John Julitz

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

With Austin voters rejecting Proposition 1 on Tuesday, the city will have to look at new options in order to continue its efforts to improve Austin’s transportation infrastructure.

Prop. 1 proposed allocating $600 million in bond money toward a 9.5-mile urban rail line running from East Riverside to ACC-Highland, with three of the proposed stops located along the east side of the UT campus. The plan also required the city to acquire $400 million to complete road improvements. The bond proposal was defeated Tuesday with 57.2 percent of voters against the plan. 

One of the plan’s biggest supporters, Mayor Lee Leffingwell has repeatedly emphasized that the city had no backup plan to improve transportation infrastructure.

John Julitz, Capital Metro and Project Connect spokesman, said the city and CapMetro will continue working to improve traffic congestion but, in light of the urban rail plan failing, will have to step back to look at the situation.

“The mayor has said it — there’s no plan B right now because we felt it was the best plan,” Julitz said. “We need to look at it from a system perspective for what the next step is going to be.” 

According to Julitz, voters against the proposition may have not been able to consider the bond from a broader perspective. In January, the City Council will begin operating under the 10-ONE system, in which each council member will represent one of 10 geographic districts instead of being elected at-large. Julitz said presenting a rail plan like Prop. 1 would need to address each council member’s specific district. 

“The route that we proposed was the first phase of urban rail,” Julitz said. “Subsequent phases would have included extensions to Lamar, to Guadalupe [and] to the airport. Giving the makeup of the new council, they’re going to be focused on ‘What impact is this going to have on my district?’ We need to present some planning as to ‘Here is the full system plan. Here’s the cost. Here’s the phasing and how its going to help your neighborhood.’ Not just ‘Here’s the first line, and we’ll do some additional lines.’ If people were able to see the whole plan, it might provide a little more perspective.”

Mayoral candidate Steve Adler said moving quickly on another solution is crucial in containing Austin’s traffic congestion problem. While the thorough process for Prop. 1 was not an issue, he said, this time around, the City Council needs to step it up.

“Looking forward, we need to have a sense of urgency, so whatever process we go through moves more quickly than processes have moved in the past,” Adler said. “The problem with the plan that the voters had was they did not believe it would do enough to solve the traffic congestion and crisis for the price it had.”

Council member Kathie Tovo said she heard similar concerns from citizens, and the most frequent issues she heard fell into two categories.

“Certain people were supportive of high capacity transit but felt this route would not be as successful as other options,” Tovo said. “The other concern that I heard often was the cost — that right now, many people are facing rising taxes and feeling the burden of that and taking on another debt was more than they felt was appropriate right now.”

Despite advocating for an urban rail alignment on Guadalupe Street and Lamar Boulevard, Student Government endorsed Prop. 1 in October. Robert Svoboda, SG City Relations agency co-director, said while the plan was not perfect, it was a step in the right direction.

“What was presented was the best option at this moment in time,” Svoboda said. “The last time that it failed was in 2000, and the city of Austin had to wait for 14 more years for it to be voted on again. That gap in time is really costing the city in terms infrastructure.”

A Capitol Metro bus struck a pedestrian near campus Wednesday.

The bus was preparing to make a protected left turn onto Martin Luther King Boulevard when one of the bus’ side mirrors hit a man crossing the intersection, according to CapMetro spokesman John Julitz.

Julitz said the man was transported to University Medical Center Brackenridge with non-life threatening head injuries, and is now in stable condition.

None of the 21 passengers aboard the bus reported any injuries and there were no other pedestrians involved, according to Julitz.

Because the bus driver had a green arrow, she was not cited for the incident. Julitz said whenever there is an accident involving a CapMetro bus, the bus driver is tested for drug and alcohol use.

“We don’t anticipate there being any situation where that is a factor, but we do run tests every time,” Julitz said.

According to Julitz, CapMetro will also review the incident to make sure the driver could not have prevented the collision.

“We’ll take a look at this incident and see if there was anything that our driver could have done differently to make this preventable or if there is anything that we need to do from a training perspective,” Julitz said.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

This Saturday is the second Formula 1 United States Grand Prix race in Austin. But unlike the first, this Saturday is also UT game day and the city is bracing itself for the traffic these two events will bring.

John Julitz, Capital Metro spokesperson, said he feels Cap Metro is ready for the challenge.

“Last year being the first one, we didn’t really know what to expect,” Julitz said. “This year we were able to take a lot of the lessons we learned from last year to streamline our services. There’s a UT game as well and that presents another new challenge.”

This year, Cap Metro has focused their efforts on expanding the Metro Rail service hours, which will mean additional costs.

Julitz said Cap Metro contracts with Circuit of The Americas, which hosts the F1 race, to provide buses. The Circuit is then responsible for the shuttle service to the tracks.

“Last year the shuttles were free, but this year they are charging $5 per ride,” Julitz said. “We’re trying to be clear that we’re happy to be partnering with [Circuit of The Americas], but the cost to ride the shuttle is all from COTA.”

The race last year brought in an estimated $546.3 million of spending in Texas, according to numbers provided by Shilpa Bakre, spokeswoman for the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau. The data was tracked through the Major Event Trust Fund application that the Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee sent to the state comptroller. According to this application, the race also brought in an additional $30.5 million in state taxes.

This year, it will be more difficult to track state revenue because of the the UT game bringing in additional visitors.

“It will be hard to get those numbers for this year because we don’t know how many visitors will be here for F1 and how many will be here for the UT game,” Bakre said. “And the UT games bring in 100,000 people, but we don’t know how many of those people already live here.”

Samantha Park, spokeswoman for the Austin Transportation Department, encouraged the use of public transportation as an alternative to being stuck in traffic.

“… If you’re going to the [UT football] game, come downtown after the game, but leave your car parked,” Park said. “Consider walking down here, bicycling, taking a pedi-cab or taking Capital Metro. There will be limited parking.”

Julitz also recommended avoiding certain areas if possible.

“If you aren’t interested in F1 activities, avoid the area around Republic Square Park and the convention center,” he said. “If people want to come to the downtown area, allow extra time and [Cap Metro] will be able to get you where you want to go.”