New plan brings safety, efficiency to streets

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Photo Credit: Jacob Fraga | Daily Texan Staff

The final draft of Austin’s Strategic Mobility Plan, the City’s newest effort to reduce traffic congestion and make roadways safer, was released by the Austin Transportation Department on Feb. 22. To accomplish those goals, the plan will add more buses to busy routes and create designated pathways for various forms of transportation, such as bicycles.

For UT students, these changes may sound familiar. Last summer, Capital Metro announced a revamp of more than 50 bus routes to add more frequent service along popular routes. Within four months, students reported overcrowding and inconsistent bus stops on those same routes, as previously reported by The Daily Texan.

Annick Beaudet, Austin Transportation Department assistant director, said it is possible these problems were the result of a lack of coordination between the City of Austin and CapMetro. Under the new plan, the City and CapMetro are working as a team, Beaudet said. 

“This plan means we can support CapMetro’s plans to help the city,” Beaudet said. “We will be complementary, not competing.”

Radio-television-film sophomore Taylor Tatom said she welcomes the changes proposed in the mobility plan. Tatom said she uses the bus to travel to and from school every day.

 

“The buses are so crowded, half of the time that I don’t have a seat, and the hooks are so hard to hang on to,” Tatom said. “We need more buses in highly populated areas like Riverside.” 

Through the mobility plan, the City is aiming for 50 percent of Austin’s commutes to be in the form of bus, bike and multi-passenger car rides by 2039. This number also accounts for an increase in the number of people walking to work and working from home.

In January, a cyclist was struck and killed on the UT campus by a CapMetro bus. Beaudet said such scenarios are why safety was made the number one priority in the plan. 

Eric Wise, urban studies and geography senior, said he has been riding his bike for most of his life and uses it to get to campus every day. Wise said he often has close encounters with cars and scooters, but sees the mobility plan as a step forward. 

“I think the (Austin Strategic Mobility Plan) is great,” Wise said. “I think it does a really good job of highlighting what needs improvement. The 2014 bike plan was a good starting point, but this puts a lot of those things into practice.”

The plan is open to public comment and will go to the City Council for review and adoption later this spring.