Archive for the ‘Community endorsements’ Category

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Another major Austin community recommendation for light rail transit in Guadalupe-Lamar

12 November 2015
Light rail transit alignment following North Lamar Blvd., Guadalupe St., Riverside Dr., and Pleasant Valley Rd. as proposed by MobilityATX.

Light rail transit alignment following North Lamar Blvd., Guadalupe St., Riverside Dr., and Pleasant Valley Rd. as proposed by MobilityATX.

The prospect of a light rail transit (LRT) starter line project in the Guadalupe-Lamar corridor has received another huge boost in a recommendation from MobilityATX, an eminent Austin-focused civic organization that describes itself as “a community-engagement initiative sponsored by both public and private community partners that invites the public to create and shape public policy solutions to Austin’s transportation woes.” The recommendation for Guadalupe-Lamar light rail is included as one of ten “Popular Ideas” resulting from a community input process in the spring and summer of 2015, elaborated in a Mobility ATX Findings Report produced by Glasshouse Policy “in conjunction with community partners and stakeholders …” and packed with supportive factual documentation. The report was originally released in mid-October.

As the report relates, “Part of the MobilityCity umbrella initiative, MobilityATX is a privately-funded online and in-person platform for all Austinites to explore discrete topics that impact Austin mobility.” And regarding the background of the report: “Lasting from April to July, MobilityATX curated a conversation by inviting the public, Austin community leaders, regional transportation brands, mobility influencers and regional employers to join this effort to turn citizen-sourced priorities into effective policy solutions.”

The report’s proposed LRT alignment, shown in its map at the top of this post (see above), includes the Guadalupe-Lamar segment (which we’ve consistently advocated as the most feasible LRT starter line), then crosses Lady Bird Lake (the Colorado River) to include a possible line branching into southeast Austin. The proposed route follows North Lamar Blvd. and Guadalupe St. (and presumably the Guadalupe-Lavaca street pair downtown), then crosses the river via a bridge that appears to be roughly located parallel to either the South First St. (Drake) Bridge, or the Congress Avenue Bridge — or possibly it involves an adaptation of either bridge to include lanes for LRT (as we’ve also proposed).

Heading southeast, the proposed route appears to follow Riverside Drive, then turns southward to follow Pleasant Valley Road and then other unspecified alignments south of Ben White Blvd. (State Highway 71). Population density levels shown on the route map indicate that areas of high density are connected by the alignment.

In presenting the proposal, the report notes that

Despite two major defeats for light rail in recent history, it’s clear that there is sustained community interest in exploring and developing an expansive light rail system in Austin. According to the 2015 Zandan Poll of Austin-area residents, 63% of respondents would favor seeing an increase in taxes to construct an above ground rail system. In addition, Austin’s commuter rail line, the MetroRail Red Line, has seen dramatic increases in ridership. …

We must get cracking on planning a light-rail line that will serve the greatest number of riders on day one, and going forward. We can’t give up on light rail just because the city floated a bad plan and voters shot that bad plan down. Bus Rapid Transit is not a substitute.

(Emphasis added in above quotations. Original quote implied that MetroRail began operation in 2008; in actuality, MetroRail opened in spring of 2010.)

Supported by a consortium of leading civic “partners”, including the Downtown Austin Alliance, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, Capital Metro (the region’s transit authority), RECA (the Real Estate Council of Austin), Leadership Austin, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, the Austin Monitor (online news media), and a variety of mainly tech-involved businesses and other organizations, MobilityATX clearly represents much of the top civic leadership of the city. (See complete list of partners in the graphic below, from the Findings Report).

Mobility ATX/Glasshouse Policy partners. Graphic: MobilityATX Findings Report.

Mobility ATX/Glasshouse Policy partners. Graphic: MobilityATX Findings Report.

In his Foreword to the report, City of Austin Mayor Steve Adler emphasized:

As Austin rapidly evolves, we must continually innovate new approaches to engage Austinites in the discussions that shape City policy. Given the participation in the MobilityATX initiative, it’s clear Austinites are anxious to contribute their ideas for transforming mobility, and how it impacts our commutes, our economy, and our lives.

