The City of Austin has been closing Rainey Street to vehicle traffic on weekend nights for the last two months as part of a pilot program to gauge the impact closures would have on safety and mobility.
Closures occur between Davis and River streets Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights — a time when cars, scooters and pedestrians are known to flood the bar-lined strip.
But each night’s closure has not looked the same. Austin police officers have discretion over when to set up and take down barricades each night based on certain conditions. So, some nights the street closes only for a few hours – if at all.
“They use their discretion based on the volumes of people and traffic that they see,” said Cole Kitten, a division manager with the Austin Transportation Department. “Sometimes on a Thursday night, it might not get busy until after 9 p.m., so it might be 10 p.m. or later that the barricades get set.”
People who are parked there during the closures could get their vehicles towed.
Kitten said throughout the pilot, the Transportation Department is gathering observations and feedback from Rainey Street visitors and residents.
“After the pilot’s over, we’ll be able to summarize those different inputs and generate a report,” Kitten said.
The pilot program is expected to end March 8. With a month left, the department published an online survey Thursday to gather feedback and gauge the level of support for closing Rainey Street on those nights. People can find it here.
The pilot program came about last year after research and community discussions. A city study found a lot of people walk in the area these nights, peaking at an average of 900 people on Saturday night.
While the pilot is part of the city’s initiative to determine how to improve mobility and safety in the Rainey neighborhood, some residents who live in the district have been opposed to the closure, saying it won't solve the traffic and pedestrian congestion.
After data is gathered, city officials will consider next steps. Before implementing closures permanently, Kitten said, the city would need to extend Red River Street, which is parallel to Rainey. According to the city’s Rainey Mobility Study, that would provide another two-way north-south connection through the area and an alternative route for traffic.