I-35 is one of Austin’s biggest physical and safety barriers to bicycling and walking and encourages auto-dependency, as well as being a quality of life and environmental nightmare. And yet, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) wants to worsen the problem by widening I-35 from 12 to 20+ lanes, even though highway expansions only encourage more driving until congestion gets as bad or worse than before.
The community alternatives for I-35 through Austin – including Reconnect Austin, Rethink35, and the Urban Land Institute’s cap and stitch – offer real solutions, including big walking and bicycle upgrades, and should receive full transportation, economic, environmental, quality of life, and equity reviews.
Walk Austin has just released its AARP grant wrap up report, summarizing Walk Austin’s work from August to December promoting and documenting the Healthy Streets program. In addition, Walk Austin has created a special website to host the report and other information.
In April 2020, at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Walk Austin led a coalition of organizations urging the City of Austin to create Healthy Streets to allow people to get safe, socially-distanced exercise close to home without needing to travel across town or crowding in public parks. The program launched in May with an initial batch of 3 locations and followed up in June with a second batch of 3 locations. The program uses temporary infrastructure, including barricades and barrels, to slow traffic and create a “soft closure” whereby walking, bicycling, and driving can more safely coexist.
Healthy Streets immediately proved popular citywide. Locations such as Avenue G in Hyde Park, Bouldin Dr in Bouldin neighborhood, and Belfast Drive in Windsor Park proved popular; other locations – particularly those characterized by wide streets, long blocks, and few houses – proved less successful. However, overall the program inspired tremendous public enthuasiasm as a vision of streets rebalanced for a wider range of uses than currently exists today.
Having secured an AARP to liaise with the Healthy Streets program from August to December 2020, Walk Austin documented people’s experiences out on the streets, advised on placemaking activities at the locations, and encouraged people to express their opinions about the program. As a result, when the City of Austin announced a wind down of the program, hundreds of community members were able to contact the City to express their support for continuing Healthy Streets.
While Healthy Streets is currently in limbo with some locations still in place but no recent news on future plans, Walk Austin is currently working on recommendations for a revival that will hopefully see a larger, more successful program that integrates the inspiring placemaking activities that passionate residents have undertaking at various locations. Look out for those recommendations soon.
Austin voters have approved Proposition B by 67%! Prop B will allocate $460 million for sidewalks, bikeways, urban trails, Vision Zero and Safe Routes to School programs, a new pedestrian-bicycle bridge near the Longhorn Dam, and more. This will be the single largest investment in active transportation in Austin’s history.
Walk Austin helped lead a large coalition of groups, including Bike Austin, Austin Outside, and many other groups, to promote and educate voters about Proposition B. Over 150 organizations and businesses publicly supported the campaign.
“This is a historic moment for Austin and a strong mandate from the public to move quickly and boldly with significant improvements to Austin’s active mobility infrastructure,” says Walk Austin Board President Adam Greenfield. “We look forward to working with the City of Austin, community groups, and other entities to making sure the Prop B funds are spent equitably and to have the best possible impact.”
The Prop B victory comes after a recent survey showed that 55% of Austinites would rather get around in a way other than driving.
Proposition A, which Walk Austin also endorsed, passed with a strong majority. 58% of voters approved the measure. Prop A will fund Project Connect, making major investments in public transportation.
This election season, by voting Yes on Proposition A (Project Connect) and Proposition B (Safe Mobility For All) Austin has the opportunity to take a big step forward toward a safer and more walkable, bikeable, and public transportation-friendly future. That’s why Walk Austin strongly endorses both propositions.
Proposition A would fund a citywide public transportation network, including 3 light rail lines to North, South and East Austin with a direct route to the airport (at last!); bus rapid transit lines; and anti-displacement funds to accompany these investments.
At a time when almost every other major city enjoys these services; rapid population growth threatens to dump more cars into Austin’s already congested road network; and, in an era of climate change, transportation will likely soon represent the large source of Austin’s carbon emissions, Prop A will finally deliver a mobility system that works.
Proposition B would allocate $460m to sidewalks, bikeways, urban trails, Vision Zero projects, Safe Routes to Schools, selected large capital projects including phase 1 of Congress Avenue improvements and a new pedestrian bridge near the Longhorn Dam, and overhauls of substandard roads in the Eastern Crescent. While not explicitly called out in ballot language, Prop B could also be used to sustain and grow a long term Healthy Streets program which has proved so popular in numerous communities across the city this year.
An even larger investment than the 2016 mobility bond, Prop B would dramatically improve walking, bicycling, and overall transportation safety in Austin and would make getting to Prop A’s transit system easier and safer.
Austin is finally on the verge of building out a safe, affordable multimodal transportation system that offers mobility choice to communities across the city. It’s time to embrace the huge potential of these investments.
