1. Austin’s Bicycle Master Plan has spurred the development of hundreds of miles of bike lanes and street safety improvements throughout the city. These improvements have calmed traffic and created an affordable, healthy transportation option for Austinites. Do you support the full funding and implementation of Austin’s Bicycle Master Plan?
Justin Jacobson: I do support the City getting to full funding and implementation of the Bicycle master plan.
Amit Motwani: Yes. I have lived in Austin for 23 years and having consistently utilized many forms of transportation, including being an avid commuting cyclist, I personally understand and fully support the vision of the Master Plan. I’ve seen first hand the growth of need for infrastructure around bicycling that has accompanied our population growth, both from the standpoint of safety and congestion mitigation. Any pragmatic effort to reduce or solve for congestion in Austin must unequivocally visualize a stronger infrastructure for multi-modal transportation (comprehensive improvements including that address sidewalks and public transit) with bicycling as an integral element.
Sabino “Pio” Renteria: Yes, I support full funding and implementation of the Bicycle Master Plan. I have consistently supported improving bicycle facilities and infrastructure throughout the City and on Council, voted to include $20 million for bicycle infrastructure in the 2016 Mobility Bond.
2. Austin’s Urban Trails Master Plan uses existing trails and creates new trails in public green spaces to connect on-street bike and pedestrian facilities, establishing a citywide network of safe bicycle and pedestrian routes. Do you support the full funding and implementation of the Urban Trails Master Plan?
Justin Jacobson: I do support the full funding and implementation of the Urban Trails Master Plan.
Amit Motwani: Unequivocally yes. See above re: safety and congestion; in addition, it is precisely this type of infrastructural framework that makes Austin a special place to live–and what attracts the type of brilliant and progressive people that have proven to be foundational in why Austin is a preferred destination for cutting-edge employers and investment that helps power our growth engine.
Sabino “Pio” Renteria: Yes, I support full funding and implementation of the Urban Trails Master Plan. A city-wide trail network that is well-connected to bicycle and pedestrian facilities as well as transit routes can help us provide real transportation choices for Austin families. On Council, I supported including $26 million for urban trails in the 2016 Mobility Bond.
3. In 2013, the City of Austin launched its bike share program, Austin B-cycle, with a $1.5 million federal grant matched with $500,000 in private donations. Since its launch, the program has set national records for bike share systems, and has been financially self-sufficient in its operations. But the program faces ongoing challenges as it strives to maintain an efficient, equitable system in a rapidly evolving market. As a Council member, will you support additional funding mechanisms, from the City of Austin or other local, state or federal sources, to grow Austin’s B-cycle system?
Justin Jacobson: I would support helping to find additional funding for B-cycle, to maintain an equitable option for all Austinites in this market.
Amit Motwani: Yes. The B-cycle system represents far more than just a city commitment to bicycles as an integral component of our multi-modal transportation vision; it represents the city’s commitment to innovation in that same space–however it might iterate itself (dockless has taught us much about that). The level of matched funding that B-cycle has been able to obtain represents the potential for very strong public=private partnerships moving forward, and funding will certainly be necessary to improve efficiency and produce innovation that focuses more on human-centered design and behaviors; I’d like to see a substantial budget line targeting the same.
Sabino “Pio” Renteria: Yes, I believe that the bike-sharing service that Austin B-Cycle offers is valuable to our community and I will continue to support accelerating its expansion through a variety of funding mechanisms, including funding from the City of Austin.
4. Do you support the implementation of dedicated, protected bicycle facilities on Shoal Creek Boulevard?
Justin Jacobson: Yes. I work in that area and travel that road often. These facilities would be a boon for both drivers and cycle. Hopefully, this would lead to greater adoption of similar things throughout town.
Amit Motwani: Yes. It is a key artery for the cycling community. I remember when Shoal Creek was my special little safe route for Northbound commuting after I hopped off the trail…but I digress into old Austin reminiscence…the answer is yes, I support it, and I look forward to seeing the plan associated with the Shoal Creek Conservancy enacted; I see it as a question of when, not if.
Sabino “Pio” Renteria: Yes, I support the implementation of dedicated, protected bicycle facilities on Shoal Creek Boulevard.
5. In the face of climate change, congestion, and other problems associated with cars, a growing number of cities have been eliminating parking requirements for new development. Would you support eliminating parking requirements in the following areas, and stepping up the management of on-street parking in & around those areas as needed? a)West Campus b)South Central Waterfront c)Transit Oriented Developments?
Justin Jacobson: This policy is one that I greatly support. It’s the needed nudge from government to help speed up adoption of alternative modes of transit and serve to increase the safety of the large number of cyclists in these areas. This is a smart move.
Amit Motwani: I would support,however it must be clear that comprehensive strategies are required; it could be unwise to support elimination of requirements in the absence of other necessary improvements as discussed response #1. These strategies are cross functional and interdependent. That’s why I think it’s so important to support them whenever practicable. We are evolving in this direction whether we like it or not, simply due to other variables in the equation–are we going to try to get ahead of it or keep chasing it?
