Austin Transportation Department

The Guadalupe Corridor Transportation Project seeks to clean up and redesign Guadalupe Street for transportation. The Austin Transportation Department hopes to hear more from UT students about suggestions for improvements throughout the project.
Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

As the Austin Transportation Department seeks feedback about improving Guadalupe Street, Student Government’s City Relations agency is working to amplify student voices in the conversation. 

The Guadalupe Corridor Transportation Project is a long-term project focused on making necessary and desired improvements to Guadalupe Street. 

The Austin Transportation Department, which oversees the project, received 783 responses on an online survey it published earlier this month. The survey included questions such as how often individuals used public transportation on Guadalupe Street and whether sidewalks needed improvements.

UT students made up 29 percent of respondents, and that signifies an uptick in student involvement, according to Robert Svoboda, co-director of the SG City Relations agency.

Svoboda, an urban studies and advertising senior, said the agency has been involved with the transportation project since last fall.

“There was a town hall in the fall, and it was open to the public,” Svoboda said. “We tried to make students aware of it once we found out about it. People from the task force [attended], and a lot of architecture students attended. The turnout was not great for students, so we knew we needed to ramp it up.”

Svoboda is part of a task force comprised of SG and Campus Environmental Center representatives, as well as some students from the architecture school.

“We’re focused on improving the Drag itself from an aesthetic standpoint in terms of design and how it looks, including the sidewalks, because, from a student’s standpoint, that’s what’s used the most,” Svoboda said. “We tried to involve ourselves in the process as much as we could. We really just been trying to make sure students had input on the Guadalupe corridor.”

Geography senior Jacob Brackmann helped found My Guadalupe, an organization that focuses on bringing student voices to the Drag’s improvement project.

“Right now, we’re brand new,” Brackmann said. “We just had a couple preliminary meetings to figure out what we wanted to do to make sure student voices in the past were heard and they didn’t come to naught.”

Brackmann said My Guadalupe is trying to make sure past student efforts to bring improvements to Guadalupe Street would be heard during this corridor study.

“Creating an official group and Facebook page and gaining traction among students would help put pressure on the individuals implementing the plan,” Brackmann said. “We’re trying to get an open house with the firm that’s going to be drawing up construction plans for Guadalupe.”

Project manager Alan Hughes said the Austin Transportation Department expects to improve the mobility and safety of the public with the Guadalupe Corridor Transportation Project.

“Improving mobility for all users is the desired outcome,” Hughes said. “What that will look like exactly is what the corridor study will determine. There are representatives from various departments included in the process.”

Hughes said short-term ideas could be implemented right away if there is room in the budget.

“Longer term reconstruction projects may require bond funding [and] would be implemented at a later date once funding is secured,” Hughes said.

Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

The Austin Transportation Department is developing a new phone app that could help students avoid traffic when biking to campus.

The app, which is being developed with the Kimley-Horn consulting company, can communicate with traffic lights to time them efficiently and make sure a cyclist has the quickest route to travel.

Marissa Monroy, senior public information specialist at the Austin Transportation Department, said the app is designed to work with both Android and iOS operating systems. Cyclists start the app before starting to ride, and it communicates their velocity to traffic lights when they enter a detection zone near an intersection. This communication would help time the changing traffic lights with the biker’s movements. The app also provides an audio confirmation for cyclists, so they know the app is tracking them correctly.

Monroy said the app is still in the beta phase of testing, but the transportation department plans to do trial runs with it in January. The department hasn’t set up all of the intersections for the app yet, but it plans to focus on Central Austin, where there are the most cyclists, and may include intersections on Guadalupe Street and campus.

“The app will help cyclists improve the quality of their trip,” Monroy said. “You’ll have the app on your phone, and it will ping you from your location, so it knows where you are. As you enter an intersection, it could hold the light to stay green.”

Monroy said the app could decrease travel time by reducing the time needed to get off a bike at intersections.

“Usually, you have to get off your bike and go over and press the walk sign, and you lose time doing that,” Monroy said. “With this, the app will detect you as you’re coming.”

Physics sophomore Darin Peacock, who bikes frequently to class, said he would consider using the app on his bike if it included intersections around campus. 

“It does sound like a good idea, especially for the four-way intersections near Jester and the RLM where there’s a lot of traffic,” Peacock said. “As long as people don’t take their attention off of the road itself, I think it would be OK.”

According to Kimley-Horn’s website, the app works by using the company’s advanced traffic management system technology to collect data and coordinate traffic lights. Once enough data is collected, it will help city officials monitor traffic patterns and work to decrease congestion in the worst areas, the website said.

Radio-television-film junior Andrea Chen said she thinks having another technological apparatus while biking might just add to the confusion of traffic around campus. 

“It might be helpful, but, for me, I’m really bad at multi-tasking, so it might be a little confusing to deal with,” Chen said. “Around campus, you have to watch for people and cars that come through, so having one more thing to focus on might not be the best idea.” 

Editor's note: This article has been changed in order to clarify that this proposal is for a new Urban Rail and is not an extension of the current MetroRail.

Austin’s City Council may vote on a new Urban Rail line, which could potentially connect to MetroRail and will include routes serving UT campus and downtown Austin.

The proposed expansion would stop in West Campus and connect UT campus and downtown via routes on San Jacinto Boulevard and Lavaca Street, said Karla Villalon, spokeswoman for the City of Austin Transportation Department. The proposed route would connect to the existing Red Line commuter rail. According to the current proposal, sources including local partnerships, bonds and aid from the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program. The rail would be designed to accommodate further development if need be, Villalon said.

“What we’re trying to create is a rail network that you could connect through all these different rail lines and not have to take a car,” Villalon said. “What’s proposed today is really a stem that would get urban rail started, and could be expanded if citizens have a need for it.”

Villalon said keeping citizens and students informed about the development of the rail has been an important factor in creating the proposal.

“There have been numerous studies that have led up to this alignment, all of which have been very open and public processes with a lot of input,” Villalon said. “We initiated some environmental studies for an urban rail last year. In April one of our meetings was at the AT&T Center in order be accessible for students to participate. We’re very cognizant of that.”

The possibility of the Urban Rail is not yet set in stone, said Leah Fillion, spokeswoman for the City of Austin Transportation Department. City council will decide by August whether to vote on the proposal this fall.

“It’s not been confirmed yet that it’s going to be on a November ballot,” Fillion said. “It would be the council that would make that call.”

Eric Porter, civil engineering graduate student and research assistant in the school of Engineering’s Center for Transportation Research, said the only real issue with the rail would be how the city goes about funding it.

“As far as the urban rail goes, it’s a good technology and a proven technology, and it would definitely serve the downtown area and UT campus well,” Porter said. “The main problem is how are you going to fund it and how would you promote it.”

Whether or not the Urban Rail goes into effect, Porter said it’s important for the city to be able to find outlets for its current traffic congestion problem.

“I don’t really know everything there is to know about the proposal so I can’t really say I’m all for it, but I do think it’s important to get people out of automobiles,” Porter said. “As I’m sure is obvious, traffic congestion in Austin is reaching a boiling point.”

Printed on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 as: MetroRail expansion would serve UT campus