Repairing Austin’s traffic woes will require public investment

Steve Adler

I urge you to vote FOR Prop 1, the $720 million mobility bond, because we can’t wait any longer to address traffic congestion and make our streets safer. Every year we wait, congestion will get worse, and solutions will get more expensive. It’s time to put the plans we have into action and start to do something about traffic.

It simply takes too long to get anywhere in Austin. We need to fix our corridors, Guadalupe, North and South Lamar, Burnet, MLK, East Riverside, Airport Boulevard and William Cannon and Slaughter. These are the roads most of us live near and all of us drive on at one time or another — and they don’t work.

The truth is that these are old state highways built for a much smaller town. We need to do a few smart fixes to make these roads work for today’s Austin: left- and right-turn lanes so you don’t get stuck behind someone trying to turn, bus pullouts so you don’t get stuck behind a bus stop (and queue jumps to get buses back into traffic quickly) and smart signals that time themselves automatically every 10 minutes.

If we do these changes, traffic will improve. For example, traffic engineers tell us making these improvements on South Lamar would improve wait times at intersections during morning rush hour by 61 percent. If we do nothing, wait times at intersections in the mornings will increase 216 percent.

There are huge benefits in the mobility bond for the University of Texas. In particular, two great transit bottlenecks in this city that affect UT students — East Riverside Drive, where many students live, and the Drag, where everyone ends u — are included on the corridors in this mobility bond. We all know what the problem is: Buses are getting stuck in traffic. So we’re looking at creating rapid transit lanes to relieve these choke points and get traffic moving again.

The other big benefit for students is all the money in the mobility bond for safety improvements. The mobility bond includes $15 million to make the most dangerous intersections in Austin safer for everyone, $20 million for protected bike lanes, $26 million for urban trails, and $65 million to build sidewalks in neighborhoods where there are none. All this gives you more safe options for getting around.

All of this is why The Daily Texan, UT Student Government and the University Democrats — as well as Bike Austin and the Alliance for Public Transportation — have endorsed Prop 1. The groups looking out for the interests of UT students want you to vote for the mobility bond, but be careful: You have to go all the way to the bottom of the ballot to vote on it. So when you go to vote, remember that you’re not done until you vote for Prop 1.

To be sure, many UT students will be long gone by the time all the work in the mobility bond is completed. But that’s not the bargain we make when we vote. When you cast your ballot, you’re voting to make a better future for everyone, not just yourself. After we’re gone, more will come after us, and it’s up to us to leave a better Austin behind for them.

For decades, the “do nothing” voices in Austin have said anything to keep us from doing something about traffic. It’s time to stop talking and start doing something to fix traffic, and UT students can help lead the way. I’m counting on you, and so are all the Longhorns who are coming up after you.

Adler is the mayor of Austin. Follow him on Twitter @MayorAdler.