Speck-tacular: Austin Energized to Become More Walkable

WalkAustin, a new organization, was the catalyst for getting walkability expert Jeff Speck to Austin last week. Jeff is a compelling speaker on why Austin should focus on becoming walkable and brings a wealth of experience on how we might make even more progress toward a place where walking is attractive and adds to the vibrant feel of Austin. The turnout for both events was huge – evidently a lot of people are interested in making our city more walkable!

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Melissa Berry with the Downtown Austin Alliance; Gordon Dirr, Assistant Director of Austin Transportation; Greg Guernsey, Director Austin Planning & Development Review; Girard Kenny; Howard Lazarus, Director Austin Public Works and Movability board member; and Larry Warshaw with Constructive Ventures accompanied Speck and WalkAustin Board members on a walking tour of several Austin locations.

Over the course of two days Speck talked to over 300 community members, elected officials, business owners and advocates. And, he took a walk around Austin with a number of downtown Austin stakeholders. According to Speck, making modern cities more walkable is a great first step to bringing other improvements to the community. Speck talked about making transit facilities more walkable because “every transit trip begins and ends with a walk.” He also stressed implementing bike facilities to take some cars off overly crowded roadways.

Among his other recommendations to not only make downtown Austin more walkable, but more diverse and successful:

  • Reduce the number of street lanes to combat the pattern of city streets turning into mini-highways.
  • Get rid of on-site parking requirements and instead focus on collective parking structures.
  • Instead of building new parking facilities for new highrises, allow nighttime residential parking in existing downtown parking structures.

If you missed the events and want to learn more, you can check out his book, Walkable City.

Thanks to the sponsors who contributed generously to bring Jeff to town: AARP, Asterra, Capital Metro, Central Health, Constructive Ventures, City of Austin, Downtown Austin Alliance, CNU Central Texas, Momark, Movability Austin, St David’s Foundation, and SW Strategies.

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