Contact: Adam Greenfield, Walk Austin Board President, email@example.com
Walk Austin selected as a 2020 AARP Community Challenge Grantee
Grant will allow Walk Austin to build upon the City of Austin’s Healthy Streets program.
AUSTIN TX – Walk Austin is thrilled to announce that we have been selected to receive an AARP Community Challenge grant. Out of thousands of applications, we were one of only 184 selected from across the US. With this “quick-action” grant, Walk Austin will build upon the City of Austin’s Healthy Streets program, launched in May with considerable public excitement to allow safe exercise on neighborhood streets during the COVID-10 pandemic. The grant will allow Walk Austin to assist with the City’s Healthy Streets Block Captain program and to launch a Healthy Streets website that will feature educational resources and encourage participation in the program.
“We’re honored that AARP selected Walk Austin as a Community Challenge Grantee,” said Walk Austin Board President Adam Greenfield. “AARP is a nationwide leader on making neighborhoods, towns, and cities more livable for all residents and building on Austin’s Healthy Streets program couldn’t be a better fit for AARP’s goals and for helping to address the challenging historical moment in which we find ourselves.”
About the AARP Community Challenge
The Community Challenge funds innovative projects that inspire change in areas such as transportation, public spaces, housing, smart cities, civic engagement, coronavirus response, and more.
It’s all part of AARP’s nationwide work on livable communities, which supports the efforts of neighborhoods, towns, cities and counties across the country to become great places for all residents. AARP believes that communities should provide safe, walkable streets; affordable and accessible housing and transportation options; access to needed services; and opportunities for residents to participate in community life.
To learn more about the work being funded by the AARP Community Challenge across the nation – including all 184 granted projects this year, visit aarp.org/CommunityChallenge. View an interactive map of all Community Challenge projects and AARP’s livable communities work at aarp.org/livable.
We did it! After months of tireless advocacy by a large coalition, led by Austin Outside and including Walk Austin and Bike Austin, on August 13th Austin City Council voted to add a $460 million Safe Mobility Bond to the November 2020 Ballot as Proposition B. Thank you to the 3,200+ people who signed the petition and to the nearly 100 businesses and organizations who joined our coalition to push for Prop B.
If Prop B wins in November, it’ll transform Austin. Here’s what the $460m will get us:
$80m for sidewalks
$120m for urban trails and bikeways
$65m for safety improvements and Vision Zero
$20m for Safe Routes to School
$19m for transit enhancements
$102m for large capital projects
$30m for phase 1 of Congress Avenue improvements
$16m for the Longhorn Dam
$41m Barton Springs Road Bridge
$15m for South Pleasant Valley Corridor Multimodal Improvements
$53m for improvements to substandard streets
$1m for the Neighborhood Partnering Program
This investment would allow the city to construct and repair about 100 miles of sidewalks, reach the Bicycle Master Plan goal of 80% build out of the All Ages and Abilities safe and convenient bike lane network by 2025 (through the $80m in Urban Trails and $40m in bikeways), give comprehensive mobility safety with substantial funding for the Vision Zero safety program, fill sidewalk and bike network gaps along school routes, and advance mobility equity by making multimodal improvements to streets in the eastern crescent.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make Austin a world class city for safe walking, bicycling, and all other ways of getting around. By voting for Prop B, as well as Prop A (Project Connect), we’ll make leaps towards the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan’s (ASMP) goal of 50% of trips by 2039 being made in a way other than by driving alone. Through building out safe and comfortable sidewalks, shared/Healthy Streets, bikeways, and trails, we’ll double or triple the number of residents within a half-mile walk or a two-mile bike ride from a high-capacity transit stop.
Now it’s up to all of us to get out and vote yes for Proposition B! Look out for more soon about how you can help promote Prop B leading up to Election Day.
The survey reflects what we’ve all seen recently: Austin residents are walking and bicycling like never before and they want the City of Austin to invest heavily in sidewalks, bicycle lanes, Healthy Streets, and other infrastructure so they can keep getting around this way.
This data comes at a time when Walk Austin and over 80 businesses and organizations and more than 3,500 residents have joined forces to petition Austin City Council to put a $750 million Safe Mobility Bond on the November ballot to fund the next generation of walking, bicycling, and safe streets infrastructure.
Here are some key findings from the survey:
Nearly 55%of Austinites want to get around in a way other than a private car
That’s an increase of 5% from last year
Over 6%want to walk andover 8% want to bike
Walking and bicycling levels are currently at around 2% and 1% respectively
Almost 80%want more money spent on alternatives to cars
…because we can never build enough roads to solve our traffic problems
Almost 70%are walking more and 20% are bicycling more because of the pandemic
There can be no delay for a Safe Mobility Bond
Austin City Council must approve a $750m Safe Mobility Bond for the November ballot for several key reasons: Attendance this November is likely to be at a record high; funding from the 2016 Mobility Bond will run out in a few years; we need funding now to reach goals set in key City plans such as the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan; and, as we’ve seen above, the public is ready to support this funding.
