In June, the supporting agencies of Conversation Corps partnered with MobilityATX to bring conversations about transportation solutions to all areas of town. By joining with MobilityATX for this conversation topic, we were able to increase the number of decision makers listening to the voices of the community. The specific focus for our conversations was about our individual travel behaviors and the personal responsibility we each hold in helping to solve our region’s mobility challenges. Read more background details here.
Conversation Feedback Summary
When asked about their personal approaches to solving congestion problems, many participants commented on the impracticality of giving up their personal vehicles or adjusting their schedules in order to improve mobility. However, others suggested that the region would greatly benefit from its citizens taking initiative and consciously altering their living habits in an effort to eliminate major issues related to mobility. These efforts include encouraging residents to take public transportation, rideshare, adjust their schedules and commute times, or to downsize to a two-wheeled vehicle.
In discussing barriers to adjusting personal habits, the Conversation Corps attendees emphasized the desperate need to improve the quality, safety, and the cost of taking public transportation in Austin. Some asked, “Should transit be free?” Many raised the issues of Austin’s growing elderly population. This was on one of the many reasons they felt that public transportation waiting areas should include additional shaded seating. Parking at public transit stations was frequently discussed during conversations as well. Participants also addressed the lack of availability of public transportation services throughout the city. Citizens living in outskirt neighborhoods or downtown Austin should share the ability to rely on an easily accessible public transportation system during the weekends and late hours.
Several groups addressed the complexity of evaluating and balancing the roles of toll roads and HOV lanes, investment in roads versus transit, and use of high capacity versus low capacity options. A few areas of town talked about the impact of density and the resulting traffic through their neighborhoods.
Many attendees were concerned with the direct impact the city’s mobility has on the safety and well-being of its residents. Clearly marked crosswalks, increased sidewalks and bicycle lanes would help to protect both pedestrians and cyclists. Additionally, many agreed that increased access to various means of transportation may have a positive effect on the prevalence of drinking and driving in the city.
A large number of participants concluded that in such a rapidly growing city, increased advocacy, awareness, partnering and incentives could make a significant difference in Austin’s mobility. According to their comments, if communities partnered to raise money in support of a growing public transportation system and riders became advocates and actively involved in the discussion, we may see improvement. Many attendees addressed the importance of our mobility agencies keeping up with technology. Increased technology, such as the well-designed technology for Capital Metro, allows locals to easily navigate the transportation system. It was also mentioned, however, that access to technology can create inequality. Additionally, incentives from both employers and public agencies and for citizens to ride the bus, reside near their place of work, purchase a two-wheeled vehicle etc., may maximize the opportunity for growth and improvement in our city.
How discussion feedback has been used
The input from the June Conversation Corps discussions was compiled and outlined in the MobilityATX findings report. A number of the ideas raised by participants in the Conversation Corps discussions reflected topics mentioned on the MobilityATX online platform. The Conversation Corps discussions helped the MobilityATX initiative by supporting and promoting in-person mobility dialogues which buttressed the MobilityATX online platform. Ideas submitted during the June Conversation Corps sessions were presented to the community at an event for the release of the MobilityATX final report on October 8, 2015 with Mayor Adler, Council Member Kitchen, Linda Watson, CEO of Capital Metro, and other senior stakeholders. The report, including the ideas sourced from Conversation Corps participants, was considered by the Austin City Council Mobility Committee on November 16.
In addition, Capital Metro used feedback from the mobility talks to inform Connections 2025, a service evaluation study that will reimagine bus service, as well as Project Connect Central Core, a high-capacity mobility plan launching Fall 2016 that will explore a variety of modes to move people efficiently in and out of the city core.