The final Glasshouse Policy report on this process provides me, my colleagues on the Austin City Council, private employers, public agencies, and all Austinites, with a new community perspective from which to approach our shared mobility challenge. We need to add this perspective to those gathered from other community engagement efforts to
ensure that we hear from all Austinites in every district as we plan for our mobility future. I’d also like to thank the array of public and private stakeholders for their vision and support of this effort, including business, government, and civic leaders like RideScout CEO Joseph Kopser, Dewitt Peart of the Downtown Austin Alliance, and Capital Metro CEO Linda Watson.

Each of you who took part in MobilityATX confirmed that all Austinites have something to say and deserve a forum in which to say it. I look forward to working with the MobilityATX partners to ensure Austin leads the global conversation on what constitutes a smarter, more connected city, and continues to reflect the innovators and entrepreneurs that call Austin home.

Mobility ATX’s LRT recommendation notes that

After the defeat of Proposition 1 in November, there has been no significant movement to develop a new light rail plan for Austin. In order to build new light rail in Austin, bond funding would have to be secured for a new plan. There is no official public effort underway to develop a new light rail plan.

Austinites are anticipating that city and regional transportation authorities will develop a new plan for a light rail system, a process that should include sustained and inclusive community input in the planning and development of that system. Beyond all other data collected, the expectation of inclusion is most critical to understanding Austin’s evolving mobility constituency.

And it concludes with what seems a call for action (emphasis added):

Contact your Council Member. Like the Bicycle Master Plan, building a light rail line requires a bond election. In order for a bond to appear on the ballot, City Council must vote to put that bond proposal up to popular vote. Once City Council does that, a simple majority in a popular election is required to pass the bond proposal.

The MobilityATX Findings Report has been received enthusiastically by proponents of Guadalupe-Lamar light rail, including Texas Association for Public Transportation, Austin Rail Now, and the Central Austin Community Development Corporation (CACDC), which have long advocated for such a project. A report on KEYE-TV News included a graphic (see below) with an excerpt from a CACDC statement that commented, in part, “The community will support a new light rail plan that reaches the most people possible, and this is a very encouraging step forward.”

CACDC statement applauding Mobility ATX report, as shown on KEYE-TV News. Screenshot: ATXRail.

CACDC statement applauding Mobility ATX report, as shown on KEYE-TV News. Screenshot: ATXRail.

Hopefully, the MobilityATX report’s recommendation will add significant momentum to the ongoing campaign for an initial LRT starter line project in the crucial Guadalupe-Lamar travel corridor. ■

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Poll: Austinites want surface rail!

31 May 2015
(Sceenshot of poll results)

(Sceenshot of poll results)

We’ve been insisting that — despite last November’s voter rejection of the deeply flawed official “urban rail” plan — Austinites do support rail.

Now this has been corroborated. A poll conducted in early March by the Zandan Poll (and reported April 16th by the Austin American-Statesman) indicates that 63% of respondents would favor “an increase in taxes” to construct an “Above ground rail system”.

According to the Statesman, the results are based on the responses of over 800 people that participated in online surveys. Yhr particupar quesrion on transportation was:

Assuming an increase in taxes for projects that involve lots of new construction, how supportive are you of the following transportation initiatives/infrastructure projects?

As the graphic at top shows, respondents also gave a thumbs-up to “More dedicated express lanes on Austin’s major highways ” and “Expanding service on the most frequently used bus routes”. And over half apparently even favor a subway.

All in all, this suggests that votes could be mustered to support money for rail — if the project is right. ■

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Northfield Neighborhood Association: “First investment of light rail” should be Guadalupe-Lamar!

11 March 2014
Left map shows Northfield Neighborhood Association (shaded brown) in central-city context, between North Lamar and I-35. Right map zooms in on the association's boundaries, with the MetroRail Red Line (labeled as "Austin and Northwestern"), albeit with no stations, cutting through its easten side. "University of Texas" section just southwest of Northfield is UT's Intramural Fields property, which has been used for athletics and a park & ride facility for UT shuttlebuses. Maps: Northfield NA.

Left map shows Northfield Neighborhood Association (shaded brown) in central-city context, between North Lamar and I-35. Right map zooms in on the association’s boundaries, with the MetroRail Red Line (labeled as “Austin and Northwestern”), albeit with no stations, cutting through its easten side. “University of Texas” section just southwest of Northfield is UT’s Intramural Fields property, which has been used for athletics and a park & ride facility for UT shuttlebuses. Maps: Northfield NA.

