An expanded and improved metro system is coming to Austin. Today, the Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) announced the team of architects and planners bringing transportation infrastructure to the Texan city, which has seen significant growth in recent decades and is in need of a network that can provide transit access to even more residents and reduce a reliance on cars.
ATP, an independent organization started by the City and Capital Metro Transportation Authority in December 2020, is overseeing the finance and development of Project Connect. The organization has announced it will work with local architecture and planning firms HKS, UNStudio, and urban strategy and design firm Gehl to realize the project.
“We are thrilled to work with this visionary, interdisciplinary design team,” said ATP Executive Vice President for Architecture and Urban Design Peter Mullan in a statement. “The design team brings both broad international expertise delivering transit and public realm projects at the highest level of design and an acute sensitivity to Austin’s specific culture and heritage. Project Connect gives us the opportunity to stitch our community together more closely and to adapt our core values to our continued growth and our increasingly urban future. To deliver on that promise, we need to bring a human-centered approach to the center of our design process, and this team brings that focus to our collective work.”
Project Connect was approved by voters in November 2020. Among its anticipated initiatives are light rail systems and expanded bus routes that will present “a technologically advanced, human-centric transit experience true to Austin’s culture and landscape.”
The expanded routes would extend service to the airport, add an underground light rail system downtown, and create transfer and connection points between existing and new transit lines within the network. Other improvements include priority bus lanes, signal upgrades, new and remodeled stations and stops, new pick-up locations, and more park and ride locations.
With architects and planners now engaged, design research and visioning on the project can begin. An improved transportation network across the city from its bustling downtown to its suburban peripheries will improve commutes and errand runs for residents while also providing equitable access to health care facilities, schools, and leisure destinations and eliminating a reliance on car use.
An investment in the project totaling $300 million will be used to prevent the displacement of residents in areas and neighborhoods affected by the new development. Dollars from this sum will be put toward the construction of affordable housing.
“We are humbled by this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to demonstrate people-first design that prioritizes equity, well-being and resilience as we design stations for the future light rail program,” added HKS Principal and Austin Office Director Chi Lee. “Project Connect will transform Austin by making more neighborhoods accessible and affordable while promoting sustainable growth and development.”
In the coming weeks, ATP and the design team will continue to host community engagement sessions where residents can weigh in on their transit needs and vision for the network. ATP said it plans to reveal an updated light rail implementation plan for the project this spring.