Public Notice: Show and Tell
Civic leaders have big plans for your future
The city of Austin and the Capital Metro transit agency this week each released – sort of separately-but-jointly – their long-range mobility plans for the city. Both are clearly labeled as draft vision plans, and incomplete ones at that, with more sections to be released soon, but that hasn't stopped detractors from flagging perceived deficiencies, at least in the Cap Metro plan, right from the get-go. The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step, goes the adage. Yes, but that step has to be in the right direction, say the critics.
Cap Metro CEO Randy Clarke chose an interesting setting to unveil the latest iteration of his agency's long-range plan on Monday presenting "the Project Connect vision" in a speech at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce's annual Regional Mobility Summit, where he might rightly have expected a warm reception to a plan calling for a large and sustained public infrastructure investment, with little mention (yet) of how the bills are to be paid. The vision is built on a number of core assumptions: the need for "dedicated pathways that allow transit vehicles to operate free from other traffic"; the inevitability of "autonomous rapid transit (ART)," or self-driving, networked vehicles; the concurrent switch to all-electric power; and the use of large new park-and-ride facilities, presumably to bridge the gap with the Luddites who still own cars.
The City Transportation Department, meanwhile, announced Tuesday that the "first of two presentations on draft policies from the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan is now available on the ASMP website." It's an interesting pairing: Project Connect is thus far very much a vision plan, with almost no explication, but with quite detailed maps of proposed routes: four bus rapid transit lines, two new ART pathways, and a new commuter rail line to Manor. The ASMP, on the other hand, is fairly detailed, with seven chapters full of specific policy statements and priorities – about 100 in all – that lay out a fairly specific framework for how to make decisions regarding mobility planning; but it has no mapping yet, nor much context for how the planning principles might be reflected on the ground. That's good planning, actually – putting the horse before the cart, as it were – in contrast, for example, to what the CodeNEXT planners attempted to do. But it does give the whole enterprise a sort of theoretical, unreal air. And it hasn't stopped the critics from jumping on some of the specific details that are out there.
Chief among these is the abandonment of a light rail as having any place in our transportation future. And the first shot back at the Project Connect vision came from the Austin Coalition for Transit, a transit advocacy coalition of folks with a long pro-rail history. They slammed CapMetro for jumping the tracks in favor of ART vehicles on wheels, but they also faulted the study for its choice of priority corridors, and most notably, for failing to align its corridors and "mobility hubs" with the centers and corridors envisioned in Imagine Austin and other city plans.
Indeed, the existence of so many parallel planning efforts (is that a transit corridor, or a mobility corridor, or perhaps one of the already funded 2016 bond project corridors?) has been worrying to many, for quite a while now. So, it can only be good news that, as we go to press, the city and Cap Metro are jointly presenting a "Community Conversation: Project Connect and the ASMP" at Ruiz Library. So at least these planners are talking to each other. And dissidents from ACT are there as well, so let the discussion begin.
Next up, city staff will present the ASMP vision to the Multimodal Community Advisory Committee on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 6-8pm at Capital Metro HQ, 2910 E. Fifth. [Ed. note: This date has been corrected; it was mistaken in the print version; sorry.] And see links to all of the relevant sites and documents with this column online.
Austin B-cycle still needs volunteers to work their ACL Festival operation, especially the second weekend. Earn a free annual membership and a shirt for your labors; see www.austinbcycle.com/about/volunteer.
Today's the deadline for early bird tickets to the 2018 Austin Green Awards, being celebrated at a reception on Wednesday, Oct. 24, from 6-10pm at the Sunset Room, 310 E. Third. The AGA recognizes "outstanding accomplishments in the broad arena of sustainable design and innovation"; see www.atxgreenawards.org for more info.
Mexic-Arte Museum's fourth annual Catrina Ball is next Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Fairmont Austin Ballroom, 101 Red River. See more info at www.mexic-artemuseumevents.org.
And coming next weekend to the Rollins Theatre at the Long Center, for three shows only: the return of Over the Lege, "the number one – and some might say only – political satire show focused solely on the Texas Legislature." Newly updated; highly recommended.
I promised a couple of issues back I'd let y'all know about memorial plans for our dear friend Micael Priest as they became available. Here you go: "The family has decided Micael Priest's Memorial Service will be held on Sunday, November 11 from 2-5pm at Threadgill's World Headquarters in the beer garden. Music, art, laughter, and tears as we come together to remember and celebrate Micael's life. Cash bar and if you're hungry, order food from the restaurant. There will be a program, and the family has chosen who will speak, and asks if you have any stories or fond remembrances to share, please send 'em to firstname.lastname@example.org."