How to respond to CapMetro's Project Connect Corridor Survey

AURA Board Member and Multimodal Citizen Advisory Committee member Susan Somers offers her suggestions on responding to the latest Project Connect survey. In April, Capital Metro released a survey about potential high-capacity transit corridors under study as part of their Project Connect planning process. The survey allows community members to help "choose the corridors" that will move to Phase 2 of the project as finalists. During Phase 1, Cap Metro has gathered together transit proposals from the past 20 years and assigned quantitative metrics to rank each project. Community feedback on the various corridors is the qualitative aspect of Phase 1 and the survey is a vital aspect of that feedback. As a member of Project Connect's Multimodal Citizen Advisory Committee, I have heard that some urbanists have been unsure how to respond to the survey. So I thought I'd provide a handy guide on how to respond. Continue reading

AURA Response to CodeNEXT Draft 2

Over the last two years, AURA members have advocated a bold, visionary overhaul of Austin's land use rules that would create a more environmentally friendly, livable, and affordable city. The release of the CodeNEXT Draft 2 last weekend made clear that consultants and staff are unwilling to rise to the task of making meaningful strides toward AURA’s goals. Both drafts leave in place most of the barriers to abundant housing that have been driving up rents and accelerating displacement. Continuing this broken status quo is not acceptable. Continue reading

One year anniversary of AURA's Transit City report: A report card

One year ago this week, AURA released its Transit Vision for the city of Austin. It recommended a set of small, incremental improvements that collectively would have a greater effect than a multibillion rail line or set of rail lines. For transit, we recommended frequent bus routes and transit priority rather than a single magic bullet. We recommended disincentivizing parking and driving to work by reducing parking minimums across the city, enacting parking maximums in downtown, and creating cash-out programs at major employers instead of free parking. Other steps like finishing the sidewalk and bike network, increasing connectivity, and allowing more housing near transit corridors set up an urban space where walking, biking, and using transit is encouraged rather than discouraged. AURA still believes that these steps are critical to enabling a more multimodal transportation system. The rest of this post steps back from the day-to-day grind of transportation planning in Austin to evaluate how the major transportation agents have achieved or not achieved these goals. Continue reading

CodeNEXT Mapping Reveals Near-Fatal Flaws

For Immediate Release CodeNEXT Mapping Reveals Near-Fatal Flaws April 19, 2017 Austin, Texas Mayor Adler was right: the maps are wrong.  “The CodeNEXT maps revealed yesterday are so deeply flawed that further tinkering block by block around the edges of a few neighborhoods and corridors will not be enough to enable CodeNext to meaningfully address Austin’s worsening affordability, mobility, environmental, and segregation problems,” said Josiah Stevenson, a member of AURA’s Working Group on CodeNEXT. Continue reading

AURA's CodeNEXT Mapping Expectations

In August 2016, AURA released its CodeNEXT Expectations. Although these expectations lay out broad policy priorities for CodeNEXT, a well-written code with a feeble on-the-ground implementation could still spell disaster.  Austinites need a zoning map that's designed to solve for Central Texas' critical challenges. A broad rezoning of the urban core is critical to ensuring affordability, fair housing, efficient transit, sustainable growth, and an Austin for Everyone. Here are our expectations for the CodeNEXT maps that will be released on April 18: Continue reading

Open Letter to the Mayor on CodeNEXT

March 14, 2017 Mayor Adler: AURA is an all-volunteer grassroots urbanist organization focused on building an Austin for everyone by improving land use and transportation through policy analysis, public involvement, and political engagement. While our members are still dissecting the initial CodeNEXT draft, we applaud City of Austin staff and consultants for a thorough community-engagement schedule. A robust city dialogue is imperative to realize the sustainable, compact, and connected city the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan envisions. “Change isn’t easy,” Imagine Austin reminds us, “however, the potential rewards will outweigh the discomforts.” To reaffirm the priorities vetted by Imagine Austin’s 30,000 hours of community engagement, an open dialogue around the benefits of Imagine Austin’s bold vision is critical. Continue reading

AURA Statement on CodeNEXT Draft

For Immediate Release AURA Statement on CodeNEXT Draft January 18, 2017 Austin, TX On Tuesday AURA became aware of a leaked draft of CodeNEXT which was posted to Twitter over the holiday weekend. The document, weighing in at 327 pages, is massive, and yet also astonishingly incomplete (i.e. no sections on site plans, subdivision, drainage, etc). This is perhaps explained by the fact that it is largely dated June 2016. As such, we are hesitant to dig into the details. Limiting ourselves to a broad view, the draft is disappointing. We cannot stress enough that Austin is in the midst of an (un)affordable housing crisis; in conjunction with this crisis, the City’s own Planning and Development Review Department came under intense criticism in March of 2015. The City and its residents are in urgent need of significant policy change to reverse this trend. Unfortunately, it would appear that in this draft the staff and consultants have largely come up short in meeting the modest goals they set out for themselves in the Code Diagnosis back in May 2014. Continue reading

AURA Response to Austin's Draft Strategic Housing Plan

In June, the City of Austin Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office (NHCD) released a draft of the Austin Strategic Housing Plan. A representative from NHCD attend AURA's November board meeting and presented on the plan and received feedback from AURA members. We are encouraged that the Department recognizes certain fair housing and land use barriers that AURA has named in its CodeNEXT expectations. Subsequently, on November 21, AURA sent the letter below to NHCD as our official response to the draft plan. Since that time, NHCD has released an updated December draft of the plan, which we encourage everyone to review. Continue reading

AURA Response to Cap Metro's Connections 2025 Plan

Introduction Earlier this year, AURA released Transit City: A Vision for a Multimodal Austin wherein we outlined a number of critical steps for increasing ridership on public transportation. Our recommendations focused on ways to increase the usefulness of transit in order to make riding a better option for more people. AURA is pleased that a number of these recommendations are reflected in the draft of Capital Metro's Connections 2025 plan. We view the core of the plan as a network of frequent bus routes across the city, which was one of AURA's highest priorities. It will be key to implement truly frequent service with appropriate stop spacing, generally no more than ¼ mile spacing between stops along all the frequent routes, whether they are officially dubbed “MetroRapid” or local. There are a few parts of the plan, including the perplexing proposal to put high capacity bus service on I-35 and continued large investments in the high cost Red Line, that seem highly questionable.  The actual plan as written so far, though, would be a huge improvement over current service.  More detailed suggestions follow.  Continue reading

AURA and the 2016 Austin Transportation Bonds

Following a vote of its members last week, AURA takes no position on the Proposition 1 transportation bonds.