Furthermore, evidence from previous elections supports our assertion that a Safe Mobility Bond will help a proposed Project Connect ballot item to fund public transportation. We need two separate ballot items to fully fund both measures.
Imagine an Austin where world-class sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and Healthy Streets are everywhere. It’s the most equitable and sustainable and it’s what the people want. Let your Austin City Council Member know that you support a $750m Safe Mobility Bond on this November’s ballot.
Healthy Streets (previously referred to as “Slow Streets”) will turn selected streets into pedestrian/bicycle-priority, while allowing local traffic, to enable safe exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it gets better: In its resolution, Austin City Council requested that Healthy Streets be considered for long term implementation after social distancing ends. The short and long term benefits of this decision could be profound.
This program needs a lot of public support to continue. In taking such a bold step, the City of Austin has bravely and justifiably broken away from decades of harmful regulations and cultural practices around using streets for more than driving, policies that held back communal quality of life for so long, especially during testing times like the present. Some people will attack this so please take the actions below to help protect and grow Healthy Streets.
Walk Austin successfully rallied over 30 organizations and more than 1,100 people through our petition, to urge the City to approve Healthy Streets. We thank you all for helping to make this historic step possible and we also strongly commend leadership from Council Member Paige Ellis, the Austin Transportation Department, and other City staff for making this victory possible.
What a moment. Let’s make sure every community gets to enjoy Healthy Streets.
Announcing the first batch of Healthy Streets
Bouldin Ave / S 3rd St / Garden Villa Ln (from Banister Ln to Barton Springs Rd)
Comal St (from Manor Rd to Lady Bird Lake)
Country Club Creek Trail extension (Trail, Wickersham Ln, Ventura Dr, Madera Dr) from Mabel Davis Park to Lakeshore Dr
If you visit these streets for exercise, please keep at least 6′ distance from others and take all other reasonable health-related precautions.
Contact: Adam Greenfield, Board President, Walk Austin Phone:512-883-5995 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Austin City Council takes historic vote to approve a “Healthy Streets” program
Program will prioritize safe walking, bicycling, and rolling on neighborhood streets, while still allowing local traffic, to address the the COVID-19 pandemic’s mental and physical health impacts
Walk Austin and over 30 supporting local organizations, together with over 1,000 community members, applaud the Austin City Council and especially resolution main sponsor Council Member Paige Ellis for taking a momentous step to address the strain upon the people of Austin caused by COVID-19. Following advocacy by a large coalition of organizations and members of the public spearheaded by Walk Austin, Council passed a resolution on May 8th directing the City Manager to create a Healthy Streets program (formerly referred to as “Slow Streets”) that prioritizes walking, bicycling, and rolling on certain neighborhood streets, while still allowing local traffic. This will allow residents to exercise safely while remaining six feet apart and avoid crowding in parks and on trails and sidewalks.
“During this unprecedented time, Austinites have to get creative to fill their need for exercise and fresh air. Many Austin residents do not live within walking distance of a park, and others report feeling unsafe by the influx of visitors in parks and on trails,” said Council Member Ellis.
Council has directed the City Manager to begin rolling out Healthy Streets within two weeks through “a simplified, streamlined, and cost-minimized process”, starting small with an initial batch of neighborhood streets and expanding steadily in the following period. Streets will be chosen through consultation with Council offices, City staff, and community members, the latter of whom can still submit location suggestions through Walk Austin’s Slow Streets petition.
“This is a historic decision,” says Walk Austin Board President Adam Greenfield. “With this simple but powerful direction, Council has acknowledged that our neighborhood streets are public spaces for everyone and crucial tools in meeting the COVID-19 challenge. Streets must be used during this unprecedented period for more than just one function – driving – and instead must be opened up to include more people and more activities.”
Furthermore, Council is also looking to Healthy Streets’s long term possibilities. Echoing the resolution’s main sponsor Council Member Paige Ellis’s support for using streets differently to better meet community needs in this time of crisis, Council Member Kathie Tovo also requested that “[w]hen social distancing is no longer needed in our community, [the City Manager] return to Council with recommendations for instituting long-term investments in “slow streets” programs citywide.”
This resolution brings Austin into a growing group of cities across the U.S. rolling out similar programs (commonly named “Slow Streets”), including Denver, Oakland, San Francisco, New York City, Portland, Kansas City, and Seattle.