Traffic

From The Texas Tribune:

Only six out of every 100 Texans rely on public transportation as their primary means of transportation, and less than half of Texans believe it reduces congestion, according to a new poll released Thursday.

The survey of more than 5,000 Texans was conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute in May to study how Texans get around and their views on transportation funding. 

Ninety-one percent of Texans use a personal automobile as their primary means of transportation, followed by 6 percent who rely on public transportation, according to the poll. Ninety percent of respondents said they own or lease a personal vehicle. Minorities and those with an annual household income of less than $25,000 rely most heavily on public transportation, researchers found.

Spencer Selvidge/KUT News

Austin's "MetroRapid" buses are larger and, let's be honest, nicer than your typical bus. They've got more doors, for one, which makes for faster loading and unloading. You can look up when the next one's going to arrive on your smartphone. They have Wi-Fi, too. In January, the first line debuted, the 801, running up and down North Lamar and Congress. This week, the second one started up, the 803, going from the Domain down Burnet, through downtown and down South Lamar. 

The Rapid bus system is the first major transit project in Austin since the troubled rollout of the MetroRail red line several years ago.* That project was late, over budget and struggled to attract riders.

The rapid buses, however, started on time and under budget. But six months after the launch of the first rapid line, ridership in its corridor is down 16 percent from two years ago during the same period. (You can view the ridership numbers obtained by KUT below.)

"We certainly didn't want that to happen. We hoped that wouldn’t happen. But it did happen," says Todd Hemingson, Vice President of strategic planning and development with Capital Metro.

So why, after premiering shiny new buses with plenty of features, did ridership go down in the corridor?

Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Believe it or not, the state of Texas needs to spend money every year just to maintain current and ever-growing levels of traffic.

The Texas Department of Transportation needs at least $4 to 5 billion in additional funds to maintain roads and keep traffic from getting worse. In November, Texans will take to the polls to decide the fate of the agency's request via a constitutional amendment for the roadway funding.

While the sticker shock of that may not sit well with some, a new study says shaky infrastructure has an annual statewide cost of over $25 billion and Austin drivers an average of $1,700 a year.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

These days Austin is known as much for traffic as it is for live music or five-hour-long barbecue lines. 

If you've been commuting in Austin for a while, you might have noticed the traffic isn't exactly getting better. Despite flirtations with building a six-lane highway, constructing a long overdue urban rail system and even "sequestering" I-35 under concrete, commute times are not only stagnant, they're getting worse. In 2011, the state commissioned a study on major roadways which found — despite all those improvements — it could take Austin commuters up to three hours to get to Round Rock by 2035. 

North Carolina Department of Transportation

State transportation authorities announced this week that they received the green light to build a $6.7 million "diverging diamond interchange" at I-35 and University Blvd. in Round Rock. That's an area that gets a lot of traffic, partly because it's near the only IKEA in Central Texas and the Round Rock Premium Outlets, among many other retail businesses.

Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

President Barack Obama will be in Austin today to give the keynote address at the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Library. The event is marking the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

How to Hear Obama's Address:

While it is not possible to get into the auditorium to see the President’s address unless you already have a ticket – there is an opportunity to see some of the other summit panels.

A standby line will begin forming at 1:30 p.m. on the east side of Sid Richardson Hall – next to the LBJ Library. Open seats for the panels starting at 2, 3 and 4 o’clock will be filled with people from the standby line.

KUT 90.5 will air Obama’s address at the Civil Rights Summit live starting around 11:30 a.m. This is made possible with a partnership with the Longhorn Network. UT will also stream the address online at KUT.org.

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Lan56

Many area school kids are in class today despite the Presidents' Day holiday. They’re making up for a day missed due to winter weather.

City of Austin Transportation crews are working to manually re-program flashing school zone lights warning drivers to slow down. But only about one-sixth were ready before the start of school this morning.

“If a driver comes up to a school zone and they know that the school is in session and the flasher aren’t going, they should use that same level of caution, drive slower and be aware of students in the area," city spokesperson Samantha Park said.

UT Shuttle
Image courtesy Cap Metro

Tight budgets could leave some UT Austin commuters without a bus line in the upcoming semester, according to Cap Metro. 

