🇺🇸 Future of Movement - Interview Series - PART 11
It may be the live music 🎸, hiking trails 🏞, or the diverse cuisine 🌮 that pull you in, but for us, it's the growing public transit scene that's keeping us in Austin's City Limits 🚆 🎉. We're excited to sit down for a chat about Austin with Jenell Moffett and Briana Cohen!
Jenell Moffett leads economic, demographic, geographic, and market research and analysis efforts to support the Downtown Alliance's strategic priorities. She sets the annual research agenda and directs multiple research projects that support economic development, planning, and advocacy efforts. She serves as the staff lead for the Research Task Force and is the secondary staff lead for the Strategic Communication Committee. 🕵️♀️ 👏
Briana Cohen loves energizing with the sun and connecting with people and the environment. ☀️ 🌿 Briana works with Ghisallo to support others in getting comfortable and confident biking 🚴♀️, and access bikes for transportation and exploration. Briana serves as the Chair of the Austin Bicycle Advisory Council and rides with a group of women, trans, femme+ called Team Snacks. She also led the Fearless Tandem workshop to expand bicycle travel. Briana is often exploring parks, reading on hammocks, having meaningful conversations, and flowing with the rhythm of the music.
Tell us about the current state of public transit in Austin
Jenell: I would say that public transit in Austin is embarking on a new frontier. 💪 For such a long time, Austin was considered a small sleepy college town. Over the past two decades, the city has grown exponentially, increasing in size, population, and recognition.
For many years, investment in public transit infrastructure has not kept up with the demands of this growth, subsequently leading to significant traffic and congestion problems.
Fortunately, In November 2020 the city passed Project Connect which will transform regional transit in Austin. It will add two rail lines connecting the city and will be the largest transit investment in the region’s history at $7.1 billion. 🚊 🤑 This is a game-changer for Austin and I’m really excited about it.
How will 'Project Connect' impact its surrounding communities?
Jenell: It could be a game-changer allowing people from outside the city limits to park and ride transit into the city for the weekend, it will also connect downtown to the airport making it easier for visitors to get downtown, or other parts of the city, without using a car. This will help alleviate traffic 🛤 and be better for the environment 🍃.
How can Austin encourage more people to ride public transit?
Briana: We need to focus on human-centered experiences when talking about riding public transit. Everyone has their own experiences, so this can be a challenge when creating mass transit options. 🚲 🚈 🚌 Focusing on people that experience the most negative impacts of our systems helps to address issues or worries that open opportunities for everyone and allow people to connect on the human level.
For instance, ADAPT of Texas has advocated to ensure access to public spaces and transportation for people with disabilities. ☝️One example is getting curb cuts in various spaces for wheelchair access to sidewalks. As a result, people riding a skateboard, biking, pushing a stroller, or pulling a wagon can navigate better too. 🙌
Are there any lessons or innovations that other American cities can learn from Austin?
Briana: Austin has many incredible non-profit organizations that are providing services to underserved communities, and implementing strategies for a sustainable city. 👍 The organizations range from educating youth and adults about biking, farming, sustainability, environmental stewardship, food access, racial and social justice, and much more.
What would make Austin a more equitable city?
Jenell: Accessibility and affordability are closely connected. Increasing access to transit options across the region will connect north to south, east to west and provide an inexpensive, reliable source of transportation for people that need it.
Transit systems like Project Connect will create jobs and attract more economic investment along the transit lines. $300M has also been set aside for anti-displacement strategies, which I believe, is the largest investment of its kind.
With intentional planning and investment, Austin’s implementation of Project Connect has the potential to get it right.
Briana: Austin enjoys warm weather and sunshine many days of the year, as well as lovely green spaces, to allow people to live healthy lifestyles. 👟🏞 However, not everyone is welcomed into the beautiful spaces or feels comfortable in transit in Austin; so equitable access is not the reality for many people, especially people of Black and Latino communities, people of low-income, and people of differing abilities (both physically and mentally).
Access to transit, whether to reliable bus stops 🚏 protected bikeways 🛣 , or affordable options 💸, would enable people to reach jobs, homes, personal interests, social activities, economic stability, and hopefully, a sense of freedom.
Tell us about a recent biking event in Austin that stood out to you
Briana: I organized a farm bike tour 🌾 in East Austin to bike from Tillery Street Plant Co, to Boggy Creek Farm, to Urban Roots Farm. Some people got to ride the Southern Walnut Creek Trail for their first time, and definitely not their last.
The ride included people of all ages and interests: some came to get comfortable biking in the city, some came because they wanted to learn about farming, and some came to meet other people in town. I liked the fusion of folks!
What are you most excited about this spring in terms of active travel 🚶🚲 🛴?
Jenell: I’m looking forward to walking downtown, meeting friends for brunch, and spending time with family.
Briana: I am most excited about biking to the springs. The city heats up like a drumroll, so I find myself riding to Barton Springs many evenings to cool down.
Tell us about your favorite journey in Austin and what makes it so special
Briana: My favorite journey in Austin is biking along the Boggy Creek Trail. I love the mix of tree shade and sun, the sounds of the birds chirping, the flow of winding along the dirt path, and the people I see along the trail either walking by with animals or picking pecans.
It’s a very communal experience. I also have led a number of group rides along that trail, both young kids and older adults.
First city you're going to visit post-pandemic?
Jenell: Seattle or Charlotte
Briana: I hope I can get back to Bogota, Colombia to visit some of my former students and participate in their Sunday Ciclovia!
Thank you, Jenell and Briana! 👏👏👏
We've learned so much 😍.
That's it for the Texas capital, Austin 🤠!
We're nearing the last stop of our train trip, so be sure to check back again next week for our final destination 🚃 🦦
The Citymapper crew 💚
P.S.S. Late to the party? Catch up on the rest of our U.S. Future of Movement interview series below:
Miami - Derrick Holmes & Kevin Amézaga
Chicago - Courtney Cobbs
Denver - Loren Hansen & Deyanira Zavala