Austin Officials Solidifying Role of New Urbanism

As recent Austin Business Journal articles can attest, planning in Austin is becoming more and more dominated by new urbanists. On December 11, the Austin Planning Commission and Cit y Council will vote on code amendments that will require smaller block lengths, increased street connectivity in subdivisions, and increased lot size for mixed-use infill projects. Currently, developers can get breaks on parking if they develop a mix of uses on a maximum of one acre. Officials will attempt to increase the maximum lot size for neighborhood mixed-use buildings to two acres and also require residential units.

Though Austin continues to densify through mixed-use developments, most of its streets are not conducive to pedestrianism. City Planners and engineers are currently working together in order to grant developers more power in designing streets. Narrower, landscaped streets with parking can create a sense of enclosure while emphasizing a human scale. A recent victory in Austin street design by Peter Caltorpe gives hope to any future plans by city officials. Calthorpe was able to achieve a speed limit of 30 MPH (as opposed to 45 MPH advocated by traffic engineers) at the recently-approved TOD at Lakeline Rail Station. Austin's future remains bright as long as it continues to densfiy as fast as it has sprawled outward. Density will lay groundwork for increased transit options, which should, in turn, lessen the city's dependence on automobiles.


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