With Austinites heading to the polls next month to vote on Project Connect, Austin's urban rail initiative, discussions about public transportation are reaching a fevered pitch. An eighth grader named Ivan Specht has added another dimension to the conversation — a beautifully designed, Massimo Vignelli-inspired Austin subway dream map.
According to The Architecture League's Urban Omnibus blog, Specht, who has a penchant for design and mass transportation, originally created the map as a Father's Day gift for his Austin-based dad. Specht has since crafted maps for 11 other subway-less cities, including Marfa and San Antonio. T-shirts and posters with the artwork is available for $20-60 on Specht's website.
But with advocate group ATX Safer Streets posting the Austin version to Facebook on Wednesday, this dream map will undoubtedly begin to garner attention from Austinites hungry for new transportation options. But we've been through this before, most recently in 2011 when another piece of art depicting an Austin subway map went viral, this one by the Massachusetts-based creative agency Transit Authority Figures.
After the 2011 map went viral, news outlets around the city picked up the story. But it was KUT who crafted the most comprehensive piece, entitled, "Why can't Austin have this elaborate subway system" that detailed the reasons, well, why we can't have a subway system. Perhaps the most pivotal reason is that an underground subway system like the one Specht has created could cost upwards of $10 billion. It was a sobering realization and only magnified the frustration many Austinites felt about the city's transportation options.
But we have come a long way since 2011, partly because of innovation and partly because of catastrophic incidents that have catapulted our city's public transit — and culture — into the national spotlight.
November 4 is coming quickly, and with it a vote on Austin's Proposition 1. Instead of shaking our fists and wondering, "Why can't we have nice things like an underground subway?" we must instead look at the task at hand. For the first time since 2000, Austin voters are set to vote on a big budget urban rail and transportation package, also known as Proposition 1.
With a $1 billion price tag (and big money trying to sway voters), it's imperative that as voters we educate ourselves before heading to the polls. Though Proposition 1 has largely been overshadowed by the urban rail part of the package, the deal also includes major changes to area roads.
Considering the most recent polls have both opposition to and support for Proposition 1 in a virtual tie, it is anyone's guess if it will be approved. Will it be a repeat of the "rail fall" in 2000? Or has fourteen years of growth (and traffic) been enough to sway folks into voting yes? We'll have to wait until November to know those answers but, until then, let's all just enjoy Specht's piece for what it is — a beautiful piece of art.
Before we hit the polls next month, here are a few resources we have found helpful to help navigate Austin's Proposition 1:
Project Connect — Website detailing Proposition 1
Austin Monitor — Comprehensive coverage of City Council candidates and if they support Proposition 1
KUT — Urban rail coverage to date
Austin American-Statesman — Recent outline of area road projects connected to Proposition 1
Let's Go Austin — PAC for urban rail
Citizen's Against Rail Taxes — Anti-rail advocacy group