What would Austin's roads look like if they were built for all 1 million residents? For starters, there would be a lot fewer cars.
That's what the city planned for when it adopted the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan in 2019—when similar to today, heavy traffic, rapid growth, and safety on roads were at the forefront of concerns in the city. The plan includes implementing Project Connect, a transition toward greener transportation and an emphasis on connecting communities, with the help of Vision Zero.
It is also part of a bigger goal of getting 50% of Austinites to stop driving alone or get off the roads altogether, according to Austin Transportation Systems Development Division Director Cole Kitten.
With rail lines to come and more emphasis on micro-mobility, the city will be able to accommodate a growing population, put money back in their wallets and be eco-friendly.
Lowering traffic deaths
In 2021, 4,480 people were killed on Texas roadways—marking the second-deadliest year in the state since 1981—part of a deadly national trend that led to the deaths of 38,000 Americans.
Austin adopted Vision Zero, a network of cities committed to reducing “people hurt or killed by crashes to zero with street improvements, policy changes and education,” in 2015. So far this year, Austin is up on traffic fatalities with 27 as of Tuesday, compared to 24 this time last year.
While speaking at SXSW 2022, United States Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said achieving the Vision Zero goal of no roadway fatalities is going to rely on creating equity within local communities, making climate-conscious decisions and taking as many humans out of the driver’s seat as possible, whether it’s AI drivers or implementing widespread public transit.
“The policy frameworks have not fully caught up with the technology—the safety potential for autonomous driving is enormous,” Buttigieg said. “Human drivers do not have a good track record, human drivers killed 38,000 people last year, so the potential is extremely appealing.”
The ASMP is a key part of achieving Vision Zero, as it will create the framework for necessary changes to help hit the goal of getting 50% of Austinites to stop driving alone or get off the roads altogether. Kitten said currently, 74% of Austinites drive alone.
With the implementation of greener infrastructure, safety, affordability and connected communities come hand in hand:
- Car ownership is extremely costly: The U.S. Department of Transportation Statistics reported transportation was the second-highest cost for American households at a $9,826 price tag in 2020. On the other hand, Austin Transportation Director Robert Spillar said more than half of surveyed Austinites were willing to bike if the route was safe.
- When people choose not to drive: Kitten said successfully creating alternative transportation to personal vehicles is “all about options.” Austin recently became #1 in the nation for bike lane investments and has seen success with micro-mobility options like scooters.
Climate concerns and electric vehiclesElon Musk predicts Tesla's Model Y—soon to be made in Austin—will be best-selling car in the world
If the goal is to get people out of cars, where do EVs fit in? Amid lithium shortages and climate concerns surrounding electricity, the reality is that many people need to have a car while living in Texas in 2022.
Buttigieg said he believes the 2020s will be transformative for transportation and views EVs as a means to an end.
“At the utility scale, (EVs are) more efficient, so it is still more efficient, even with a fossil source to turn it into power at a utility generation site,” Buttigieg said. “Track two is to take that trip but don't take it in a car. And that's a mode shift, right?”
Kitten said that gathering up-to-date information and having a long-range plan is essential to getting ahead of growth. Passing Project Connect was a big step toward filling gaps in Austin’s transportation and Kitten said the city has made progress since and will continue toward its goals.
“If everything happens the way it’s envisioned, then people could ultimately choose where to live based on how they can get to where they work without driving a car,” Kitten said.
- State Highway 130 reached all-time high traffic in 2021 - austonia ›
- Drone video of traffic in Austin March 2021 - austonia ›
- Traffic fatalities 2021: Officials say less cars don't reduce roadway ... ›
- Traffic plans as Austin airport expects 20M people this year - austonia ›
- Rental cars abandoned lead to hours-long traffic jam at ABIA ... ›
- Two hospitalized downtown in second Austin scooter crash in two weeks - austonia ›
- Argo AI launches autonomous vehicle tests in Austin, Miami - austonia ›
Texas' unlikely run to the Women's College World Series came to an end as Oklahoma softball took home its second straight softball title with a 10-5 win Thursday night.
The Longhorns were unseeded before pulling off an unprecedented run to the finals, where they lost 16-1 in a blowout for the first game of the best-of-three series Wednesday.
