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?
Linda O’Neal: Yes. My husband, Mason O’Neal was an avid cyclist, and before his accident, we rode our bikes everywhere. This is a young town and cycling is a viable option. It feels as though cycling has gone down. I would incentivize businesses to provide showers and rewards for employees who biked to work.
Danielle Skidmore: Yes, absolutely. The continued development of safe facilities for cyclists of all ages and abilities is critical for our overall mobility and quality of life in our city. Safe bicycle and pedestrian facilities is a key component of public health. It is absolutely unacceptable that so far in 2018 we’ve had over 18 pedestrian deaths in Austin, even as we work to move towards ‘Vision Zero’.
Kathryne “Kathie” Tovo: I support the Bicycle Master Plan. As a Council Member, I voted to adopt the Bicycle Master Plan and have supported efforts to implement it, including by investing $20 million in protected lanes through the 2016 mobility bond, specifically allocating funding for a protected bike lane on Duval through the Quarter-Cent Fund, and voting to approve projects that improve and invest in bike infrastructure and multi-use paths, such as The Grove at Shoal Creek.Going forward, I will continue to support opportunities for implementing our Bicycle Master Plan and making crucial infrastructure improvements that build a safer bike network for people of all ages and abilities.
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?
Linda O’Neal: Yes.
Danielle Skidmore: Yes, of course! The safest facilities we can create for active transportation are those located away from roadways and highways.
Kathryne “Kathie” Tovo: I support the Urban Trails Master Plan. I voted for the Urban Trails Master Plan and for investing $26 million in continuing to implement that plan through the 2016 mobility bond, providing key funding for trails like the North Walnut Creek Trail, the Shoal Creek Trail, and the La Loma Trail, among others.
Additionally, I have looked for opportunities to incorporate our Urban Trails goals into other City efforts, as well. Most recently, I successfully carried a number of amendments to the soccer stadium agreement to connect that site into the North Walnut Creek Trail and Red Line Trail, two key assets in our Urban Trails network. If re-elected, I will continue to work to implement our Urban Trails Master Plan and integrate Urban Trails considerations into other City efforts.
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?
Linda O’Neal: YES.
Danielle Skidmore: Yes, in principle I will support additional funding mechanisms to maintain and expand the program—I would of course need to evaluate each proposal individually. In locations where dockless bike systems can provide similar mobility options at a lower cost, they should also be considered. Ultimately, I’d want to see the B-cycle infrastructure deployed in locations where it provides the maximum benefit to the community.
Kathryne “Kathie” Tovo: I would like to explore opportunities for expanding our B-Cycle system to meet demand. I believe that B-Cycle serves a key role in helping our residents move around our community. Our Bicycle Master Plan also recognizes the opportunity that bike-sharing services, such as B-Cycle, offer, especially in providing “first mile, last mile” solutions that help people get to and from transit stops. As a Council Member, I strongly supported the 2016 mobility bond, through which the City is planning to expand our bike-share system. I support leveraging these funds through local, state, federal, and private-sector matching grants and look forward to exploring ideas for ways to expand our bike-share system to meet demand.
4. Do you support the implementation of dedicated, protected bicycle facilities on Shoal Creek Boulevard?
Linda O’Neal: YES
Danielle Skidmore: When we first moved to Austin in 1994, just about every Saturday and Sunday my partner and I would ride our bikes from Far West & Mopac down to Barton Springs. I recall the controversy around that time about bicycle lanes and removing parking along Shoal Creek Blvd. As a key north-south arterial for bicycles, Shoal Creek Blvd. should have dedicated bicycle facilities.I also recognize there are design challenges associated with dedicated, protected bicycle lanes along a roadway with numerous driveways and cross streets, so the exact configuration will need to be flexible to meet the specific conditions along the way.
Kathryne “Kathie” Tovo: Yes, I support exploring opportunities for implementing the Bicycle Master Plan’s vision of protected bike lanes, including opportunities for Shoal Creek Boulevard. The Austin Transportation Department, the Shoal Creek Conservancy, and many other stakeholders are currently working on the Shoal Creek Trail “Vision to Action Plan” and receiving feedback from our boards and commissions. My office has been an active part of these conversations, with my staff serving on the plan’s Community Advisory Group. I look forward to this plan coming before the City Council because I believe the Shoal Creek Trail has the potential to be an outstanding asset that connects Central and North Austin and provides access to many parks, neighborhoods, and historic landmarks.I will fully engage on efforts to ensure a complete project that serves people of all ages and abilities.
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?
Linda O’Neal: While I support cycling, there are many older citizens where this isn’t an option. If the population of Austin stabilized, then yes, I would support eliminating parking spaces. But the city is growing, and getting older, and that eliminating parking will not eliminate the problem.
