Not surprisingly Downtown, the UT Campus and West University were the high scorers . The algorithm focuses solely on the distance to the nearest amenity. My neighborhood in North Austin scored a 31 and it’s no wonder since the nearest grocery store is 1.13 miles away and likely doesn’t contain the necessary food.
I found it interesting that Austin ranked 29th, 3 spots behind Houston which I would have assumed to be the least walkable except their lack of zoning make it more of a possibility I assume.
The idea of car independence is a growing desire among many who are tired of the dependence on oil and gas, the high price of vehicles, and desire to use alternate modes of transportation. The reality in Austin is that most people are car-dependent despite barely scoring in the “somewhat walkable” category on walkable.com.
Should this be the City of Austin’s goal?
Priding themselves on environmentalism, Austinites would surely welcome the City leading them towards car-independence, but it doesn’t even seem to be a goal.
According to Walkable.com, their highest rankings cities contain high density, mixed use, transit, short blocks and a number of items on their checklist. Austin lacks high density, provides little mixed use options, transit isn’t reliable or convenient, and blocks are far from short.
We need the City of Austin to get serious about transportation options that can reshape the way Austinites live, that can reshape communities toward a future with car independence with more transit options that actually connect destinations.
Looking at the Metrorail stations, downtown is the only destination that people readily see when they plan a trip. They don’t immediately think about connector bus routes because the assumption of most people is that a train stop will be a destination worth visiting on its own. MLK is a ½ mile walk for most of the nearby residents and you can’t see any shops or restaraunts from the stop itself. Same goes for every stop along the train. Highland station puts you close to a mall, but the mall is dying. Lakeline could have been a destination if even got near the mall.
Eventually Leander will develop into a destination around its stop as I’m sure many of the others will. But why design it in areas needing development as opposed to designing to reach the developed areas? The City of Austin has postponed their rail referendum in order to “get it right”. Getting it right would be connected populated and developed areas together through efficient transit. Let’s hope they adopt the goal of car-independence in the process because many Austinites are waiting.