Kyle Keahey’s Golden Rail Memo

Kyle Keahey is a seasoned transit consultant charged with moving the urban rail process along.  Austinites for Urban Rail Action – a group I support – is hosting a chat with Mr. Keahey this Thursday.  I am sure attendees will ask questions during his remarks and informally afterwards on several topics related to process, technical matters, costs, etc.

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I am most curious about ‘the memo’. In previous conversations and public remarks, it appears that Mr. Keahey will be issuing some sort of analytical document as the process of selecting an initial urban rail sequence heads for a vote on a preferred alternative to the Austin City Council.  Some might see the memo as just another document, but to me it is a scorecard of sorts of what groups and what ideas have clout in the process, which in turn impacts what policymakers deem as ‘reasonable’ and ‘realistic’.  The goal is for the scorecard to reflect what’s actually happening on the field, so to speak.

Here are my key questions:

1. Is the memo going to make a recommendation for one specific route/alignment or instead layout the tradeoffs of different choices and let the policymakers exercise judgement on top of that recommendation? I prefer the latter.

2. There is a public input process associated with the Central Corridor that will discuss urban rail and specifically criteria for decision-making.  How will the memo incorporate the criteria?

3. Will he be present at all of the public input sessions or receive staff reports? I am indifferent on this one.  But it matters in terms of who citizens need to focus on to ensure what happens in meetings is translated accurately in the memo.

4. How is he thinking about MetroRapid and its impact on how he will discuss the alternatives? I agree that we don’t want redundant transit investments, but worry that MetroRapid will be considered as more than it is and that (more importantly) previously discussed funding timeline expectations are wildly optimistic.

My personal take is that asking questions like these doesn’t kill or delay rail; instead, it’s only by answering the obvious questions that we can get the votes to pass it.  The better job we do up front on process and clarifying the reasons behind the eventual choice, the easier it will be to persuade undecideds.

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