TXDOT’s Unified Transportation Program needs your feedback

DecideTexas, Get Involved, Texurban, VisionZeroTexas

The public comment period for Texas Department of Transportation’s Unified Transportation Program (UTP) is now open.

The UTP is a ten-year plan that guides transportation strategies and spending within the state. Unfortunately, the plan has historically been hindered by a lack of citizen participation and questionable priorities.

Last year’s UTP received only 23 comments for an overall rate of less than one comment per one million Texans. With such little public engagement, it’s no surprise that the plan strays from its paramount goal of protecting the safety of Texans, with ten people dying every day on our roads.

This year’s UTP proposes at least $35 billion to “address congestion” over the next ten years, and only $3.3 billion in Category 8 funding for safety issues. This is wildly out of proportion with the actual annual costs of crashes ($38 billion) compared to the cost of congestion (a mere $14 billion).

We encourage you to tell the Texas Transportation Commission, our Governor, and our Legislature that you want to prioritize the lives and physical wellbeing of Texans over all other concerns in the transportation planning process, that you want concrete goals and strategies for reducing transportation deaths, and that you want our TXDOT budget to reflect its moral obligation to ending this epidemic.

You can submit online comments or print a comment form and mail it to: TXDOT, Attention: Peter Smith, P.O. Box 149217, Austin, TX 78714-9217. UTP comments must be received Monday, August 20, 4pm.

If you can make it in person to Austin, there will be a public hearing on the UTP on Tuesday, August 7, 10am in Austin at ENV Conference Room, 118 E. Riverside Dr., Austin, TX 78704.

You also can make comments in person when the Texas Transportation Commission considers the UTP on Friday, August 30, at 125 East 11th St., Austin, Texas, in the Ric Williamson Hearing Room on the first floor.

The Case for Austin’s Transit-Oriented Development Fund

Growing Weirder, Texurban

Austin’s need for equitable transit-oriented development is apparent. TOD allows meaningful access to affordable, healthy lifestyles, yet our development regulations have created a perverted marketplace that does not provide these options for most people.

We can give more people affordable, multi-modal access to all the necessities and amenities of metropolitan life, along with all the benefits of dense urban development. As Austin’s population expands, that accessibility will play a key role in making the city sustainable, equitable, and affordable for all.

To ensure these policies are consistently and equitably pursued, we advocate for the establishment of a city-based Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Fund. Such funds have already been established in Denver, San Francisco, Boston, Detroit, and San Diego, dedicating tens of millions of dollars to building sustainable neighborhoods for all.

Each TOD fund is a complex financial package designed to meet shortfalls in financing mixed-use, mixed-income, walkable urban environments. They are comprised of public housing funds, private philanthropic capital, and bank funding. The funds are designed to be available for private and nonprofit developers alike, but can only be accessed if developers include a certain level of affordable housing units, plan to build within walking distance of high-quality transit, and meet other community desires proscribed by the fund.

Austin’s ETOD Fund would be initiated by a dedication of working capital from a local foundation and a matching contribution from the City, which can then be leveraged to secure additional commitments from other foundations and private banking institutions.

A properly cultivated ETOD Fund would help provide Austinites with accessible, sustainable, and equitable habitat for years to come. Learn more in our full report:

Download the full report

GrowingWeirder_ETOD_Proposal (pdf)
Printable version: GrowingWeirder_ETOD_Proposal_Printable (pdf)

Growing Weirder is our initiative to advocate for equitable, sustainable regional growth through the two major planning decisions currently underway in the Austin region. The City of Austin’s land use and development code rewrite, CodeNEXT, will determine what proportion of the 700,000 newcomers over the next ten years will be allowed to live in the City of Austin. CAMPO’s 2045 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) will determine many aspects of the region’s future, including the possible conversion of up to 650 square miles of rural areas to sub-urban or urban.

Farm&City produced a number of reports taking an in-depth look at the different factors influenced by these broad decisions, with some surprising conclusions. This work provides direction for the planning efforts listed above: if it is more affordable to live in a more compact, connected city, equitable long-term decisions should work to provide meaningful options for living in such places.

Growing Weirder is made possible through the generous support of our sponsors: GreaterAustin Neighborhoods, Blazek & Vetterling, Impact Hub Austin, and My Brilliant City.