Have you noticed that when you force yourself to close your computer and leave your virtual life behind for real life, you encounter traffic problems that seem to be increasing at a surprisingly frenzied pace? Traffic and transportation are such headaches that they have become almost daily topics of conversation for Texans. For students, who will see a doubling of the state’s population as they reach their parents’ age, this trend should be especially unsettling. Increasing development, a growing population and deteriorating roads insure that unless we take action now, our problems will continue to worsen. However, there are three ways for students to do something meaningful about the congestion that plagues us.
For decades, funding for roads in Texas has been sorely lacking. The legislature has been reluctant to raise taxes of any kind and inflation has eaten away at a state gasoline tax that hasn’t been increased since 1991. The legislature made strides during the last two sessions to provide more funding for transportation and improve the quality of our roads. The last session approved a constitutional amendment that provides for a consistent source of money for roads and their maintenance, eliminating the need for each session of the legislature to appropriate these funds. The amendment, which will be on the ballot in November as Proposition 7, would redirect part of the general sales tax and motor vehicle sales tax to the State Highway Fund. Since turnout is traditionally low in constitutional amendment elections, and many voters don’t have the patience to read the entire ballot, it is important for every student to assess the transportation amendment (Prop. 7) .
Secondly, for students in the Austin-San Antonio area, a great opportunity could be just on the horizon. Lone Star Rail, a project that has already gained major political and financial support, would establish a passenger rail line from south San Antonio to Georgetown, north of Austin. This line would serve business and economic interests, retail establishments, tourist destinations and sports and entertainment venues, as well as almost 300,000 students on numerous college campuses. The opportunities this would provide citizens, including students, would be immense, and the reduction of traffic along I-35 from individuals choosing to take the train instead of the highway would be significant. For the millions of people living along the Austin-San Antonio Corridor, the benefits of implementing this passenger rail system are innumerable. It’s imperative that students voice their support for Lone Star Rail to their elected officials.
Your third option: go to your bedroom. Grab your pillow. Place it in the chair in front of your computer. Get comfortable. Now, work on improving your computer skills, because the only travel you’ll be doing is in the virtual world. Then take your pillow and put it back on your bed, because you will be dreaming if you think our transportation troubles will improve without widespread support for meaningful reforms.