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Walk Austin endorses Propositions A and B

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.

The proposed pedestrian bridge near the Longhorn Dam

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.

Vote Yes on Propositions A and B.

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Walk Austin selected as a 2020 AARP Community Challenge Grantee!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Adam Greenfield, Walk Austin Board President, info@walkaustintx.org

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.

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We did it! $460m Safe Mobility Bond added to November ballot as Prop B

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.

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New survey: Austinites are ready for a walk/bike revolution

Most Austinites are ready to move on from a car-centric way of life, according to a survey just released by MoveATX.

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 and over 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.

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Healthy Streets batch 2 shortlist announced

The shortlist for the second batch of Healthy Streets has just been announced!

The City will be taking public input on this shortlist for a week or so and will then select some of these for the second batch, so please give feedback through the City’s interactive map.

And you can continue to give feedback on Healthy Streets in the following ways:

 

Healthy Streets has been wildly popular with the public so far, according to a recent City report:

This all bodes very well for the future of Healthy Streets and for safer streets in Austin in general. Thank you for all your support and please stay engaged with Healthy Streets as we move forward.

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Healthy Streets launches!

History has been made: Healthy Streets is here.

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.

3 ways YOU can make Healthy Streets successful

  1. Suggest a Healthy Streets location: If someone has already made your suggestion, leave a comment instead. The more comments the better.
  2. Give feedback on the current Healthy Streets locations: Remember: This is experimental, the City won’t always get it right first time. Be respectful yet honest!
  3. Share your overall thoughts on the program: The City needs HUGE support for this program. Please take the survey and support Healthy Streets.
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City Council approves a “Healthy Streets” program!

Contact:    Adam Greenfield, Board President, Walk Austin
Phone:       
512-883-5995
Email:       
adam@agreenfield.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.

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Press release: Walk Austin Leads Coalition to Call For “Slow Streets” Program To Address COVID-19 Pandemic

Sign the Slow Streets petition here

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (download press release)

Contact:    Adam Greenfield, Walk Austin
Phone:       
512-883-5995
Email:       
adam@agreenfield.org

Walk Austin and Other Organizations Call For “Slow Streets” Program To Address COVID-19 Pandemic

Program would prioritize safe walking and bicycling on neighborhood streets, while still allowing local traffic, to address the mental and physical health impacts of the pandemic and the shelter-in-place order

AUSTIN, TX An unprecedented coalition of over 30 organizations* representing parks and trails, mobility, mental health, people with disabilities, faith-based, and neighborhood constituents are applauding the City of Austin for its strong leadership and swift action in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As an essential next step, the coalition is urging Austin to join other cities across the US and immediately create an emergency “Slow Streets” program. This program will prioritize safe, socially-distanced walking and bicycling on non-arterial, non-transit neighborhood streets in all City Council districts while still allowing access for local traffic.

Says Adam Greenfield, Walk Austin Board President, “We need Slow Streets now. By allowing people to exercise safely near home, this crucial measure will mitigate public mental and physical impacts, reduce potential virus transmission, relieve pressure on parks and trails, and increase community resilience.”

“Communities know their streets best so we’re inviting the public to help roll this out quickly and successfully by showing support and by nominating neighborhood streets as potential Slow Streets (see petition at bit.ly/SlowStreetsATX)”, says Joanna Wolaver, Board President of Austin Outside. Potential streets could run for multiple blocks and connect to form a cross-town network. The City and the community are asked to consider equity so that underserved communities particularly impacted by the pandemic can employ Slow Streets as a mitigation tool.

The coalition is also asking the City to implement a further slate of transportation-related measures to address the sudden rise in dangerous vehicle speeds and increased pedestrian and bicycle activity:

  • Create temporary bicycle lanes on Congress Avenue north of Riverside Drive to the State Capitol
  • Reallocate partial/full road space for walking and bicycling on other currently unsafe streets and near crowded trails/sidewalks, as was recently enacted on Riverside Dr and on the Longhorn Dam bridge
  • Disable pedestrian push buttons at intersections and automate crossing phases to eliminate the need to touch surfaces, while still catering for the needs of those with disabilities
  • Implement Lead Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs) beyond downtown
  • Retime traffic lights citywide to discourage speeding and reduce pedestrian crowding at intersections

——

*Coalition organizations: Walk Austin (lead organization), Austin Outside, Austin Parks Foundation, The Trail Foundation, Shoal Creek Conservancy, Hill Country Conservancy, Pease Park Conservancy, UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum, Austin Youth River Watch, Scenic Austin, Blunn Creek Partnership, Generation SERVE, MoveATX, Bike Austin, Ghisallo Cycling Initiative, Yellow Bike Project, Farm&City, Vision Zero ATX, Central Texas Families For Safe Streets, Red Line Parkway Initiative, Environment Texas, Congress For the New Urbanism Central Texas, Creating Common Ground, Black + Vernooy Architects, Reconnect Austin, AURA, UT Austin Community and Regional Planning Student Organization, Deaf-Blind Service Center of Austin, Alzheimer’s Association Capital of Texas, Stronger Austin, Mobile Loaves & Fishes, Blackland Community Development Corporation

Sign the Slow Streets petition here

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We need a walkable Land Development Code. Here’s how we can get it.

