Not only is the Smart Corridor plan based on years (and millions of dollars) of studies that are now sitting on a shelf — really, there’s a shelf — but experts in the planning and transportation uniformly tell us that we need to work on our corridors.
This week is the 2-year anniversary of the Council adopting the DOT’s Complete Streets policy, the first challenge of which is to take a Complete Streets approach:
“A Complete Streets approach provides a unique opportunity to thoughtfully integrate and advance multiple objectives for our community, now and in the future, while delivering maximum benefits from both public and private investments.”
That’s exactly what we’re doing with the Smart Corridor plan, which also dovetails with the advice Austin has received from Jeffrey Tumlin, a mobility expert who recommends that the City “implement corridor plans with a focus on walkability”:
“The City of Austin has invested great effort in developing several thoughtful corridor and special district plans. … These plans and others establish Austin’s forward-thinking planning, and they are already positively impacting the urban landscape.”
Finally, Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute published the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, which found that Austin had the 12th-worst commuter delays in the country that cost each driver an extra $1,159 a year. Part of the solution, TTI says, is to “add capacity in critical corridors.”
The corridors also play a vital role in Imagine Austin’s building blocks, work program, and action matrix.
“Activity corridors have a dual nature. They are the connections that link activity centers and other key destinations to one another and allow people to travel throughout the city and region by bicycle, transit, or automobile.” (p. 106)
“Compact centers and corridors allow daily necessities (such as work, shopping, dining, and school) to be located closer together, resulting in shorter, more convenient trips and less time spent on the road.” (p. 187)
Pertinent Building Blocks
LUT P36. Transform all major streets into vibrant, multi-functional, pedestrian-friendly corridors.
LUT P10. Direct housing and employment growth to activity centers and corridors, preserving and integrating existing affordable housing where possible.
LUT P29. Develop accessible community gathering places such as plazas, parks, farmers’ markets, sidewalks, and streets in all parts of Austin, especially within activity centers and along activity corridors including Downtown, future Transit Oriented Developments, in denser, mixed use communities, and other redevelopment areas, that encourage interaction and provide places for people of all ages to visit and relax.
LUT P4. Protect neighborhood character by directing growth to areas of change that include designated redevelopment areas, corridors, and infill sites. Recognize that different neighborhoods have different characteristics, and infill and new development should be sensitive to the predominant character of these communities.
HN P11. Protect neighborhood character by directing growth to areas of change and ensuring context sensitive infill in such locations as designated redevelopment areas, corridors, and infill sites.
CFS P27. Provide public safety services to newly annexed areas and areas with increased activity, such as new neighborhoods, redevelopment areas, transportation corridors, and activity centers.
Work Program Short-term (1-3 years)
- Develop criteria and guidelines for coordinating business recruitment, expansion, and retention to support activity centers and corridors, transit, and urban trails plans in line with Imagine Austin and the Growth Concept Map.
- Continue working on demonstration corridors (Lamar Boulevard, Burnet Road, Riverside Drive, Airport Boulevard, and East MLK Boulevard/FM 969) to plan and build complete street improvements. These include separated bike lanes, wider sidewalks, and improved transit infrastructure with more user friendly bus shelters. Consider partnering with local businesses and artists to add amenities to demonstration corridors.
Work Program Long-term (3+ years)
- Partner with local chambers of commerce, the business community, and regional, state, and federal entities to recruit and retain businesses to activity centers and corridors.
LUT A14 Expand service to compact centers and activity corridors
LUT A31 Improve streetscapes and infrastructure along activity corridors and at activity centers through the use of financing mechanisms such as Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts and Public Improvement Districts (PID).
HN A20 Align future development with the Growth Concept Map through adoption of small-area plans (e.g., neighborhood, corridor, and station area plans) that contain provisions set forth in Imagine Austin
Time to listen to the experts, the voters, and the polls and go big on transportation.