Austin, Travis Co. leaders talk 'Strategic Mobility Plan'

At City Hall on Monday there was a special-called meeting between Council Members, County Commissioners and Cap Metro board members.

You might have heard of Austin's comprehensive vision for growth called "Imagine Austin." 

"So I say the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan or ASMP is like the 'roads' version of Imagine Austin, it is setting goals, it is recognizing that we have to have a vision," said Mayor Pro-Tem and Cap Metro board member Delia Garza.

Garza says they have to prioritize corridors and work with Cap Metro to know what they need.

"I firmly believe that in order to be a sustainable city we can't just keep building roads, we're running out of space to build roads.  I would prefer using space to build housing," Garza said.

Wade Cooper, Chairman of the Cap Metro board says the ASMP is the foundation for what they're trying to do with Project Connect, which is a multi-generational rapid transit plan.

"We're going to spend the next year digging into what exactly that looks like.  We've got all kinds of options and we're in an interesting time period where the technology is shifting, we'll see autonomous vehicles sometime in the...if not the near term the medium term," Cooper said.

As we've reported before the plan taxpayers could see on a November 2020 ballot might include more rail and autonomous rapid transit.

One of the main goals of the ASMP: 74% of Austin-area commuters are driving in cars by themselves.  By 2039 the plan aims to get that number to a 50/50 split between drivers and those who use other modes of transportation.

"We need to walk more, we need to telework more if we're able to, we need to use transit more which is really important and to do all that we probably have to contemplate some significant investments," said Austin Transportation Director Robert Spillar.

Spillar told the group that 50/50 number is just the area average.  

"We know downtown probably needs to be closer to 80% something other than the single occupancy vehicle and only 20% based on the single-occupancy vehicle," he said.  

Mayor Adler says with Austin's population set to double in the coming years, the area can't sustain that 74% statistic.

"Not everyone's going to get out of their cars but some people need to and some people will if you can create the right choices," Adler said.  

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt says the county is committed to this.

"We have got to make a serious investment in transit that goes beyond the current limits of Cap Metro out to all residents of Travis County and even beyond Travis County.  I've got 2 kids, both of them are teenagers.  I'm concerned that they won't live here in the future unless we make this investment today," Eckhardt said.  

Director Spillar said some may be wondering if it's even possible for a Texas city to get to 50/50.

He says when you look around the country other cities are there or beyond...cities like Atlanta and Denver are already way ahead of us.