If you haven’t yet read this week’s edition of The Austin Chronicle – and seen the amazing front page photo/rendering – please check it out at once here! Stupendous reporting by Senior News Editor, Michael King, of breaking news regarding a multi-billion dollar plan to build a Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium in the middle of Lady Bird Lake, coupled with the new Light Rail line running straight through the center of the stadium as the train crosses the river.
It’s been almost two and a half years since I started advocating for Austin Bike Share in the state capital. It became the highest rated of any SpeakUpAustin initiative, ever. Because of incredible grassroots support, generous financial support by several local businesses, and hard work by City staff, Austin Bike Share is finally happening for Austin.
Austin City Council this week is expected to approve an important step in the process, which will allow the city to form a partnership with nonprofit Bike Share of Austin to operate the bike share program.
The City and Bike Share of Austin are aiming to have the bike share program up and running by spring 2013. A separate contract with a bike share vendor for the purchase of bicycles, kiosks, and the bike share system network is scheduled to come to City Council for approval at the next scheduled council meeting, which would be Jan. 31.
It has long been rumored around town that Austin is going to pick B Cycle, the same bike share operator as San Antonio, to supply the bike share system for Austin. San Antonio’s system is a phenomenal success and expanding.
According to the City, the bike share will bring about 40 bike share kiosks, with as many as 400 bikes, to Central Austin area. That’s a good start.
It was around 2009, when traveling in Montreal, that I was first introduced to a robust bike share system. That system was called BIXI, but it was the same bike design used in Minneapolis. The system works impressively well. You can become a member, or pay-as-you-go. The three-geared bikes are comfortable and well maintained.
That Austin’s Bike Share initiative seems to be heading for the final stretch is superb news, and I’d like to thank all of our City Council members and all the folks at the city who are working to make this happen.
We can expect a draft map of the locations within the next couple of months.
I’ve learned that City staff’s process of identifying possible sites for bike share kiosks is based on several criteria:
- Proximity of bike infrastructure such as bike lanes or cycle tracks
- High employment density
- Nearby parks, recreation facilities, tourist attractions, or other destination
- Favorable topography
- Public transit services
Get it out there.
For the sake of getting bike share off the ground, I really hope the City doesn’t let perfection get in the way of progress. I, myself, would be in favor of a phased launch and the City says, “we are putting half the stations in these spots. Deal with it. However, we would like to hear from the public about where we get the other stations set up at.”
That would get Austin Bike Share rolling, with kiosks being put into the ground, instead of letting all the zealots debate the minutia and delaying having something the public can actually use.
NEWS FLASH: According to a source at City Hall, the Austin Transportation Department is slated to give a big presentation June 14 that will be “a substantial briefing” on urban rail and begins to start answering Uncle Lee’s 30 crucial questions and “then some.”
The mayor has pushed a 2012 bond election funding a first leg for a new mode of mass transit in Austin.
There were more bike thefts reported in the heart of downtown Austin during the first five months of 2011, compared to 2010, according to city police records I compiled. However, reports are down in the South Congress area.
I know this because I decided to do my best Council Member Chris Riley impression — sans silver hair — and work on reducing my car usage in favor of pedal power to commute to the Capitol area. I bought a bike over the weekend, did some research and promptly shelled out another $200 for accessories, aimed mostly at anti-theft.
I was expecting the City to share with stakeholders a draft of an “in the works” plan for Downtown Austin’s Rainey neighborhood. There’s not much to report. Instead, stakeholders were met with City staff taking notes on what the stakeholders had to say.
Staff from several City departments were in attendance, including: Public Works, Parks & Recreation, Austin Energy, Transportation, Planning & Development, Austin Police. Also present was perennial sustainability advocate and Austin City Council member Chris Riley.
What’s next? Each department will organize their feedback and report to…. nobody is sure. I’ve asked the City to create a dedicated web presence for Rainey Street (e.g. www.cityofaustin.org/raineystreet) to better organize and distribute information. Here is pdf scan of the handouts. And, I’m glad to share that there is real progress to report. [Read more…]