Austin Transportation Department seeks public input on strategic mobility plan

Construction on the I-35 bridge at Stassney Lane and William Cannon Drive is underway.

Construction on the I-35 bridge at Stassney Lane and William Cannon Drive is underway.

The Austin Transportation Department is seeking public input as it develops a strategic mobility plan to determine the city’s transportation future.

Residents, particularly those in historically underrepresented communities, are encouraged to complete a survey that presents various options for the plan, ranging from auto-centric to transit-centric.

Nearly 75 percent of Austinites drive alone to work every day, according to the 2016 American Community Survey, and fewer than 4 percent use public transit.

Austin’s population, however, is expected to double over the next 30 years, according to city projections.

With finite road space and ongoing traffic congestion, the city plans to invest in high-capacity transit that maximizes the number of travelers while minimizing the number of vehicles.

“It’s exciting to have a new transportation plan,” ATD Assistant Director Annick Beaudet said at the city's Traffic Jam open house March 28, an event meant to educate residents about ongoing transportation planning efforts. “We haven’t had one since 1995, and it’s going to be really important to managing our growth into the future and making sure that all Austinites have access to opportunities for an affordable network.”

ATD is developing the plan in conjunction with Capital Metro and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, both of which have their own strategic plans to improve transit options in and around Austin.

The Austin Strategic Mobility Plan will make short-, medium- and long-term recommendations about how to accommodate Austin’s growth and reinforce community values, including affordability, travel choice and reducing commute times. These values were determined through various public engagement efforts that were part of the plan’s first phase of development.

ATD plans to present a draft version to City Council early next year, Beaudet said.

Although potential funding sources will be identified in the plan, funding is neither a part of the plan nor contingent to its passing.

“The plan stands on its own,” she said.

If passed, the plan will operate on a two-way street: requiring funding to fulfill its recommendations while also informing mobility bonds and other expenditures.

“The plan is supposed to be a guiding document for future investments as well,” ATD Public Information Officer Cheyenne Strause said.

Although a plan has not yet been drafted, ATD looked at mobility plans recently adopted in San Antonio, Los Angeles and Seattle to help develop its working framework of what will be included.

“We feel that we’re on par and keeping up with the Joneses,” Beaudet said of the work her department has completed thus far.

Because the plan’s long-term recommendations will continue through 2040, city officials have to consider everything from the cost of underground transit options to the advent of autonomous vehicles.

Most important to the drafting process, however, is community input.

“Please take the survey,” Beaudet said.
By Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her beat includes the Travis County Commissioners Court and local business news. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.


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