The Wickersham Lane (Route WL) shuttle will be eliminated this semester and the Cameron Road route (Route CR) will be shortened this semester, renamed Route Camino La Costa (Route CLC) and then eliminated after the spring semester.  

The transit authority attributes the cutbacks to a persistent lack of funds from UT's Student Services Budget Committee.

Four decades ago, Austin, Texas, had a population of 250,000 and a reputation as a laid-back oasis of liberal politics and live music. Today, the Austin metro area is home to 1.8 million people and has some of the nation's worst traffic congestion.

For years, the city has done little to address the growing problem. But most in the Texas capital now agree something has to change if Austin is to save what's left of its quirky character.

Jillian Schantz Patrick/KUT News

Update: Austin's latest surge of winter weather means postponement of lane restriping work on MoPac.

While lane closures continue, lane restriping  probably won't begin until after Friday's expected rains, and possible freezing precipitation on Saturday. See the tweet below:

Original story (Dec. 9): Construction work on MoPac is about to get underway. Overnight lane closures begin tonight as crews install construction signs in preparation for restriping portions of the road.

Callie Hernandez for KUT News

In Austin, it's a constant: Traffic.

There’s recent statewide and local efforts to mitigate congestion – which will take substantial investment and extensive construction. So despite proposals in the pipeline, traffic will continue to be a slow-going, fast-growing problem.

So, it got us wondering: What are the worst intersections in Austin? 

Map Data @2013 Google

Traffic may be moving slower on SH 71 this morning around Southwest Parkway. And it’ll probably be that way for the next eight months or so.

SH 71 is reduced to one lane in each direction while crews work to widen the road.

The Texas Department of Transportation is adding turn lanes, an acceleration lane and paved shoulders to 71 at Southwest Parkway. TxDOT says the project will increase safety in the area.

TxDOT warns drivers should plan for possible delays in the area.

Erik Reyna for KUT News

It may not be news to anyone trapped on Interstate 35, or suffering a meltdown on MoPac, but a new study confirms the obvious: Austin drivers are far less safe than the nationwide average, according to a study from insurance company Allstate.

Austin ranks among the bottom quarter of U.S. cities in Allstate’s “Americas Best Drivers” report – 155th out of 200 largest cities. The city actually fell six places from its ranking last year (149th), meaning Austin drivers have gotten less safe by Allstate's standards.

Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Update: Capital Metro’s MetroRail Service is back up and running this morning. But trains are running behind schedule because of a technology problem earlier this morning.

Capital Metro says the first train will depart from Leander at about 6:50 a.m.

A Capital Metro spokesperson says crews will work hard this morning to get back on schedule.

Original Story (6:22 a.m.): Capital Metro’s MetroRail Service is down this morning because of a technology problem.

 

Preparations are underway for the Auditorium Shores concert and fireworks show Thursday.

The festivities start at 8:30 p.m., with a performance by the Austin Symphony. Fireworks are set to start at 9:30 p.m., and the event is expected to end at 10 p.m.

Above, you'll find a map of street closures for the event — streets marked red will be completely closed. Those in blue will be partially shut down.

Update (4:30 p.m.): Austin Police are warning that I-35 southbound could be closed through the evening:

Original Story: Southbound Interstate 35 is shut down just past Riverside because a semi truck is on fire. 

Austin Police and Fire crews have moved southbound traffic to the access road.

AFD spokesperson Palmer Buck estimated the closures may be in effect until rush hour. Northbound traffic is also backed up because of onlookers.

Sinclair Black & Andrew Vernooy

Update (June 20): This morning Austin City Council members decided to go ahead and approve a resolution supporting a I-35 National Environmental Policy Act study for a plan to reconnect East & West Austin by submerging it from approximately River Street to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

Council also directed the City Manager to develop an economic impact study and look at associated financing options.

flickr.com/carlos

Paying for transportation infrastructure is big part of the special session underway now at the Texas Capitol. But, for some lawmakers, it's not a big enough part.

