Austinites could soon earn incentives for riding public transit


City council will weigh funding options in the next couple of months.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In an ongoing effort to get cars off Austin’s roads and highways, the city could soon offer more incentives to those who take public transit.

Austin’s Transportation Department recently delivered a series of recommended pilot programs to the Mobility Committee.

City council will weigh these options as part of negotiations for next year’s budget.

One of the incentivized options would reduce the cost to riders by offering a “bundle” of transportation options, like taking a bus, e-bike and e-scooter, and ride-sharing.

“Everyone has different means of getting to and from work, so it’s not always the same,” said Tien-Tien Chan with the Austin Transportation Department. “They want choice.”

Another recommendation was to offer a discount on Austin Energy bills for those who leave their car at home.

Chan says she hopes councilmembers will find funding for at least one or two of the recommendations.

She says incentivizing riders like this is more of a short-term solution while the city adopts its Strategic Mobility Plan.

Many Austinites feel they’re still too far from a bus or train station.

“The best incentive is to have easily accessible public transportation,” said Greg Vargas, who commutes to work by train every day.

Another option, favored by Transportation Director Robert Spillar, would be to increase paid parking fees downtown and other areas.

Chan says it’s unclear whether that will happen or how much the price would go up.

She says the city has traditionally undervalued the true cost of parking, compared to other alternatives, saying: “One of the ways we look at these incentive strategies is to reveal the true cost of driving to the user.”

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