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From The CodeNEXT Front Line: More Car-Less Whispers

Congress Avenue

Officer towers, retail strip centers and apartment complexes in Austin’s future will have to incorporate a transportation demand management plan under CodeNEXT.

Austin City Council’s Mobility Subcommittee took up the transportation chapter of CodeNEXT at a meeting Tuesday. Parking and congestion are at the crux of most zoning fights before City Council, and the proposed code tightens requirements for parking, sidewalks and driveways citywide. This is on top of the discussions about reducing or eliminating parking requirements Downtown.

Transportation Demand Management, referred to as TDM in most urban planning circles, is the biggest component of CodeNEXT changes. TDM plans, filed with the city in the building permit phase, would memorialize a developer’s choice to offer short-term parking, car-sharing and shuttle buses. TDM plans would be subject to spot checks and enforcement by city code staff.

Yesterday’s discussion of the TDM concept was fairly broad because Austin’s transportation staff is still creating its toolbox of options, which will reside in CodeNEXT’s technical transportation manuals. But San Francisco’s TDM toolbox provides a fairly full picture of how a transportation plan can be compiled electronically for any parcel of land in the city by mixing and matching parking, non-car transportation and accommodation for modes like bike-sharing and ride-sharing.

Amenities like showers and lockers for bike riders often have been more talk than reality in Austin development negotiations. This would lock in those promises. And it would be the accountable benchmark for any negotiations to reduce parking requirements.

Other changes to the land use code will require a transportation impact study for plats with impacts as low as 1,000 trips per day. Those plans now extend to all modes of transportation — not just cars — and have a hard date to expire in five years. Plans also must be reviewed for driveway safety factors, and the code formalizes requirements for all plans to be consistent with the city’s sidewalk and urban trail master plans at the platting phase.