Answering your questions about Project Connect

We attended the recently revived Issues & Eggs series with the Downtown Austin Alliance and Austin Transit Partnership to learn about what’s going on with Project Connect.

A rendering of the station intersecting Guadalupe Street at Republic Square.

A rendering of the station intersecting Guadalupe Street at Republic Square.

Rendering via Austin Transit Partnership

Table of Contents

Wakey wakey, eggs and bakey. It’s time for a Project Connect update.

We attended Issues & Eggs, a free, public city information and feedback session covering various subjects that took place throughout the 2000s and revived earlier this fall. This week’s meeting covered the expansive, multi-year public transit effort. Here are a few questions we can answer.

What is a light rail?

Unlike Austin’s existing Red Line, which runs on train tracks throughout the city, light rail tracks can run along existing streets, flush with the pavement. The system is entirely electric and serves stops spaced about a half-mile to a mile apart.

Why is Project Connect taking so long?

A graphic of the new Project Connect rail

Phase one of Project Connect’s light rail plan will add almost 10 miles of light rail and 15 new stations.

Graphic courtesy Austin Transit Partnership

A few key efforts are simultaneously in the works during the rail’s design process: completing an environmental study, pursuing federal funding, and securing feedback to create a design that will meet the needs of the average rider.

The next few years of the process will focus on conceptual and preliminary design. Once that is completed, engineering plans will be finalized.

What factors are considered during the design process?

Aside from preserving and incorporating local ecology, officials from the Austin Transit Partnership consider:

  • Mobility patterns of residents
  • Existing infrastructure or lack thereof
  • Safety
  • Comfort levels on trains
  • Connection to communities
  • Proximity to work and school opportunities
  • Different abilities of residents.

How does the Austin Transit Partnership collect data?

ATP collects data through designated feedback sessions, but it also interviews people of all ages, abilities, and lifestyles. ATP has also been working on studying transit habits through the use of biometric eye sensors and heart rate monitors to better understand user experience.

Which other cities and transit systems does ATP look to when designing Project Connect?

A light rail train near an airport terminal in Portland, Oregon.

The MAX Light Rail in Portland, Oregon is inspiration for the future of Project Connect.

Photo by Port of Portland

While ATP says no transit systems are perfect, the goal for Project Connect is to mimic aspects of the Paris Metro — seamlessly integrating the light rail without disrupting Austin’s culture. ATP also keeps a close eye on public transportation systems in Minneapolis, Denver, Phoenix, Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Portland.

As for vibes, Executive Vice President of Architecture and Urban Design Peter Mullan said he hopes the completed rail will “make Austin feel smaller” by making getting around town a breeze.

How can I provide feedback during the process?

If you have thoughts on the future of Austin’s public transportation, now is the time to make them heard. Here are a few ways you can voice your opinions:

Want to learn more about Project Connect? Click here.