A $1 million grant will help the University of Texas at Austin, Austin Transportation Department and local nonprofit Jail to Jobs build and evaluate a community mobility hub to address community-identified challenges in north Austin's Georgian Acres neighborhood. Mobility Hubs are places in a community that bring together public transit, bike share, car share, and other ways for people to get to where they want to go without a private vehicle.
The project team, led by the Principal Investigator, Junfeng Jiao, Associate Professor, Community and Regional Planning program at UT School of Architecture and Jason JonMichael, Assistant Director with Austin Transportation Smart Mobility, proposed a solar-powered hub within Austin's Georgian Acres community. The hub will provide access to a neighborhood bike system, a bike-share station, e-scooter stations and more while offering free WiFi and other community services such as a mobile health clinic and food pantry.
Georgian Acres is a North Austin neighborhood bound by Rundberg Lane to the north, US 183 to the south, I-35 to the east and Lamar Boulevard to the west. It is what Jiao considers a “transit desert,” referring to the area’s high demand for transportation service but low supply. Commute times in Georgian Acres are 67% longer than the city average.
"Georgian Acres is bound on all sides by highways and high-speed roadways, making it difficult for community members to travel in or out of the neighborhood," said Gina Fiandaca, Austin's Assistant City Manager overseeing Mobility. "It’s also a traditionally low- to moderate-income community, which means that affordability is a significant barrier to transportation for these residents. Our hope is that this community hub project will provide a variety of affordable transportation options, empowering community members to select the modes that best meet their needs."
The grant comes from the National Science Foundation's Civic Innovation Challenge, an initiative to find community-based solutions to address challenges related to equality and natural disasters and make them sustainable, scalable and transferrable to other communities across the US.
Earlier this year, the Austin project team received $50,000 from Stage 1 of the competition. Austin was among 52 other teams spanning 30 states, a tribal region, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. During Stage 1, the project team began outreach to community partners and community members in the Georgian Acres area to better understand how to solve the spatial mismatch between affordable housing and jobs, and increase access to services like food, health care and childcare.