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The Daily Hustle: 11/29/10

Urban rail pulls into town. Sorta.

By Wells Dunbar, 11:09AM, Mon. Nov. 29, 2010

Why not 
monorail?
Why not monorail?
Photo courtesy City of Austin

Hello! The Hustle here, hoping everyone's holiday was as unproductive as his.

Below the fold, we get up to speed on various and sundry city initiatives: urban rail boosterism, the Imagine Austin comp plan, and more.

About a decade before schedule, urban rail arrives in Austin today. You can't ride it anywhere, but the city's trumpeting the display of an American-made rail car as a harbinger of what may come:

Oregon Ironworks, which is currently manufacturing new urban rail vehicles for Portland and Tucson, will bring their latest vehicle to Austin on Monday, November 29th.  From 11:00 AM until 7:00 PM, the rail car will be on display for the public in the circular drive on the north side of the Palmer Events Center (900 Barton Springs Road).  

The manufacturer, one of only two U.S.-made urban rail cars, will bring their newest 66-foot-long by 8-foot-wide rail car model to Austin next week to give interested parties a first-hand look.  

“This is a great opportunity to review some of the latest vehicle technology and to see up-close what the future of Austin's urban transportation could look like,” said Mayor Lee Leffingwell.

The City of Austin is continuing its Urban Rail planning efforts.  A full environmental review process will begin in early 2011, with more public engagement opportunities.  

Free parking for the urban rail car exhibit will be available in the Palmer Event Center parking garage; the parking entrance is on Barton Springs Road.

The mayor will visit and remark on the car at 1:15pm today, at the Palmer Events Center.

… The city's extended their deadline for citizens to comment on and select their favorite iteration of the Imagine Austin comprehensive plan. The plan charts five different scenarios for future growth: one hands-off scenario that leaves things as-is, and four that offer increasing dense infill development in the central city as an antidote to sprawl. Cut to the press release:

“These scenarios represent a snapshot of what could lie in our future, based on the actions we take over the coming years. By voicing your preferences, you’re letting City leaders know what’s most important to you,” said Leffingwell. “Some folks may think that selecting a preferred scenario represents the ‘end’ of the process. In truth it’s only the beginning, and it’s critical to where we go from here. We need every part of our community to be involved.”

According to some estimates, Austin’s planning area could expect 750,000 new residents over the next 30 years, which includes “natural growth” from existing households and growth from those moving to the area. This includes Austin and areas outside of the city included in its planning area, which can extend as much as five miles outside of the current city limits.

“The big question is, how do we accommodate our certain growth and still preserve our special quality of life? The decisions we make about where we want people to live, work and play, and how they get to and from those places, are key,” said Leffingwell. “We can’t just leave those decisions to chance. We must actively shape what our future will look like.”

You can read up and take the survey here.

… If that ain't enough, the draft agenda for the Dec. 9 City Council meeting is up already. In addition to 24 zoning cases and three AM presentations, the Hustle notes some citizen communication speakers addressing the city's proposed permanent supportive housing plans for the Marshall Arms apartments on E. 12th street, a controversial proposal some neighbors say hasn't thoroughly been vetted. We were told council was slated to appropriate housing funds for the project on the 9th, but we don't see the relevant item on the agenda yet. Then again, we're a little outta practice, so if anyone catches it, leave a comment below or drop me a line.

What the hell else is happening?

On the city calendar: Not much of a damn thing.

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