We all want Austin to be affordable, diverse, equitable, beautiful, sustainable, sociable, accessible, and walkable and for this a first-class Land Development Code (LDC) is essential. For decades, despite the quality of many of its older neighborhoods, Austin’s existing code has produced dull, unwalkable, and unsustainable suburban sprawl produced by an increasingly consolidated corporate development culture.

It’s time to chart a new course.

The recently-released draft LDC is a significant improvement over Austin’s current code. Highlights include allowing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) citywide, reducing parking minimum requirements near transit lines, and introducing missing middle housing to many areas. These and many other changes are important steps toward a better, more walkable Austin.

However, the draft code must go much further before it can align with the goals of Imagine Austin, the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, and other key plans to adequately address the challenges and opportunities we face now and in the years to come. Walkability is key to, and reflective of, a sustainable, just, sociable, and happy Austin and our code should deeply enshrine walkability in every aspect.

To those ends, Walk Austin proposes the below amendments to the draft LDC. (A PDF version of the below includes additional information in footnotes.)

As always, we’d love to hear what you think. Contact us and let us know.

Summary of recommendations

A. Pedestrian accessibility and comfort

  1. Create more small neighborhood commercial zones
  2. Incentivize better pedestrian and bicycling connectivity through properties
  3. Require that buildings be pedestrian-accessible from the street
  4. Encourage building features, such as awnings and sittable spaces, on commercial streets
  5. Ban new gated subdivisions and encourage existing subdivisions to be integrated into the public street network
  6. Discourage lot consolidations and large, block-long development
  7. Create an urban growth boundary around Austin and ensure development be infill-oriented

B. Sociability-enhancing development

  1. Prioritize and incentivize socially-oriented housing
  2. Incentivize public spaces to be created as part of new developments
  3. Remove setback requirements between buildings and streets in residential and main street zones
  4. Eliminate or greatly decrease minimum residential lot sizes

C. Parking

  1. Eliminate parking minimum requirements citywide
  2. Encourage existing parking to be converted into other uses
  3. Address missing sidewalks with sidewalks, not with more parking
  4. Eliminate Floor Area Ratio (FAR) as a tool or require that parking in buildings count toward FAR
  5. Don’t downscale proposed developments because of road capacity concerns

D. Community-rooted and equitable development

  1. Incentivize community participation in development from the start
  2. Apply the LDC to all neighborhoods

Recommendations in detail

A. Pedestrian accessibility and comfort

1. Create more small neighborhood commercial zones

Small neighborhood commercial centers such as Duval & 43rd Street (pictured) and W Lynn & 12th Street, some of Austin’s favorite places, place daily needs within walking distance and establish focal points that give communities a shared identity. In contrast with longer arterial-based commercial corridors, these smaller commercial crossroads often adapt more harmoniously to neighborhood character, function better as centers of community, and more effectively enhance walkability.

All Austinites should live a 10 minute walk from such places and the new LDC should allow them throughout the City.

2. Incentivize better pedestrian and bicycling connectivity through properties

Large areas of Austin are planned around unwalkable suburban collector networks, long blocks, and large lots, requiring people on foot to take circuitous paths to their destination. To address this issue, the LDC should:

  • Incentivize developers and property owners to provide easements for access for public mixed-use paths across/through strategically-located properties
  • Require developers to create public paths/paseos through developments larger than 500ft wide
  • Cap maximum block lengths without public paths/paseos at 250 ft, a reasonable walking distance

3. Require that buildings be pedestrian-accessible from the street

Relationships between buildings and streets fundamentally influence relationships between people. Therefore, the LDC should ensure that buildings and sidewalks are well-connected by:

  • Requiring building entrances to be street-facing and, where possible, sidewalk-level
  • Prohibiting parking between streets and building entrances
  • Banning new drive-through businesses; if they are allowed to be built, they must be pedestrian/ wheelchair-accessible

4. Encourage building features, such as awnings and sittable spaces, on commercial streets

A vibrant, comfortable pedestrian realm on commercial streets has always depended on a symbiotic relationship with buildings through features such as awnings, arcades, and built-in sittable spaces. Austin’s LDC should strongly encourage these elements in commercial buildings that abut the sidewalk.

