Towards a more progressive mobility plan

The Urban Transportation Commission has adopted a number of recommendations for Council to consider when it takes up the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan next week. Here are some of my personal faves:

Highway expansions should come with dedicated transit lanes, or at least toll lanes that buses can travel in, ala the increasingly popular 980 MoPac North Express route from Round Rock, which travels in the express lane:

…state that it is the policy of the City of Austin that all highway improvements that correspond with the Commuter Transit Service should have access for buses that is separate from traffic (e.g. as part of an HOV lane, tolled
lane, etc.), that highway entrances and exits be configured to allow the smooth and efficient entrance and exit of Commuter Transit Service near stations, and that this is a top priority when dealing with regional and state transportation agencies.

The Transportation Department should not hesitate to dedicate street space to transit. It should be up to Council to STOP it from happening, rather than approve it:

…to give the city traffic engineer authority to initiate a process to dedicate lanes to transit whenever the lane dedication would substantially improve the efficiency of moving people through a corridor. The traffic engineer shall give notice to City Council on the proposed dedication and give Council 90 days to overrule the dedication, and may otherwise move forward with the dedication.

The city should plan for high-capacity transit on MORE than two corridors. The Lamar/Guad/SoCo and Red River/Riverside corridors that are initially targeted in Project Connect for dedicated pathways should be just the beginning of the development of a citywide HCT system. That means that the corridors Cap Metro has targeted for “bus rapid transit light” (not dedicated pathways but perhaps some transit priority lanes, traffic signal priority etc) should eventually be full-blown BRT operating in completely dedicated right-of-way:

State that it is city policy that the High Capacity Transit Network (Evolving) lines be transitioned to full dedicated-pathway status with high service-level Bus Rapid Transit by the completion of the ASMP term (2039). This policy should guide actions to identify opportunities both immediate (e.g. re-striping lanes downtown to be dedicated transit pathways) and longer-term (e.g. future bond issues or federal funding applications). Land use planning should also anticipate the future complete High Capacity Transit Network and plan transit-supportive development appropriate to a Bus Rapid Transit along the network corridors.

The city should plan for lots of new housing along transit corridors, particularly the corridors targeted for HCT or BRT lite in Project Connect.

Increase density not just on identified transit-friendly corridors but within 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 mile of those corridors to further shift mode choice away from single-occupancy vehicles; transition zones from corridor should reflect Imagine Austin and extend one to four blocks on either side of the corridor …

direct that all land use processes and decisions adopt minimum targets of transit-supportive densities along the High-Capacity Transit Network appropriate for the transit mode planned. Average densities for the lines should achieve a “High” rating for the immediate portion of the High-Capacity Transit Network and a “Medium-High” rating for the evolving portion of the network, and be based on the recommended density levels in the Puget Sound Transit-Supportive Densities and Land Uses study.

Reduce or eliminate parking requirements. One part of the resolution appears to call for a more ambitious blanket elimination, while a later amendment, perhaps acknowledging that is unrealistic politically, provides guidance on how staff should approach reducing parking: 

Eliminate parking minimums in all land use categories throughout the City, particularly in areas that are supported by high-frequency transit and/or identified as Imagine Austin Activity Corridors, as a means to achieving mode split and climate change goals…

Establish indicators and targets for the amount of parking per-capita within ½ mile of the High Capacity Transit Network and Transit Priority Network. Develop targets in cooperation with Capital Metro to advantage parking metrics in Federal Transit Administration grant applications.

Indeed, even if we don’t take stuff like density and parking seriously, the Federal Transit Administration most definitely does. And we need their money bad.

It will be interesting to see how Council reacts to these recommendations. Adler and Kitchen will likely be wary of some of the more ambitious language about taking away auto lanes. I wonder how the Pool, Alter and Tovo will be reluctant to embrace language on density. Both groups may be hesitant to endorse sharp reductions in parking minimums.

The Planning Commission will take up the ASMP again next week to consider the recommendations from the UTC. If it makes the same recommendations, hopefully Council will be unable to ignore them.

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