City Planning

The State of Mobility in Austin, Texas

I work with BVE Partners in Austin, TX. This year we worked with the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce to produce their 2016 Mobility Report. This was an especially exciting time to rethink regional mobility policy for the Chamber because of how much has changed in Austin, Texas since the publication of the Chamber’s last Mobility Report in 2013. In the three years since the Chamber last published a Mobility Report, a new 10-1 City Council system has dramatically reshaped the local political landscape, a $1.38 billion urban rail and roads bond failed at the polls by a double-digit margin, and an epic showdown over rideshare regulations made headlines around the world.

In writing the 2016 Mobility Report, we decided to take a dramatically different approach to tackling Austin’s mobility challenges. Rather than advocate for band-aid solutions and isolated infrastructure investments, we instead focus on the fundamental steps Austin can take to improve how its residents get from Point A to Point B. Within this context, building additional road capacity will do little to relieve traffic congestion. At the same time, new investments in high-capacity transit without the accompanying land-use policies to support greater density are bound to fail. This report posits that Austin’s greatest challenge is not a lack of streets or buses or sidewalks, but rather an obsolete way of organizing the built environment – a barrier that will require decisive leadership and community action to overcome. CodeNEXT, the ongoing process to rewrite Austin’s land development code, is the best opportunity to solve the root cause of the region’s mobility challenges.

 

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The shifting community needs of a rapidly evolving Austin require an assessment of alternative transportation systems and new models of success. In this report, we focus on three broad strategies to improve mobility: land-use reform, transportation demand management, and a shift to alternative transportation modes. Within each strategy, we also look at how specific mechanisms can be applied to Central Texas.

However, while we wrote this report looking through the lens of Central Texas’ regional mobility problems, we hope any city that is experiencing mobility issues that are exacerbated by growth and development patterns can learn from this report. Because other cities across the world may be experiencing challenges that this report does not address directly, we also outline priorities in the report’s introduction that guide our thinking and that may be useful for planners and policy-makers worldwide.

Austin is experiencing significant growing pains as it quickly becomes one of America’s great cities and an exemplar of successful economic development. Overall, the strategies we outline in the Chamber’s 2016 Mobility Report are intended to guide the adoption of plans to manage that growth, preserving Austin’s unique culture and its reputation as one of the best places to do business in the country.


Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

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