Thoughts on Walkability

People prefer living where their home naturally extends into a community full of neighbors to visit with, public spaces (like pools and parks for kids to play together), retail areas to window shop, restaurants, and shops to buy groceries. Having places to explore and discover new nooks and crannies extends a sense of home. This is what makes Walk Score such a hot topic when comparing locations.

Living in a walk-able location allows residents to walk for exercise and purpose. For instance, my partner and I enjoy walking to restaurants, bars and shops in our east central neighborhood. The parks and pools offer a nice break and a shady spot for relaxation. Additionally, we combine light exercise with a breath of fresh air by walking along the Lady Bird Lake trail to grab dinner or drinks downtown. And if we wander too far or get tired, we know we can always hop on a bus home. When it comes to more challenging trips like grocery shopping at the HEB over a mile away we take our bikes or a Car2Go.  These simple ventures have become part of our daily life. These excursions give us time to walk and talk, run into neighbors, meet new people in our community and keep tabs on the neighborhood. Would you believe we have all of this with a Walk Score of only 54!?

Such daily walkabouts are less common because we stopped building these kinds of neighborhoods in the 1960s and 70s in the Austin area.

Thus it costs a lot more to live in these older, more centrally located neighborhoods like Clarksville, South Congress and downtown.  On top of that, many homebuyers, especially families, want larger houses. But building larger houses is hard given development regulations in Austin, plus they cost more to build in the Central city.

The good news:

Austin is beginning to revisit restrictive ordinances especially in areas like Lamar and Burnet where more housing could be built without too much disruption to neighborhoods that work. This will allow more public spaces and places to develop along these areas. Corridors and connections to these places could also be improved, such that walking or cycling a few blocks is easier and safer than it is today, thereby increasing your sense of home.

Check your Walkscore and begin to discover what’s around your home today!

Mellow Johnny’s Craig Staley Talks Bike Share

Following the news about Austin’s city-wide Bike Share Program, which is slated for a progressive launch beginning in Spring 2013 Movability Austin caught up with key-player, Mellow Johnny’s General Manager, Craig Staley to talk shop on what this means for Austinites.

Q: Why did you and Mellow Johnny’s get involved in starting a bike share in Austin?

We saw an opportunity to leverage the strength of our brand and the bike industry knowledge that we possess to get bike share off the ground in Austin. We view bike share as the single best addition to our transit system when you consider the cost of it versus the impact it will make.

Q: How is bike share important for Austin?

Bike share is huge for Austin. We lack a built-up system of public transit, but have a huge forecast for population growth—especially downtown.

Q: How will bike share work in Austin?

We think it will be a huge success in Austin. Our weather, downtown growth, attitude, and transit needs point to this being the right answer at the right time for our city

Q: Who are the others involved, and ideally what others need to be involved?

So far on the private side we have companies such as GSD&M, Whole Foods, Cirrus Logic, and Austin Ventures. CapMetro, The Downtown Austin Alliance, and the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau have all vocalized support. I would hope that we eventually see strong support and involvement from UT, ACC and St. Edwards, once they see the value and impact of bike share.

MetroBike Shelters: An important step towards increasing bicycling in Austin

 

Combining public transit and bicycling is a great way to travel. Public transit is great for medium to long trips, bicycling is perfect for shorter trips and when you combine them, you have all of your trips covered. This is such a successful pairing that there are often too many bicyclists trying to get on the bus or train.  As one piece of the solution, on August 6, 2012 Capital Metro will open the first of many MetroBike Shelters at the Kramer Station on the Red Line. The shelter will be secure and can only be accessed by members via a key card. The shelter will be available to members 24 hours a day and membership for the first year costs only $30. CapMetro opened registration in late July and will accept the first 50 applications. Commuters will now be able to ride their bike to the Kramer Station and hop on the train into Downtown without worrying about lugging their bike on the train or finding secure parking when they get into work. You can sign up here for your pass. Five additional locations are planned for the future including: the Tech Ridge Park & Ride, MLK Station, Saltillo Station and more.

Comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter if you would use the MetroBike Shelter. The more demand the more likely CapMetro is to increase these types of amenities.

Big Picture
It is well knownthat providing convenient and secure bike parking will increase the number of people biking to work. When riders feel safe leaving their bike for the day they are more inclined to ride into work. Building secure parking facilities at each of the Red Line stations is a great place to start.

 Research has also shown that secure parking can increase the perception of safety and actual safety for bicycles by reducing theft and also increasing bicycle commuting and use of public transit. Even more so, combining end of trip bicycle facilities (showers, lockers, changing areas) with secured parking, is a great way to increase bicycle commuting. A recent study shows that commuters with these facilities at their workplace were almost 5 times more likely to bike than those that didn’t have the facilities at work.

Future of transit-bicycle integration

Expecting all employers, large and small, to build showers and locker facilities is a tall order. However, if Capital Metro wanted to take that next step in bicycle-transit integration, they could build a high-profile transit center in downtown, near the Red Line. The Transit Center could have serious bicycle parking, repair stations, shower and changing facilities. Movability Austin discussed placing bicycle showers and lockers in the unused Convention Center parking only to discover management is hesitant to make any long-term commitments until the litigation of that property is resolved. We will continue to work with the City, Cap Metro, DAA and other stakeholders to look for bike/transit station options downtown.

Comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter if parking and shower facilities would help you commute by bicycle.  Please let us know the address of your work place too.