For decades, Austin, Texas has been a nerve center for sustainable living in America. Anchored by the city's renowned Green Building Program, citizen initiatives such as the Sustainable Building Coalition (a network of people interested in ecological building and development), and a slew of environmental builders and material providers, the city is considered a mecca for alternative thinkers, a true green oasis. But all the straw bale houses, rainwater harvesting, and energy efficiency in the world can't negate the painfully obvious environmental problem plaguing this city in the heart of Texas Hill Country.
That problem is cars. Lots and lots of cars more arriving each day most of them sitting in mind-numbing traffic on Interstate 35, which slices Austin in half, carrying suburbanites on arteries that connect far-flung subdivisions to the heart of the city.
Buoyed by its high-tech, multimedia, and bioscience industries, Austin is a boomtown that welcomes seventy-five to 100 new citizens every day. The sprawling metro area's population has doubled since 1986 about one million people now and most of those new residents bring a car or three to park in oversize garages attached to new homes on the outskirts of town. For every 1 percent increase in population, according to the Austin American Statesman, the region suffers a 4 percent increase in traffic.
Check out the May/June 2000 issue of Natural Home for more about Austin, including:
- Smart Growth
- Examples of Downtown Revival
- Sobering Facts