City works to reduce traffic with smartphone apps

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin is home to widely anticipated events that draw in large crowds and large traffic jams. Austin City Limits, UT football games and SXSW are some of the biggest.

“Oh, it’s terrible, especially if you’re wanting to head towards Mopac,” said Kim Burkhart. “Traffic is totally dead stopped.” Burkhart has been attending Longhorns games since the late 90’s.

Daniel Kibert has lived in Austin for 13 years, “It can take you 30 minutes to get from right here to 6th and Lamar, which is about a mile and a half. Thirty minutes!”

To ease these traffic woes, the Austin Transportation Department is working on two pilot programs that would utilize smart phone technology, one for drivers and one for cyclists.

Crowdsourcing for Signal Retiming is a project that would allow drivers to download the app and turn it on before they start their trip. The application would record the signals where they had to stop and their travel time. Signal Engineers would use this information to reduce stops and travel times along the corridor. ATD hopes to get the program underway in 2015.

The other program is designed for cyclists, and is the first of its kind in the country. Cyclist’s turn the app on before their ride, and it enables the signal system to detect them, turning the light green to help them cross. This pilot program is already online.

Fans are excited about the changes.

“I think that is a brilliant idea,” said Burkhart. “Would not only work for UT games, but ACL traffic, SXSW, any of those it would work for.”

“I think anything that can be done to help traffic would be helpful,” said Kibert.

Both programs would be additional tools to help the city. Earlier this month, they rolled out a new Traffic Management System, which allows engineers to change signal timing on most roads. During UT home games, the Traffic management Center is activated 2-3 hours before the game, and deactivated 2-3 hours after the game. Officials say the biggest bottle necks in the area tend to be MLK at Brazos, San Jacinto, Trinity, Red River and IH 35.

 

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