Posts Tagged ‘university of texas’

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Dobbs: Density, travel corridor density, and implications for Guadalupe-Lamar urban rail

24 September 2014
Aerial view (looking north) of "Drag" section of Guadalupe St. (wide arterial running from bottom middle of photo to upper right). Western edge of UT campus is at far right, and extremely dense West Campus neighborhood occupies middle left of photo. In upper right corner, Guadalupe jogs northwest, then north again; main travel corridor eventually merges with North Lamar further north. Photo: Romil, posted in forum.skyscraperpage.com.

Aerial view (looking north) of “Drag” section of Guadalupe St. (wide arterial running from bottom middle of photo to upper right). Western edge of UT campus is at far right, and extremely dense West Campus neighborhood occupies middle left of photo. In upper right corner, Guadalupe jogs northwest, then north again; main travel corridor eventually merges with North Lamar further north. Photo: Romil, posted in forum.skyscraperpage.com. (Click to enlarge.)

By Dave Dobbs

This commentary has been adapted from the author’s Sep. 17th posting to an online rail transit discussion list.

How dense does a city need to be to justify a rail transit system?

One of things that the hard-core rail transit opponents like to do is to confuse a city’s overall population density with travel corridor density. Los Angeles, for example, because it grew up around 1100 miles of electric urban rail, has some very dense travel corridors, notably the Wilshire Blvd. corridor where currently they are about to begin construction on the “subway to the sea” (extension of the MetroRail rapid transit subway line to Santa Monica) The Wilshire corridor has densities comparable with those in New York City.

In my 35+ years as a transit advocate, I’ve heard the “Austin doesn’t have the density to support rail” argument hauled out time and time again. But Austin has a very congested core where 50% of the region’s employment is located within a half-mile of a six-mile-long travel corridor, Guadalupe-North Lamar. Austin is unique in that a 50-block-long segment of that corridor contains downtown, the Capital complex, the University of Texas (UT), and two residential areas, West Campus and Hyde Park with densities of more than 12,000 per square mile. And lots of people who don’t live there are traveling up and down this corridor trying to get to these places.

To serve this and similar travel corridors adequately with affordable urban rail transit will require re-allocating available street space from motor vehicles to higher-capacity transit. In other words, giving priority to rail transit because of its higher capacity and ability to ensure essential mobility. Instead of regarding the Guadalupe-Lamar corridor as a disaster because the solution means giving up two of the vehicle travel lanes for trains, politicians need to see the situation in Chinese terms, where the word “crisis” merges two concepts: “danger” and “opportunity”. ■

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University Area Partners’ endorsement of Guadalupe-Lamar corridor underscores West Campus support for “backbone” urban rail

13 January 2014
West Campus neighborhood, primarily represented by University Area Partners. Map: The Galileo, rev. by ARN.

West Campus neighborhood, primarily represented by University Area Partners. Map: The Galileo, rev. by ARN.

Back in November, in the midst of all the uproar over problems with Project Connect’s “Central Corridor” study and forthcoming route “recommendation”, this blog missed reporting that yet another major neighborhood association had jumped on board the effort to designate the Guadalupe-Lamar (G-L) corridor as the preferred starter-line route for urban rail (light rail transit).

On Nov. 12th, the University Area Partners (UAP) neighborhood association voted to express its belief “that any first investment in light rail must serve as an expandable backbone of rapid transit, and such an alignment is most suited along North Lamar Blvd. and Guadalupe Street and terminated at or near the North Lamar Transit Center ….”

The University Area Partners is a neighborhood organization representing business, institutions, and property owners in the University of Texas area, encompassing most of West Campus, UT-Austin, and The Drag area.

According to UAP member John Lawler, reasons the UAP board decided to support the G-L alignment include:

• Prioritizing urban rail along the G/L corridor would better serve the steadily growing and already dense West Campus neighborhood
• UAP wants to support the UT Student Government position, as students are the primary residents in the area
• CANPAC, the planning area UAP is an original member of, has endorsed the plan
• BRT is not a solution for the Drag’s traffic congestion and the neighborhood has repeatedly encouraged rail development for the past several decades

The endorsement of this influential neighborhood organization is especially important because, in terms of residential density, the West Campus ranks as the third or fourth-highest neighborhood among major Texas cities.

Yet, while Project Connect’s recent “Central Corridor” study used the metrics of Guadalupe and the West Campus area in its justification and analysis, its proposed “sub-corridor” configuration would effectively bypass this crucial area, instead planning an alignment on San Jacinto, one-half to three-quarters of a mile east of the Drag and West Campus neighborhood.

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UT Student Government backs West Campus, Guadalupe-Lamar route for first phase of urban rail

12 October 2013
West Campus neighborhood is area in light green just to west (left) of the Drag (Guadalupe, vertical white line just to right of center). UT campus shown in orange. Map: The Galileo, rev. by ARN.

West Campus neighborhood is area in light green just to west (left) of the Drag (Guadalupe, vertical white line just to right of center). UT campus shown in orange. Map: The Galileo, rev. by ARN.

The effort to reset Austin’s urban rail planning focus onto the Guadalupe-Lamar (G-L) corridor got a huge boost on October 1st with the University of Texas Student Government’s passage of a resolution endorsing a West Campus and Guadalupe-Lamar corridor alignment for the Phase 1 starter line of urban rail — thus implicitly rejecting the officially proposed East Campus alignment and route out to the Mueller redevelopment site.

Designated as AR 15, the resolution contains a number of “Whereas” clauses, with meticulous documentation of the facts and arguments underpinning the basic decisions. For example, the resolution notes that

…Future-use plans for neighborhoods that include significant student populations, including the Brentwood/Highland Combined Neighborhood Plan , the North Loop Neighborhood Plan, Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan, and Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan support urban rail and stations along the proposed Guadalupe-Lamar alignment; and,

… there has been over $30 million worth of studies that have looked at the feasibility of light rail transit along the Guadalupe-Lamar Corridor since the 1970s; and,

… A 2011 study at the University of California-Berkeley found that “light-rail systems need around 30 people per gross acre around stations and heavy rail systems need 50 percent higher densities than this to place them in the top one-quarter of cost-effective rail investments in the U.S.” and “the ridership gains from such increases…showed, would be substantial, especially when jobs are concentrated within ¼ mile of a station and housing within a half mile”; and,

… the largest concentration of students living off campus, West Campus, is the third-densest population district in the state of Texas with a density of over 25,000 people per square mile; and,

… a large majority of the student population along with a vast majority the Central Austin population lives along the proposed Guadalupe-Lamar alignment, totaling over 54,000 people within a quarter-mile to proposed stations ….

On the basis of this evidentiary background, declares the resolution,

BE IT RESOLVED, That the Student Government of the University of Texas at Austin is in full support of the first phase of light rail running through the Guadalupe-Lamar Sub-Corridor; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That Student Government will support any proposed urban rail line that prioritizes transportation access to where students are currently living….

The full resolution can be accessed as a DOC file:

UT-Stu-Govt_AR 15 – In Support of The Guadalupe-Lamar SubCorridor as Phase I of Austin Urban Rail

Certainly, if this vote by UT’s Student Government is any guide, the majority of UT students want an urban rail route to serve the West Campus, where they can most effectively use it.