TEXpress 2020

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Self-driving Mass Transit using Alternative Energy

Today there are no comprehensive mass transit systems in Texas. Instead, we rely heavily on roads and highways, not subways, buses or trains. With 28 million Texans doubling to 50+ million by 2050, our commutes will get longer, more dangerous, more environmentally harmful, and more frustrating. Ask anyone who drives on I-45, 610, I-10, or I-35  daily.

There are, however, some encouraging, albeit limited, signs on the horizon for a better infrastructure. For example, the High Speed Rail between Houston and Dallas, paid for 100% with private dollars (and ideally without bond guarantees from the state), will alleviate some pressure. That said, it’s a fixed point-to-point solution, and it won’t help the unconnected areas of the state.

Texas’ traditional highway expansion has limited access to funding due to Gov Abbott not accepting Medicaid’s $6 billion per year. The loss of these funds places a huge burden on every single line item of the already-constrained state budget. In fact, our 2019 state budget starts negative. By billions. Regardless, we will need new roads and highways built. Toll roads may be the only option. If so, I’ll fight to make sure toll roads are publicly owned, and when the bonds have been paid, the tolls go away.

Texas is too big for small thinking

Let’s lead the nation, not follow it.
Here’s my vision for the long-term transportation needs of Texas:

TEXpress 2020

Let’s bypass traditional mass transit solutions and create the next one. With TEXpress 2020, Texas will develop a mass transit system using a vast network of on-demand, self-driving passenger vehicles. The system will aggregate rider demand and determine the most efficient routes for pick-up and delivery. You may use it for a short trip, for a commute or for a longer run in between cities. It’ll be affordable, and it’ll give Uber a run for its money. Far more flexible than rail or bus lines, self-driving mass transit is within reach. But, we have to reach for it.

We will design the network using Texas higher education institutions, attract manufacturers to build the several thousand self-driving passenger vehicles in Texas and fuel this network using a hybrid engine that combines electric-powered batteries made in Texas with clean-burning compressed natural gas also from Texas.

Finance NEW transportation with investment from the OLD

Governor Abbott, and other extremists from the radical right, have ruined our state budget.   So we aren’t working from a point of strength, but we don’t have an option. We have to prepare for the future.

First, to the extent practical, we will use the increase in state revenues from the “Made in Texas” Oil Sign Policy to invest in the future of transportation. Second, we will invest $1 billion from the $10 billion Economic Stabilization Fund to jump start this venture. And, if need be, we will source additional investment in TEXpress 2020 through a public-private partnership by licensing the right to operate the transit system to key technology providers. We will require that each technology provider work with Texas higher education institutions, so Texas can hire “homegrown” engineering and software developers for this large-scale program. Our partner will, in turn, receive a user fee through a limited period of time to provide an appropriate return on their investment.

There is a reason Uber is worth billions. If we get this right, ridership fees from a statewide mass transit network could be a substantial revenue item for the future state budget. Imagine: we fix our mass transit problem and create a new revenue source to fund future state initiatives. This is what leadership looks like.

My plan for Self-driving Mass Transit using Alternative Energy is just one example of how, as governor, we will create a million new jobs in the next five years.

Texas is too big for small thinking.