We’ve done the studies. Now it’s time to take the test, and a passing grade is $720 million.
- What are Austin’s transportation priorities?
Only Mayor Adler’s Smart Corridor plan accomplishes all three of our goals, which are:
- Decrease traffic congestion
- Increase travel options, including transit and bikes
- Complete communities, including sidewalks and crosswalks
- The corridors are the right place to start on our big needs.
Over the next 10-30 years, we have $9.5 billion in identified mobility needs, including up to $2.3 billion on the corridors. A $720-million bond would make real progress, and experts who have studied Austin say they are the place we should start:
- “Add capacity in critical corridors” -2015 Urban Mobility Score Card, Texas A&M Transportation Institute
- “Implement corridor plans with a focus on walkability” –Jeffrey Tumlin report
- “Continue working on demonstration corridors (Lamar Boulevard, Burnet Road, Riverside Drive, Airport Boulevard, and East MLK Boulevard/FM 969) to plan and build complete street improvements. These include separated bike lanes, wider sidewalks, and improved transit infrastructure with more user friendly bus shelters.” –Imagine Austin
- The corridor plans have been thoroughly vetted.
We have spent years and millions of dollars studying these corridors.
- Airport Boulevard Corridor Development Program (6-12/11)
- 2016 Austin Bicycle Master Plan (8/12-11/14)
- East Riverside Corridor Master Plan (8/8-2/10)
- FM 969/East MLK Jr. Boulevard Corridor Development Plan (11/11-5/12)
- Guadalupe Street Corridor Improvement Plan (12/14-5/15)
- Mobility ATX (10/15-11/15)
- North Lamar/Burnet Corridor Development Plan (9/11-1/12)
- North Burnet/Gateway 2035 Master Plan Document (5/06-11/07)
- East Riverside Corridor Development Program (10/11-3/12)
- South Lamar Boulevard Corridor Improvement Program (12/14-4/16)
- Vision Zero Action Plan – draft (1/15-5/16)
- Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan (8/09-6/12)
- Turning roads into Smart-Corridors makes them Austin-centric.
Turning these old state highways into Smart Corridors requires making simple, specific improvements that will reduce traffic congestion, help transit, and provide safe passages for bicycles and pedestrians.
The first change is that we would install smart traffic lights that can be timed remotely at any time to adjust for weather, accidents, big events letting out, and traffic congestion. Right now, the way we time the lights is to send out a technician every four years to do it by hand.
Access management (dedicated turning lanes, driveway consolidation, turning bays, and raised medians) would also increase traffic flow. Installing bus pullouts and queue jumps would mean both that you wouldn’t get stuck behind stopped buses and that riding the bus would be more attractive. And by building safe sidewalks and protected bike paths, active transportation would be a safer choice.
- Smart Corridors would improve traffic
It’s important to know that the way we measure the effectiveness of roadways such as these old state highways is to measure delays at intersections. When we talk about traffic congestion on these roads, we talk about delays at intersections. If the intersections work better (as each of the changes described above would do), that means your wait at those intersections is shorter.
Here are some representative examples of what city planners say would happen if we do the Smart Corridor plan:
South Lamar: Turning South Lamar into a Smart Corridor would have a profound effect on traffic congestion. If we make the long-term improvements included in the Smart Corridor plan, wait times at intersections during morning rush hour on South Lamar would improve 61%. If we do nothing, wait times at intersections in the mornings will increase 216%.
In the evening rush hour, wait times at intersections will decrease 51% if we do the long-term projects. If we do nothing, evening rush hour delays will increase 113%.
North Lamar: If we turn North Lamar Boulevard into a Smart Corridor, morning delays at intersections would decrease 48%, and evening delays at intersections would decrease 49%. Comparative data is not yet available.
Burnet Road: If we do the long-term work on Burnet Road, morning delays at intersections would decrease 11% and afternoon rush hour delays would go down 27%. Comparative data is not yet available.
Airport Boulevard: If we do the long-term projects in the Smart Corridor plan, delays at intersections during your morning commute would decrease 10%; if we do nothing, delays will increase 40%.
In evening rush hour, wait times at intersections would decrease 20%; if we do nothing, wait times at those same intersections will increase 40%.
- Smart Corridors would save you money
Yes, a $720-million bond would require a tax increase that would raise taxes on the median homeowner by less than $5 a month.
But according to Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute, the average Austin commuter pays an extra $1,159 a year because of traffic congestion. If we can reduce congestion on North and South Lamar by about half – as the studies show – this could mean a huge savings for someone who commutes daily on that corridor.
Results will vary, but it’s clear that nearly everyone stands to gain a lot more from reducing traffic congestion on our busiest roads by passing a Smart Corridor bond package that includes a modest property tax increase.