Austin fights congestion with “Don’t Block the Box” campaign

AddThis

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

The Austin Police Department has issued more than 800 citations related to the newly implemented “Don’t Block the Box” campaign, which started April 6.

The campaign, targeted at downtown Austin, aims to reduce traffic bottling — when cars stopped in the middle of an intersection block the rest of traffic flow, according to City Council member Ann Kitchen. 

Over the two-week period from April 6 to Friday, APD issued 653 moving violations and 153 non-moving violations as well as 90 warning citations.

“It is still on the evaluation stage, but there are reports, at least from the police department, that they are seeing some improvements from it in seeing people changing their behavior,” Kitchen, who is head of the city’s Mobility Committee, said. “[Drivers are] learning how to make sure they don’t end up in the middle of the intersection.” 

Mayor Steve Adler said he’s been watching the Don’t Block the Box campaign implementation from his office.

“I’ve been watching people get tickets from City Hall,” Adler said. 

Adler said “Don’t Block the Box” is only one tool in the City’s belt to combat Austin’s growing traffic congestion problem. City Manager Marc Ott released the Transportation Congestion Action Plan on March 27, an outline of solutions to traffic including short- and long-term fixes. 

“We’re limiting left turns in traffic, coordinating construction activity. We’re going to be synchronizing lights … in real time, [so] it will shift with the traffic,” Adler said. “Don’t Block the Box was one of 20 different initiatives we are trying.”

Kitchen said she thinks immediate solutions are critical to solving the City’s traffic problems.

“We grow so fast … that we dump a lot of additional traffic on existing roads and [are] not fast enough [at] adjusting to how those roads can handle the traffic,” Kitchen said. “With these kinds of actions, you get more bang for your buck because you can do them faster and less costly. They are infrastructure things we need to do right away.”

DJ Roberts, a radio-television-film and history sophomore, said he tends to disregard traffic infractions such as blocking intersections when he is in a hurry.

“I think solutions dealing with infrastructure would be far more effective than those shifting the mentality of Austin drivers,” Roberts said. “While getting people to stay out of ‘the box’ might help on a smaller scale, Austin’s traffic problem is the result of an infrastructure not built for the City’s growing problem.”

Mobility affects many other issues, such as cost of living, so Kitchen said short-term solutions are not enough to fix Austin’s traffic problem. 

“It is a huge issue all over the city and also a linchpin issue,” Kitchen said. “If we can’t get around — because of transportation, and we’re stuck in traffic — then we can’t get to jobs and school and it impacts where we can live. It’s a linchpin issue that way. It affects a lot of other things.”