Austin In Motion Corridor Mobility Program Consultant
Austin In Motion Corridor Mobility Program Consultant
Complex Prioritization for Mobility Upgrades to Austin’s Transportation Network
Austin, Texas, wanted to improve its transportation facilities, reduce traffic congestion and increase traffic safety for the community, while giving citizens more mobility choices. In 2016, voters approved a $720 million bond package for transportation and mobility improvements, and city elected officials committed to implementing solutions within eight years. HDR was brought in as the program management planning consultant and to help with decision economics and transportation planning. We have a long history of successfully delivering projects for the city, and our diverse services and innovative approach to problem solving were a good fit for this project.
The $720 million bond was split into three streams of spending: $482 for multimodal urban corridors; $137 million for local streets, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, trails, sidewalks, Safe Routes to School, and better access to transit; and $101 million for suburban highway and road projects. However, the bond did not determine exactly which corridor projects would be funded, and the projected cost for corridor project improvements exceeded the approved bond funding.
One of our most challenging tasks was to prioritize projects as required by the 2016 Mobility Bond. The funding was guided by the City Council’s “Contract With Voters” that focused on prioritizing congestion, multimodal transportation service, connectivity and transit. Beyond that, the program is further guided by a slate of community considerations, including affordable housing preservation and development, local business preservation, mixed-income housing, and pedestrian access and safety. Our decision economics team developed a first-of-its-kind prioritization model using specific mobility and community criteria that were identified in the Bond as priorities and approved by the City Council to analyze the projects. Improvement to traffic flow and congestion relief, a better level-of-service for all modes of travel, enhanced connectivity, and more effective transit operations were considered the primary criteria. Other measures related to social impact were also incorporated, and a substantial public outreach and communications effort was included to keep the stakeholders informed and solicit input throughout the process. As part of the planning process, the city gathered feedback from residents and business owners located along each corridor.
To facilitate the aggressive eight-year timeline, we are acting as an extension of city staff. The overall corridor improvements plan was recommended for implementation by the end of 2024.
A key feature of the HDR team’s approach to identify the preferred solution was allowing multiple factors and objectives to be considered, some of which may be competing. To do this, they used a multicriteria decision analysis approach to analytically consider individual projects. Our process involved defining and agreeing upon evaluation criteria, or indicators, to evaluate priorities and considerations articulated in the Contract With Voters; identification of performance measures or metrics to determine the benefits or consequences of each corridor improvement; and the weighting of metrics to reflect the relative importance of each criterion.
The Contract With Voters explicitly identifies the following mobility priorities:
- reduced congestion
- improved level-of-service for all modes of travel
- improved transit operation effectiveness
The Contract With Voters recognizes the importance of also making allowances for the following non-transportation community considerations:
- preserve existing affordable housing
- preserve existing local businesses
- provide opportunities for developing new affordable housing
- provide opportunities to increase mixed-income housing supply
- emphasize livable, walkable, safe and transit-supportive corridors
- promote healthy, equitable and complete communities
These priorities and considerations are the guiding principles by which each improvement was evaluated. Each principle is measured by indicators, which in turn has metrics that are used to evaluate how well priorities are achieved.
The data collection process was intense and involved extensive coordination with numerous city departments. Along with obtaining and discussing data with these officials, general thoughts on potential indicators and metrics that were used in the prioritization effort were solicited. City agency input was used throughout the prioritization iteration. Input was received from 15 city departments and other entities.
Even so, the city is aggressively pushing the meet the bond’s eight-year timeline and has pivoted to the final design phase of the projects receiving the bulk of the funds. We’re working as an integrated staff with program office for the full implementation of the program providing program management, risk management, document control, scheduling, technical design support, utility coordination, right of way acquisition services and strategic consulting to support the implementation of the program in the eight-year timeline. As construction is now underway, the city along with HDR continues to mitigate project impacts to deliver for the people of Austin.