By Alison Moore – Sixthriver Architects
Jul 12, 2018, 2:19pm
I used to work downtown and would ride the MetroRail from Kramer Station to the Downtown Station at least three days a week depending on my schedule. When I changed jobs and no longer worked downtown, rapid transit was not an option for me. My commute became a 30- to 45-minute drive in traffic traveling south on MoPac. Therefore, I believe that properly managing growth for a thriving city should include the following elements: managing traffic, incorporating nature and smart density.
Thus, discussions of new commuter routes connecting Georgetown to Buda with other extensions to Lockhart, Bastrop and Elgin — Austin’s satellite cities — deliver hope by bringing Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities concept to mind. This concept where workers journey from these satellite cities to the overcrowded cities by mass transit is one of the oldest concepts in city planning. Howard’s concept then further introduced the creation of these transit corridors with green belts between the cities. This gives everyone the option of mass transit, while at the same time creating barriers between cities where people can experience nature. Furthermore, this allows developers to reduce the parking needed for their projects when there are more options for how people could get to work.
The Barton Creek Greenbelt is the result of the donation of the land for parks, and not because of the direct result of planners. Still, the idea as a planning concept is valid, and planning for open space is necessary. We should not create one continuous city from San Marcos to Georgetown. While cities in other states have urban growth boundaries in placeto prevent urban sprawl, it is illegal under Texas state law. Nevertheless, we can avoid creating the city that starts and never stops by allowing higher density at the city centers.
The rate at which this city’s population grows daily is not new. I believe Austin’s planners are devoted to understanding the community’s public interests and developers’ interests in order to manage the sensible growth of this city. CodeNext is a step in the right direction for how the developer and the community can come together to build attractive functional neighborhoods. I understand developers take on the financial responsibility of building the city, but they should also work with planners who understand the needs of the community.
Typically, developers and planners are both seeking to create a vibrant city of which they can be proud. However, special interests groups who bring politics to the foreground are harmful to the success of those functional cities. Nobody wins if a developer’s project is unsuccessful. Therefore, I urge everyone to consider the detrimental effects of creating a situation where the pandering developers with political connections are the ones who are building this city. I also implore everyone to remember the planning concepts that will allow for more nature and less urban sprawl.
Alison Moore is a project manager at Sixthriver Architects.