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Travis County addresses some transportation woes
Wednesday, January 20, 2010 by Jacob Cottingham
Travis County Commissioners on Tuesday addressed three different transportation items, each an attempt to address the county’s traffic and, by extension, lower ozone levels. Commissioners delayed action on a proposed Transportation Management Association shepherded by the Downtown Austin Alliance; were briefed on the Car2Go Smart Car program; and voted to adopt a trial express shuttle program for county employees.
First up, the Downtown Austin Alliance was requesting the county’s participation in a new study to “improve access and mobility downtown,” by contributing $6,000 of the $27,200 needed to fund a feasibility study for a Transportation Management Association. Also known as a TMA, according to the DAA these “are non-profit, membership-based organizations that work in specific geographic areas to increase the efficiency of transportation systems by emphasizing movement of people rather than vehicles.”
UrbanTrans Consultants out of
In May of this year,
The study would help to figure out the cost of running an organization, how it should be staffed and where it would be housed and could provide other suggestions if a TMA wasn’t the best solution. They would also produce a business plan and implementation plan to help determine the cost of running a TMA for three years.
Already the DAA board approved up to $10,000 for the study and was joined by Cap Metro and City of
Pct. 1 Commissioner Ron Davis said the county gives about $25,000 each year to the DAA and wondered why the $6,000 couldn’t come from that. Morris Priest, a citizen, pointed out the myriad transportation proposals, studies and organizations, “There are more organizations studying this to death than there are dollars,” he told the court.
Paul DeLong, a representative from Car2Go, which has been operating a pilot program involving short-term Smart Car rentals downtown through City of
The billing is more similar to a taxi than a car rental, and DeLong said it encourages people to take mass transit into town if they know they can then utilize a private vehicle for a short time for errands or brief cross-town trips. Eckhardt also noted its replacement factor. “With this you have ten people using one vehicle in one spot instead of ten people using ten vehicles.”
Judge Sam Biscoe was familiar with the program but asked, “I’ve never seen one of those cars going down the street with a driver, but if I wanted to see that, what is the best location?” He was told librarians surprisingly make up one of the largest groups of city users. Commissioners have not yet signed the county up for the pilot program, nor were they scheduled for action on the item.
Finally, Commissioners approved a pilot program that would bring far flung county commuters to work en masse. A private shuttle, likely run by Veolia, would pick up employees of the county, AMD, IBM, Austin Energy, Seton and the City of
Last week the court authorized the QTB and this week they voted unanimously to move forward with an in-house survey and analysis of potential routes for the vans and what sort of initial ridership the county could expect. County parking spaces are currently on a seven-year waitlist. The county expects its share of the initial ridership to be between 50-75 employees.
Robin Rather, representing the Clean Air Force and Environmental Defense Fund, has been guiding the pilot program through its different partners. She said the 90-day pilot should begin in April, although county staff didn’t think they could complete the proper hurdles until June.
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