Land Use & Mobility

The land use and mobility of a region reflects both quality of life and economic well-being. Longer commute times, congestion, and commuter stress can be indicative of a spatial mismatch between jobs and housing – a phenomenon that can especially impact low-income households, as their geographic mobility may be limited. On the flip side, access to parks and open space provide a myriad of recreational activities and physical health opportunities for users. Green space proximity has an effect on public health, quality of life, and general well-being. The land use and mobility indicator section outlines these characteristics of sustainability in the Austin area. Key indicators include: density of development; rural land and public open space; commuting and congestion; and public transit. Some key findings include:

  • Residential housing density remained flat in Bastrop and Burnet counties, and declined in Caldwell County, from 2010 to 2014. During this same period of time, Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties saw an incremental increase in residential density.
  • According to the A2SI Community Survey, 53% of residents would like to see more dense neighborhoods in exchange for preserving farmland and natural areas. 70% believe that we should worry about sprawl.
  • In 2015, the Austin area had the highest commuter stress index of all major metropolitan areas in Texas. Austin has held this dubious distinction since 1994.
  • In 2014, it took 30% more time in the Austin area to reach the same destination in peak travel time than it did in free-flow travel time.
  • Also in 2014, over three-quarters (76%) of people in the Austin area preferred to drive alone to work. Data from the A2SI Community Survey suggests this trend is getting worse, rather than better: 90% of respondents reported typically driving alone in 2015 up from 84% in 2008.

According to the A2SI Community Survey, approximately 18% of Austin area residents would be willing to take the bus as an alternative to driving alone “if the conditions were right”. In Travis County, over 50% of those surveyed reported being somewhat or very willing to take the bus. By comparison, 70% of Travis County residents reported being somewhat or very willing to take train or commuter rail if that was an option.


Thinking about the land use and mobility section, some questions to consider:

  • What are the implications of the commuter stress index on health-related outcomes?
  • How can we encourage more use of public transportation?
  • How can we shape land-use and development patterns in ways that sustain the ecosystem services of the region that we depend on?

Download the full Land Use & Mobility Indicators report.