Austin Strategic Mobility Plan works toward easier commute around campus for students

Victoria May

The Austin Transportation Department is working alongside CapMetro to provide students with easier off-campus transportation through the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan.

The plan was drafted in 2017 and was made official this April. Annick Beaudet, assistant director of the transportation department, said the public is finally starting to see the results. The first two years of the improvements focused on development and review, and the city is now starting to construct the plans. 

“We have been looking at … how to require needed improvements to address public transit infrastructure, such as shelters and benches, in the zoning and site plan approval process,” Beaudet said during an Urban Transportation Commission meeting earlier this month.

Other improvements in the resolution include new bus stops, MetroRail stations, bus station amenities and priority lanes for public transit. 

“We also have smaller projects that we’re currently working on,” said Caitlin D’Alton, senior planner for CapMetro Transportation Authority, in an Urban Transportation Commission meeting earlier this month. “Together with the developer, we are really able to see how this transit can really be integrated and accommodative and be more useful for the residents or people who are going to be benefiting from that development.”

Improvements included in the plan focus on eight goals, including the promotion of environmental consciousness in all travel, the opening of multiple modes of accessible travel and reducing the amount of time that students and workers spend traveling between work and home.

“As one of the nation’s largest and most popular cities, we face tough issues,” said City Manager Spencer Cronk in a letter included in the adopted version of the plan. “This mobility plan, written in partnership with our community, aims to put Austin in the best position to address our transportation challenges directly. People young and old, long-time residents and newcomers, from all parts of our community engaged with the planning team to share ideas for our future.”

Currently, 74% of Austin residents use personal travel to get to and from work and school alone, according to the plan. Cronk said this is a reason for extreme traffic congestion, especially around the downtown areas.

In response to traffic congestion, city planners have included a Transportation Demand Management program within the plan. The program acts an approach to tackling congestion through strategies that reduce the number of individual commuters on the road.

“We’re feeling pretty good about what it looks like to implement the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan through this development process, which is a lot of how we make positive change in Austin,” Beaudet said.

The plan will remain in effect for the next 20 years. Throughout the beginning of its implementation, the mobility plan team will continue to be present in the community by researching transportation issues, learning about local transportation challenges and discussing the plan.