Public Notice: CodeCRONK and the Corridors
How to fix land use and transportation
A pair of presentations on Tuesday, March 5, helped set the table for big discussions that could well continue through most of this City Council's term and quite literally shape the city's future for the next few decades.
The big news was City Manager Spencer Cronk's brief statement to City Council's work session that he'll be coming back to them by the end of the month (most likely at the March 28 Council meeting) with a memo outlining his proposal for a path forward on the land development code rewrite formerly known as CodeNEXT. Notably, he said, he'll be asking Council for policy direction on certain key issues that have been contentious at City Hall and among the public – parking and compatibility requirements, for two – and on the scope of the rewrite, and presumably of rezonings as well.
Those are separate issues, and it's worth recalling that the CodeNEXT process collapsed not because of policy disputes, but because our planning department and $8 million worth of outside consultants were unable to write a coherent set of regulations after four years of trying. (Trying everything but actual planning, that is. Department staff have steadfastly insisted they have neither the bandwidth nor the mandate to do the small area planning that could inform rezonings. It'll be interesting to see what Cronk's plan has to say about that topic.)
Later in the day, the Zoning and Platting Commission was the latest body to see a presentation of the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan, which has been circulating in final draft form before it heads to City Council. Another big picture item, the ASMP is arguably more directly consequential, since it's backed by $700+ million in actual construction projects, courtesy of the 2016 Mobility Bond, whereas land use code merely sets parameters for what private developers may or may not build.
Largely following the corridor plans that were laid out in 2016, the ASMP most notably calls for dedicated transit lanes – bus, rail, autonomous vehicle, or whatever else may emerge in the next decades – along as much corridor right-of-way as possible. In many cases, full implementation would remove vehicle lanes, which has some folks in a swivet. But then, that process has already begun along the main Guadalupe/Lavaca corridor and is sort of de facto easing in along other transit corridors, as savvy drivers have already learned that the right lane is best left to the buses and their frequent stops. There's a lot more to it than that, of course; see the whole thing at www.austintexas.gov/asmp, and go speak your piece at the next public hearing in front of the Planning Commission this coming Tuesday, March 12, 6pm, at City Hall.
Still to come: how the corridor planning that's being done as part of the ASMP gets folded into CodeCRONK, and into the seemingly parallel long-range planning work being done at Capital Metro under the Project Connect moniker.
In the short term, though ...
Transit riders will be better served this year during SXSW: With a service change last June, Capital Metro now has 14 bus routes offering high-frequency service (every 15 minutes or better), with nine of those running through Downtown, going to pretty much all corners of town. And the agency is promising expanded service from March 8-17; see www.capmetro.org for details.
Speaking of Capital Metro, the agency launched its online Performance Dashboards last week – collecting and presenting data on ridership, safety, service reliability, and finance. See how many people rode each bus route, by day or by hour, or how much of the overall operating cost your bus fares pay (about 8%).
Meanwhile, the Austin Transportation Department's Data and Performance Hub includes up-to-date info about traffic signal operations and timing, dockless mobility, and much, much more. Among other things, the city is reporting upwards of 310,000 scooter rides a month over the past seven months since full deployment – over 10,000 trips a day, averaging a little under a mile each. While that may not put much of a dent in the city's overall Vehicle Miles Traveled, it's clear that scooters have quickly claimed a place in the market; look for ridership to take off as the weather warms.