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Opinion: $25 billion for Austin transit projects: Good business and good for business.

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Austin has an opportunity that almost no other city in the nation has right now. There are about $25 billion of planned infrastructure and mobility projects, including Project Connect, the airport expansion, I-35 reconstruction and more. Infrastructure is no longer a component to other economic sectors in Austin, but its own sector worthy of growing. We must prioritize for these projects as they will improve mobility and address workforce development, affordability and more. This is good business and good for business.

One of the most impactful ways to improve mobility is investing in light rail, which is part of Project Connect. Light rail will bean affordable, greener and more efficient way for many people to get to and from work safely and quickly and to connect with the places they need and want to visit. It will also have an impact on other transportation modes as transit users will no longer be in cars, meaning less congestion on our roads. 

It’s estimated Austin Light Rail will generate roughly 180,000 jobs for Central Texas. These include direct, good-paying careers with benefits. Jobs like the engineers who will design the lines, the crews who will build them, and the professionals who will operate the trains and buses. It also includes indirect jobs created as more housing, offices, healthcare sites, hospitality and entertainment are developed around transit stations and plazas. Other cities around the world and the U.S. have seen that when new housing is built near transit stops, the number of people walking to restaurants, retail and services increases exponentially, creating new opportunities for residents, workers and business owners.  Businesses want to be near transit.

In Phoenix, an overwhelming majority of new businesses chose to locate along the rail line. In Dallas, more than 42,000 jobs were created by the development of single- family, multi-family, retail, and office properties along the rail lines. Salt Lake County saw a total annual impact on its economy of roughly 2,800 jobs created, $136 million in income generated, and over $410 million done in business sales annually. 

Perhaps most importantly, new train and bus lines increase affordability in our city by allowing more workers to give up the expense of a car while still being able to get to their jobs, school, and medical appointments in a timely and efficient manner. 

Prioritizing transit and infrastructure projects will help Austin continue to successfully recruit new businesses and jobs to our region. Public transportation solutions can help maintain the competitiveness of our city by accommodating the housing, lifestyle and cultural preferences of our growing younger workforce. A recent survey by the American Public Transportation Association found that a large subset of the young workforce is attracted to areas with high-quality public transportation services. It’s estimated that by 2045, implementation of new transit systems in Austin will create $19.9 billion in additional business sales and $8.7 billion in additional wages.

We encourage the Austin business community to continue supporting all of these transit and infrastructure projects. Investing time and energy now will pay dividends not just for the business community, but for all who call Austin home or visit our city.

Stern is the executive director of Movability, the Transportation Management Association of Central Texas working to address traffic congestion and air quality to protect the economic vitality of the region.

McCamley is the executive director of Transit Forward.

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