They just keep piling up — community and neighborhood endorsements of urban rail (light rail transit, LRT) for the Guadalupe-Lamar (G-L) corridor as a key public transport “backbone” for the heart of the central core city.

This time it’s a resolution passed unanimously late last month by the Northfield Neighborhood Association (NA), basically located along the east side of North Lamar just south of the Highland NA. According to the association’s website, the boundaries of Northfield Neighborhood Association are defined by 51st, Lamar, Airport, and Koenig (see map at top).

There are approximately 1,400 households in the neighborhood. … There is also a thriving local business scene on North Loop Blvd and two of our border streets: Airport Blvd and Lamar Blvd.

Screenshot of Northfield NA resolution supporting light rail transit on Guadalupe-Lamar corridor. (Click to enlarge.)

Screenshot of Northfield NA resolution supporting light rail transit on Guadalupe-Lamar corridor. (Click to enlarge.)

Emphasizing that “light rail would improve the quality of life of our residents by giving them a new and efficient transportation choice and reducing dependency on cars of those of those who use our area’s roads to commute …,” the resolution proceeds to note that

…the Northfield Neighborhood Association is a signatory of the North Loop Neighborhood Plan, City of Austin Ordinance 020523-30, a planning area with a 2010 population of 5,814, in which Northfield residents took part in extensive light rail planning for specific alignment and station placement along North Lamar Blvd. up to the North Lamar Transit Center, providing for light-rail to commuter rail transfers at Crestview station, and a future commuter rail line on Airport Boulevard corridor ….

As the resolution also points out,

…several other neighborhood plans have planned light rail along the Guadalupe-North Lamar corridor such as the Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan, City of Austin Ordinance 040826-56, Crestview-Wooten Combined Neighborhood Plan, City of Austin Ordinance 040513-30, Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan, City of Austin Ordinance 000413-63, and the Brentwood-Highland Combined Neighborhood Plan, City of Austin Ordinance 040513-30 ….

This underscores the long record of cooperation by Austin’s core central neighborhoods with the planning objectives and assurances given to them by the City of Austin — now basically being shredded by Project Connect and the current city council, which are proceeding to forsake these commitments and discard rational, data-supported planning in preference for fabricating a rigged “high-capacity transit” plan aimed at fulfilling the needs of private developers and pushing Austin’s center of gravity away from the core city and further eastward. (See: City Council to Central Austin: Drop Dead.)

In contrast, the Northfield resolution focuses squarely on the clear and obvious public transportation priority for the city, affirming that

…the Northfield Neighborhood Association believes that any first investment in light rail must serve as an expandable backbone of rapid transit, and such an alignment is most suited along North Lamar Blvd. and Guadalupe Street and terminated at or near the North Lamar Transit Center; [and]

…the Northfield Neighborhood Association supports a phase one locally preferred alternative to include light rail service that connects the densely populated and diverse communities of North Central Austin to the cultural, residential, and employment centers of the University of Texas, the Capitol Complex, and Downtown Austin….

This strong endorsement of central Austin’s top-priority local travel corridor as a potential urban rail starter line, provided by another of Austin’s most important central-neighborhood associations, has political implications that should send a pointed message to local officials and decisionmakers. As Scott Morris — head of the Central Austin Community Development Corporation and leader of the Our Rail coalition — has observed, this action by Northfield “is a major milestone.”

Not only is Northfield “a dual-alignment neighborhood” (i.e., served both by North Lamar and the MetroRail Red Line), Morris points out, but the association’s constituency “have had tremendous exposure to the Red Line operations, and have participated directly in the Airport Corridor Initiative.”

Of particular significance, Morris notes, is that the resolution action “came weeks after council action” — emphasizing that, despite the pretense of planning “derived from the Project Connect process”, the momentum in favor of Guadalupe-North Lamar “is not going away.” With Northfield’s formal support through its resolution endorsing the G-L corridor, Morris emphasizes, “it is now possible to walk from MLK to 183 by only passing through communities that support rail on Guadalupe-North Lamar.”

