Public Notice: The EV/AV Club
Thinking big about planning and mobility
As we go to press Tuesday, the Planning and Zoning and Platting commissions are holding another joint session on the embattled draft version of the CodeNEXT land development code rewrite – in particular, the rationale behind having two sets of code for "Transect" and "Non-Transect" areas of the city (see "Public Notice: The New Apartheid?" March 3). Staff flew in the Opticos Design consultants from Berkeley to explain their reasoning, and the meeting went far better than last week's, but commissioners appear to remain highly skeptical of both some details, but also of the overarching structure. As one commissioner put it near the end, trying to sum up the feeling in the room: "There's a desire here to see a unified code."
All involved now have a couple of weeks to mull things over, with no Council meetings or CodeNEXT outreach events until after spring break.
However, even as much of the city girds itself for a week of serious play, there's serious work on the agenda as well. City Council last Thursday passed a resolution on consent "to make Austin the world leader in automated electric vehicles." Sponsored by Mobility Committee Chair Ann Kitchen, the resolution directs the "City Manager to develop a plan and prepare the City to take a leadership role in the ensuing 'New Mobility Electric/Autonomous Vehicle Solution,'" and to deliver "a New Mobility EV/AV plan" to Council by June 15, that will "examine how to help the broader population migrate from private vehicle ownership to shared electric automated vehicles."
Whew! That's a lot to ask for in the next 100 days (from an interim city manager, no less). But it's not like no one's been working on these issues. The Austin Transportation Department has been partnered with the forward-thinking Rocky Mountain Institute for the past year or more, to look at the big transpo picture. And this week, SXSW has at least 14 panels that concern self-driving cars, spread across the Intelligent Future, Government, and Tech Industry tracks. You can find the full lineup online; I'll just note that a couple are presented by another important local resource: the UT Center for Transportation Research, which just hosted this weekend their first-ever civic hackathon, Hack the Traffic!
Meanwhile, in a recent report on New York City traffic, entitled "Unsustainable? The Growth of App-Based Ride Services and Traffic, Travel and the Future of New York City," transportation policy consultant Bruce Schaller – a former deputy commissioner for Traffic and Planning at the New York City Dept. of Transportation, and co-author of a National Academy of Sciences report on emerging mobility – found that transportation network companies have "added significantly to vehicular travel and mileage on city streets," as transit ridership fell. He concluded that "a continuation of TNC-led growth in travel is not a sustainable way to grow the city," and that his findings could have "important implications for other major American cities." How that equation would change, if those app-based rides were in EV/AV vehicles, is not contemplated. See the report at www.schallerconsult.com/rideservices/unsustainable.pdf.
We've written about the Elgin Agrarian Community in these pages a few times, and their work to build a "23-acre sustainable, mixed use community featuring 80 cottage-style homes built around a community-support farm and commercial spaces." The group's steering committee recently decided to switch from a co-op to a co-housing model, to make traditional financing options easier. You can hear about that, see floorplans, and hear about the spring groundbreaking at 6pm this Thursday, March 9, at 28 N. Main St. in Elgin, part of the town's monthly Sip, Shop, and Stroll event. See more info at www.elginagrarian.com.
Last September, City Council passed an ordinance establishing the Tenant Relocation Assistance Program, to help "to provide notification or financial relocation assistance to tenants" losing their homes to redevelopment. Now, the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office has drafted the proposed rules that would implement the plan: what notice landowners must give to tenants, under what circumstances they are to provide financial aid, and so on. Be assured, these rules are being closely scrutinized by the affected parties; you can view them and put in your two cents at www.austintexas.gov/online-form/tenant-relocation-assistance-program-rules-review.
The city's Watershed Protection Department is undertaking a Shoal Creek Flood Mitigation Study to assess possible solutions to flooding along Shoal Creek in the Downtown area. They have a $900,000 budget, and are holding this open house at "the very beginning of the study, a great time to provide feedback about your concerns and goals." It's Thursday, March 9, 6-8pm, at Cirrus Logic, 700 West Ave. See more info at www.austintexas.gov/shoalcreekfloods.