Vision Zero update

If you’re wondering, it is definitely still Mancahaca, at least legally. The ordinance approved by Council in October to change it to Menchaca is tied up in court.

Anyway, the transportation department showed off improvements at the intersection yesterday. Slaughter & Manchaca was one of the five extremely dangerous intersections that Council approved $3.8 million of safety improvements for back in 2015. Improvements at the other four have already been completed:

    • I-35 North & MLK
    • U.S. 183 & Cameron
    • Lamar between Rutland Road and Rundberg Lane.
    • Lamar & Parmer.

Keep in mind that there’s another $15 million included in the 2016 transportation bond that targets intersection safety/Vision Zero. If you look on Project Explorer, the open data portal for the 2016 bond, you’ll see there are eight identified intersections, along with a big chunk of money ($6.3 million) reserved for projects that have yet to be identified. As you can see from the following intersection, Slaughter and Braker have clearly been very problematic roads:

  • Red River & 45th (completed)
  • Braker Ln & Stonelake Blvd (in preliminary engineering)
  • E. Oltorf & Parker Ln (in design)
  • I-35 & Braker Ln (in construction)
  • Pleasant Valley & Elmont (completed)
  • Slaughter & Cullen (completed)
  • Slaughter & S. 1st (in construction)
  • S. Congress & Oltorf (completed)

A couple of the intersections have neat before-and-after visualizations. Here’s Pleasant Valley & Elmont.

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ATD should provide this visual for all the intersections. If that’s too much work (it may be), then at least before-and-after photos. As it stands, many don’t even have that.

As for reducing fatalities and crashes, the city appears to be pursuing a multi-pronged approach. As I wrote about recently in the Monitor, city transportation officials, along with their allies in the Vision Zero coalition, are hoping they can convince the state legislature to give cities more power to reduce speed limits on neighborhood streets. They’re also pushing for some other state legal changes, such as a law requiring vehicles to stop instead of merely yield to pedestrians, and a hands-free driving law. The latter is already in place in Austin, but not statewide.

What the city can definitely do, in the coming years, is begin to design streets in an effort to reduce speeds. Just as important, it can invest in pedestrian and bike infrastructure. That will not only reduce injury/death to walkers, bikers and scooterers, but when you make biking and walking safer, more people start doing it! And the more pleasant walking/biking short distances becomes, the more attractive public transit becomes. So really, pedestrian/bike improvements are a win-win-win-win. Which is why I think that, along with a major bond for high-capacity transit in 2020, the city should put forward a major bond for sidewalks, bike lanes and urban trails.

Finally, while I believe ATD Director Robert Spillar when he says that posted speed limits only have so much effect on driver behavior, I definitely think more enforcement could have a significant impact. I hardly see any speed enforcement around town.

2 thoughts on “Vision Zero update

  1. I’m pretty unconvinced that enforcement can do much. Behavior changes when there’s a high risk of getting caught *every time.* If your chance of getting caught speeding, or driving drink, etc goes from 1 time in 1000 to 2 times in a thousand, doubling enforcement resources, would you even notice? PR campaigns with real money pushing well-tested messages can change behavior temporarily, I think, but even that is usually a temporary effect from my glance at the literature.

    1. You have a compelling argument. I can only answer for myself. The way I have thought about it, throughout my life, is that if there is enough enforcement that I will eventually be ticketed if I consistently speed, then the high cost of the ticket (and the time it takes to deal with it) probably eliminates whatever time savings I achieved by speeding. This thought process was in relation to highways, rather than city streets. But there was enough enforcement on Wisconsin highways that I knew that if I consistently sped I could probably expect a ticket at least once a year. That being said, I know that there are a lot of people who don’t think this way, and get tickets every few months regardless.

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