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Austin Approves Transit Tax

by Kevin Kirkpatrick, San Antonio, November 2020

 

Austin voters overwhelmingly approved a property tax increase to fund improvements to a $7 billion public transit plan. The new tax rate will be $0.5335 per $100 valuation, a sizeable increase from the 2019 rate of $0.4431.

 

With the passage of Proposition A, two new light rail lines, a new commuter rail line and a new bus rapid transit line will be built to run its own right-of-way so it doesn’t mix with traffic. A new downtown transit tunnel is also in the plan along with three new MetroRapid limited-stop bus routes, as well as more park-and-rides and neighborhood connectors.

 

The plan also includes $300 million in investments to prevent people from being forced out of their homes and neighborhoods by potential development sparked by new transit stops.

 

Leaders opted to use property taxes to fund the expansion because it allows a dedicated funding source, which is a key factor in getting federal funding.

 

The win was a victory for transit advocates, after voters rejected plans proposed in 2000 and 2014. This time, the ballot measure had wide support from city officials, the Chamber of Commerce, and environmental groups.

 

Proposition B also passed. It allows the city to borrow $460 million for a host of infrastructure improvements, including new sidewalks, bikeways and street repairs. Advocates and city officials saw the plan as complementary to Project Connect, as the improvements will help people get to the new transit stops more easily.