Austin traffic initiative encourages residents to submit solutions

Capital Metro President and CEO Linda Watson and RideScout CEO and founder Joseph Kopser are both involved in the launch of MobilityATX, which is an initiative designed to encourage residents to submit solutions to traffic congestion. Capital Metro President and CEO Linda Watson and RideScout CEO and founder Joseph Kopser are both involved in the launch of MobilityATX, which is an initiative designed to encourage residents to submit solutions to traffic congestion.[/caption]

Two online sessions are planned for April 27 and May 18, and a town hall meeting will be June 23. These are additional ways for the community to be involved in the solution, according to MobilityATX partners. Two online sessions are planned for April 27 and May 18, and a town hall meeting will be June 23. These are additional ways for the community to be involved in the solution, according to MobilityATX partners.[/caption]

Updated April 16 to correct the name of Movability Austin

The newest initiative to find solutions to Austin's traffic congestion, MobilityATX, launched April 13 and asks residents to come up with creative ideas on how to fix the problem.

"[The purpose is] to bring together ideas people have from the community [including] ride providers and city officials," said Joseph Kopser, CEO and founder of RideScout, an app that allows users to find real-time available transportation options nearby. "[The initiative will] focus [on] real solutions we can not only talk about and discuss using facts, but [ones] we can also practice and implement and then study the effects of how they work," Kopser said.

The three-month forum will have online and in-person options to participate, and Kopser said it will involve the entire community to effect change. Two online sessions are planned for April 27 and May 18, and a town hall meeting is scheduled for June 23.

The public can sign up as a user on www.mobilityatx.com to submit traffic solution suggestions, vote for solutions they like and comment. Kopser said it is important not only to have ideas from residents who deal with traffic congestion daily but also from leaders tasked with fixing it.

Results from the sessions as well as suggestions submitted online will be compiled into a report and presented to Austin City Council in mid-July.

Brandi Clark Burton, senior policy adviser with Mayor Steve Adler's office, said the results will be key for determining funding. She said mobility is one of the mayor's top issues and ties into the city's decision to join the 2020 pledge that encourages a 20 percent reduction in drive-alone behavior.

"The question that keeps coming back is 'What are we going to do this time around that's different from how we approached this problem or project every time we've done it before?'" Adler said. "I think the answer to that question is found in projects like MobilityATX."

Capital Metro, the Downtown Austin Alliance, Glasshouse Policy—which crowd sources policy solutions to key Texas issues—Leadership Austin and Austin Technology Council have all signed on as community partners to the initiative.

"We can't plan and deliver transit unless we hear from the community, and we are very much into community engagement," said Linda Watson, Capital Metro president and CEO. " This gives us another tool to reach citizens in a different way and hopefully get some new voices at the table."

The DAA represents downtown property owners. About 123,000 employees work downtown, an area encompassing 37 million square feet of office space with the capacity to add another 67 million square feet, DAA President and CEO De Peart said.

"We're very interested in mobility and solutions," he said. "The engagement of workers and residents downtown and across the region is very important. To come up with solutions in moving the workforce we need innovative approaches."

The challenge to MobilityATX will be getting residents to think beyond their complaints about traffic, said Glenn Gadbois, executive director of Movability Austin, which works with employers to reduce drive-alone behavior.

"Part of this I hope is going to encourage people to take the next step and start thinking about what they want their commutes to be like," he said.

Kopser said Austin is one of the most segregated cities in the U.S., and he wants to see solutions that would enable mobility for all people who need to get around Austin.

"Why can't there be better mobility options to get to where you're going in 15 minutes," Kopser said. "More of a [long-term] challenge for this city is why can't those services be spread out to where the people are and why can't we have opportunities for densification to bring all those together in one place," Kopser said.
By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 10 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels. She enjoys spending time with her husband, son and two cats.