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University Area Partners’ endorsement of Guadalupe-Lamar corridor underscores West Campus support for “backbone” urban rail

13 January 2014
West Campus neighborhood, primarily represented by University Area Partners. Map: The Galileo, rev. by ARN.

West Campus neighborhood, primarily represented by University Area Partners. Map: The Galileo, rev. by ARN.

Back in November, in the midst of all the uproar over problems with Project Connect’s “Central Corridor” study and forthcoming route “recommendation”, this blog missed reporting that yet another major neighborhood association had jumped on board the effort to designate the Guadalupe-Lamar (G-L) corridor as the preferred starter-line route for urban rail (light rail transit).

On Nov. 12th, the University Area Partners (UAP) neighborhood association voted to express its belief “that any first investment in light rail must serve as an expandable backbone of rapid transit, and such an alignment is most suited along North Lamar Blvd. and Guadalupe Street and terminated at or near the North Lamar Transit Center ….”

The University Area Partners is a neighborhood organization representing business, institutions, and property owners in the University of Texas area, encompassing most of West Campus, UT-Austin, and The Drag area.

According to UAP member John Lawler, reasons the UAP board decided to support the G-L alignment include:

• Prioritizing urban rail along the G/L corridor would better serve the steadily growing and already dense West Campus neighborhood
• UAP wants to support the UT Student Government position, as students are the primary residents in the area
• CANPAC, the planning area UAP is an original member of, has endorsed the plan
• BRT is not a solution for the Drag’s traffic congestion and the neighborhood has repeatedly encouraged rail development for the past several decades

The endorsement of this influential neighborhood organization is especially important because, in terms of residential density, the West Campus ranks as the third or fourth-highest neighborhood among major Texas cities.

Yet, while Project Connect’s recent “Central Corridor” study used the metrics of Guadalupe and the West Campus area in its justification and analysis, its proposed “sub-corridor” configuration would effectively bypass this crucial area, instead planning an alignment on San Jacinto, one-half to three-quarters of a mile east of the Drag and West Campus neighborhood.

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Crestview Neighborhood Association endorses Guadalupe-Lamar for urban rail

20 November 2013
Crestview Neighborhood Association's eastern boundary lies along North Lamar Blvd. Map: CNA.

Crestview Neighborhood Association’s eastern boundary lies along North Lamar Blvd. Map: CNA.

Still another major neighborhood association has jumped on board the effort to designate the Guadalupe-Lamar (G-L) corridor as its preferred route for urban rail (light rail transit).

On Nov. 12th, the Crestview Neighborhood Association (CNA) voted to express its belief “that any first investment in light rail must serve as an expandable backbone of rapid transit, and such an alignment is most suited along North Lamar Blvd. and Guadalupe Street and terminated at or near the North Lamar Transit Center ….”

As indicated in the map at the top of this post, Crestview is a basically rectangular neighborhood bordered on the east by North Lamar Blvd., west by Burnet Rd., north by Anderson Lane, and south by Justin Lane. Encompassing the Crestview MetroRail station near Airport Blvd., the neighborhood touches the intersection of Lamar and U.S. 183 at its northeast corner, near the North Lamar Transit Center.

Like other neighborhoods in the corridor, the Crestview Neighborhood Association in its resolution underscores its participation in and ratification of the intensive planning for light rail that has already occurred in the corridor. In particular, the resolution notes that Crestview was “a signatory of the Crestview-Wooten Combined Neighborhood Plan, City of Austin Ordinance 040513-30, in which Crestview residents took part in extensive light rail planning for specific alignment and station placement along North Lamar Blvd. up to the North Lamar Transit Center and providing for light-rail to commuter rail transfers at Crestview station …

It goes on to point out that “several other neighborhood plans have planned light rail along the Guadalupe-North Lamar corridor such as the Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan, City of Austin Ordinance 040826-56, Brentwood-Highland Combined Neighborhood Plan, City of Austin Ordinance 040513-30, Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan, City of Austin Ordinance 000413-63, and the North Loop Neighborhood Plan, City of Austin Ordinance 020523-30 ….”

