DAIMLER

Austin, TX has always been known for great live music and delicious southern food. But as the town grows, it's becoming known for its smart transportation strategy. In this week's episode, we went to Austin to see what all the buzz about.
Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in America. In fact, between 2000 and 2006, it was ranked third for growth. Planners quickly noticed the trend and decided to look at how they could improve Austin's public transit in hopes to avoid a situation like Los Angeles, where growing pains have clearly affected people moving.

Planners took to the drawing board, and started with a very basic concept: design the city for the pedestrian. By starting with the pedestrian, the hope is that more people will be comfortable walking or biking instead of driving. Austin is laying pedestrian paths throughout the city as wide as 18 ft. Not only will walkers and bikers use the sidewalk, but cafes could also utilize the space for outdoor patios.

Austin planners foresee more people using bikes to commute to work as well, even in the hot Austin weather. In fact, the heat has also been planned for too. Planners recommend showers and bike locker rooms to local businesses, so that there are options for employees cycling to work. Austin is also proposing a bike rental system much like Vélib' in Paris.

In the multimodal spirit of transit--one that uses all types--Austin has committed to expanding its urban rail system. Originally proposed in 2007, Austin's urban rail would connect downtown, UT-Austin, the Capitol and the Mueller development area. The plan is still up in the air as the city figures out costs and finds a developer. But the key is that Austin doesn't see growth slowing down, so these measures are important to keep the city efficient.

For those who need to drive, Austin has a few options. First, there are the car sharing programs: Zipcar and Car2Go. Car2Go is especially visible in Austin because they are assigned street parking all over the city. Car2Go was able to negotiate the parking fee with the city and put it into the rental fee. So whenever someone needs a car to go to Whole Foods (founded in Austin), they can easily go grab one, grab their groceries, return the car, and take public transit or walk home.

Another way Austin is promoting green driving is by providing over 100 charging stations for EVs. Austin Energy teamed up with ChargePoint after winning a grant to provide customers with unlimited charging for only $5 per month. (We could see this being a great benefit to those who use vehicle-to-grid in their homes in the future.)

The various transit options that Austin offers has convinced some to get rid of their cars altogether. Oil may be big in the Lone Star state, but in Austin, green is the way to go.