It’s “time to get serious about fixing Austin’s traffic,” says a headline at KVUE. However, no one quoted in the article is actually willing to get serious about fixing Austin’s traffic.
Instead, the article is exclusively about Project Connect, a front group that has promoted light rail for Capital Metro, Austin’s transit agency. All of the “solutions” discussed in the article involve transit, including light rail and dedicated bus lanes, both of which will actually increase congestion.
Here’s why transit won’t work to fix traffic in Austin, which by some measures is the nation’s fastest-growing urban area. Between 2010 and 2015, the Austin urban area grew by 220,000 people, or 3.0 percent per year. Transit passenger miles, meanwhile, grew by 3.5 percent per year. Sounds pretty good so far.
However, highway driving grew by 5.9 percent per year. In 2015, transit carried less than 0.8 percent of the motorized passenger miles traveled in the Austin area and the annual growth in highway travel is more than six times transit’s total passenger miles in 2015.
That means if Austin could somehow double transit ridership every two months, and if all of those new transit rides came from people who would otherwise travel by car, it still would not be enough to halt the growth in driving.
Of course, Capital Metro is far from doubling ridership every two months, or even every two decades. Despite Austin’s rapid growth, it has taken 21 years to double transit’s passenger miles (and even longer to double transit trips as trip lengths have growth with the growth of the urban area).
In short, twice nothing is still nothing and twice Capital Metro’s current transit ridership is so close to being nothing that it is irrelevant. Anyone who wants to get truly serious about fixing Austin traffic will ignore transit and look to other solutions.