Danielle Skidmore: a) West Campus -Yes b) South Central Waterfront -Yes c)Transit Oriented Developments -Yes Yes. New parking in central Austin should be driven by the marketplace without mandatory parking requirements. We need to make sure parking is available and priced appropriately so that people have access and choose to utilize the parking that is currently available. New parking should also be ‘unbundled’ from the residential and commercial leases, so it’s true cost can be seen.
I’d also like to see more technological innovation in how we manage current parking garages to allow for more shared parking solutions. Take, for example, my own condominium building garage, which contains over 500 parking spaces, many of which are open at any given moment. Let’s leverage the ‘sharing’ economy for these spaces by creating tools to allow peer-to-peer sharing of our parking garages.
Kathryne “Kathie” Tovo: I support policies that enable the City to require and manage parking in a way that maintains quality of life for our residents and support exploring context-sensitive opportunities for reducing parking requirements where appropriate.
As a Council Member, I voted to eliminate parking requirements Downtown and have since worked stakeholders such as the Downtown Austin Alliance on strategies to implement the “Downtown Austin Parking Strategy” and manage area parking, such as evaluating parking signage improvements, establishing construction parking policies, and providing one-hour validation at the Central Library.
I have also been a strong and consistent supporter of policies that can provide alternatives to driving, from calling for investments in urban rail and mass transit to making significant investments in the multi-modal infrastructure that our residents can use to get around and access transit to supporting “first mile, last mile” solutions. In 2014, I was one of the only candidates who spoke out in favor of urban rail and since then have continued to call for investing in mass transit. I also voted for the largest mobility bond in our City’s history (including $65 million for sidewalks and safe routes to schools, $26 million for urban trails, and $20 million for bike lanes, and $15 million for pedestrian safety) and for the 2018 mobility bond (including $20 million for sidewalk repairs, $15 million for pedestrian safety, and $3 million for urban trails).
Going forward, I plan to continue pushing for policies that support multi-modal mobility and mass transit, including implementing our Imagine Austin vision of adding transit-supportive density on our corridors and in our centers, engaging in Project Connect to provide Austin with mass transit solutions, supporting “first mile, last mile solutions,” and exploring new opportunities to strengthen our existing requirements, such as through Transportation Demand Management strategies.
6. Are there other potential changes to the Land Development Code that you would support in order to promote cycling, walking, and transit?
Linda O’Neal: Shorter, faster bus routes. Bus stops with shelter.
Danielle Skidmore: We need to be thinking about mobility in its relation to land use. As we look at our key Project Connect transportation corridors and Capital Metro Remap high frequency corridors, our land development code should allow for a stair-step transition of “missing middle” housing—parallel to these corridors. It should also allow for more flexible tools, like microunits, additional density bonuses (which mean building a bit taller in some locations). We can reduce sprawl without increasing impervious cover; if we build we build up, we can fit more people without paving the earth. Combining this with a real, funded effort to complete our streets will fostera compact and connected city and a stronger, more mobile community.
Kathryne “Kathie” Tovo: I am strong supportive of looking for ways to promote walking, biking, and transit in Austin. Going forward, there are a number of opportunities I would like to explore that could help support multi-modal mobility and transit in Austin, including: requiring transportation impact analyses to include consideration of multi-modal improvements, strengthening the City’s ability to require sidewalk installation rather than accepting fees in-lieu, and considering Transportation Demand Management policies, which, if designed properly, could provide the City with a powerful tool to require comprehensive mobility strategies that include accountability provisions.
I look forward to working with our community on these and other options for continuing to support walking, biking, and transit.
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?
Linda O’Neal: Yes. Every new development must include large sidewalks. As dockless transit becomes more popular, we need large sidewalks that will accommodate those riders and pedestrians.
Danielle Skidmore: Street impact fees, described under Texas Local Government Code Chapter 395, are generally limited to roadway capacity enhancements, such as completing the street grid by funding new street connections, expanding existing roadways, and improving intersection efficiency.
However, from the Austin Transportation Department http://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/Transportation/COA_ATD_SIF-RCP-101.pdf, “For the purposes of the Roadway Capacity Plan, ‘roadway’ means arterial or collector streets, together with all necessary components, such as curbs, gutters, sidewalks, drainage appurtenances, and rights-of-way. These streets are designated in the Street Network Table that will be included in the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan.”
So, a fundamental part of the roadway are sidewalks, which are essential for safe transit and safe bicycle options. I will work to ensure that funds used from the impact fee accommodate all users of the rights-of-way.
Kathryne “Kathie” Tovo: I support designing our public policies to benefit residents of all ages and abilities. I will work to ensure that our Street Impact Fee serves all residents, including pedestrians and cyclists. I also support re-visiting our transportation impact analyses requirements to include consideration of multi-modal improvements for walking, biking, and transit use through that avenue, as well.
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?
Linda O’Neal: Yes.
