“Rather than being guided, as it should be, by natural systems or human needs, the quality and placement of growth in our regions is largely dependent on the car.“-Peter Calthorpe
The newly adopted Austin, Texas city plan, appropriately titled the “Imagine Austin” plan, envisions a less congested and more sustainable city. It turns the conversation away from roadways and brings alternative transportation to the forefront of the transit issue. Under this plan, rail becomes an important part of the solution to people reclaiming Austin from cars. Rail is about creating a mobility system that allows people to connect with their city while moving through it.
You may hear Austinites complaining about the first installment of the Capital MetroRail system known as the Red Line. It is important to understand the purpose, the priority, of this rail line. It is a commuter rail intended to move those who live outside the city into the city where they work, attend school, or otherwise spend their days.
In many ways the Red Line was a trial. By sharing existing track the city made a much safer investment. This being said, I applaud the urban planners’ ability to use this predetermined path to create a foundation for the future transportation network, and by doing so, determining where and how Austin will grow. No small feat!
Keeping this idea, that the Red Line is the foundation, we can better understand the UrbanRail as a component of this multi-layered network. The UrbanRail’s function is moving people within the city core. Its priority is connectivity by providing more frequent stops at high demand destinations. This rail provides access and mobility that the Red Line cannot, and delivers the efficiency a bus cannot while supporting growth with its permanent infrastructure.
The present plan prioritizes the Mueller/Downtown area, while dismissing the car-congested landscape of the North Lamar/Guadalupe corridor. Encouraging growth where growth is wanted is important; however, the Red Line is already addressing this area. It should be the role of the UrbanRail to relieve present high traffic areas and transform these car-oriented throughways into areas made for people.
What parts of the city would most benefit from this?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.