Sabino “Pio” Renteria: I support eliminating parking requirements as a tool to address issues related to our transportation crisis and I believe that we should be doing all we can to promote smart planning that supports active transportation and a strong transit system. In these specific instances, I support reducing parking requirements and stepping up management of on-street parking, but I would need to study each one more closely before committing to eliminating requirements completely. And I would want to ensure that we are anticipating accommodations that comply with ADA requirements and create truly accessible developments.
6. Are there other potential changes to the Land Development Code that you would support in order to promote cycling, walking, and transit?
Justin Jacobson: We should also change the number of required parking spaces in other housing options throughout the city. New developments should also be responsible for some of the street level redevelopment of walking and cycling paths.
Amit Motwani: Of course density-oriented zoning in appropriate areas.
Sabino “Pio” Renteria: Yes, there are many positive changes we can make.My goal is to help create diverse multi-generational, mixed-income communities to combat economic segregation in our city. Unfortunately, the Republican-led state legislature has taken every opportunity to prevent us from implementing housing solutions like inclusionary zoning or affordable housing linkage fees that would help us accomplish that goal. Despite that, we are still working to address these issues. But housing is not the only challenge. Since transportation is the 2nd highest expense for most households, we need to create a multi-modal transportation system that includes a robust and reliable transit network to truly give Austinites a choice in how they move around the city.
That’s why we need to amend our Land Development Code with a focus on our major transportation and transit corridors and allow for different housing types and mixed-use developments throughout the city that allow for affordable housing to be built –particularly in corridors outside of East Austin that have not already borne a disproportionate amount of the burden that growth has placed on our city.
Providing these choices -to cycle, walk, and use transit -is not just about transportation, it’s about affordability and the quality of life of Austin families.
7. City staff have proposed a new Street Impact Fee that would apply to new development. Presentations to date indicate that proceeds from the fee could be used only for street improvements that increase automobile capacity. Would you work to ensure that any such fees could be used to support other modes of transportation, including biking, walking, and transit?
Justin Jacobson: These fees should have the flexibility to be spent on other transit modes. Failing to allow for this does not seem to be in line with where Austin needs to be going.
Amit Motwani: Yes, street improvements and in turn expenditures must be in proportional alignment with our vision for multi-modal transportation as a solution for congestion. See response #1.
Sabino “Pio” Renteria: Yes, ensuring that developers are paying their fair share for infrastructure improvements, including active transportation facilities, that are required because of their impact on an area is something I have worked toward since I was elected to serve on Council. I would absolutely continue working to ensure these fees can be used to support biking, walking, and transit infrastructure.
8. The city code currently prohibits the use of motor-driven devices on trails. But it allows electric bikes, scooters, and similar vehicles in bike lanes if they are powered by a motor with a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour. Would you support a code amendment to allow some electric vehicles on trails?
Justin Jacobson: I am not outright opposed to such a code amendment, but do want to make sure the appropriate impact studies are made to flesh out any potential problems.
Amit Motwani: I’m open to ideas but at this point, given the rapid evolution in the dockless/electric world (and the rapid evolution of public opinion around the same–including my own which tends to flip and flop), committing either way to a code amendment seems premature and potentially imprudent. I certainly favor innovation and am solution-oriented, and I’d like to wait and see what a little more time might yield inasmuch as insight around these vehicles.
Sabino “Pio” Renteria: Yes, because there are those who may depend on electric vehicles for their specific mobility needs, we need to figure out how to allow electric vehicles on trails without making those trails dangerous or unfriendly to other users. I would support a code amendment to allow electric vehicles on trails that took into account other considerations such as appropriate speed limits.With the recent introduction of a large number of electric scooters and bicycles to Austin, there are many smart folks I know and trust both at advocacy organizations and at the City working to make recommendations on this very issue. I am depending on their counsel and will be meeting with several constituents to discuss this over the next few weeks. As always, I would welcome your input on this topic!
9. In 2017, Austin’s Bicycle Advisory Council asked that all city departments work to provide reasonable accommodations and access for effective pedicab service during events and in traffic plans. Pedicabbers continue to face difficulties during special events, including a lack of dedicated lanes and staging areas. As a Council Member, will you take action to support the use of pedicabs and other non-automotive vehicles at special events?
Justin Jacobson: Yes. As someone who has had many friends work as pedicab drivers, I know the work they go through to be able to that job. Given that, the city should be doing the work that will better facilitate the efficiency of their job. Working people in Austin deserve a better shake from the City.
Amit Motwani: Yes. Short distance trips account for so much of our transportation needs, especially during special events, and pedicab services are critical to and practical on many for addressing this need; protections for these services should be integral to maintain the availability of the services and also maintain safety for pedicabbers and passengers alike.
Sabino “Pio” Renteria: Yes, I support the Bicycle Advisory Council’s recommendations. Pedicabs provide an important service including for those with mobility impairments and specially during music festivals and other large events. When traffic congestion is at it’s worst, we should be focused on providing as many multi-modal transportation choices as possible.
