Traffic, public transit, congestion, road construction and closures, I-35, MoPac, US 290, US 183, Ben White Blvd, and policy and planning issues related to transportation and mobility in Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson.

Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

For the 56 percent of Texans planning to take a holiday trip this Thanksgiving Day weekend, there's a sliver of good news from your local gas station. Gasoline prices are down six cents over the last week. They’re also down 14 cents over the last month, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

Photo by Callie Hernandez/KUT News

City and state transportation officials are holding an open house this afternoon to take public input of the first ideas to improve the I-35 corridor through Central Austin.

Photo by KUT News

Ever wish you could know about a major traffic jam before you get stuck in one? The City of Austin's Transportation Department hopes it can help you do that by installing 13 electronic signs around the city.

By March of next year, drivers passing by these intersections will be informed of real-time traffic jams, construction, weather conditions, special events, as well as detour routes.

"One of the challenges with downtown Austin is that we are at capacity," Transportation Department spokesperson Leah Fillion said.

Daniel Reese

As if awaking from a two year hibernation, a sub-committee of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) held its first meeting this afternoon with a new leader and new members. The Transit Working Group (TWG) was restored in time to prepare for Austin’s soon-to-come vote on an urban rail system.

The working group was first established in 2007 under Austin Mayor Will Wynn. He decided the city needed an urban rail or street car system. But nothing really came out of it. Now, Mayor Lee Leffingwell is leading the TWG.

“The big difference between this group and the one of that before is our focus is going to be regional,” Leffingwell said.

Image courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration.

The first of four new body scanners has arrived at Austin’s airport, courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Austin-Bergstrom International Airport officials say the scanner is not yet operational. They did not have specifics of when it would be, but a news release said they would be up and running "over the coming days."

Body scanners are controversial. Some state lawmakers have called them a violation of privacy. But the TSA says Austin is getting new so-called Advanced Imaging Technology machines. They do not use X-rays, and they come equipped with new software which officials say is less invasive.

This map shows the areas of Loop 360 that would be affected by any changes.

As many commuters know well, traffic can be miserable in Austin. In 2010 INRIX, a traffic and congestion software research company, ranked the Austin metro area 26th for worst congestion nation-wide. Here is one commuter's video of sitting in traffic on Texas State Highway Loop 360:

Every dot on this map represents a location where at least three collisions have occurred between pedestrians and vehicles since 2008. For the purpose of this map, cyclists are counted as pedestrians. The data was compiled by the Austin Police Department and placed on a map by KUT News.

Austin police have issued more than 200 jaywalking citations as part of a two-week crackdown that runs through Saturday. APD’s Highway Enforcement Command says it launched the campaign because of a high number of pedestrian deaths: 17 so far this year, compared to 7 in 2010.

No, it’s not an area where cell phones wait, like some people might muse.

A cell phone waiting area is a free parking lot at the airport where you wait until your friend or family member calls to say they’re ready to be picked up. That way, you won’t have to circle around burning up gas, waiting for them to claim their luggage.

It’s not exactly a new idea.

USA Today identified cell phone waiting lots as “commonplace” back in 2006. Such lots already exist at airports in Seattle, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix and Reno, just to name a few locations.

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Austin’s merciless summer is over and that means more people are planning outdoor weekend events. This Saturday, Austin will host eight events downtown, setting a record for the number of simultaneous street closures. That's according to the city’s transportation department.

Logo courtesy of Texas Division Sons of Confederate Veterans

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board is once again considering whether to approve specialty license plates displaying the Confederate battle flag. The proposal has proved to be a hot button issue. Nineteen state representatives have sent a letter to the TxDMV expressing their opposition. Representative Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) says he’s deeply troubled by the proposal.

“It couldn’t be clearer to most people of color that the Confederate flag symbolism is reprehensible and is a reminder of a period in history that while we need to remember it, we don’t need to glorify it and for the State of Texas to lend any credibility to this symbolism is totally inappropriate,” Burnam told KUT News. 

Image by Transit Authority Figures

Update (June 17, 2014):  This story from 2011 is enjoying a second-life on the Austin Reddit page. After being posted there it inspired a discussion with over 160 comments. For more on a potential Austin subway, see this report from StateImpact Texas: Why Texas Doesn't Have Subways.

