Prop 1: Tough sell for some current rail riders

A MetroRail train leaves the downtown station. (Kevin Schwaller)
A MetroRail train leaves the downtown station. (Kevin Schwaller)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austinites will vote Tuesday on a Proposition 1, which seeks to develop urban rail and promises other funding for transportation.

Overall, $1 billion is on the line. If voters approve the measure, $600 million in bonds will go toward creating an urban rail route from East Riverside to the Highland Mall development.

While voters decide the measure, Austin’s only commuter rail — MetroRail — is seeing increased ridership. Figures from Capital Metro show an average of 18,000 trips per month in 2010. By the last fiscal year, the average exceeded 65,500 trips per month.

The train leaving at 4:19 p.m. on a weekday filled up quickly. It was difficult for riders to move once the train reached its peak crowd for that trip. The people on the train had good things to say about the MetroRail line. They liked it better than sitting in traffic. Some riders even depend on the line for travel. A consensus was more difficult to find on Proposition 1. Most riders we spoke with still had questions or concerns about the plan.

“For us who use this on a daily basis and a lot of folks being home owners and property taxes going up, if it does pass, it concerns us. But we also look at, something needs to be provided,” said MetroRail rider Troy Gast.

Gast had looked into the proposal. He believed the price for urban rail was simply too much for what was being offered. Still, he said something needed to be done to keep pace with traffic in a growing city.

Kendrea Hamilton hadn’t made up her mind yet. She planned to do more research before she went to the polls.

“I value the train, but it is a lot of money,” she said.

“Probably vote yes, this second,” said MetroRail Rider Evan Prothro.

Evan said he hadn’t made up his mind yet. He also wanted to do more research. However, he said it seemed the cost to him was worth the potential benefit.

“At least it’s doing something rather than nothing at all,” MetroRail rider Phillip Huereca said. “The people who are saying no, at least, if they’re going to say no, at least have a solution.”

Despite their differences, just about everyone agreed that with the direction the population in Austin is heading, the transportation system that exists now can’t be the last stop in Austin’s transportation future.

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