The First Episode of the Farm&City Podcast: Population Growth

Texurban

Across Texas, people are talking about the rapid growth of our cities, suburbs, and metro regions – in neighborhood meetings, council debates, TXDOT presentations, and at chamber events. In Austin, where I live, there is a general perception that we’re adding more Californians than any human civilization has ever added people, while Houston region actually adds about three times as many people as Austin does every day.

Much of our work at Farm&City relates to growth issues and finding sustainable regional growth policies that will equitably benefits to all. Texas is in the midst of a traffic death epidemic. Can we grow in ways that reduces our vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and frees us all from the high rate of traffic crashes? Displacement, un-affordability, and a seeming lack of the housing lifestyle options people are looking for permeates Texas cities. Can adding people to our city actually mean that the people already here have better options, better access?

This podcast episode simply explores the rates and amounts of growth of the human population starting at the worldwide focus and narrowing down to the City of Austin. This isn’t intended to give any great answers to the big public debates we are having about growth, but just to start the conversation with some context and some interesting data and information.

I am the Executive Director of a startup nonprofit, Farm&City, and this episode is the launch of the Farm&City podcast. My name is Jay Blazek Crossley and I hope to publish one short episode – about ten minutes – every weekday. My four year old son, George, joined me for this first episode. I hope to have many guests on this podcast, including George, but some will just be me diving into an issue. Each podcast will explore one concept, with some being broad background concepts like this one and others focusing on a current public process, like what is happening with CapMetro’s Project Connect high capacity transit plan in Austin.

I grew up in Houston, went to college and grad school in Austin for a decade, moved back to Houston and worked for Houston Tomorrow for a decade, and then moved back to Austin two years ago to launch this nonprofit and try to change the public policy arena in Texas to get better results for every Texan.

Comments Due Today, October 26 in Support of HOV Lanes for Transit on US290 in Houston

One Thousand Texans for Transit

TXDOT completely rebuilt a major transportation corridor, US290 in Houston, with zero improvements for transit, because of the intense flaws and inequities in the Texas transportation funding and decision making system, even though TXDOT staff publicly spoke about the need to add HOV capacity and Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Transportation Transition Team specifically called for TXDOT, the City, and Metro to figure out how to add transit capacity there.

Luckily, TXDOT staff have figured out how to make reasonable transit improvements within the constrained, inefficient policies they have been handed by our legislature. Public comments are due today in support of the idea of using the inside lane going the opposite direction of the bulk of traffic during peak hours, resulting in the ability to run buses quickly both directions.

Robin Holzer has been tweeting about this. Here is the official TXDOT information page.

Please send your comments before midnight tonight by email to [email protected] and include this in the subject “RE: CSJ: 0050-09-069, etc.” Here is some draft language to help you write your own email:

RE: CSJ: 0050-09-069, etc.

I am writing today to support the proposal to upgrade the inside lanes on US 290 in Houston to allow for improved HOV and transit service during peak hours. Please do all that you can to maximize the public investment in this corridor and allow more throughput of people by optimizing safe, multimodal transportation, like the bus.

We are in desperate need of substantially greater investments by the Texas Department of Transportation in transit improvements, and this kind of smart upgrade to existing facilities is an excellent way to provide more service to more Texans. Please quickly study and replicate these improvements across the state as quickly as possible.

Thank you for all that you do to end the traffic death crisis across Texas and for these proposed improvements that will allow reasonable safe, multimodal options.

Sincerely,

John Doe

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.