Danielle Skidmore: I certainly support better trail connectivity which could potentially include creating new spaces for personal scale motorized vehicles. As for our crushed granite recreational trails in parks (e.g. the Butler Hike and Bike trail), while electric-assisted bikes should be allowed, I believe scooters and other electric vehicles should only be limited to paved surfaces where they function safely. There are certain paved park trails which provide critical transportation connectivity, such as the Pfluger Bridge and the Southshore Boardwalk. They should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
Kathryne “Kathie” Tovo: I am open to exploring a possible amendment to our trails regulations to accommodate electric bikes but would need to discuss the issue more fully. I believe that electric bikes and scooters could become valuable elements of our mobility strategy. Many of these assets have just started to enter Austin on a large scale, which is requiring the City to re-examine ways to improve our regulations, such as ensuring the right-of-way remains accessible to residents of all abilities as we accommodate dockless scooters and bikes. I look forward to engaging in a conversation over realize the potential of electric bikes and scooters while ensuring we meet the needs of residents of all ages andabilities.
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?
Linda O’Neal: Yes.
Danielle Skidmore: Of course. Pedicabbers and bicycles in general deserve to have dedicated spaces at special events. These active transportation modes provide a critical alternative to motor vehicle queuing and congestion at the event entrances.
Kathryne “Kathie” Tovo: I regard it as important to design our City plans in ways that incorporate all modes of mobility. We know from experience that residents will use many different types of transportation to move around our community, from walking to riding scooters to biking to catching a pedicab to taking transit to driving –and I believe our City plans should account for these many different mobility methods in order to serve all of our residents.
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?
Linda O’Neal: In my twenties and thirties, my husband and I rode our bikes everywhere. We were imbedded in bike culture. My husband was a state champion mountain bike rider, state champion in cyclo-cross, he also won the North American Bike Messenger race in 2011. He was a bike messenger in Austin in the late nineties. We are now older, his injured, and we simply don’t ride as much. But I loved it. For me, cycling is the closest thing to flying. Maybe it’s time to get back on the bike.
Danielle Skidmore: Our family uses B-cycle around downtown and up to campus. We also use our personal bikes to travel between downtown and campaign headquarters in Old West Austin. Although I don’t ride every day, I use our bike to make short trips in West Austin and (before I was campaigning non-stop) to get to Barton Springs. We have a special needs bike trailer for my son Peter (who’s in a wheelchair), but he has just about outgrown it. Peter and I recently had a chance to ride a trikeshaw in Mueller with Preston Tyree and Katie Deolloz—it was a great bonding opportunity that provided exercise for me while being accessible for people with disabilities like him. In the last year, I suspect I’ve ridden a bicycle around a hundred times. I used to ride my road bike more frequently for exercise, but after too many close calls with aggressive drivers on Austin’s arterials (especially Loop 360), I have avoided the risk.
Kathryne “Kathie” Tovo: I have accompanied my daughters while they have ridden bikes. Although I was not riding a bike myself during these times, having daughters who walk and bike in our community has reinforced my strong belief that we need to build a mobility system that works for people of all ages and abilities.
Additional Questions for District 8 Candidates
11. The Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, and the stretch of Congress from the bridge to the capitol, currently lack any facilities for bicycles or other personal mobility devices, such as scooters or Segways. A recent study resulted in recommendations to provide protected bike lanes from the bridge to the capitol, as called for in the Bicycle Master Plan. But there is currently no identified funding or timeline for implementing these improvements. As a Council member, would you seek out funding for implementation of protected bike lanes on Congress Avenue?
Linda O’Neal: YES
Danielle Skidmore: We are undergoing a mass paradigm shift pertaining to the balance of roads, sidewalks and bike lanes -especially in our downtown. Beyond simple protected bike lanes, we have an opportunity to create dedicated facilities for bikes , mobility scooters and even other low speed electric vehicles.The six lanes along Congress today could be reconfigured to provide four through lanes, with left turn turn lanes at the intersections. The liberated space of the extra two lanes can absolutely be repurposed to provide the dedicated space for bicycles , scooters, etc.I would absolutely support the funding for these changes to provide protected lanes along Congress Avenue over the long term. However, in advance of funding for major changes, I would seek to make incremental changes using lower cost methods such as striping and other delineation. Let’s not wait for the money to create the space for bicycles.
Kathryne “Kathie” Tovo: I support seeking ways to fund bicycle safety improvements on Congress Avenue, as envisioned by the Bicycle Master Plan and the Congress Avenue Urban Design Initiative. As a Council Member, I led on an effort for the City to hold a Ciclovia Open Street event on Congress Avenue to activate the street for pedestrians and cyclists in partnership with Bike Austin and other bicycle advocacy groups. In response, City staff worked to identify what would be needed to hold this event. I am still excited about the opportunities that this event would provide and want to continue working with Bike Austin and our other partners to move forward on this effort and hold a Ciclovia event on Congress Avenue that can boost civic pride and illustrate the importance of Congress Avenue to all modes of mobility.