But Texas brought the bats in the second bout. Texas' standout pitcher Estelle Czech struck out Oklahoma's biggest hitter, Jocelyn Alo, to keep the Sooners scoreless in the first inning, and a series of RBIs put the Longhorns up with a 3-0 for three innings straight.
A couple of hits and a Longhorn throwing error put the two teams neck-and-neck by the end of the fourth inning. The Sooners' signature dominance was delayed to the fifth inning, when Oklahoma catcher Kenzie Hansen popped her first homer of the year to help the team to a 6-2 lead.
Once Oklahoma had grip on the game, they kept the Longhorn offense to quick innings while earning four more points on another home run from Grace Lyons.
With two outs in the final inning, the Longhorns put up their final fight. Texas freshman Mia Scott ripped one past the Sooners' outfield, ricocheting off the top of the wall and back into the field. The home run gave Texas a 10-5 finish as they ended their underdog fight to the final in Oklahoma City.
- College World Series: Texas softball's historic run hindered by six ... ›
- 17 years and three medals later, Osterman's last ride with USA ... ›
- softball coach Mike White flips off umpire at big 12 conference game ... ›
- Longhorns softball team rematches No. 1 Oklahoma at College ... ›
Chesa Boudin and José Garza share the rare handle of “progressive prosecutor”—Boudin in San Francisco and Garza in Austin.
Former public defender Boudin was voted out by nearly 60% of voters on Tuesday, after being elected by a slim margin in 2019 with a platform of police reform, criminal justice reform and addressing racial inequality. His opponents argue his policies threaten public safety.
As Travis County District Attorney Garza remains in office, halfway through his four-year term, he is so far silent on Boudin’s landslide defeat. Repeated calls to the D.A. by Austonia for his comment were not returned as of publication.
Boudin’s stances closely reflect fellow progressive Garza’s platform
Garza and Boudin have a similar track record: Both have received endorsements from progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT; serve progressive cities; believe in holding law enforcement accountable and have been criticized for not being tough enough on criminals.
During his tenure, Boudin eliminated cash bail, reduced the prison population and brought nine criminal conduct cases against officers for misconduct.
Likewise, Garza obtained indictments of five Austin police officers, two sheriff’s deputies, an assistant county attorney and a sheriff on charges including tampering with evidence and murder. Distrust between Garza and Austin police is at a high level.
But there are key differences
San Francisco is facing three major types of crime: Murders, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts have increased significantly since 2019. While a report by KXAN last October showed Austin shared a “sizable jump” in homicides in the past 18-24 months, the homicide rate remains at 7.69 per 100,000, which is lower than both Dallas and San Antonio.
San Francisco’s housing crisis doesn’t seem to be improving and neither does public perception of the expanding homeless population, but since Austin reinstated the camping ban in May 2021, the housing crisis has leveled off locally.Plus, while Boudin narrowly scooted by in his election, Garza topped opponent Margaret Moore by 3%, followed by 68% in the runoffs and 70% of the votes in the general election in 2020.
What the opposition is saying
The Austin Police Association took notice of the San Francisco election, and the similarities that Boudin and Garza have shared. APA president Ken Casaday told Austonia the results were not surprising to him.
“San Francisco citizens became tired of the lack of prosecution of cases,” Casaday said. “The APA plans on allowing the citizens of Austin to make the decision on how to handle our D.A. After all, he was voted in by the citizens just like D.A. Boudin was two years ago.”
Casaday continued, “D.A. Garza is no different than Mr. Boudin. They were funded by the same people to do what they’ve done. In fact, Mr. Garza has never prosecuted a case in his life which makes it tough to understand the complexities of prosecuting cases.”
Austonia reached out to the office of congressional candidate Greg Casar and Judge Andy Brown, as well as organizations that have endorsed Garza, including Austin DSA, Black Austin Democrats and the Austin Justice Coalition but was not able to hear back for comment at the time of publication.
- 19-year-old 6th Street shooter indicted on first degree murder ... ›
- Charges dropped against 17-year-old involved in 6th Street ... ›
- Travis County District Attorney addressing rise in gun violence with 4 ... ›
- Delia Garza is the new Travis County attorney - austonia ›
- Jose Garza to take Ambler and Ramos cases to grand jury - austonia ›