Mobility Plan’s Bad Date With ZAP
Began in 2016, Austin's proposed transportation plan still manages to be contentious
The Austin Strategic Mobility Plan arrives at City Council on March 28; for the last month, in final draft form, it has made the rounds of city commissions for feedback. On Tuesday, March 19, two weeks after the Zoning and Platting Commission received the Austin Transportation Department's ASMP presentation, the commission heard from the public and discussed the plan for two hours, but ended up making no recommendation to Council.
The ASMP, which began in 2016, seeks to update the Austin Metropolitan Area Transportation Plan that's been in effect since 1995. Though only six of the 10 ZAP commissioners were in attendance, the plan – which many agreed "on the whole" was good – still managed to be contentious. As commissioners scrutinized the ASMP's lofty goals to increase public transportation ridership while decreasing single-rider vehicle traffic, ATD Assistant Director Annick Beaudet, in an effort to move the conversation forward, asked ZAP to look at the plan as a target for the city and a way to communicate. Admitting the goals were high, Beaudet called that the "point of the plan" but added, "It's going to take all of us, as residents of Austin, to get there."
On a macro level, fears of gentrification and displacement again arose – specifically concerning the creation of transit-oriented development throughout the city, which Commissioner David King worried would push out long-term, lower-income residents. On a more micro level, Sandra De Leon, president of the Rainey Neighbors Association, spoke to the specific concerns of residents there, where the continued pace of large-scale development has been accompanied by a large spike in traffic.
The commission also urged Beaudet and city staff to stop working in department silos – noting that much of the ASMP is tied to land use and the potential pending revision of city code. At the end, commissioners concluded they had neither time to craft amendments to the plan nor enough votes to send a recommendation to Council. Commissioner Ann Denkler, who abstained from voting, said she and other commissioners would send individual recommendations to Council and ATD by March 26.