The City of Austin’s Plan to Change Your Habits

in Social Engineering

City’s traffic department policy to push drivers away from downtown Austin

This recently received memo written in 1994 by City planner Katie Larsen (Ms. Larsen has confirmed validity and accuracy) has raised extreme concerns about the City of Austin’s plans to social engineer us out of our cars.  In fact it is clear that, for over a decade, the City’s plan has been to make it more difficult and more frustrating to drive downtown instead of fixing the problems we encounter on a daily basis.

“Perhaps we do not require surface parking and wait for people to decide to change their driving habits, but instead end the wait and begin actively changing those habits. There are many programs implemented in other cities that are known to impede the natural inclination to just “hop in the car and go”. These programs complement transit service and a reduction in required on-site parking.

On-street parking management programs discourage people to drive to the business and park in the neighborhood. Examples:

Parking Benefit Districts- In the district, metered parking or pay stations are located in the neighborhood and those who want to park on the street must pay (except those visiting residents). On-street parking is discouraged because people will not want to pay. For those that are willing to pay, the income from the meters/pay stations is used only within the neighborhood for sidewalk repair, water/wastewater improvements, drainage improvements, street trees, etc. Thus, the neighborhood controls the on-street parking, and benefits from it.

Residential Permit Programs (which City of Austin does offer)- only cars with resident or visitor permits may park on the street.

Car-sharing (go to for more info) is a program that allows an individual to reserve a vehicle for hourly use. The vehicles are stationed in neighborhoods so that residents can just walk to the vehicle and use it when they need to. They are charged for the miles and time in the car. Car-sharing is a program intended to “wean” people off the car- in other words, get used to not walking to the driveway and jumping into their car. Both City of Austin staff and the Planning Commission recognize the importance of car-sharing in beginning this transition away from auto-dependency.

So, we do not have to sit and wait. A combination of programs, like the ones above, and code changes (reduced and maximum parking) will begin the transition and help change people’s decisions about what mode of transportation to take. Capital Metro is doing its part to create an efficient, user-friendly transit system and is doing a great job considering the land use patterns it must function in. I ride it everyday.”

Katie Larsen

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