December 14 2012

Imagining a More Sustainable City: Completing our Streets to Create Environmentally Conscious Infrastructure

Planners, citizens, and the governing body alike, look to the guidance of the newly adopted Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan to ensure that Austin, Texas grows in an economic, social, and environmentally sustainable manner. The consequences from decisions made, ranging from where to build housing or which business industries to support, must be taken into consideration for the vitality of the city. Complete Streets is one initiative that complies to several of the 6 Guiding Principles and 8 Priority Programs outlined in the comprehensive plan.

Sidewalk view on 2nd Street

Sidewalk view on 2nd Street

Complete Streets are roadways and surrounding infrastructure that accommodate all types of transportation. They are also connected, support public transit, and encourage more active lifestyles.

Designers create successful complete streets by:

  • Creating larger sidewalks (5-10 feet wide) for comfortable walking space;
  • Providing street side parking, which allows convenient access to building entries and acts as a buffer between moving cars and pedestrian-filled sidewalks;
  • Establishing narrower streets to slow car traffic;
  • Minimizing curb radii reduces pedestrian crossing distances, which significantly increases the comfort and safety of bicyclists and pedestrians;
  • Planting street trees reduces heat build-up from paved areas and creates a cooler micro-climate to make walking and biking more comfortable (especially during hot Texas summers!);
  • Provide clear and direct pedestrian routes that coincide with the street system to create visible, connected, and convenient pathways.

Map of 2nd Street District in Austin, TX

Complete streets develop an urban design that supports the sustainability goals of Austin.  The initiative directly addresses the following principles and programs of the comprehensive plan:

Principle: Grow as a compact and connected city

Program: Invest in a compact and connected Austin

  • Creates more accessible streets near a variety of land-use programs (commercial, transit, residential);
  • Invests in infrastructure that makes streets more accessible to all modes of transit;
  • Creates more compact urban environments by reducing roadway size.

Principle: Sustainably manage water, energy, and our environmental resources

Program: Use green infrastructure to protect environmentally sensitive areas and integrate nature

  • Facilitating alternative modes of transit reduces auto-dependence, carbon emissions, and toxic runoff;
  • Incorporating trees brings nature into the urban environment.

I have targeted the intersection of Lamar and Airport Boulevards to be an opportunity for the city to implement a complete street. With fast moving car traffic and limited, and exposed sidewalks it is a harsh environment for pedestrians. What are some other areas in Austin that could benefit from a Complete Street renovation?

To learn more about the new comprehensive plan, or to get involved click here.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Bonnie Rodd

Originally from the North-Central area of California, Bonnie Rodd found herself at home amongst the creative, participatory, and sometimes off beat Austinites. She holds a B.A. in Urban Studies with a minor in Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin. Her primary interest is sustainable urban development, focusing on alternative transportation and pedestrianism. Believing that the human element in design is invaluable, she dabbled in some social studies as well. This past spring she explored the three legs of sustainability in her thesis titled “Making a Case for Affordable Housing in Transit-Oriented Developments: Austin,TX” and developed a model for single-family affordable housing delivery in such neighborhoods. Bonnie currently resides in Austin, Texas, and will be exposing readers to environmental design issues present in both Austin and Central Texas.

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This entry was posted on Friday, December 14th, 2012 at 7:42 pm and is filed under Environment, Infrastructure, Landscape Architecture, Transportation, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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