Q&A from final Downtown Master Plan charrette presentation
As promised, here's a recap of the Q&A following our final presentation (PDF) of the Downtown Master Plan charrette. You'll want to click that link and have a look-see at the presentation slides to make much sense of the narrative below, unless of course you were at the meeting. And if you were at the meeting and think I've left something out or mischaracterized comments or questions, please let me know with a comment.
Q: How do parks and trails fit into the plan as far as
providing pedestrian access into downtown?
A: You won't see very many people coming into the downtown area by foot. They'll
use great streets to drive to downtown and to the parks and trail system. We don't
think alleys, which you have downtown, are good for pedestrians; they're good
for service trucks to use to access the businesses.
Neal Payton of Torti Gallas then asked for comments on their two proposed schemes for
the Main Street ballfields site. (Many of those in attendance Friday night were at Tuesday's special focus session on the issue.) I heard comments like, "They have potential,"
and "It's a good start." Fair enough.
Q: If you've got 700 additional residential units and 70,000-90,000 square feet of new office and 107,000-145,000 square feet of new retail coming into downtown over the next 15 years (as our market demand study shows), where are they going to park?
A: The new residential units will "park themselves," i.e. won't use public
parking spaces. As for the new retail, we've included a parking garage -- which
the City had already been planning for -- at the northwest corner of
Brown Street and Bagdad Avenue; you've got a lot of underutilized parking downtown today. If
the redevelopment is successful, you'll likely need more but remember this: In
a walkable community, the ratio of parking spaces per square foot of commercial space is lower than what you experience in non-walkable developments.
Q: You're showing a future commuter rail depot and Transit
Oriented Development south of Main Street at Bagdad (south of the current City
Hall). Where's the parking lot going to be for that TOD?
A: We're showing it at what is now the Parks and Recreation Department's yard site.
Q: You say the key to the plan is extending Main Street west
to IH 35, and that becoming the "front door" for downtown. But IH 35 is noisy and
ugly. How do you resolve that conflict?
A: The noise is not so bad, but yes IH 35 is ugly but what you have today from
IH 35 looking toward Main Street is ugly.
So a well designed bridge and landscaping will make huge difference.
Scott Baker from Melendrez said the landscaping can help tell the history of
the community, from our cotton farming past, the Blackland Prairie, etc.
Q: Will the proposed form based code be similar to Leander's?
A: Leander has a Smart Code, Neal said, which he is familiar with because Torti Gallas is doing work for Capital
Metro on its Leander rail station. Smart Code is different from a form based code.
Neal noted there will be different standards for different parts of the plan
Q: Will sustainability standards regarding things like
stormwater runoff and green building standards be included in the form based
A: That's certainly possible. Torti Gallas will recommend strategies and incentives to
the City and it will be up to the political decision makers to include them or
Q: Do "green roofs" really have plants and shrubs growing on
A: Yes. Ironically, you do have to water them or the plants can die and then if
it rains you'll have a roof of mud.
Q: The extension of Main Street to IH 35. What's it really
A: To give better access to downtown.
Q: But for folks coming from the south on IH 35, they'll have to exit way back at
Hester's Crossing and go through two
traffic lights to get there.
A: That's true, but we can put up proper signage to guide them along the way. But
the most significant benefit is that it would give you a great entrance to downtown, a pleasing visual entryway.
Neal noted that people like him with disposable income won't dine and shop
in a place that's not visually appealing when there are ample alternatives elsewhere in the region.
They will go to a cool place. As noted from an earlier meeting, the access is
really a secondary benefit. "The visibility
from IH 35 is everything," Neal said.
A downtown resident a little later noted the new
entrance would also be a great exit for downtown. He said folks could travel
west to the interstate frontage road, and when TxDOT completes the work
currently underway at RM 620 and IH 35 they'll be able to use the new northbound to southbound
turnaround lane to get back on IH 35 going south without having to wait for a
light. Neal agreed, and noted that taking some traffic off Round Rock Avenue
will help make it a great street that's much more pedestrian friendly.
