Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bike Paths Will Hold Austin Back

Several groups in Austin are fighting new measures to increase bicycle lanes in Austin. This blog should serve as a reference to what is going on and offer some viewpoints of people involved in the fray.

The City's Bicycle Plan is here:

KeepAustinMoving.org is trying to fight one portion of the Plan: the change of Nueces (or possibly Rio Grande) through downtown into a "bicycle boulevard." Here's their concern:

"At a time when the motoring public is demanding relief to traffic congestion and the Greater Austin Community is desirous of greater densities throughout Downtown, it is counter-intuitive, counter- productive, and just a Plain Old Bad Idea to be reducing vehicular mobility on an important commercial collector street that is poised for redevelopment. No matter which road is chosen.

A Bicycle Boulevard may be appropriate for quiet residential neighborhoods, but it is inappropriate for commercial roadways in dense urban areas and its construction will have a chilling effect on future redevelopment, the viability of commercial businesses that line the road, and the ad valorem taxes generated by property values."

Another Travis County activist weighed in on these developments, saying:

I was a board member of A-PADD, Austin Planned and Directed Development, an organization composed of 36 south Austin neighborhood associations, which successfully got MoPac extended from 290-71 west to Hwy 45. We proposed the extension as a parkway (no frontage roads) with hiking-running trails on one side and bike trails on the other. The bike trail was envisioned beginning at Circle-C's Velodrome and eventually connecting to bike trails at Zilker. The MoPac design consultant incorporated that concept into the engineering and construction plans. Austin and the bike lobby have consistently opposed that plan. Recently though it has been adopted though modified to not use the MoPac ROW.

I served on the Transportation Commission for 4 years in the mid 1980's and couldn't agree more with the negative impact of removing lanes from city streets to accommodate bicycles. Doing it on neighborhood streets (not neighborhood collectors) I have no problem with but only if the neighborhood is fully supportive.

However, we all know what the objective is; to reduce auto mobility and force use of the grossly inadequate public transit system. Rather than upgrading our flexible bus system by purchase of smaller buses, more frequent scheduling and cross node routes, Austin (via CapMetro) is spending excessive funds to implement rail, both commuter and light. What a shortsighted waste! Austin can't even run an effective bus system but it can darned sure spend funds as though they were unlimited.

Ultimately someone is going to have to pay the piper and, unfortunately, it will be the citizens these costly systems are supposed to benefit.

And, where was Austin when the freeways were being built or upgraded? Why were no HOV lanes requested of TxDOT so transit services could reduce the bus trip time versus auto to destinations?

Remember, when Mopac from the Colorado to 290/71 West didn't have frontage roads and from Parmer to I-35 wasn't a freeway (now it is a Toll Road)? Austin's leadership had their heads stuck in the sand listening to "environmentalists" and "neighborhood activists" that opposed any mobility improvements. When I was
on the Trans Commission system mobility improvements were proposed by City Staff for Enfield-15th streets, 35th street (35th - 38 1/2) and Northland-Koenig. All were opposed and defeated by those same groups at Council meetings.

If I sound negative it is because I have come to the conclusion that Austin is run by
folks with little or no actual business experience and elected by folks that want to maintain the status quo, or, to actually move us backwards. And, then there are the newbies that want downtown Austin to be like New York City with "street cars" and Zilker becoming their Central Park. For my money, if they want it to be like where they came from, then they should go back there. And as Texans like to say, "Don't let the door hit them in the butt as they leave!"

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