to improve city
transportation.

Tovo said in order to improve transportation in Austin as a whole, multiple areas must be addressed, including the urban rail, safe and fairly priced commercial transportation systems, flexible work schedules and the maintenance and increase of sidewalks and bike lanes.

“We need to continue to invest in our sidewalks and bike lanes throughout the city and really make sure we have connectivity in all of our communities around the city as much as possible because that is one reason why people sometimes get in their cars and drive,” Tovo said.

Also at the meeting, SG President Kori Rady introduced a new resolution in support of opening the Flawn Academic Center for 24 hours per day to provide a study space closer to West Campus.

“We wanted to make sure that there was somewhere on campus that was open 24/7 so students could have a safe area all throughout the week to utilize a collaborative area for whatever is necessary,” Rady said.

Melysa Barth, College of Education representative, said the FAC’s extended hours would help students.

“It gives students more space,” Barth said. “If you’ve been to the PCL during finals, you know that it’s really hard to even just get an outlet. It’s beneficial to have the option of having both open during that time.”

The consumption of alcohol at a proposed student tailgate was also discussed. Braydon Jones, SG speaker of the assembly, said alcohol sales should be allowed at the tailgate, but in a safe way requiring wristbands and IDs.

“Let’s just be honest with this,” Jones said. “At the end of the day, if we’re wanting to create a student tailgate on campus, we will not have a successful tailgate student initiative on campus without alcohol. We’ve tried that in the past.”

Photo courtesy of Sheryl Cole for Austin

Editor’s Note: In the run-up to the November election for mayor, the Texan will be running Q-and-A’s with the candidates. Voting is open only to those registered to vote in Austin and registration continues through Oct. 6. Early voting starts Oct. 20 and ends Oct. 31. Election Day is Nov. 4. For more information on Cole’s views on transportation, see our Sept. 2 editorial.

The Daily Texan: Why are you running for mayor?

Sheryl Cole: I was first involved in public service when my oldest son registered for school. He’s actually my nephew. His mother was in a car accident. And so when I went to the school, and I was telling the teacher all my concerns, and she said, “Ms. Cole, we got it.” And that was a pivotal moment for me because it let me know that that is what government is supposed to do at every level, whether you’re talking about professional employees, the superintendent or the governing body. Then later on, after being involved in the Austin Urban League and Leadership Austin and many other civic organizations, Communities in Schools, I was a tri-chair of an AISD bond campaign. I went and visited the schools, and they were in horrible, horrible shape. I mean leaky roofs, overflowing toilets, rodents, really bad. I went back and talked to all my PTA moms and said, “We can’t have this.” The night those bonds actually passed at close to 60 percent — Austin’s bonds were not supposed to pass because it was a conservative time in Central Texas — I was hooked on the idea that I wanted to be a part of something that made a difference, a big difference, for the community. That’s how I got involved in politics. The reason I want to run for mayor in particular is because this is a historic election, and I have a record of bringing people together, and I would like an opportunity to continue to serve the city.

DT: Why do you think UT students should care about this election?

Cole: I am a former UT student. I went here for undergrad and majored in accounting, I got my CPA, then I also went back to law school. UT is the crown jewel educational institution of our city, and I can only say that because I’m a graduate. We have other major universities that are very important, and I don’t want to underplay that. They really are important and do a good job. But the number of students that are here and the impact that they could potentially have on the election is enormous, so I think that they should care. There are so many issues like affordability and transportation, even water, that affect the student population that I think really deserves to be engaged on those issues.

DT: What are your priorities as a mayoral candidate? What would be the first thing you want to get done as mayor?

Cole: The first thing I’d want to get done and address as mayor would be to make sure that as we move from a seven member council elected at large to 10 single member districts with at least nine new council members, just making everybody collaborate and come together on a new set of priorities for that council. Another thing that I’d really like to see happen also has to do with the new composition of council. That is, helping the new council members take care of the issues facing their district while at the same time keeping the needs of the entire city on the radar. One of those needs is the University of Texas and the issues that face it, such as the medical school. That’ll only be in one particular council member’s district, but it will have an impact throughout the city. The other thing would probably be transportation. We really have a challenge now with transportation, and we really must have a multi-modal system that includes roads, rail, pedestrians and bicycles. 