While there are no plans for a subway, Austin's plans for Urban Rail are proceeding rapidly. See KUT's combined reporting on Urban Rail here. And read our latest reporting:

Original story:  A piece of wall art making the rounds online depicts a subway system for Austin that would put this city’s public transit system on par with densely populated cities in the Northeast. The creation is produced and sold by Transit Authority Figures, based in Northampton, Massachusetts.

The poster had many people wondering aloud why Austin couldn’t just go ahead and build a world class subway system. We called up Capital Metro’s vice president of strategic planning and development Todd Hemingson and asked him ourselves.

KUT News: Why can’t we have an amazing subway system like this in Austin?

Photo by CTR UT Austin

You can already drive over some of the new constructed ramps of the I-35/Ben White interchange, but the job has yet to be completed. The Texas Department of Transportation says crews will be pouring concrete on two parts of the spans late Saturday night. The area should be opened by 10 a.m. Sunday.

Here are the closures, courtesy of TxDOT:

Photo by Jessie Wang for KUT News

More parking meters could be installed in some of Austin’s busier residential areas. City council approved a program today that would allow neighborhoods to set up so-called “parking benefits districts”. A portion of parking fees would pay for improvements that promote walking, cycling and using public transit, such as wider sidewalks, additional lighting and bike lanes.

The parking benefits districts could only be set up in an area with 96 or more parking spaces and only after a public notification process that includes mandatory community meetings. Parking fees first have to pay for the cost of the meters. Fifty-one percent of anything beyond that can go to street improvements.

Photo by KUT

If you’re heading to Dallas this weekend to see the Texas Longhorns take on the Oklahoma Sooners, the Texas Department of Transportation says you may encounter about 30 miles of construction on your way.

Crews will not actually be working on road renovation projects along the route, but there may be lane reductions which could cause traffic congestion. Extra traffic from people heading to the game could make those slowdowns move well, slower  than usual.

Photo by I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

Taxis that never arrive, cabbies who won’t take a credit card payment for short trips, rude drivers. Those are some of the experiences reported by secret shoppers in a new study on taxi service conducted for the City of Austin.

In one secret shopper report, the dispatcher told the passenger to call back if the cab didn’t arrive on time. This was on a Friday morning.

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

It’s one of Austin’s favorite things to complain about: gridlock on the interstate. Just yesterday, we learned how the average person wastes 38 hours a year stuck in traffic in Austin.  A good percentage of that is spent idling on that north-south thoroughfare.

Photo by KUT News

You might have lost your job and your home in the economic downturn, but at least you’re not spending as much time in traffic. The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) at Texas A&M University released its annual Urban Mobility Report today. While it might seem hard to believe to those stuck in traffic, TTI found that congestion is lower in Austin than it was five years ago.

In 2010, the average Austinite wasted 38 hours – almost an entire work week in traffic – according to TTI. In 2005, the number was 52 hours.  Over the same period of time, Travis County's unemployment rate rose from about 4.5 percent in 2005 to around 7 percent in 2010.

Photo by Jessie Wang for KUT News

If you like to frequent downtown businesses on the evenings of Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights, you’ll now have to pay until midnight for street parking. That's one of the changes to parking meter hours taking effect today.

The old schedule had people paying during weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Here are the new meter hours:

Photo by Renee Silverman

People pulled over for suspected drunk driving over the Labor Day weekend may have their blood forcibly withdrawn by Austin police officers. It’s part of the so-called “No Refusal” policy that APD conducts over long weekends.

But this weekend, a new law will increase penalties for first-time offenders with a blood alcohol level of 0.15, almost double the legal limit of 0.08.

Photo by Novasource

A new law takes effect on Thursday that allows the Texas Department of Transportation to raise speed limits from 70 mph to 75 mph on any highway, as long as doing so would be “reasonable and safe.” And while the limits won’t be increased on September 1, a TxDOT spokesman says several roads in the Austin-area are likely to see their limits increased in the near future.

“I wouldn’t say that it’s firm yet, but I would say that it’s a reasonable expectation that those are the areas we will convert, especially the interstate,” TxDOT spokesman John Hurt told KUT News. “Our speed studies indicate that people are already driving that speed limit now.”

Hurt said these Central Texas roads are among those under consideration for higher speed limits: