Austin Has A Connectivity Problem

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Will Ingman, Staff Writer

In the past, I lived a completely different kind of life. My school was in the heart of downtown, and my morning commute was nearly 30 minutes. Transitioning to Lanier, I began to see less and less of downtown Austin.

Much more recently, I’ve taken a position within a student social justice group, and our meetings have all been held in cafes downtown. While I’m down there, I feel separated from what Austin means to me. It’s led me to a potentially worrying conclusion.


For a city of its size, Austin has a major connectivity problem. Each neighborhood (Westlake,  North Austin, etc) feels like its own city despite being fewer than fifteen minutes apart. People in North Austin have never heard of Valentina’s BBQ, and people in South Austin have never heard of Stiles Switch (don’t ask why all of my landmarks are barbeque joints).

Now, I travel a fair amount, and this phenomenon doesn’t exist in many cities I’ve been to. Boston, Massachusetts, for example, has fantastic public transport and so the city feels very connected. You can go from the Back Bay (south-Centralish) to Cambridge (North) in under an hour. The average night out will very likely consist of getting on and off a subway or bus. Austin, not counting all the suburbs we’ve enveloped, is about as big as Boston is.

Moreover, the various sectors of Austin have a history of racial and economic segregation. Highways carved up the city into quadrants, and each one was delegated for a certain race. While the effects aren’t as observable now, the cultural barrier still exists. West Austin is still predominantly white, South Austin is predominantly poor.

So, to compensate for this separation, I suggest you visit different parts of the city sometimes. Visit the new Central Public Library or Waterloo Records. Watch the sun set in Westlake. Eat some weird French cuisine at Justine’s in East Austin. Experience all of the city, not just our little corner of it. I promise you won’t regret it (although your wallet might).