â€œI donâ€™t believe this is the right land use for this location. This is not about an anti Wal-Mart thing. Itâ€™s about whether a store that produces this much traffic belongs on a four-lane Anderson Lane as opposed to on a highway. But we have been told consistently two things. One is that we do not have the power to take down or disapprove this site plan and the second is that if we try to do it weâ€™re on our own in a subsequent lawsuit.â€â€”Council Member Brewster McCracken.
Most Wal-Marts outside Texas are on major arterial roadways(*). Some are 6 lanes, symptoms link some are 4 lanes. Many, such as the one closest to my parents’ house in South Florida, are miles away from the nearest ‘highway'(**). Only in Texas do we stupidly build major retail and employment destinations on frontage roads, which act as barriers to travel for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users. Pay special attention to the impossibility of providing cost-effective high-quality transit service on frontage roads. Pushing Wal-Marts back out to frontage roads is a step backwards, not forwards.
(* – Try Wal-Mart’s store-finder on a zip code for a major metropolitan area outside Texas. Plug addresses into Google Maps. I guarantee you will see that, outside Texas, nearly zero Wal-Marts can be directly accessed from a frontage road — and most are accessed directly from roads very similar to Burnet Rd. and Anderson Lane. Example here. Be careful to plug all the addresses into Google Maps – many roads with “Hwy” in the name are in fact just major arterials – with frequent traffic lights, cross streets, etc. For instance, the Wal-Mart in Delray Beach, when accessed from the closest ‘highway’, requires a drive of about 2 miles on one major arterial roadway, then a turn onto a second major arterial roadway, then a short drive, and then another turn into the store lot.)
(** – ‘highway’ is a definition not frequently used by transportation planners. The common usage here in Texas would be either freeways – with or without frontage roads – or rural routes with limited cross traffic – neither one of which obviously includes Burnet Rd or Anderson Lane, although Burnet at one point in history was a ‘highway’. In my case, I prefer to use the limitation of access as the qualifier – since the roads here in Austin which people want to keep the big boxes out on are essentially all limited-access roadways with frontage roads).
You can also use this “plug the address into Google Maps” process to disprove the fallacy that a Wal-Mart at Northcross would be particularly close to single-family residences. For instance, consider this one in West Boca Raton. (Yes, “Hwy” in the name, but look at the satellite image and you see it’s a major arterial roadway – lots of cross streets and traffic lights).