Who Does What
Boards and Commissions
Of the 66 boards and commissions appointed to advise the City Council, at least five weigh in routinely on transportation projects.
Urban Transportation Commission: The nine-member UTC considers projects and plans related to safety, public transit, streets and highways, and other issues. Also makes recommendations to the Planning Commission on transportation-related capital improvement projects.
Downtown Commission: A 21-member board made up of civic leaders and members of other boards and commissions, the DTC reviews transportation projects affecting Downtown. Includes one slot for a member of the UTC, currently filled by Michelle Brinkman.
Parks Board: The nine-member body weighs in on projects affecting city parks and urban forestry -- for example, a new road in Zilker Park, or a road-widening effort that would remove trees in a public right-of-way. Membership includes hardcore cycling advocate Amy Babich.
Planning Commission: One of the city's most important boards, the nine-member PC can approve or reject project master plans (like Great Streets or the Seaholm District), recommends study of new programs such as car-sharing, and votes on neighborhood plans and their subsequent amendments. The PC's staff liaison is George Adams of TPSD's Smart Growth Division.
Design Commission: A nine-member board, including at least three architects, that makes recommendations on the design features of transportation projects. Works with TPSD staff.
After several reorganizations, transportation issues are now handled by three different city departments:
Transportation, Planning, and Sustainability: TPSD plans long-term transportation programs and projects, including bike-and-pedestrian facilities, and oversees implementation of the 25-year Austin Metropolitan Area Transportation Plan. Director is Austan Librach.
Public Works: Builds and repairs roads, bridges, and other elements of the city's transportation infrastructure, frequently in collaboration with TPSD. Used to be united with TPSD's transportation planners until a departmental reorganization two years ago. Director is Peter Rieck.
Neighborhood Planning and Zoning: Develops neighborhood plans (with heavy doses of citizen input), which can recommend placement of sidewalks, bike lanes, stop signs, traffic-calming devices, transit stops, and road improvements within a planning area. NPZD also oversees amendments to, and monitors compliance with, the city Land Development Code. Directed by Alice Glasco.
Since transportation is a hot political issue, decisions often end up on the plates of these politicians:
Austin City Council: Council can approve or reject all recommendations submitted by its advisory boards, as well as plans and projects proposed by staff. Members can also initiate their own proposals.
Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority: Austin's public-transit authority maintains bus operations, van pools, car pools, and the 'Dillo, and plans and funds long-term transit infrastructure investments such as light rail, busways, or high-occupancy vehicle lanes. President/CEO Fred Gilliam works for a seven-member board of directors that includes two City Council members (currently Daryl Slusher and Danny Thomas), one Travis Co. commissioner (Margaret Gómez), reps from smaller cities in Capital Metro's service area, and two citizen appointees.
Travis Co. Commissioners Court: The five-member court makes decisions at the county level regarding roadways, bike lanes, and other transportation projects. By state law, counties cannot fund or build transportation projects within municipal boundaries, so many projects that straddle the city limits are by default collaborations between the City Council and Commissioners Court.
Regional and State Agencies
Not only City Hall but the county, the state, and several regional entities weigh in on Austin mobility issues.
Travis Co. Transportation and Natural Resources Dept.: The courthouse's version of the city's TPSD. Handles both transportation and environmental duties, from road building to landfill oversight and parks maintenance. Executive manager is Joe Gieselman.
Texas Dept. of Transportation: The state transportation agency's work in Austin primarily involves building and maintaining major highways (including I-35) and overseeing some pedestrian/bicycle programs, including Safe Routes to Schools. Reviews designs for bike/ped projects that potentially impact roadways and intersections. Bill Garbade is TxDOT's Austin district engineer.
Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority: Enabled by 2001 legislation, the Central Texas RMA -- a joint project of Travis and Williamson counties -- is the state's first such entity. In addition to Chairman Bob Tesch, a Cedar Park developer and businessman appointed by Gov. Rick Perry in January, the RMA includes three reps from each county, who are charged with finding ways to speed up funding for new roads. Last month the Texas Transportation Commission authorized the RMA to develop U.S. 183-A, a 12-mile toll road running parallel to U.S. 183 east of Cedar Park and Leander.
Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization: Created by federal law, CAMPO is governed by a 22-member board that includes city and county elected officials and state legislators and is chaired by state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos. (CAMPO's staff of planners is overseen by Executive Director Michael Aulick.) Currently, CAMPO covers Travis Co. and portions of Williamson and Hays; expansion plans now under negotiation would eventually lead to CAMPO overseeing transportation planning for all five counties in the Austin metro area. CAMPO's 25-year long-range plan focuses on major transportation infrastructure and authorizes federal funding for roads, transit, and bicycle/pedestrian projects. CAMPO is also responsible for tackling transportation-related air-quality issues, since federal highway funds are tied to compliance with the Clean Air Act.
Austin-San Antonio Commuter Rail District: Authorized in 1997 through legislation sponsored by Barrientos and Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio (whose district includes parts of South Austin), but not officially created until last year, the CRD will plan and oversee operation of a commuter rail system linking the two cities. The CRD is closely linked with, and is currently getting its staff support from, the Greater Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council, which includes both private-sector players and more than two dozen local governments in its efforts to promote regional cooperation on a variety of issues. The current chair of the Corridor Council is Mayor-elect Will Wynn; the CRD has its own 14-member board (seven from each city) chaired by San Antonio attorney Tullos Wells.