APD enforces 'Don't Block the Box' campaign near campus

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The traffic reduction campaign Don’t Block the Box is shifting enforcement locations to streets near campus starting Monday. 

The campaign is intended to reduce cars blocking the box, which is when cars stop in the middle of an intersection and block traffic from moving past when the signal turns red. Blocking the box is illegal throughout Texas, and in an effort to reduce congestion, the Austin Police Department and the transportation department implemented the enforcement campaign in April 2015.

“It’s important not to block the box because it prevents vehicles from traveling through the intersection,” an official press release reads. “Blocking the box not only causes traffic delays; it causes safety concerns for pedestrians trying to use the crosswalk, and emergency vehicles navigating the roads.”

During rush hour times from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., police officers will be at various intersections on Guadalupe Street including, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, 21st Street, 24th Street and Dean Keeton Street.

Officers stationed at the intersections will be looking for behaviors that interrupt traffic flow, such as failure to yield to pedestrians, blocking intersections and failure to stop at the proper place, according to the press release. Officers will be issuing tickets to any offenders, whether it’s drivers, cyclists or pedestrians.

Biochemistry sophomore Ed Desai said he feels increased enforcement of the law is beneficial to pedestrians when cars block crosswalks, but student pedestrians could also be more aware of when they interrupt traffic by jaywalking.

“[I] feel that walking here is kind of dangerous sometimes,” Desai said. “Even on campus, students don’t stop driving, they just keep going until they’re a [foot] or two away from you and that really scares me sometimes. But if I use the point of view of drivers then yeah, students do jaywalk all the time — they’re on their phones, they don’t look at what’s coming and they don’t look at the signals sometimes.”

More Don’t Block the Box signs will be added to various locations across the city throughout the upcoming weeks, according to the press release.

“Drivers should know, whether or not there is a sign or an officer at the location, it is still illegal to block the box,” the press release read.

Coleen Gentles, member of the Women in Transportation Texas student chapter and community and regional planning graduate student, said she fully supports the campaign and believes traffic laws be more strictly enforced around campus. Gentles said when both residents and commuters obey the traffic laws, all modes of transportation can be effective and co-exist together.

“Guadalupe Street is one of the most heavily used streets in Austin,” Gentles said in an email. “Between all of the automobile, bus, bicycle and pedestrian traffic, it is no wonder it is a chaotic mess during morning and afternoon rush hours.”

Aarti Bhat, Plan II and human development sophomore, said police officers should slowly ease into the number of tickets they hand out as they begin to enforce traffic laws near campus. Bhat said student awareness about the Don’t Block the Box campaign needs to be raised or else students will be surprised and frustrated when they get punished for it.