Austin’s complete streets policy a complete nightmare

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Austin’s ‘complete streets’ policy a complete congestion nightmare
By Terri Hall
March 9, 2015

Austin’s social engineering is in full bloom. In an attempt to punish drivers and force them into a bus, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) drafted a new long-range plan, 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, chalk-full of ‘complete streets’ nonsense like tearing up auto lanes and converting them into bus only lanes. CAMPO will hold a public meeting on the plan tonight at the University of Texas LBJ Auditorium starting at 6 PM.

Riverside Drive, South Congress, North Lamar, Guadalupe, Burnet Road and several other major thoroughfares, will all lose two traffic lanes. Those lanes will be turned into Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes. No cars allowed.

The combined traffic on these roads is approximately equal to the average daily traffic on Interstate 35. Closing these existing lanes to vehicular traffic will have the same negative impact as closing down half of the traffic lanes on I-35. The closure represents a reduction in approximately 40% to 50% of the lane miles for each road. At the same time, the planning board and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) are pushing the addition of two HOV-toll lanes on I-35. All told, it’s an all-out assault on single occupancy vehicles.

If Austin planners have their way, they’ll impose a California-style ‘complete streets’ congestion-inducing nightmare. Complete streets policies seek to elevate non-auto modes of travel by using already scarce road funds to construct bike, bus, and pedestrian facilities while reducing capacity and access for autos. Voters in San Francisco just passed Proposition A, a $500 million bond measure, last November to impose a variety of traffic calming measures, which actually do anything but calm traffic. Rather they induce traffic. The measure includes speed bumps, road diets, traffic circles, intersection islands, train upgrades, expanding bus stops, special boarding islands or ‘bulbs’ for buses (which undoubtedly take up road space needed for efficient auto travel), and transit-only lanes.

Eighty-one percent of San Francisco commuters rely on cars to get around. A total of 10% of commuters walk and only 3% ride a bike to work, and though those numbers exceed the national average, it still shows that even progressives prefer the convenience of the personal automobile.

None of these complete streets initiatives add auto capacity or contribute to the efficient movement of cars. Indeed, they’re designed to impede auto travel to make way for buses and bikes that less than 10% of Texans use on a daily basis. A recent survey done by the Texas Transportation Institute last September shows that Texans put bicyclists dead last in a list of who should have the most influence in transportation policy. Just as toll roads came in dead last on a list of possible traffic solutions. Carpooling didn’t fare well either.

The conversion of existing auto lanes into exclusive bus lanes is being done with the hope it’ll make drivers abandon their vehicles and get on the expensive new fleet of CapMetro buses. But as reported by KLBJ News, the current Metro Rapid buses have been a total failure. They are frequently empty and CapMetro has lost 7% of its ridership since the Metro Rapid buses were introduced last year. Cap Metro's ridership share of the travel market in Austin has fallen over 40% since 2000. It ranks as one of the worst performing transit agencies in the world.

CapMetro told voters in 2004 that the Red Line would cost taxpayers $60 million. As of February more than $400 million has been spent on the Red Line. To makes matters worse, TxDOT just gave CapMetro another $50 million of our road money to the Red Line, while telling drivers there isn’t money to fix our roads without tolls. The 2040 Plan pledges another $554 million in capital spending to the Red Line.

So what are planners proposing? Adding additional road capacity that will benefit 90% of the traveling public? Improving traffic light synchronization? Improving plans to quickly clear accidents? No. They’re implementing the very policies Texans hate - bus and bike lanes, carpooling, and tolling. How many more commuters would benefit if this money was spent on adding additional road capacity? Clearly taxpayers aren't getting the best bang for their buck. They’re actually getting more aggravation, less mobility, less efficiency, and it’s being done by using their own money against them, against their will.

Austinites need to engage and make their voices heard before this 2040 plan is adopted, setting the complete streets agenda in motion. However, Austin residents are not alone. Dallas, San Antonio, and other Texas cities are implementing similar complete streets policies with millions in already scarce road funds. San Antonio will spend over $48 million on bike lanes and pedestrian paths in the next four years.

While Texans are busy living their lives and contributing to one of the world’s largest economies, planners, bureaucrats, social engineers, and the rubber stamp MPO boards supposedly run by elected officials, are busy trying their level best to screw it up and make efficient travel harder on unsuspecting drivers. Time for every community to examine what these plans include before they wake-up to congestion nightmare that will cost billions to reverse.