In Austin and Around the Nation: Big Stakes for Green Transportation

This is a big moment for transportation reform. Today at the polls, voters will re-shape Congress just as the Obama administration is getting ready to make its push for infrastructure investment. In key states — including FloridaWisconsin, Ohio, California, Texas, Maryland, Colorado, and Tennessee — governor races will influence the future of passenger rail, smart growth, and complete streets. Then there are dozens of ballot initiatives, scattered across the country, that will make an indelible impact on sustainable transportation at the state and local level.

Austin's Proposition 1 would fund pedestrian improvements in East Riverside, as pictured in this artist's rendering. Photo: Austin Chronicle

We’re going to take a close look at one such example out of Austin, Texas. Voters there are being asked to consider a bundle of road, bicycle and pedestrian improvements under the banner of Proposition 1. The measure has been questioned in the local media for packaging road improvements with infrastructure for non-motorized transportation. Chris Bradford at the Austin Contrarian, however, says combination makes perfect sense:

If everyone valued roads equally, it might make sense to restrict the bond issue to road projects.  But not everyone in Austin values roads equally.  People who live in the central core get  little benefit from new or wider commuter arterials on the suburban fringe. I drive, of course, and so I care about the roads, but given the little amount of driving I do, I care a lot more about road quality than road capacity. A bicyclist might drive 90% of the time, but if he is generally satisfied with the  roads as a driver and dissatisfied with the roads as a bicyclist, you will have to offer him bicycle improvements to entice his support.

Frankly, I’m surprised that those complaining about the “bundling” don’t understand this.  This is a city with a sizable population of anti-road environmentalists and bicyclists.  A bunch of these environmentalists and bicyclists are working hard at this minute to convince voters  to spend money on roads.  They wouldn’t be willing to do this if Proposition had been restricted to “roads-only” projects.

Whether the issue is bike lanes, transit funding, or rail development, chances are there’s a local or state race that will have a meaningful impact where you live. So in today’s Streetsblog Network Top Picks, we’re highlighting some posts that explain voters’ options from the perspective of sustainable transportation.

Make sure to get out and vote! Your decision could change the way you get to the polls next year.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Rethink College Park outlines how the results of the Maryland governor’s race could reverse progress on transit and rail in the city. Commute by Bike discusses how senate and congressional races are likely to impact progress on national transportation policy. Grist gets down to details about how the Ohio governor’s race will affect the state’s momentum on energy and transportation.