Furthermore, “… the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, City of Austin Ordinance 20120614-058 incorporates the aforementioned existing neighborhood plans and designates North Lamar Blvd and Guadalupe Street as High Capacity Transit Corridors in its Growth Concept Map .…”

In addition to the previously noted endorsement of light rail as “an expandable backbone of rapid transit”, the Crestview measure also affirmed that the neighborhood association “supports a phase one locally preferred alternative to include light rail service that connects the densely populated and diverse communities of North Central Austin to the cultural, residential, and employment centers of the University of Texas, the Capitol Complex, and Downtown Austin ….”

Image of Crestview Neighborhood Association resolution supporting urban rail in Guadalupe-Lamar corridor.

Image of Crestview Neighborhood Association resolution supporting urban rail in Guadalupe-Lamar corridor (click to enlarge).

The full resolution in PDF format can be accessed here:

Crestview Neighborhood Association — Resolution in Support of Light Rail on North Lamar Boulevard

The Crestview endorsement is an especially noteworthy action because many Crestview residents had generally weighed in as opponents of light rail during both the initial presentation of a Guadalupe-Lamar urban rail plan in the early 1990s, and also during the campaign for a ballot measure to authorize a light rail system that narrowly failed in 2000. This new emergence of strong support is an indicator of the powerful community momentum for an urban rail alignment that has been building among neighborhoods in this corridor.

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Highland Neighborhood Association endorses Guadalupe-Lamar for urban rail

15 November 2013
Highland Neighborhood Association bundaries. Map: HNA.

Highland Neighborhood Association bundaries. Map: HNA.

On November 4th, the effort to designate the Guadalupe-Lamar (G-L) corridor as the preferred route for urban rail (light rail transit, LRT) received yet another powerful surge of support with the endorsement of the Highland Neighborhood Association (HNA). As the map at top shows, the western boundary of the Highland Neighborhood is mostly North Lamar Boulevard and Midtown Commons; its northern boundary is U.S. 183; and its southern boundary includes both Denson Drive and a segment of Airport Boulevard encompassing the Highland campus of Austin Community College.

Highland is an important component of the ridership “watershed” for public transportation on the east side of North Lamar, and this would include the Guadalupe-Lamar (G-L) route proposed for urban rail (light rail transit). The Highland neighborhood should not be confused with Project Connect’s “Highland” sector (“sub-corridor”), which usurps the name but has only a very minimal geographical relationship.


1_ARN_Highland-NA-G-L-endorsement-p1

Images of HNA resolution endorsing Guadalupe-Lamar corridor for urban rail.

Images of HNA resolution endorsing Guadalupe-Lamar corridor for urban rail.


The HNA’s endorsement resolution includes a number of “whereas” clauses that spell out the case for endorsing the G-L corridor as the priority route for urban rail. For example, it states, “residents of the Highland Neighborhood are often deprived of access to the employment, cultural, and educational centers along the Guadalupe – North Lamar Corridor due to traffic congestion ….”

The resolution goes on to document the HNA’s legal and regulatory authority for taking its position on urban rail:

… the Highland Neighborhood Association is a signatory of the Brentwood-Highland Combined Neighborhood Plan, City of Austin Ordinance 040513-30, a planning area with a population of 11,738, in which Highland residents took part in extensive light rail planning for specific alignment and station placement along North Lamar Blvd. up to the North Lamar Transit Center and providing for light-rail to commuter rail transfers at Crestview station;

… several other neighborhood plans have planned light rail along the Guadalupe-North Lamar corridor such as the Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan, City of Austin Ordinance 040826-56, Crestview-Wooten Combined Neighborhood Plan, City of Austin Ordinance 040513-30, Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan, City of Austin Ordinance 000413-63, and the North Loop Neighborhood Plan,
City of Austin Ordinance 020523-30

… the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, City of Austin Ordinance 20120614-058 incorporates the aforementioned existing neighborhood plans and designates North Lamar Blvd and Guadalupe Street as High Capacity Transit Corridors in its Growth Concept Map …

HNA presents as its justification for officially endorsing Guadalupe-Lamar “a poll taken of Highland residents on the HNA website on September 22…” posing the question, “Should Urban Rail hit the Guadalupe-Lamar corridor or Mueller?” The resolution notes that the results were “a 97% response for Guadalupe Lamar and 3% for Mueller ….”