Senate Joint Resolution 2 would send some oil and gas tax money into a new fund, but everyone agrees that much more money is needed.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: Cesar Chavez Street is now open to eastbound traffic, but one westbound lane is still closed as crews finish work on a sinkhole found this morning.

The cement used to fill the hole has very little water and dries quickly, but is not expected to be fully dry until after rush hour.

Original post (12:17 p.m.): Westbound Cesar Chavez Street is closed from I-35 to Red River after a sinkhole formed near Sabine Street.

flickr.com/joshmaz

Expect traffic congestion around the Frank Erwin Center to pick up over the next couple of days as area schools celebrate high school graduations.

Westlake High School students will get their diplomas at the Erwin Center tonight. Three other high schools have graduations scheduled there on Saturday: Hendrickson High School (9 a.m.), Pflugerville High School (11 a.m.) and Connally High School (1 p.m.).

Daniel Reese

 

Last year’s Memorial Day weekend saw 191 car crashes, one death and 99 injuries, said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo. 

This year, APD, state police, and nearby counties are collaborating to counter hazardous driving, in an effort to make holiday weekends less destructive on Central Texas roads.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Update: Austin police say the suspect is in custody and that roadways will open soon. Eastbound U.S. Hwy 290 is open now, but the service road near Berkman is still closed.

The situation started early this morning when police responded to a call of a shot fired at the Capitol Village Apartments. When officers arrived, police say the suspect pointed a weapon at them and police fired back – but no one was injured. The suspect then went back inside of an apartment and police have been trying to make contact. They’re also trying to evacuate the apartment complex.

Emily Donahue, KUT News

The City of Austin says the number of vehicle crashes involving bikes and pedestrians has gone up over recent years.

In 2012, there were a total of 78 fatal crashes in Austin – a 42 percent increase from 2011. A third of those 78 crashes killed pedestrians. Three were fatal crashes involving bikes.

flickr.com/rabski

Road closures this weekend will keep drivers away from city hall and a few roads surrounding the University of Texas at Austin. Art City Austin and the Longhorn Run are both this weekend.

Art City Austin is pitched as a hybrid of an art festival and a block party. The festival features an outdoor art fair, local food trailers, live music and more. Volunteers are still needed.

Callie Hernandez, KUT News

Reducing morning traffic congestion is just one of many ideas that will be discussed Friday at the Texas Lyceum conference in Austin. The non-profit, non-partisan statewide group is hosting a summit on transportation.

Among the featured speakers is Dennis Christiansen. He’s director of the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University. Christiansen says more roads aren’t the only answer.

Map Data @2013 Google

Update: The frontage road to the west of I-35 in Kyle will begin transitioning to one-way this morning and continue through Friday, April 12. 

The I-35 frontage road's repainting and repaving is expected to take only one day. and will be changed to handle only southbound traffic.

flickr.com/tina_kolesnik

The Austin-American Statesman's Capitol 10k run will result in many road closures downtown and around the Capitol this Sunday. 

Some road closures will begin at 3 a.m. and last at late as 12 p.m. and include part of Congress Avenue. For a more details, check out this map by the Statesman.

Wikimedia Commons, bit.ly/173mBPJ

Traffic just got a little faster on some highway roads outside of Austin.

The Texas Department of Transportation announced Thursday the increase of speed limits on a few segments of U.S. Highway 183 and State Highway 130 frontage roads.

Joy Diaz, KUT News

More than a dozen streets in Austin are about to be invaded with bulldozers whose mission is to re-shape them. Once the streets are re-worked, the hope is they will in turn help slow down the drivers who use them. On the first week of April, the city will unveil which so-called “traffic calming” projects it will fund.

Twice a year, Austin’s Transportation Renee Orr reviews dozens of applications from Austinites who believe their streets would be safer if there were a way to make drivers slow down.

UW Green Futures Lab/Scan Design Foundation/Gehl Architects

The Austin City Council had parking on its mind today. And now Austin is one step closer to eliminating minimum parking requirements for many downtown businesses, and looking at a program could to lessen the number of cars entering downtown. 

Pilot Parking Program

The council heard a briefing on parking program encouraging businesses to reduce car commuting. The program could begin as soon as April, if the council approves a measure next week.

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