City of Austin to upgrade lighting in West Campus

Few+working+street+lights+line+Graham+Pl+and+Rio+Grande+St.+The+City+of+Austin+plans+to+upgrade+more+than+400+streetlights+in+West+Campus+by+the+end+of+the+year.%0A

Kara Hawley/The Daily Texan

Few working street lights line Graham Pl and Rio Grande St. The City of Austin plans to upgrade more than 400 streetlights in West Campus by the end of the year.

Leila Saidane, Senior News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Feb. 8, 2022 flipbook.

The city of Austin announced a plan Jan. 27  to upgrade more than 400 streetlights in West Campus by the end of the year, in accordance with a 2017 resolution and in an effort to increase safety in the neighborhood. 

West Campus has some of the densest housing concentrations in the city and a higher than average property crime rate, according to the resolution. SafeHorns, an organization dedicated to student safety, has been calling for improved lighting in the neighborhood since 2016, SafeHorns president Joell McNew said. 

“(West Campus) is close to the campus, it’s a walkable community (to get) to and from campus … without necessarily needing a car,” McNew said. “But the issue we have is, there’s never been any crime prevention through environmental design. … One element of that is obviously the lighting, but it’s looking at your environment and making sure that it is safe … so that you’re seen and can be seen.”

Along with upgrading 439 streetlights to LED lighting, repairing broken lights and trimming foliage that obstructs lighting, the city will increase APD patrols and organize regular visits by the City’s Homeless Outreach Street Team to West Campus, according to a city press release.

“Austin Energy and other City of Austin departments worked closely together to get a lot of the recommended actions completed,” said Elton Richards, Austin Energy vice president of electric system field operations, in a press release. “We continue to work collaboratively to ensure that all West Campus concerns are identified, addressed and corrected.”

SafeHorns plans to meet with Austin Energy on Thursday to address areas of concern, such as adding temporary lighting in crime hotspots, McNew said. Students who want to share their safety concerns to SafeHorns and Austin Energy can contact SafeHorns on their website

“We have always tried to focus on concerns that students have and then advocate and work through those,” McNew said. “The number one concern has always been lighting.”

According to a city press release, the lighting improvement schedule will prioritize locations based on how dark the area is, previous crime locations, pedestrian crash history and the city’s lighting study results. 

McNew said SafeHorns hopes to continue improving campus safety through community efforts, such as hosting a monthly Saturday service to pick up trash and clean graffiti.

Finance and economics junior Samantha Burg said she will feel safer walking home at night when more lighting is installed. 

“(Lights) would just make me more comfortable; (it) makes us feel safer, because we can see our surroundings more and we know it’s going on,” Burg said. “For me I feel safer if I walk during the day versus at night, especially being female.”