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.
There’s so much chatter about transportation projects that have varying degrees of reality, it’s hard to keep track sometimes.
One of those projects is coming online in the very near future and going to have big impacts on the downtown transportation grid.
Starting next year, the right most travel lanes on Guadalupe and Lavaca will become the Transit Priority Lanes for the MetroRapid busses. Vehicles in these lanes will be restricted to transit vehicles and cars making right turns.
Notably, in addition to the new MetroRapid busses, all the bus transit will be diverted to those streets from Congress Avenue, which will pay dividends for drivers on Congress and also significantly improve the pedestrian environment – the latter that I predict will catalyze more sidewalk and pocket park cafes along Congress.
…by the City of Austin.
Still, today’s market demands parking, and lenders will continue to require their businesses to deliver a minimum number of parking spaces.
It would be a symbolic and legal step forward though because minimum parking requirements have many negative effects, including:
- Generate greater automobile usage and reduce use of transit and walking.
- Increase building construction costs and make units less affordable.
- Negatively affect the aesthetics of the built environment.
- Perpetuate the inefficient use of available parking. (Currently many parking spaces in garages downtown sit empty throughout the day and night.)
“The city of Austin currently requires businesses to provide a certain number of parking spaces proportionate to the size of the business’s building. Multiple city commissions have expressed support for changing this requirement.
Colin Pope, editor of the Austin Business Journal, said that eliminating the requirement would be more of a symbolic move because developers would still provide parking to keep tenants happy.” – YNN
The Downtown Austin Blog has confirmed that B-cycle is the bike company of choice for the new Austin Bike Share program.
DAB reported last week that three companies had submitted proposals to supply Austin Bike Share equipment. We don’t know who yet else applied, but there is some small comfort in knowing that the people in San Antonio seem quite pleased with B-cycle, where they are growing from 30 stations to 45 stations. (Check out their San Antonio rates and coverage here.) B-cycle implementation has been successful in 15 other major cities, including Denver, San Antonio, and Houston and the city aims to have the bike share program operable by late spring 2013.
Here’s Here are some more details on what to expect in Austin:
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.
One of the things that always seemed curious to me is how and why Capital Metro (@CapMetroATX) occupied prime square footage on a heavily trafficked part of Congress Avenue, next to Annie’s. For many years, Cap Metro occupied the first and third floor of this three-story building.
Well its lease expires this coming April, and it seems the landlord is raising the rent. As a result, Capital Metro is moving into 209 W 9th Street (southwest corner of Colorado and 9th), which is owned by Harry Whittington. There, the transit agency is signing a 5-year $3.3 million lease on 18,800 square feet. This will allow the consolidation of two call centers – one currently housed at the 323 Congress Ave.
For years, the good energy of clear windows (“fenestration” for my fellow wonks) and ambience of Annie’s seemed to kind of get sucked way by the dark, looming, uninviting storefront of Capital Metro next door.
So what’s next for 323 Congress?
The entire building is 21,900 square feet, and features open floor layouts, ample lighting and excellent visibility to Congress Ave. According to this undated flyer from Weitzman, it appears to be listed for sale ”between $2.5 million and $7.3 million.” Or, it could be for lease $24-36/ft/yr by Cielo Realty Partners, as it’s shown on Loopnet.
I’ll be surprised if this languishes too long. Office vacancies downtown have recently fallen below 12%, according to this Dec. 11 Austin Tenant Advisors press release, which compares well to other major cities such as Atlanta which reports a 24% vacancy rate. Average lease rates for all classes are averaging around $30/square in the downtown area while landlords of Class A office properties are quoting $38/square foot, or higher.
This, in part, is being driven by a number of web/computing-based companies setting up shop downtown, which is about as a good of a thing as a city could ever hope would happen to its downtown office space. We can expect a higher and better use of our ground level retail, however.
FYI urban transit commuter: The transit store, where folks pick up passes, pocket maps and the lost & found, is also moving to the new location on 9th Street.
[image courtesy of AustinHelicopterTours.com]
As could be predicted, neighborhoods surrounding Downtown are in high gear with folks excitedly complaining about the new sound of choppers overhead today. In my Travis Heights community in SoCo, our South River City Citizens (SRCC) list serv (and, therefore, my inbox) is filling up with unhappy chatter. I just checked in with the ABIA Aviation “Noise & Emissions Office” (never knew there was such a thing) and the phone lines are on fire.
So I finally couldn’t take it any more and posted the following on our SRCC site. Maybe those of you who agree can share similar thoughts with others.
“My two cents: How about everybody reposition your thinking to something like this…
“Wow! Isn’t it great to have this amazing new event in Austin… positively showcasing our wonderful city to the world… providing jobs to thousands of Austinites, supporting our local businesses, and pouring tens of millions of dollars into our local economy?
“I think it’s all a matter of perspective. I am hearing the choppers too, right along with y’all. But what I hear are the motors of economic prosperity, not ‘noise’. I am perfectly willing to put up with a few days of new Austin Weirdness to receive the benefits of all the good things that come along with it!
“In my mind’s eye, I am picturing every passing helicopter overhead to be carrying a giant bucket of cash — kinda like you see when the choppers are dousing a forest fire with water — and they are over here dumping it all over our city. Kachinggggggg!
“And when you need a break from these new sounds, my guaranteed recommended solution is: a pair of headphones, a soothing classical music playlist on Spotify (or whatever your musical indulgence may be), and a nice hot cup of zen tea.
“We can survive this neighbors, we really can!”
–Fernando of the Hood