A nonprofit is forming to monitor the implementation of Austin's future transit system approved by voters last year.
Project Connect, a $7.1 billion transit plan, will massively transform Austin over the next 13 years by ushering in a new era train lines and bus hubs. Transit Forward, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that will officially launch Oct. 27, will be focused on ensuring the plan is implemented as promised to voters and that the transit system plan is equitable, sustainable and accessible, according to an announcement.
The new group will also focus on promoting and advancing transit-supportive policies in Austin, as well as educating the community throughout Project Connect's duration.
A robust transit system is a critical support for Austin's fast-growing economy because of the increased connectivity it can offer businesses, said Fang Fang, president and CEO of the Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce. Fang also stressed the importance of making transit accessible and equitable across the city.
"Transportation is the first catalyst to ... bring people together, bring businesses together, and therefore bring opportunities together," Fang said. "It's a critical tool to lessen our physical, social and financial divide."
Fang represents the area's minority chambers on the nonprofit's board. The minority chambers, under the Diversity and Ethnic Chamber Alliance, are the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Austin LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Austin Black Chamber and the Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce.
Patrick Rose, president of Corridor Title, will serve as chairman of the nonprofit's board, according to an announcement.
Project Connect comprises a series of mass transit projects scheduled over the next several years in Austin, including more train lines and a downtown subway tunnel. Preliminary engineering, design and procurement work for the Orange and Blue light rail lines — which will connect far-reaching points of the city — will take about three or four years. Building and commissioning the lines will take another four or five years.
In November 2020, voters also approved $300 million in anti-displacement funds to prioritize affordable housing and anti-displacement efforts during Project Connect's 13-year timeline. The funds will come from tax revenue as part of the $7.1 billion transit plan.
This isn't the first time a group has formed to back the project. Prior to the election, Project Connect garnered the support of nonprofit advocacy group Transit for Austin, which included prominent business groups such as Downtown Austin Alliance, Real Estate Council of Austin, Austin Tech Alliance and Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.
Transit Forward is still finalizing its board, but a spokesperson said seats are already held by: