Austinites can alert city to dangerous roads via new crowd-sourced map

Austinites can now tell city officials on an edit-able map which areas are dangerous for drivers or pedestrians and bicyclists. Graphic courtesy of the City of Austin.

A website is now live that Austin officials say makes it quick and easy to alert the city about streets that need to be safer.

City officials said they are particularly interested in what pedestrians have to say over the next couple of weeks.

Austinites can select their mode of travel (walking, bicycling, riding a motorcycle, driving a car, or using an assistive device such as a wheelchair), choose from a drop-down list of concerns, and add additional details. They will immediately see their dot appear on the map, among the others that people have placed.

With all the notes that people have already placed, the map can be a bit daunting, but it’s fairly user-friendly once you zoom in on the streets you’re interested in.

This map is for planning efforts only, city officials said. People should call 3-1-1 to identify pressing safety concerns that need immediate attention.

This traffic jam photo will make you feel way better about Austin traffic

Ask any Austin resident what the worst thing about the city is, and we’ll bet more than half of them will have the same answer: The traffic straight-up sucks. Interstate 35 was previously ranked the worst road in Texas (although it was surpassed by a Houston roadway), and people feel have really strong feelings about I-35 and MoPac (namely, the MoPac Improvement Project).

UPDATED CAPTION FOR 042916: MoPac Boulevard typically backs up for morning commuters. Mayor Steve Adler noted the road saw reduced travel times when President Barack Obama visited in March because so many workers stayed home. *** The morning commute into Austin has slowed considerably for motorists as a lane reduction on the northbound side of Mopac Blvd (Loop 1) between Cesar Chavez and Enfield Rd. has caused backups for miles. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN
RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

But this might make you feel a little bit better about Austin traffic: Last week, a Brazilian radio station posted a photo on Facebook of a traffic jam in São Paulo, and let’s just say it’s … pretty brutal.

OK, first of all, this looks like a literal nightmare. It looks like that Rush Hour game that your parents bought you to keep you entertained (in the car, of all places) where you had to get your little red car out of the traffic jam.

Y'know, this game. Photo: Thinkfun
Y’know, this game. Photo: Thinkfun

Second of all, how did this even happen? According to the translated version of the Facebook photo, a light was broken at the intersection after a storm that caused flooding and fallen trees in the area.

So, Austinites, just be thankful you weren’t stuck in this.

[h/t Buzzfeed]

TxDOT says the worst Texas road is no longer I-35 in Austin

Austinites, rejoice — as of August 31, I-35 in Austin is no longer the most congested road in Texas. It’s actually just the second most.

Related: Austin author’s Facebook rant captures everyone’s feelings about I-35

rbz-I35-Traffic-Upgrades-02

This week, the Texas Department of Transportation released a list of the 100 most congested roadways in the state and ranked I-610 between I-10/U.S. 90 and I-69/U.S. 59 in Houston at the top and I-35 as No. 2. The annual report comes just as the Texas Transportation Commission approved a $70.2 billion spending plan for the next decade.

Read: Austin leaders may seek a bond election for roadways, but not I-35

TxDOT says Houston’s road has 1.1 million annual hours of delay per mile which is not much more than Austin’s at 1.09 million. Just last year, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s 2015 report ranked I-35 in Austin as the No.1 most congested road in Texas.

Read more about Austin and I-35’s share of TxDOT windfall here. 

 

Where are Texas’ most dangerous intersections? Austin’s home to four

Most of us can agree that traffic in Austin isn’t pretty. Granted, it’s not Houston, but still the commute home some days can be a bit harrowing. And it’s not like we’re the only two cities in Texas with a rough traffic situation.

Traffic backs up on northbound Mopac during the morning commute into downtown Austin on Monday, May 2, 2016. LAURA SKELDING / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Traffic backs up on northbound Mopac during the morning commute into downtown Austin on Monday, May 2, 2016. LAURA SKELDING / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Read: Record number of traffic deaths has officials scratching their heads

That’s why Houston personal injury attorney Brian White decided to take a comprehensive look at the Texas Department of Transportation’s collision data ranging from 2012 to 2015 and determine what the most dangerous intersections in Texas are. White and his law firm only included intersections where 48 or more collisions occurred within the four years.

Turns out, only four of the 279 Texas intersections listed are in Austin — that’s low compared to the number of intersections from  Dallas, Lubbock, San Antonio and of course Houston, with 82 locations listed.

Related: Why the Austin Police Department’s DWI crash statistics keep changing

1. According to the data, the most dangerous Austin intersection is where East Riverside Drive meets South Pleasant Valley Road. There have been 68 crashes, 53 injuries and zero deaths.

Riverside-S Pleasant Valley

2. Second most dangerous intersection is the crossroad between Lamar Boulevard an Parmer Lane with 56 crashes, 45 injuries and one death. parmer lamar

3. Third is the intersection of Butler Road and Lamar Boulevard. There have been 69 crashes, 33 injuries and zero deaths.

bulter lamar

4. The least dangerous Austin intersection on the list is where Riverside Drive and Willow Creek Drive meet, with 51 crashes. 38 injuries and zero deaths.

riversdie willow creek

Check out the data visualizations here.

Austin author’s Facebook rant captures everyone’s feelings about I-35

Traffic is backed up on I-35 near the 183 flyover heading south into downtown Austin on Monday, March 7, 2016. A collision involving a motorcycle near Rundberg, contributed to the traffic delays. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Updated: A photo of Mopac was originally featured here.  Traffic is backed up on I-35 near the 183 flyover heading south into downtown Austin on Monday, March 7, 2016. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

When Austin author Jen Hatmaker was driving through Buda a few days ago, she saw a Billboard that read: “One day you will love I-35. Until then, drive safe.”

Read: Billboard captures MoPac-induced feelings perfectly

The very notion that she could harbor endearing feelings toward the highway, which everyone who’s ever been on it knows is more than unpleasant, led Hatmaker to write this lengthy but spot-on Facebook post about I-35 below.

Read: Playlist choices for your Austin commute

Read: Quiz: Which MoPac lane are you?

From the two-year long hunt for the I-35 Austin rock thrower to the never-ending construction, it’s understandable why Hatmaker’s post has received more than 30,000 likes on Facebook and over 7,000 shares.

Here are just a few of the most amusing comments:

6 things to know about the Austin rock throwing suspect

On Thursday, Austin police arrested Patrick Eugene Johnson, 59, whom they say is responsible for more than 90 rock-throwing incidents along Interstate 35 since 2014.  He is being charged with attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, though he may face additional charges, and is being held in Travis County Jail with bail set at $250,000.

Untitled
Courtesy of Austin Police Department

Here are a few things to know about the suspect in the rock-throwing case:

1. In July 2013, Johnson was indicted on three counts of sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child. According to the affidavit, the victim was 13 years old when he first met Johnson and “stated that a friend of his had introduced him to Johnson since Johnson was known to provide marijuana, beer, cigarettes.” Johnson had been out of jail on a $20,000 bond, but his case is still pending. Read more here.

2. Johnson was in the towing business for 40 years, according to his LinkedIn. He retired in 2004 due to medical issues and formed anti-towing activist organization Texas Towing Compliance in 2006. He has since acted as president of the organization. Texas Towing Compliance purports to document illegal towing practices and advise people how to fight their tows. He is well-known to the Austin Police Department and City Hall, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo noted in Thursday’s press conference. Johnson is a frequent speaker during citizen communications time at Austin City Council meetings, railing about certain tow-truck operators and alleging that police refuse to enforce city towing regulations.

3. Johnson has a YouTube channel featuring videos of his appearances before various government panels, including the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Other videos feature him driving around and exposing what he calls predatory towing practices, scams and “organized criminal activity.”

4. Also according to his LinkedIn, Johnson claims he won a Distinguished Service Award from APD, though no details are given. Though his page says he works closely with Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, his videos on YouTube mostly criticize the agency for failing to adequately regulate tow drivers.

5. He also has a Twitter account with the username @atxniceguy. Additionally, there is a @PATJ0HNS0N Twitter account that appears to be a parody account. It was created in December 2015. The person behind the account is unknown.

https://twitter.com/atxniceguy/status/736115233089953792

6. Johnson is public about his health problems on social media and has spoken about them on several other occasions. He opened his Feb. 27, 2014, appearance before the Austin City Council by saying “I was up here yesterday visiting y’all and I collapsed because of medical issues and they had to take me to the hospital by EMS out of City Hall.”

According to his Facebook account, Johnson said he was going to “live my remaining time in Hospice.” He also mentioned that an unnamed group “is taking control of my Texas Towing Compliance effective June 23, 2016.”

Austinites on social media: ‘Don’t Rush’ Wednesday a bust

UPDATED CAPTION FOR 042916: MoPac Boulevard typically backs up for morning commuters. Mayor Steve Adler noted the road saw reduced travel times when President Barack Obama visited in March because so many workers stayed home. *** The morning commute into Austin has slowed considerably for motorists as a lane reduction on the northbound side of Mopac Blvd (Loop 1) between Cesar Chavez and Enfield Rd. has caused backups for miles. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The morning commute into Austin has slowed considerably for motorists as a lane reduction on the northbound side of Mopac Blvd (Loop 1) between Cesar Chavez and Enfield Rd. has caused backups for miles. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

UPDATE: We asked, you answered. And the overwhelming consensus? Mayor Adler’s “Don’t Rush” Wednesday was kind of a bust. As the Twitter account that personifies the bumper-to-bumper beauty of MoPac, @EvilMoPacATX, pointed out this morning, there wasn’t a whole lot of rushing involved in most Austinites’ mornings.

Other Twitter users chimed in to echo similar feelings about what was supposed to be a day of reduced rush hour traffic.

https://twitter.com/TexasInfidel67/status/730387023446450177

Capture1

Not everyone ruled out working from home as a possible alternative, however, including this Dell employee:

Others were willing to make the change and opt for an alternative method of transportation.

MetroRail commuter train delays caused by a possible lightning strike during last night’s storms didn’t exactly help with alternatives, however:

Some saw the less than successful execution of the day as an opportunity to bring up the recently rejected and controversial Proposition 1.

Capture2

To be fair, #AustinDontRush day isn’t quite over. The second rush hour of the day is still to come. Maybe commuters have found the perfect excuse to cut out of work a little early.

EARLIER: It’s here. Today is the day Mayor Steve Adler asked commuters to slow it down, sleep in, skip work or find an alternative means of transportation for what he calls, “Don’t Rush” Wednesday. Are you on board? In yesterday’s poll more than 50 percent of readers said they didn’t plan on changing their commute, but weren’t opposed to the idea, while 14 percent answered, “No, why should I change that?”

Did you plan on carpooling, taking the bus or working from home this rainy Wednesday morning? Or is it as much of a “rush” as any other day? Drop us a comment on Facebook or tweet us @statesman, and let us know what you did and why.

Week after MoPac nightmare, has morning commute improved?

It was the morning commute heard around the world (or at least around Austin).

Last Monday, construction-related lane closures on MoPac Boulevard – coupled with a rollover crash on Interstate 35 – made for a “MoPacalypse” that spilled into alternate routes and tripled commute times for many. We heard your pain. On Tuesday, the travel times were shorter – but still twice as long as on an average day.

The traffic nightmare got the newsroom thinking: Could there be an alternate route that’s significantly faster (or even a little faster – we’re not greedy) than taking MoPac from South to Central Austin in the morning? On Thursday, transportation reporter Ben Wear, managing editor John Bridges and investigative editor Robert Eckhart set off from the Circle C area at 8:22 a.m., each taking a different route to the UT campus.

Ben’s route: MoPac to Windsor

Robert’s route: MoPac, Texas 71, I-35 and Dean Keeton Street

John’s route: MoPac, Texas 71, South First Street-Lavaca Street-Guadalupe Street

The results: “Everything we thought about this commute turned out to be wrong.” Traffic seemed no worse than usual, and all three arrived at their destination within a minute of each other. (Read more about the Great Race in the full story on MyStatesman.com.)

MoPac drivers, have you seen an improvement on your morning commutes? Or have you already moved on to Plan B? Let us know in the comments.