Downtown Austin CEOs have a unique perspective regarding traffic concerns and how they impact local businesses. Fred Schmidt is CEO and Publishing Director of Portalarium, Inc., a mobile-social media company making games for Facebook and other mobile technology platforms. Fred also runs Wild About Music, a unique music lifestyle retail store, and its sister store Austin Rocks Texas.
Q: How do you see transportation impacting and/or challenging your business in downtown Austin?
Downtown is a compact area perfect for walking, bicycling, pedi-cabs and all forms of alternate transportation. But Austin is spread out, which means commuting by car gets us into very expensive and convoluted parking requirements. Unfortunately many of my Portalarium employees have found that the frequency of service and weekday evening service of public transit did not meet their needs for working later hours. In my retail businesses, it’s easier and nearly all of our employees live within a mile or two away and walk, bicycle or bus.
Q: Explain a bit more about your employees challenges in using options like bicycling, transit, carpooling, etc.?
On the retail front, all but 2 of nearly 20 employees do so. At Portalarium, a few who live close enough bicycle, ride motorcycles, or bus or take the train but most still drive. Those who have tried other commuting options have found them not work out well enough for their needs. As part of the “new creative economy”, we are not a 9-5 shop. This is the demographic that downtown very much seeks to attract because of the high compatibility with the entertainment lifestyle/brand and our employee’s overall receptiveness to alternate forms of transportation. But right now we still have a significant disconnect between this great workforce and Austin’s commuting options regarding public transportation.
Q: How do you get to work and/or get around downtown? And how well does work for you?
I have been bicycling to work for nearly two years now for all the reasons Movability Austin constantly promotes: health, zero cost, easy on-demand mobility, and it’s just the responsible thing to be doing these days. My bike or walking gets me to about 80% of all the essential meetings or activities I need to be at each day. When it rains or if I’m catching a flight, I take CapMetro.
Q: What would you like to see done to help with transportation into and around downtown?
I think we mostly need to get the frequency of transit service right. We usually need to get to our destination as quickly as possible, especially people as heavily scheduled as I am. Rail and bus options should run their routes at no more than 15 minute intervals, 18 to 20 hours a day. Circulators should have 5-minute headways on their smaller, tighter routes to be meaningful. The Airport Flyer should be fully coordinated with airline schedules so that the last bus leaves ABIA 30 minutes after the last scheduled arriving flight. Currently the last inbound weekday bus leaves when there are 18 more flights still arriving.