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Final draft of Austin Strategic Mobility Plan passes Environmental Commission

Monday, March 11, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

Following a presentation on the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan at the March 6 meeting of the Environmental Commission by Annick Beaudet, the assistant director of Austin Transportation, commissioners began asking about some of the environmental aspects of the plan. While questions about tree canopy removal in order to widen streets made a predictable appearance, issues of air quality, right-of-way and autonomous vehicles were also raised. Commissioner Mary Ann Neely noted that Austin is uncomfortably close to being in violation of air quality requirements and the new transportation plan will likely push the city over the edge if it doesn’t take pollution into consideration. While Beaudet said that air quality improvements are part of the plan (there are limitation on idling vehicles), Commissioner Katie Coyne observed that “the indicators and targets don’t have any quantifiable metrics.” Some initiatives in the plan already have quantifiable metrics, and the rest will be instated within a year of Council approving the plan. One other point that commissioners touched on was the necessity of the city encouraging autonomous vehicles, and Commissioner Andrew Creel encouraged the city’s Transportation Department to get out in front of the future to welcome and participate in the innovation. The ASMP does have a section on emerging mobility solutions that mentions autonomous vehicles, but Creel had a more proactive role in mind, suggesting that the city begin implementing low-cost solutions like striping and signage that are specifically engineered to support autonomous vehicle systems. After some discussion about the current impacts of human-driven vehicles, the commissioners applauded the efforts and expressed their confidence that the plan would help alleviate some of Austin’s traffic concerns. They recommended the plan unanimously to Council with Commissioner Wendy Gordon absent. Commissioners Peggy Maceo and Curtis Smith were off the dais for the vote.

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