I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how we do dedicated lanes for the buses and where to concentrate on upgrading the bicycle route, with an eye on maximizing mode shift per $. In my discussions with various parties, a few concepts/principles have emerged. They are:
If we’re going to have major transit upgrades moving people into downtown, we need them to be able to get around downtown easily car-free in order to let people have confidence they can leave their car behind and get around downtown once they get there. This particularly means east-west routes as the Orange and Blue move north-south.
UNO and campus have the greatest potential for mode-shift outside of downtown. With the PC-recommended LDC increases in density in northwest downtown, the adoption of the UNO amendments by Campus, and the north capitol capitol campus building projects already underway, we should treat “downtown” as everything west of I-35 to Lamar, the river up to 29th street.
Scooters have shown that there is great potential for shared micro-mobility options that can use bike infrastructure, with no greater potential than downtown, where they are a great option for people who have arrived downtown
Dedicated bus lanes only become a really efficient use of public ROW when they are running more frequently than every 15 minutes. Functionally, this means that the immediate candidates for dedicated bus lanes are the routes that have more than one bus line running on them.
Dedicated bus lanes make the most sense downtown to free them from congestion and offer a quick way to get around (particularly east-west) that people who have arrived downtown from outer areas via Orange/Blue can depend on.
Here’s what I’ve come up with:
All metro-rapid routes and multi-bus-line routes in downtown/campus areas (I-35 to Lamar, the river to the northern boundaries of UNO) should be converted to dedicated lane routes, particularly east-west routes that intersect with the Orange and Blue lines.
All protected/buffered bike facilities in the ASMP in the downtown/campus area should be fully built-out with wide enough travel area for heavy mixed bike and scooter traffic, which means lanes must be wide enough for passing.
Where metro-rapid lines and other bus lines overlap outside of the downtown area, those routes should be evaluated to determine if frequency occurs every ten minutes or less and the lines show congestion effects during rush hours. These route segments should be concerted to dedicated lanes.
Engineering and surveying to convert the entire metro-rapid network to dedicated lanes should be included in the bond, so that Austin may more quickly respond to increasing congestion as it occurs. Because these routes are also targeted for increased density under the LDC re-write, this will also a) prevent new building from encroaching into areas needed for dedicate lanes; and b) allow new building to safely occur closer to the eventual roadway configuration, thus increasing the amount of housing able to be built on these lines.
In my opinion, this approach is a good, efficient use of current and future transportation funding, setting us up for success in both the near and long-term, as we will surely depend on the metrorapid routes in the future, but don’t need their full lengths to be dedicated lanes under present conditions.