10. Please tell us briefly about your recent experience with riding a bike. How many times have you ridden in the past month? The past year?
Justin Jacobson: Between working 45 hours a week and campaigning I haven’t been able to do any biking this past month. During the past year I’ve used the Butler trail quite frequently to get downtown and to the eastside. When my job was closer to home, I mixed my commuting between driving and cycling.
Amit Motwani: On average I typically ride three times a week from Montopolis to Barton Springs after work (during spring summer) and would do so more for commuting if I had a shower at the office (another initiative I’m pushing in my executive capacity there). I’ve ridden every type of bike in Austin over my last 23 years here; I’ve put three into circulation (i.e. had them stolen), and my current daily driver–a composite of my years of riding in Austin–is a single speed 29er with non aggressive geometry that enables me to sit back and enjoy my surroundings with the election to pump when I need to. When I ride, my bike feels like an extension of my body. My recent experiences are a bit sour, given the disrepair and construction going on in my area; however the cooler weather coupled with reduced campaigning duties will surely bring me back out to weather the inconveniences and participate in the commuting and recreational sport that I love so dearly. I support Bike Austin’s work to ensure that our city provides as many access points as possible to increase exposure to the benefits of biking–experience the time and space around you, sounds and smells, natural beauty, healthily engaging the body while also achieving transportation goals in the most efficient balance of beauty and pragmatism–not to mention the lovely metaphor of the cycle itself. More exposure= more riders, less congestion, more understanding drivers, and happier populace. Thank y’all for stewarding this.
Sabino “Pio” Renteria: I ride my bicycle to work and events around town almost every single day and I have been a bicycle and transit user my entire life. Recently, I bought an electric-assist bike and just hit the 1,200-mile mark on it.
Additional Questions for District 3 Candidates
11. Do you support the implementation of dedicated, protected bicycle facilities on East Riverside Drive?
Justin Jacobson: Yes. As it currently stands I do not personally feel comfortable cycling on that road. It is long past due that Riverside had protected lanes.
Amit Motwani: Yes. Now more than ever with the terrible bridge situation in Guerrero Park (not connecting the baseball fields to hike and bike) compounded by incorrigible 183 construction-related detours on Montopolis that make it a nearly suicidal (death by vehicle, road/sidewalk inadequacies, or quicksand) to attempt to commute downtown by bicycle (or anywhere out of Montopolis, for that matter). Those “temporary” inadequacies aside (I understand the larger plan), it’s clear that E Riverside is home to a very diverse group of populations that like to leverage bicycling for a variety of reasons–e.g. cost, efficiency, density pragmatism, healthy way of life. The lack of infrastructure is a huge disincentive to do so, and it’s also damn dangerous out there on a bicycle, and it’s our moral imperative to solve for an issue when folks are being injured and killed by drunk and otherwise unsafe drivers. On this note, I support current council’s work to allocate funding to improve this matter, and I support the the transportation portion (Prop G) of the upcoming bond package on the ballot.
Sabino “Pio” Renteria: Yes, during my time on Council, I have worked closely with Bike Austin staff and volunteers to support the implementation of dedicated, protected bicycle facilities on East Riverside Drive. In 2016, I allocated $400,000 specifically for this purpose out of our District 3 Quarter Cent Fund. I have made my expectations clear for the 2016 Mobility Bond Riverside Drive Corridor Improvements. When a proposal comes to Council in Spring of 2019, it will be guided by a complete streets approach and should include transit prioritization and protected cycle tracks.
12. The Pleasant Valley bridge at the Longhorn Dam lacks bicycle facilities.How would you address this?
Justin Jacobson: There have been many interesting design proposals for that area, and we need to act on something quickly. I’m open to creating a dedicated bike lanes, some kind traffic light situation to regulate flow, or even take a lane of traffic of the road and dedicate it to cyclists and pedestrians. My experience running along the dam regularly has me in awkward positions trying to share the very limited space. Its long past due for something better.
Amit Motwani: Ha! I think I’d literally be a millionaire if I could produce the absolute answer to that in a paragraph. Ok, my best shot is: I’d opt for creating another crossing, ASAP, slightly west/upstream at that short distance point. If we can figure out how to bolt something on the the Longhorn Bridge that engineers and experts can give the green light on, then great–that latter effort should be happening concurrently, and I’m glad it is. There can not be a shortage of crossings, given our growth trajectory. It’s complex infrastructure, and I’m glad the experts are on it; let’s see what the results of the study are–I’m encouraged.
Sabino “Pio” Renteria: Addressing the issues with the Pleasant Valley bridge at Longhorn Dam is one of my top safety and transportation priorities. At our most recent Council meeting on September 20th, I allocated $216,000 to support the design and construction of near-term improvements at the current bridge or design for a new bicycle/pedestrian bridge. The near-term improvements will be determined through a public process, but might include pavement markings, construction of a wider shared use path, modification of hand rails, and vehicle crash barriers. Building a new bridge would cost several millions of dollars, but if it is the best option to address these issues, I would whole-heartedly support the effort and commit to working with public and private entities to find the necessary funding