With this background of procedural and factual substantiation, the HNA board comes down irmly on the side of a “first investment in light rail” that “must serve as an expandable backbone of rapid transit”, which means “an alignment is most suited along North Lamar Blvd. and Guadalupe Street” with a northern terminus “terminated at or near the North Lamar Transit Center….” This, the resolution makes clear, definitely means “a phase one locally preferred alternative” with light rail service connecting “the densely populated and diverse communities of North Central Austin to the cultural, residential, and employment centers of the University of Texas, the Capitol Complex, and Downtown Austin”:

BE IT RESOLVED, the Highland Neighborhood Association believes that any first investment in light rail must serve as an expandable backbone of rapid transit, and such an alignment is most suited along North Lamar Blvd. and Guadalupe Street and terminated at or near the North Lamar Transit Center; and,

BE IT RESOLVED, the Highland Neighborhood Association supports a phase one locally preferred alternative to include light rail service that connects the densely populated and diverse communities of North Central Austin to the cultural, residential, and employment centers of the University of Texas, the Capitol Complex, and Downtown Austin; and,

BE IT RESOLVED, the Highland Neighborhood Association supports light rail planning to utilize the area under elevated 183 for transit purposes including and not limited to the maintenance of a park and ride, and to stimulate Transit Oriented Development along its service roads.

This extremely significant endorsement of central Austin’s most important potential corridor for urban rail by one of the city’s most important neighborhood associations also has political implications that hopefully will not go unnoticed by local officials and decisionmakers.

The full resolution can be found here:

Highland Neighborhood Association Resolution in Support of Light Rail on North Lamar Boulevard

Related endorsements:

Central Austin Combined Neighborhoods Planning Team endorses Guadalupe-Lamar for urban rail

UT Student Government backs West Campus, Guadalupe-Lamar route for first phase of urban rail

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Central Austin Combined Neighborhoods Planning Team endorses Guadalupe-Lamar for urban rail

3 November 2013
Central Austin Combined Planning Area. Map: CANPAC.

Central Austin Combined Planning Area. Map: CANPAC.

On October 21st, the effort to designate the Guadalupe-Lamar (G-L) corridor as the preferred route for urban rail (light rail transit, LRT) received a powerful boost with the endorsement of the Central Austin Combined Neighborhoods Planning Team (known as CANPAC), designated by the City of Austin to serve as the official neighborhood plan contact team for the Central Austin Combined Planning Area, involving seven major neighborhood associations:

  • West University Neighborhood Association
  • Hancock Neighborhood Association
  • Eastwoods Neighborhood Association
  • North University Neighborhood Association
  • Shoal Crest Neighborhood Association
  • Heritage Neighborhood Association
  • University Area Partners

These neighborhood associations are among the longest-established and most influential in the city.

The endorsement also emphasized that, unlike the G-L corridor, Red River St. — a link in the proposed semi-official route between downtown and the Mueller redevelopment site — lacks the projected future density necessary to adequately support light rail service. In contrast, density is considerably higher along the Guadalupe-Lamar corridor, especially in the West Campus neighborhood, which ranks variously as either the third or fourth-highest density residential area of major Texas cities.

CANPAC also notes that it is commissioned both by City ordinance and its own bylaws to implement Ordinance No. 040826-56, the Central Austin Combined Plan.

As CANPAC reported in an October 29th memo to Austin Mayor Lee Leffinwell, on October 21st the Central Austin Neighborhood Plan Advisory Committee passed the following resolution:

The Plan Team for the Central Austin Combined Neighborhoods Planning Area (CANPAC) has reviewed the two routes under consideration for the proposed light rail system through Central Austin, both of which pass through our combined planning area. We urge that placement of the routes be made where density already exists, along the Guadalupe-Lamar Corridor, as stated in our 2004 Central Austin Combined Neighborhoods Plan, and not along Red River, which is a residential area not projected for future density adequate to support light rail.

Image of memo conveying G-L endorsement from CANPAC to Austin Mayor Leffingwell.

Image of memo conveying G-L endorsement from CANPAC to Austin Mayor Leffingwell.

This is an extremely important endorsement of central Austin’s most important potential corridor for urban rail, and G-L supporters are strongly urged to convey news of this and other major endorsements to the Austin City Council and other important political and civic leaders.

Related endorsement: UT Student Government backs West Campus, Guadalupe-Lamar route for first phase of urban rail