I sent the following note to all Council Members earlier today.
“Dear Council Members,
As of this morning, Project Connect has not publicly released the methodology or source data for the ridership and cost estimates behind its LPA recommendation.
These have been repeatedly requested by many advocates, including myself.
The failure to provide this data makes it essentially impossible to have a meaningful dialogue with your offices, the media, and organized groups.
Project Connect’s proposed decision-making schedule has Council voting on a LPA a few weeks from now. Even if the data were to be released immediately, it leaves little time for civil society to comprehend and analyze before your decision.
Worse, it implies that Project Connect consultants and staff have left no room to iterate in the event that methodological or data quality issues are raised. This is a repeat of the failures of Phase 1 – there was no willingness to hear or act on concerns about the underlying models because of the desire to meet deadlines.
A lack of rigor around forecasting estimates can lead to sub-optimal infrastructure decisions (e.g WTP4).
Perhaps Project Connect will eventually release this information; it doesn’t really matter for my personal participation. At this point, the lack of timeliness has irreparably harmed my ability to effectively participate.
But I do hope that Council will add a much-needed layer of quantitative rigor as the process moves on from CCAG.
Ask yourselves this: where’s the evidence that the population growth, ridership, and cost models presented to you actually accurately forecast those outcomes in the past?
The wisdom of this investment ultimately depends on the established validity of those estimates and yet we know even less about the core projections at the conclusion of Phase 2 than we did at the end of Phase 1.”
– End of Letter –
To provide some context for blog readers about this letter, here’s a reminder of a main concern from the end of Phase 1: very high population growth projections for the Highland ‘sub-corridor’.
Basically, Project Connect’s modeling spits out that Highland (which is already fairly developed at 6,000 folks per square mile) would grow at a blistering 3.6% rate consecutively for 20 years(!). Austin’s long-term growth rates are getting smaller as the City becomes larger; and obviously, much of the growth is in the periphery of the City where land development is much easier. The residential growth contributed by the Highland Mall redevelopment (a.k.a the ‘RedLeaf’ project) will only be about 1,200 units or about 3,000 of the 12,000 in population that area would need to grow to meet the projection. And who knows when that will be fully completed. Regardless, there’s obviously not 3 other parcels like Highland Mall in the two square miles of developable land available in the Highland sub-corridor.