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Reporter’s Notebook: Urban rail parking spaces

Friday, October 24, 2014 by Austin Monitor

We’re saving extra parking spaces for the train … In a discussion about the value of a possible rail station at Austin Community College’s Highland Mall campus this week, Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty brought up an interesting question. Commissioners were discussing a nomination for the high-tech company Rackspace to the Texas Enterprise Zone Program, for which it would receive financial incentives from the state for locating at the ACC site. In touting the deal, Rackspace officials pointed out that having a rail station at the Highland Mall campus would be a great recruiting tool and would help take cars off the road. Daugherty — who often shows open disdain for mass transit, or at least how much it costs — asked ACC officials just how many parking spaces there were at the Highland facility. He was informed that “there are plenty.” That was all that Daugherty needed to hear. “I realize that,” he said, “which is the reason I’m always entertained by people trying to deal with public transportation and entice people to do something other than (drive their cars). There are some people in the community that would rather have everybody out of their cars. And it’s pretty tough to have it both ways.” He went on to point out that with all those parking spaces — which would presumably be free — there appears to be little incentive to take a bus or the train. “When you think of an outside mall, which is obviously what Highland Mall was forever, the nice thing is you have a lot of parking. And why? Because that’s how people travel and that’s how we get around.” He went on to assure Rackspace officials that he supports their plan to move into the ACC space but hopes there is more discussion about the value of mass transportation and the rail system. That was the cue for Commissioner Bruce Todd, who often takes good-natured jabs at Daugherty’s anti-mass-transit diatribes, to jump in. He quipped, “Well, I was thinking about this project while I was riding the bus this morning, and …”

Cyclists get political …  So where else are you going to find politically organized bicycle clubs? Joining the current endorsement fray this week, Bike Austin released its list of City Council candidate favorites. Bike Austin explains the endorsements on its website, writing, “The candidates we chose to endorse are committed to building an all-ages network of protected bike lanes, a bigger, better bike share system and family-friendly streets for all Austinites, no matter how they choose to get around.” Under that criteria, the group endorsed Mike Martinez (mayor), DeWayne Lofton (District 1), Delia Garza (District 2), Jose Valera and Sabino “Pio” Renteria (District 3), Greg Casar (District 4), Ann Kitchen (District 5), Jimmy Flannigan (District 6), Jeb Boyt and Leslie Pool (District 7), Ed Scruggs and Darrell Pierce (District 8), Chris Riley (District 9) and Mandy Dealey (District 10).

City Council coming home to new chambers … After weeks spent at Travis County Commissioners Court, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole announced from the dais Thursday that Council members are ready to move back to their chambers at City Hall. The announcement was not only welcomed by the Council members, but also by myriad staffers, political observers and (especially) the reporters, who were all getting a bit tired of working in improvised circumstances. (Not that Travis County’s hospitality was not appreciated — indeed, it was.) Cole and her colleagues had moved up Lavaca Street to allow for reconstruction of the City Hall chambers so that it can accommodate an 11-member Council starting in January. Workers have been busy since midsummer building the new dais and making other improvements. We’ll all be back in action there Nov. 6.

Concrete ordinance starts to solidify…Calling it a “strong step toward less awful,” Council Member Laura Morrison passed her revisions to the much-discussed ordinance that would change the rules on overnight concrete pouring in the city. Though Planning and Development Review Department Director Greg Guernsey said he would be seeking an indefinite postponement, City Council moved forward with the changes, unanimously, on first reading. Morrison had a number of amendments to the ordinance intended to limit the disruptions that concrete pouring at night will cause to residents. But perhaps the most exciting news to come out of the discussion was that Morrison decided to join Council Member Bill Spelman in using the woefully underutilized Council Message Board to communicate her proposed changes.

Sound resolution may impact ACL…City Council approved a resolution Thursday that initiates city code amendments to subject the outdoor amplified sound permitting process for large-scale music events on city parkland to the same ATX Music Office Sound Impact Plan requirements as other outdoor events. Sound Impact Plans may include additional sound, hours, attendance and infrastructure restrictions. Council Member Laura Morrison, who sponsored the resolution, said during Tuesday’s work session that she received complaints that sound coming from this year’s Austin City Limits festival at Zilker Park — which Parks and Recreation currently permits under city code — traveled far enough to disturb residents in the Hyde Park, Windsor Park and Crestview neighborhoods. The resolution, which Council approved on consent, directs City Manager Marc Ott to bring the proposed amendments to Council by Nov. 6. The resolution has sparked a spirited debate on the Austin Reddit subforum between proponents of sound restrictions and those who are concerned that the changes will negatively impact ACL.

Reporter’s Notebook items were contributed by Elizabeth Pagano, Mike Kanin, Tyler Whitson and Mark Richardson.

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