Austin

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Accident at SXSW needs to start a transportation conversation

Last night the SXSW party came to a grinding halt. An allegedly drunk driver went from getting picked up for driving under the influence to being charged with two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle. While this could start and stop as a conversation about drunk driving, it’s also an opportunity to talk about the need for better public and ground transportation options.

In the last few years SXSW it has grown exponentially – first with the addition of SXSWi, SXSWEdu, and SXSWEco. But more importantly the increases in the high-profile performers and corporate sponsorships have brought more people into the city. And that primed Austin for an explosion of unofficial SXSW events.

For a couple weeks in March, Austin becomes the host to a citywide party. And with that, conversation about the need to control some of the growth started – actions were taken to limit permits to host events and increase police presence. But SXSW logosupporting a citywide party means you have to support citywide ground and public transportation options as well. The question needs to be raised about whether or not everything was done to support safe rides for people during this citywide party.

Public transportation options were bus or train; Capital Metro specifically expanded their services for SXSW. But the infrastructure isn’t there to support everything that CapMatro seeks to accomplish with their services. There need to be other options available. Car services came to town to offer alternative Cap Metro logosafe rides for partygoers and festival attendees. But hit a wall with the laws requiring an operating permit, a chauffer’s permit and commercial insurance. I am not arguing that this is a petty requirement; I am arguing that Austin needs to create a system that allows for ride sharing and e-hail services for safe rides. It’s not going to be easy – there is a strong lobby here and for reasons that are not trivial. But it’s time to really address how to keep a booming population safe and provide adequate ground transportation resources.

If we cannot find a solution, we may end up with other restrictions that will affect the annual economic boom that SXSW is on Austin. And there are a hell of a lot of new hotels going up in downtown Austin that still need to be paid for.

The Joy of Giving – NPOs, It’s Time!

‘Tis the season for the Joy of Giving. While I tend to not be a fan of giving gifts at a prescribed date or reason. I believe the joy of giving a gift is the reason to give a gift. There is something powerful in bringing someone something they want or need. The best gifts bring the giver as much joy as the recipient. I’m an only child – what can I say?

It’s time to amp up the Joy of Giving
Nonprofits are invited by Andrea Ball at the Austin American-Statesman to offer their annual holiday wish list – an opportunity create their wish list for either their organization or for the people they work with who need a little help this holiday season.

If you’re a nonprofit – Andrea’s note to you is below. If you’re a Gift Giver, keep an eye out here – I’m excited about being able to embrace the Joy of Giving!

P.S. Andrea – Thanks for doing this every year & being a good steward for the nonprofits and community.

— From Andrea:
Dear nonprofits –
It’s time for the annual holiday wish lists! The guidelines are the same as usual. Please send me your submissions by Dec. 11. Also, please make sure your submissions follow the format described below.

Here are the guidelines:
1)      Groups must be an official 501-c-3 or be under the umbrella of a community foundation.
2)      Groups may not ask for cash or volunteers. If we allowed that, it’s all people would ask for! We’re looking for stuff that people can give to you in time for the holidays, such as computers, office supplies, gift cards, clothing, food, furniture, cars or whatever you need. The sky’s the limit.
3)      Groups must provide a short explanation (one sentence) of what it does, provide contact information (phone, email, website) and then list its requests.
4)      Groups should limit its requests to one sentence. Please make it a real sentence, not a 300 word compound sentence. No funny business! 

Please submit your requests in the following format:
Group: The Andrea Foundation
Mission: To collect as many stuffed animals as possible for needy children
Contact info: aball@statesman.com or (512) 912-2506
Request: Beanie Babies, gift cards to Hallmark, etc.

If you could spread this email around, I would be grateful. No matter what I do, I always end up leaving someone out and I’d rather have someone get this email four times than not at all.

Any questions? Shoot me an email. Thanks!
Andrea Ball
Austin American-Statesman
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The Wire

Austin on a Wire: Public Transportation Re-imagined

Last week Michael McDaniel spoke about a proposal to change mass transportation in Austin at an event hosted by Creative Mornings Austin. The Wire – an urban cable car system suspended by wires – offers a unique means of addressing the transportation infrastructure challenge for a growing city.

Challenge of Transportation Infrastructure
Transportation infrastructure challenges are about land management. Does urban planning create communities that support jobs and commerce for the people who live there? If not, or if there is sprawl, we facilitate people’s ability to travel between their point A and B through transportation infrastructure – and public transportation is a part of this. Austin offers public transportation including a bus and newly launched light rail system. What about a third option?

Community and Commuter Benefits
Community and commuter benefit from public transportation. Moving people with fewer vehicles reduces impact on existing roads requiring less maintenance; less toxic emissions helps create healthier air; and reduced roadway congestion allows commuters to arrive at their destination quickly. For the commuter the difference between driving in traffic and a ride on public transportation means the opportunity to identify action plans for the day; read more; catch up on phone calls or emails; or have time to decompress before arriving home.

The Wire
Current public transportation systems help address an infrastructure over-stretching to support our growing community. Expansion is necessary and the Wire offers additional benefits critical to include in those discussions. The Wire can ameliorate some limitations existing systems have:

The Wire

Frog Design’s renderings of what a cable car system in downtown Austin could look like.

  • Access points need not be limited to existing roads – access points can be anchored in areas with limited existing roads (ex. Zilker Park).
  • Aerial cars can travel a path circumventing traditional roadways and land access. Birds travel by flying straight over rivers or greenbelts – so can the Wire.
  • Riders can access the Wire based upon their schedule, not the system’s schedule.
  • The Wire can displace 4,000 cars currently crowding the roads per hour during rush hour.
  • The average rush-hour commuter travels approximately eight miles per hour; the Wire can travel at 15 miles per hour.
  • Building the Wire will cost one quarter of the price tag attached to building light rail – per mile.

In addressing our transportation infrastructure challenge we have to ask ourselves: Are we willing to try something a little weird?