Transportation options discussed at June 4 Engage Breakfast

Transportation issues including traffic and congestion are concerns most Austin residents deal with on a daily basis. At the June 4 Engage Breakfast, the last of the 2012–13 season, panelists looked at various options to help alleviate the city's traffic problems.

Movability Austin Executive Director Glenn Gadbois said looking at traffic as a system to get people from point A to point B in which most people drive alone is no longer a viable option to address growing transportation needs. Movability Austin is a transportation management association that helps coordinate mobility programs and services

"What I want to suggest is that there are some trends coming that are going to require us to think about things radically differently and measure things differently," Gadbois said.

Other panelists at the Engage Breakfast included Linda Watson, president and CEO of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and Mario Espinoza, deputy executive director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

Leadership Austin, a nonprofit focused on building community leadership, organized the breakfast.

Watson agreed that the Central Texas region has some big challenges in addressing the traffic needs for a growing population.

"Our road system is failing," Watson said. "We can still squeeze some capacity out of our roadway system, and we are doing that and will do that. That's very important. But it also requires some additional tools in our tool box and options for us to be able to address the situation."

Watson mentioned a few programs that Capital Metro is looking into, including a regional system plan that will highlight multiple projects to bolster the appeal of mass transit and the MetroRapid system of high-capacity buses, as examples of alternative ways to address moving people.

"I think [MetroRapid] is a higher level of service that this community will really embrace and enjoy, and I'm going to be really pleased to unveil that to this community early next year," Watson said.

Espinoza said although other forms of transportation are essential to solving congestion problems, the Mobility Authority has been focusing on roadways, saying the thoroughfares are one of the region's biggest needs.

"Obviously, that is our biggest need today, to get cars moving a little quicker, to get folks to where they need to go a lot quicker than they are today," Espinoza said.

Espinoza mentioned projects including Toll 183A, the Manor Expressway and the MoPac Improvement Project, which will add one express lane each way from Lady Bird Lake to Parmer Lane, to indicate how the Mobility Authority is trying to tackle transportation issues.

An audience member at the breakfast asked how realistic the gondola system is for public transportation, but Watson said she believed that "for public transit, it's probably not something that's going to take off."

Gadbois challenged the audience to use an alternative mode of transportation in the next week so those options become more popular and viable.

Next year's Engage Breakfast Series begins in October.