September 27, 2016
As part of the process to update the Land Development Code (LDC), the City’s CodeNEXT team is releasing a series of “prescription papers” to provide a general idea about the direction the new code is taking. A total of four prescription papers will cover the following: the natural and built environment, affordability, mobility and fiscal health.
Before diving into our specific responses to the prescription paper on mobility, I would like to reiterate RECA’s stance that a draft of the revised LDC needs to be released in January 2017. CodeNEXT is already over budget, behind schedule and challenged by internal staff turnover.
Rather than developing these prescription papers, RECA believes time would be better spent using the guidance that has already been established within the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan. There is a real danger that these prescriptions may lead to confusion where they deviate from the recommendations of Imagine Austin, which was already developed and approved through a very robust citizen engagement process and a unanimous City Council vote in June 2012.
As Austin and Central Texas continue to grow, mobility will no doubt continue to be a major policy topic. We believe the City Council’s recent passage of the $720 million Mobility Bond package for the November ballot is a major step for our city. The three funded “buckets” contained in the initiative, for Smart Corridors, Regional and Local Mobility and active transportation are all rooted in the spirit of the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan. It is our hope that this measure passes in November and can be successfully implemented.
According to the prescription paper, street design standards, including connectivity, will be updated in the new Code to reflect best practices in multi-modal design. The paper says it should also support strategically completing the street network by requiring connectivity of existing street hubs and assuring street connectivity is included in new subdivision design and infill projects.
RECA generally supports the suggested changes to the Code addressing multi-modal street design. However, we believe care should be taken by the city during its implementation to ensure adequate vehicular traffic is maintained, congestion increased or access decreased, and that they are only applied where there is enough density to support the changes. We also recommended the Corridor Mobility Reports, Bicycle Master Plan and Sidewalk Master Plan and Urban Trail Master Plan be re-evaluated with Imagine Austin before starting implementation.
When it comes to minimum parking, the prescription paper suggests that minimum parking requirements should be eliminated in the more intensive transect zones (T4 through T6), and that parking maximums established instead. The paper describes how developers respond to market demands and will build adequate parking for new developments, so minimums are unnecessary. It also contemplates how providing beyond the current minimums, hurts walkability, urban form and is detrimental to transit.
RECA is generally supportive but would ask for care in setting any parking maximums. Where city staff feels a maximum is necessary, the available transit options should be studied to ensure they are providing adequate service to offset the parking.