UPDATE: While the petition will remain up for signatures, we have begun the process of preparing the petition and comments for presentation.
You can view our full proposal of changes to Cap Metro, parking, and TNC's here: http://www.atxsaferstreets.org/petition.html
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Recently the issues plaguing downtown have been garnering a lot of attention.
As a former downtown bartender I’ve had many conversations about Austin’s poor choices for getting home safely, and I’ve witnessed first hand all of the forthcoming complaints more times than I can count.
Tightening down on DWI’s, adding police presence and checkpoints are all reactive responses, not pro-active. Let’s face it- the decision starts when someone chooses to drive instead of using alternative means to get to and from their destination(s).
So why do people make that choice?
For many people I’ve spoken with it boils down to three issues:
- A poor public transportation infrastructure.
- A distinct shortage of cabs who often provide terrible customer service.
- A fear that if they leave their car behind it will be ticketed (sometimes repeatedly), vandalized or towed.
Cap Metro: They end too early and many run too infrequently later on to be helpful to the average rider who has other means of transportation. Austin is incredibly active late into the night and it would be nice to see changes brought to public transportation that reflect that. Increased reliability, heavily expanded late night and/ or 24 hour bus service to more parts of town including outer Austin would help people view the bus as a viable alternative to driving. Areas dense in student residents would benefit tremendously from affordable, legal and safe ways home. A massive expansion of the rail system would help remove cars from the road and offer speedy and well lit rides to outlying areas.
Taxi/ ride share: If you were to ask any group of people their impressions of Austin taxis it would be largely negative. Even on a non- festival weekend night it is nearly impossible to hail a cab. Complaints include fares being refused due to distance/ location/ lack of cash/ size of party, ordered cabs taking hours or just not showing up, complaints of inappropriate sexual behavior, drug use and unnecessarily long routes. Students seem to be the most frequent victims of all of these practices.
Why are “gypsy cabs” and ride-share programs are so popular? Because everyone I’ve spoken to have had better experiences with them in terms of reliability, price, cleanliness and ease of use. The city would do well to listen to the complaints of the people and not the companies when it comes to making changes to city code regarding ride share programs. The people are voting with their dollars and it's for a new system.
Leaving their car behind: Austinites live in fear of their car being towed or ticketed. Everytime someone is ticketed, towed or their car is broken into it reduces their comfort level in leaving their vehicle behind. You’ve effectively all but guaranteed they are going to be leery of choosing public transportation the next time around. Would perhaps a warning ticket for the first offence on that license plate be equally effective at educating them without costing them a lot of money and stranding them?
The city and the police need to be discussing how their regulations and often overzealous enforcement have negatively impacted people’s perception of how safe their car is being left behind. For someone living paycheck to paycheck a tow fee or a pile of tickets from one night can often be out of financial reach.
And that goes for all the above points. Austin needs more public options for affordable, safe and reliable means of transportation during peak hours day AND night.
The discussion needs to be changed from how to stop drunk people driving home to how to help sober people feel safe and comfortable leaving their car in their driveway.
1.) More buses, running later, to more parts of the city.
2.) Changes to Cap Metro that will allow the trains to run later on weekends.
3.) More taxis, especially on late nights, weekends and special events.
4.) Legalization of peer to peer driver programs such as Uber and Lyft as competition for the taxi companies.
5.) Reduction or elimination of penalties for people who choose to leave their car downtown overnight to get a sober ride home.
We do not condone drunk driving; we advocate more choices for people who have been drinking so that they can make responsible decisions.
We believe that people are personally responsible for their actions and should be held accountable for those actions; we also believe that most people will make the right decision when given options. We are advocating more options; we are not advocating abandonment of personal responsibility.
We do not believe our proposal will eliminate the drunk driving problem; we do believe that a better transit system will save lives and improve quality of life for all of Austin.
We believe that improvements to the city's public transit infrastructure are desperately needed in order to maintain Austin's continued growth. We believe that public transit improvements will help to reduce the workload of APD and EMS and will create a safer city overall. We also believe that allowing more competition into the transit marketplace is good for the consumer, the city, and private businesses and all will ultimately profit from the changes we're proposing.
TRANSPORTATION NETWORK COMPANIES PROPOSAL:
We feel that a few simple changes to City codes could spark innovation and competition in Austin; but most importantly it would alleviate the woes of citizens and tourists alike trying to find their way home.
We propose changes to codes that would allow the issuance of temporary permits for licensed taxi cab drivers from other cities to operate in Austin during festivals and events deemed large scale by the City.
We propose Peak Demand permits be issued during the hours of 6pm-3am Thursday through Monday and during previously mentioned festivals and events, with a set percentage of cabs in each company required to provide service to Peak Demand areas.
We ask the City to clarify their “Response to dispatched service requests” code to a set distance instead of the vague lettering of “within a reasonable distance”.
We would greatly encourage the issuance of more permits for all hours and days. With a permit to citizen ratio of approximately 1:2528 we are in desperate need of additional cabs.
We are in favor of better utilization of existing downtown taxi zones as cab stands/staging areas where people know they can find a vacant taxi.
We propose changes to codes that would allow Peer to Peer transportation companies such as Uber, Lyft, SideCar and others to operate legally in the city as long as they carry corporate insurance comparable to what taxi franchises carry, do complete background and driving checks on each driver and purchase permits from the City. With each permit costing the same as taxi permits, this could generate considerable income for the City. We also suggest they also abide by rate caps with surge pricing made illegal. The state of California recently legalized P2P companies with these regulations:
The CPUC established 28 rules and regulations for TNCs. The rules include the requirements that TNCs must: Obtain a license from the CPUC to operate in California; Require each driver to undergo a criminal background check; Establish a driver training program; Implement a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol; Hold a commercial liability insurance policy that is more stringent than the CPUC’s current requirement for limousines, requiring a minimum of $1 million per-incident coverage for incidents involving TNC vehicles and drivers in transit to or during a TNC trip, regardless of whether personal insurance allows for coverage; and, Conduct a 19-point car inspection.
CAP METRO PROPOSAL:
We propose expanded late night and 24 hour bus routes throughout all of Austin based from the downtown entertainment district. This would alleviate the overcrowding on the last Night Owl busses that frequently happens under the current system. 24 hour schedules would allow bar staff and workers with unusual schedules the option of taking public transportation to and from work; reducing traffic and parking issues. Please see our attached proposal map, put together expertly by Lisa Roebuck.
We propose a greater emphasis be placed on ensuring the busses stay on schedule.
We would like to see Metro Rail greatly expanded, although we do recognize that is a long term goal. For an example of a city with great success at implementing light rail: Portland, Oregon’s Tri-Met stands out.
We would also like to see the city work to improve awareness of where the late night bus stops are and where the bus routes go, through prominent signage throughout the downtown core.
We feel there is a need for better explanation of overnight parking laws on the City’s website. Further clarification of when cars need to be retrieved by the following morning would be tremendous.
Allow overnight parking on Friday and Saturday nights in the lots under i-35.
A public campaign to improve the public's knowledge of overnight parking places and regulations is sorely needed. Many people do not know that they can leave their cars or are confused on what the regulations pertaining to pickup are.
Require more parking garages/ lots to offer weekend overnight parking with fee caps. Many require vehicles to be gone by 3am and many do not state what their policies are clearly to a passing vehicle looking for a place to park. We’d like to see codes requiring clear signage be posted at all garages and lots.