Chris Riley honored

Council honors the OG of Austin urbanism.

I couldn't make it to City Hall today, so I can't fully capture the scene, but many of Chris Riley's former colleagues were present to see Council adopt an ordinance naming a segment of the Shoal Creek Trail after him. A number of current Council aides took the highly unusual step of testifying before Council on behalf of Riley. 

Ryan Alter, the lead sponsor of the ordinance, said, "Anyone who rides, rolls or walks around Austin benefits from the work of Chris Riley."

“Chris Riley Bend" is a visually stunning segment of the trail between West Avenue and 5th Street that was completed a few years ago. The blend of city life and greenery is a fitting tribute to Riley, whose urbanism has always been rooted in a love for the environment. 

The ordinance is sponsored by CM Ryan Alter (whose aide Ben Leffler once worked for Riley) and co-sponsored by Paige Ellis, Zo Qadri and Chito Vela. 

I happened to speak with Riley recently, hoping to gain insight into how politics in Austin has evolved since be first got involved in the 1990's. I'll revisit our full conversation at a later date, but the big theme is that it wasn't too long ago that Riley was a very lonely advocate for positions that have since become mainstream on the Council dais. 

He recalled, for instance, giving a copy of Donald Shoup's The High Cost of Free Parking to all six of his colleagues on the at-large Council. It felt like an exercise in futility –– he couldn't even get the wonky, data-driven Bill Spelman on board for eliminating parking requirements for micro-units on transit corridors.

A little more than a decade later, and the City Council in Austin voted 9-2 to eliminate parking requirements entirely.