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Austin Mayor Pushes Mass Transit Investment In State Of City Speech
Updated: Tuesday, February 25 2014, 06:15 PM CST
Mayor Lee Leffingwell's State of the City of Austin address on Tuesday gave a mix of good news and dark signs ahead.
Leffingwell applauded the unemployment rate. Right now it is at 4.7 percent. That's lower than the state average at 6.1 percent and national at 7 percent.
From 2009-2012, he Leffingwell says 11 economic incentive packages for companies like Apple and Facebook have created 8,000 new jobs, and more than $550 million in new investments in our community.
Leffingwell also commented on the new University of Texas medical school, saying it will change healthcare and the economy in Austin.
Lastly, the mayor talked about Austin's single greatest weakness -- Traffic.
A recent study shows a driver with a 30-minute commute will experience an estimated 83 hours in traffic delays during a year.
By the end of the week 490 new cars are expected on the road, by the end of the year 25,000 more.
He admits inaction in the past created this mess.
"For years, we did mostly just sit and watch as our population grew, and our traffic got worse," Leffingwell said.
He says this year there have been solutions like implementing MetroRapid. The new bus service launched with the help of $40 million in federal funds. It uses priority lanes and has the capability to delay signal light for several seconds, speeding up routes.
But Leffingwell believes the key for the city to move forward is "rail or fail."
"I think it's safe to say that the next recommendation for the first phase of an urban rail system through Central Austin. And that proposal with support of the council is likely to end up on the November ballot," Leffingwell said.
Some believe that would work.
"Obviously that would cut down on congestion, because there wouldn't be as many cars in the streets," one woman said.
"I think rail would be cool. It's convenient like in Houston," one man said.
Leffingwell wants to model it after cities like Denver, Seattle and San Diego which have invested more than $10 billion on rail transit.
This is the mayor's last State of the City speech. He confirmed he will not seek re-election in the new 10-1 system.
Leffingwell was first elected to the Austin City Council in 2005. He won re-election in 2008. He was elected Mayor in 2009 and subsequently re-elected to a second term on May 12, 2012.