5. Ban new gated subdivisions and encourage existing subdivisions to be integrated into the public street network

Not only do gated subdivisions “shrink the notion of civic engagement and allow residents to retreat from civic responsibility” , by removing streets from the public street network such developments increase travel distances and discourage walking. Austin should follow cities such as San Francisco and ban gated subdivisions. Furthermore, owners of existing gated subdivisions should be incentivized to remove gates and transfer streets from private to public ownership.

6. Discourage lot consolidations and large, block-long developments

Development in Austin has become increasingly massive with many new buildings consuming multiple lots and even spanning entire blocks, producing an unwelcoming, coarse-grained environment that discourages walking, shuts out local small-scale developers, concentrates land in the hands of fewer wealthier players, and prevents the business diversity that arises from differently-ages buildings.

Without reducing overall potential housing capacity and with the exception of consolidating a small number of tiny lots to create missing middle housing, the LDC should discourage lot consolidations and large, block-long developments.

7. Create an urban growth boundary around Austin and ensure development be infill-oriented

Low-density sprawl around Austin has already consumed large areas of countryside, reducing agricultural capacity and ecological health and forcing people to drive long distances to reach downtown jobs. Dense development in Austin’s outer regions and beyond would still perpetuate many of these problems. Therefore, for the foreseeable future, Austin should focus on infill development and cease extending development into the countryside.

The LDC should create an urban growth boundary (UGB) around existing development, commit to ending annexations beyond city limits, and zone currently undeveloped countryside in city limits as undevelopable until a defined density threshold has been reached inside the UGB.

B. Sociability-enhancing development

1. Prioritize and incentivize socially-oriented housing

Housing policy shouldn’t just concern numbers of units but also quality of life, beginning with the deepest human need: Social contact. Much of Austin’s current housing isolates people, whether buildings be single-family homes encircled by barely-used yards or denser apartment buildings that segregate people in units high above the ground and away from public space.

The LDC should prioritize and incentivize more socially-oriented development, such as row homes, courtyard cottages, shared fence-free backyards, and small ground-level front yards that typically accompany traditional row housing and apartment buildings.

2. Incentivize public spaces to be created as part of new developments

When accessed on foot, public spaces are overwhelmingly used by people within a 3 minute walk, suggesting that Austin needs many more of such places around the city. The LDC should reward developers of larger projects for creating new public spaces. While incentivizing park creation should continue, plazas and more compact socially-oriented spaces should also be encouraged.

3. Remove setback requirements between buildings & streets in residential & main street zones

Residential setback requirements are a twentieth-century relic with origins in exclusionary policies that exclude low income communities. The LDC should eliminate minimum setback requirements between residences and streets and establish zero-lot-lines as standard. Over time, this will produce well-framed, inviting, and more walkable streets and more sociable neighborhoods. Setbacks should only be imposed on a case by case basis to provide space for essential uses such as future sidewalks and to provide a buffer between planned sidewalks and high-speed roadways.

The draft LDC also requires setback minimums for Main Street zones, despite millennia of best practices from most commercial streets around the world, including 6th Street and South Congress in Austin. Business success is highly sensitive to distance from the sidewalk; the LDC should not mandate commercial setbacks.

4. Eliminate or greatly decrease minimum residential lot sizes

Minimum residential lot sizes reduce affordability, limit access to property-ownership for lower-income households, and reduce walkability and sociability by spreading people more thinly across land. The draft LDC’s minimum lot size reduction from 5,750 to 5,000 sq ft is an improvement but would still represent a significant barrier to home ownership for lower income households.

Minimum lot sizes serve no good purpose and the LDC should eliminate them, as Bastrop has done in its new LDC. If such requirements persist, we recommend allowing lots to be as narrow as 12-25’, a traditional row house’s width.

C. Parking requirements

1. Eliminate parking minimum requirements citywide

Parking minimum requirements are an increasingly discredited policy tool that reduces mobility options; decreases housing supply; increases costs across a plethora of areas including housing, goods, and costs of doing business; and damages the environment. Austinites should not be forced to create parking if they cannot or do not want to drive. Austin should join a growing number of cities and eliminate parking minimum requirements.

2. Encourage existing parking to be converted into other uses

For existing parking that exceeds requirements under the new LDC, property owners should be incentivized to convert such parking to other uses.

3. Address missing sidewalks with sidewalks, not with more parking

The draft LDC requires onsite parking where a property within a ¼ mile of certain centers / transportation corridors is on the medium or lower-priority sidewalk network or if the property is on the high or very-high sidewalk network but lacks adequate sidewalks. However, the solution to poor pedestrian infrastructure is good pedestrian infrastructure, not more space for cars.

No development within this ¼ mile, no matter where it sits on the sidewalk network, should be forced to create more parking. Instead, development on streets lacking adequate sidewalks should have the option to pay a fee-in-lieu toward sidewalk construction or to install sidewalks, either using traditional raised sidewalks along the property line or, where appropriate, less expensive street-level, barrier-protected sidewalks could be installed on streets with lower traffic volumes and speeds. Developers on these streets could be required to use this cheaper design to create longer stretches of sidewalk beyond the lot width that could connect to the existing pedestrian infrastructure network.

