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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Waterfront panel takes hard look at Riverside Regulating plan
Monday, October 17, 2011 by Elizabeth Pagano
The city’s Waterfront Planning Advisory Board, after receiving assurances that any regulations it passes will trump those contained in the East Riverside Corridor Regulating Plan, proceeded to ask plenty of pointed questions about the proposed plan at last week’s meeting.
The draft East Riverside Corridor Regulating Plan is available for review starting today; Council is expected to look at the plan in November.
Concurrent with the unveiling of the draft, the city is undertaking a transportation study for the corridor. If the questions at the Waterfront Planning Advisory Board are any indication, the transportation study is a very crucial step indeed.
The plan is currently based around the idea of transportation hubs, which will have more density and, ideally, light rail stops. But whether light rail comes to East Riverside remains up in the air.
“I saw your drawings for before rail, and after rail. You have a really nice median with shade and benches. Is that going to be implemented for the buses so that the people riding the buses have the same nice median and shade and areas to catch the bus?” asked Board Member Brooke Bailey.
Erica Leak, a senior planner with Planning and Development Review, told the board that she could not speak for Capital Metro, and the rehab of bus stops in the absence of light rail was primarily a funding question.
“There will have to be a whole funding source for the rail. And if (or) when the light rail is built, there will have to be a funding mechanism to help pay for the rail stops, that is part of the system. If rail doesn’t come, and bus rapid transit comes, then that’s potentially something that will come with upgraded rail stops, but I can’t sit here and guarantee to you that before those types of changes are made that there will be improved bus stops,” said Leak.
Bailey said she was having a hard time understanding why, if there was no guarantee that light rail was coming, there were not plans drawn that featured bus stops.
“Even with these really nice improvements, and mixed use, you still have the neighborhood around that that is going to be lower income…I think we need to serve those people properly and not just build for the people in the condos in the front,” said Bailey.
Board Member Robert Pilgrim suggested that enhanced bus stops could be a requirement of the density bonuses for the area, which have yet to be established.
“It seems like it would be a logical priority within the plan, to improve the bus stops. I think if there’s going to be improvements along the corridor, improve bus stops,” said Pilgrim.
The questions from the board were, no doubt, influenced by their own ongoing work on the waterfront overlay district.
“I think some of the inherent nature of the planning process is to go to the ultimate solution of what will be, perhaps. But I think that it is imperative, particularly on a vision of this length and complexity to have well thought out, viable interim solutions that adapt to the scalability of the project,” said Vice- Chair Daniel Woodroffe.
The board also took time to question proposed standards, affordability goals, and requested a map of existing and proposed PUDs in the area.
Leak probably forestalled any questions about parking in her introduction.
“I am sure that many of you are aware of East Riverside Drive at present, and as you know there is lots of free parking there, but it’s not the most pleasant place to actually be a human being,” said Leak.
Copies of the plan are available at the Ruiz Branch Library and online at http://eastriversidecorridor.com
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