So which one came first?
I'm not here to answer that, but I will say this: eventually you have to choose which one is your lead dog...you can't go year after year thinking you can put hundreds of millions in federal dollars toward highway expansion and improvements and neglect your urban public infrastructure, or lack thereof, if you hope to be a city of the future.
This is what I'm thinking after reading in Community Impact that another $222 million will be going toward improvements of MoPac in Austin. As I stated on my Facebook profile, I'm all for highway expansion to reduce the traffic in and out of downtown each day for commuters (although it's been shown on occasion that it actually does the opposite by encouraging sprawl), but not at the detriment of people living closer to the city's center who are seeking affordable, reliable and sustainable public transportation systems that must be supported in order for Austin to properly facilitate the population growth we've experienced over the last decade and will continue in the coming one.
At some point, we have to stop being Texans and start being Austinites. We have to get rid of our oil-loving ways and big truck/SUV craze and replace it with something that brings more value to our city's environment, economy and essence. Driving 40 miles a day is just not sustainable. I know real estate prices are rising and living downtown isn't an option for everyone, but that should not be a reason to stifle the development of light rail, monorail, a cutting-edge bus or streetcar system. Hell, even the cab system in Austin is piss poor because people are so dependent on cars that we don't have enough cab drivers to support the vibrant nightlife here, especially during SXSW, ACL, and the other major events throughout the year.
Why is it that these highway improvements seem to take only months to get completed, but any effort to create a worthwhile urban public transit system takes years if not decades? Isn't Austin the home of SXSW? Isn't Austin the live music capital of the world? Isn't Austin weirder than the rest of Texas? Isn't Austin a city of creative thinkers, artists, creative ad designers, web developers and restaurant owners and chefs?
Why the hell are we not capable of using that same knack of innovation and entrepreneurship to foster a city with the best public transit system in America? Seattle and San Francisco have amazing bus systems. Washington, D.C., and Chicago have rail systems that rival those in Europe and Asia. Is geography and proximity to Dallas and Houston, the nation's two largest, over-driven, environmentally-latent cities, preventing us from being unique the way we are about everything else?