Austin Access Limits

I agree with this article highlighting the vibrancy of downtown Austin. However, Austin has much to learn from other cities about developing sophisticated mass transit systems. The downtown experience doesn’t mean much when there is limited accessibility for most Austin metro residents.

The organic growth of downtown Austin continues to attract workers who prefer city living. Tourists flock to downtown as soon as they arrive. The suburbs are a bit disconnected compared to other global cities. It’s a solid thirty minutes by car (including parking time). During peak traffic, it takes an hour to get downtown by car. The other cities highlighted in the same survey connect to their suburbs more easily. The drives might be longer, but trains save the kind of commutes one has to make often in Austin.

The urban rail system here is like a toy train compared to other major metros. It doesn’t connect to the airport or UT-Austin. Some major suburbs like Leander don’t seem to want it. It will take decades for Austin to build out its light rail system. Comparable cities like Portland, Denver, and Phoenix have better rail systems.

I know many people exploring Austin as a relocation possibility. If you depend on mass transit to get downtown for work or pleasure, seek homes near downtown. There are many real estate agents suggesting living over 30 minutes away from downtown. With limited rail options, it’s unlikely families will make frequent commutes to downtown like they could from the suburbs of Atlanta, London, NYC, or the San Francisco Bay Area. If downtown Austin is not the main attraction, I recommend self-contained suburbs like Round Rock, Lakeway, Georgetown, or Westlake. Austin will measure up eventually if the rail system gets built successfully.

Austonia article