Q: How about having a T-ball field in downtown. You've got
little kids playing and their parents would come and shop. That would be a
great attractor. How about in the proposed town square?
A: The proposed park at the Main Street ballfields could be a location for it. Or you could
do it in the square. We think you may want to have a whole other charrette to
program the town square.
Q: A baseball field in downtown would also pay homage to our recent history
with the Round Rock Express.
A: Absolutely. Neal thinks that's a great idea.
Q: We need some equestrian park space in Round Rock to acknowledge
our frontier past.
A: Neal said it maybe could be done in Lake Creek Park, where he says there's
lots of space.
Q: Another great example of a roundabout is on Hilton Head,
where the motorists turning right don't have to enter the main lanes of the
A: Gary Schatz, our transportation engineer from Walter P. Moore, noted the example he cited in the presentation from Malta, N.Y., has that same feature.
Q: How does the cost of roundabout compare to the cost of a
A: Gary said a modern traffic signal costs about $250,000 per intersection to
construct and program, and then there are some ongoing staff costs to monitor and re-program the signal, if necessary. A
roundabout costs anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million, depending on its size,
but there are no ongoing monitoring costs. Gary also noted that while the computers that
run traffic signals are really smart, sometimes they can "go dumb" and you've
got flashing reds all around until someone can fix it. You never have that
problem with a roundabout.
Q: If I worked at the proposed Citi Centre development at
the old H.E.B site (on the northwest corner of U.S. 79 and Mays Street), how
would I get to downtown quickly? It seems like too far to walk. Would a shuttle
A: That's a great idea, especially for tourists and folks who would be staying
at the proposed hotel on that site. Someone from the audience noted a shuttle
from the Dell campus to downtown would be a good idea as well.
That prompted Neal to discuss the idea that was broached
early in the week about a Dell retail store/history center/product and technology
showcase space in downtown. Neal related that when Nancy Yawn, the director of
our Convention and Visitor's Bureau came to the charrette on Friday, she said
the plan looks great but asked what will differentiate Round Rock's downtown
from other downtowns. The world's only Dell store/history center/product and
technology showcase space would be one way to do that. Someone from the audience
noted the Intel corporate museum in Santa Clara, Calif., its hometown, and
that Apple has a cool concept with its Company Store in Cupertino, Calif., home of its world headquarters.
Q: I grew up in Washington D.C. where there are roundabouts
that seemed confusing for a lot of folks. How are the roundabouts you're
talking about different?
A: There are good and bad roundabouts. Neal noted he lived in the Washington
D.C. area for 25 years and DuPont Circle works really well. People figure them
Q: How do you treat the middle of a roundabout?
A: Gary said it's a place where you can have public art or landscaping, but it's
not for people to access. They stay on the perimeter.
Q: Have you looked at the current
and projected traffic counts on U.S. 79? Hutto is growing like crazy. Can those
roundabouts you're proposing on 79 really handle the traffic that's there today and the increased
volumes in the future?
A: So you fear greater backups and delays?
A: Roundabouts are more efficient at handling traffic than signals. Here are some numbers Gary cited this week:
A typical road has the capacity to handle
up to 1,900 vehicles per hour per lane. Backups and congestion occur at intersections. Different
intersections have different capacities, to wit:
All‐Way Stop - Up to 400 vehicles/hour/approach
Traffic Signal - Up to 600 vehicles/hour/lane
Roundabout - Up to 1,200 vehicles/hour/lane
are also safer. Gary cites the following figures from the Insurance Institute
for Highway Safety research on modern roundabouts that show:
- 39 percent reduction of all crashes
- 76 percent reduction of injury crashes
- 89 percent reduction of fatal and incapacitating crashes
Q: I didn't see any dedicated bike lanes on your Mays Street proposal.
A: Right. We can't fit them in the right of way on Mays, but we will be looking
at other streets for bike lanes.
And that was it for the Q&A. I'm not exactly sure what topic I'll post on next, but I definitely plan to continue blogging on the downplan plan as the process moves forward. Anything in particular about the plan you want to discuss?