Magic Carpets and Gondolas

RECEIVED Wed., Sept. 4, 2019

Dear Editor,
    Thank you for your eye-opening report "Mapping Our Transitions" ["Public Notice," News, Aug. 30] on the new land development code due to be adopted in an alarmingly short time. It is something that the city will live with for decades. The code aims to fill the gaps on affordability and public transport and replace private motor vehicle commuting.
    But there is a cookie-cutter approach that does not seem to examine if and where “missing middle” housing is really missing. Instead, it appears to assume that all "mobility corridors" lack this. It plans the conversion of entire strips of the city into high-density multifamily units. These mile-long blocks of middle-rise, high-density housing without on-site parking will line the transport corridors.
    This is irrational. Transport corridors will (realistically speaking) be serviced by buses. Buses stop frequently. They must pull out safely without cars and bicycles blocking them. In the urban core, several bus routes also overlap for considerable distances.
    If all residents of the new units dutifully ditch their cars, there will assuredly be delivery vans for various goods illegally parked. Not to speak of construction traffic while this densification is constructed …
    So unless corridors are serviced by a procession of magic carpets, the new plan will pretty certainly generate massive gridlock along the so-called mobility corridors. If they are to really work, then rather than densify without parking, the plan should freeze densification along corridors except where little-used strip malls with vast parking lots offer real opportunities for clusters of mixed residential-commercial development with bus stops.
    Finally, strange but true, water will not run uphill. Increasing permeable cover on Mount Bonnell (say) will not alleviate flooding on Onion Creek. Waller and Shoal creeks converge Downtown. Are the planners considering public gondola transit during rainy months? They should.
Sincerely,
Sumit Guha
Austin
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