DT: How do you feel about the current proposed urban rail plan?

Cole: The current proposed rail plan, I believe, was data-driven and proposes a route for this initial phase going from Hancock to Grove. I think the second phase should include the airport and certainly Lamar and Guadalupe. There was a lot of debate about those two routes. Rail has typically been a divisive issue in Austin, and I don’t think it has to be. That is the kind of leadership I’d like to bring to the city, where we have collaboration and really appreciate the rationale behind these decisions. Some of that is just because we haven’t really engaged all the stakeholders, and we haven’t spent the time to explain the thought process behind those decisions.

Steve Adler and Todd Phelps chat after a mayoral debate on campus Wednesday evening. Adler and Phelps were among five mayoral candidates who participated in the debate.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Five of Austin’s mayoral candidates answered questions about public transportation Wednesday at a debate held on campus. 

Candidates Todd Phelps, Mike Martinez, Randall Stevens, Sheryl Cole and Steve Adler are running in the first election held under the new 10-ONE system, a plan approved by voters in 2012. The system will expand the city council from seven to 10 members to represent 10 individual geographic districts encompassing the city, in addition to the mayor, which will be voted on in a citywide election.

Mike Martinez, current council member and chair of the Capital Metro Board of Directors, said he would support Proposition 1 as mayor. Proposition 1, as it appears on the ballot, is a proposal for a $600 million rail bond to install an urban rail line in the city from East Riverside to ACC-Highland, passing through the UT campus. The money cannot be used unless the Federal Transit Administration matches funding, and the city garners another $400 million for additional road projects.

“Public transportation is a key component of affordability and helping the middle class in our community,” Martinez said. “I believe there is not a perfect solution for congestion, but we have to start somewhere.”

Todd Phelps disagreed with Martinez’s reasoning and said if the proposition passed it would only benefit a small percentage of the population.

“Even if they can ‘Criss-Angel-mind-freak’ it to the voters, it doesn’t matter if you get 40,000 riders,” Phelps said. “We’re pushing out four times that [amount of] Austinites of all cultures because they can’t afford to live here any longer. As someone who grew up here, I understand the soul of Austin — and that’s the people.”

Sheryl Cole, mayor pro tem and mayoral candidate,  said the proposal is expensive, but stressed that it would address problems throughout Austin.

“I fully recognize that Austinites are concerned about affordability, but there are also concerns about traffic, so we have to give them an option of how to deal with that,” Cole said. “The ballot proposal contemplates $600 million for rail and $400 million for roads. Roads are imperative to present a comprehensive package, and that is why it was important to put something before the voters that would help with congestion.”

During urban rail’s planning, some citizens and students advocated putting the line along Guadalupe Street and Lamar Boulevard. According to Cole, Guadalupe and Lamar were not suggested as rail corridors because a citizen’s committee did not recommend it.

Cameron Lagrone, a public affairs graduate student who attended the debate, said she understood the traffic system more after moving from Northwest Austin to the campus area. 

“I’ve lived in Austin for about a year and a half,” Lagrone said. “I heard there were a lot of candidates for mayor, and it was nice to see it narrowed down and get to know what they’re about. I just wanted to figure out what they were all into.”

Maggie Moore, a community and regional planning graduate student, said she thought some candidates provided more valuable responses than others. 

“The focus on transportation was really great,” Moore said. “Proposition 1 — I’m totally for. I’m a planning student, so the idea that they’re voting on right now is super exciting because it’s just the first part of a big plan. … I was glad to see which candidates were against it because they’re not in a field I would go for.”

The debate will be aired on KLRU at 8 p.m. Thursday and simulcast on KUT.