4. Eliminate Floor Area Ratio (FAR) or require that parking in buildings count toward FAR

Excluding parking from FAR calculations disincentivizes travel modes such as walking, undercuts the aim behind removing parking minimum requirements downtown, and increases strain upon the street network. Downtown in particular is now bloated with unsightly parking podiums and a vast amount of parking.

While for several key reasons the FAR requirement should ideally be eliminated altogether, the LDC should at least ensure that parking in buildings count towards FAR calculations. Furthermore, density bonuses should be offered to encourage space to be used for housing rather than parking.

5. Don’t downscale proposed developments because of road capacity concerns

The draft LDC allows ATD’s Director to mandate that a proposed development be downscaled if the street/area in question would have insufficient capacity to handle the new traffic. This is the wrong solution to density and should be removed from the final LDC. Instead, larger developments’ impact on local street networks should be addressed by minimizing car-dependency through reducing parking requirements (if they exist); by applying Traffic Demand Management-style requirements, such as pedestrian/bicycle infrastructure and free/discounted transit passes; and by using Vehicle Miles Traveled rather than Transportation Impact Analysis as an analysis framework.

D. Community-rooted and equitable development

1. Incentivize community participation in development from the start

A growing proportion of the public has become disenchanted with modern development, feeling that it is too often ugly and out of place, lacking any kind of regional flavor, and that development is done “to the community” with only limited public input. This problem poses major challenges in creating buildings, places, and a city that reflects people’s daily well-being needs and risks inflaming public opposition to further development.

The LDC should incentivize developers work with communities from the beginning, before any plans have been made, on co-creating new developments with the developer acting as facilitator to gauge the community’s wishes in regard to building use, design, scale, materials, and other elements.

2. Apply the LDC to all neighborhoods

An LDC rooted in equity and committed to addressing Austin’s present and future challenges and opportunities cannot cherry-pick neighborhoods to be included or exempt from the new code. The LDC must apply to all neighborhoods.


See here for a PDF version of the above, addressed to Austin City Council, containing more information in footnotes.

We’d love to hear what you think of the above recommendations. Contact us here.

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PARK(ing) Day 2019: Public Space… More Than Car Storage

Walking around most places, you’d think the purpose of public space is for automobiles, not people. Look at how much of our streets are given to storing cars versus providing social spaces, a basic human need, for people.

And yet, all that is a recent phenomenon. Until recently, public space was for everybody, not mainly for users of one transportation mode, and the public realm served a crucial role as a place for social exchange. Today, little social exchange happens in public space; most streets are civically dead.

PARK(ing) Day challenges this status quo by showing that public space, so much of it used for storing cars, can be used for anything: Public seating, bocce courts, artist galleries, information booths, cafes, drinking fountains, pocket parks, street vendors, and a million other uses. Yes, we need to accommodate cars appropriately but perhaps going as far as we have for cars is not the optimum use of public space.

For this year’s PARK(ing) Day on September 20th, Walk Austin and Bike Austin partnered on a space on Congress Avenue at 7th Street outside the Austin Contemporary. We wanted something fun, inviting, and quick and easy to do for people with little time to spare and one solution immediately stood up: Mini golf!

People of all kinds and all ages stopped by throughout the day to enjoy a few minutes on our 3-hole course. Those who completed two or more holes were treated to one of our homemade cookies! What was usually a dead space for storing two cars became a vibrant, fun place where people wanted to be, showing just what public space can be when we get our priorities right.

And plenty of other groups created their own spaces for the day…

That said, while there were some great installations, participation was down from 2018. Last year, the City of Austin allocated more resources to promote PARK(ing) Day and encourage people to participate; the strategy worked and participation was way up from 2017. Without that level of commitment from the City in 2019, fewer people got involved, showing that heavy lifting is still required to get PARK(ing) Day to a critical mass level where participation happens organically.

But imagine PARK(ing) Day next year if the City, the public, and the advocacy community all get serious about this opportunity to promote and enrich public space. Blocks of downtown could become bustling, vibrant community spaces for the day; school kids could make a project out of it and parents could come down for the afternoon; there could be art classes, dance lessons, karaoke, even bigger mini golf courses, and hammocks; organizations could share what they’ve been up to and connect with new members of the public. The result would be an electrifying return to public space, prompting conversation about how we could make longer term improvements.

At a time of widespread social alienation through decades of poor land use and transportation policies that distance people from each other, PARK(ing) Day could be a powerful way to kickstart a reevaluation of public space as the civic crucible of society. Next year, let’s shoot for the sky.

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