Rainey Street Closure (aka Shared Streets)

Rainey Shared Streets Community Meeting

 

An important meeting regarding Rainey Shared Streets happened  Friday night January 24th, from 10 to 11pm.  About a dozen leaders and staff from four (4) organizations met at the Rainey round-about to discuss the outcome of Shared Streets to date. 

 

In attendance were members of:

  • Rainey Neighborhood Association (RNA)  

  • Austin Police Department (APD)

  • Austin Transportation Department (ATD)

  • Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC)  

  • Rainey Business Coalition (RBC)

  • Several Condo HOA Presidents

.

Multiple  issues were covered  including:

1) the need for resident input via a survey regarding Shared Streets,

2) the congestion created by people stopping to load and unload on the round-about,

3) the issues of people using the MACC entrance way to park and wait for people,

4) road barricades blocking sidewalks because sidewalks were used for barricade storage,

5) cars blocking building entrances on south Rainey Street, 

6) lack of sidewalks and marked crosswalks creating unsafe walking conditions,

7) lack of access to use alleys,

8) need for more streets-not limiting or closing current streets,

9) lack of parking on adjacent streets, and numerous other issues.

 

In summary, both  ATD and the APD were very responsive to these concerns and numerous solutions were suggested and agreed upon.  The RNA and the MACC agreed to keep on monitoring along with the ATD and the APD.  The RNA suggested an open forum meeting of all interested Rainey residents with the ATD and the APD to hear current and future plans as well as feedback.

 

Lastly, a few Next Steps were agreed to which include:

1) Coordination of a meeting for Rainey Residents with  ATD and  APD.. 

2) A survey specifically designed to capture the input of residents (conducted by  ATD) will occur in the near future. 

3) A follow-up meeting  in about a month to observe the developments of the pilot. 

For more information contact RNA President, Michael Abelson at abelson@abelson.net your building GM or HOA President. 

Pilot Program Update as of 12.16.19

As of Dec. 16th we are 2 weeks into the street closure pilot.  Thursday and Friday night of the first weekend showed that pedestrian traffic on Rainey street was fairly light, but the ride shares were confused where to pick-up and drop-off riders.  That became less confusing after APD began working at the circle and directing traffic.

Saturday night of weekend one was more eventful.  A fire alarm was pulled in The Milago and as fire trucks were in route to respond, they encountered traffic congestion and one truck was involved in a collision with a car, which further exacerbated the traffic congestion.  You can see a video HERE of the 2nd and 3rd fire vehicles trying to respond but being completely stuck in traffic.  

We will continue to monitor the pilot and work with city leadership to discussion other options.  We will also be issuing a survey soon to capture feedback from the neighborhood to share with city leaders.  Stay tuned for that survey..

Here’s what we know as of 11.11.19:

The City plans to move forward with the Shared Street Pilot beginning 12.5 and running up to SXSW.  HERE'S an article published by Austin Monitor on 11.17.19

The only caveat we know to the Monitor report is that ATD has agreed to push back the start date of the Pilot to December 5, 2019, in order to better plan for the closure.  This revision came after a group of neighborhood stakeholders organized by the TLNA met with ATD and expressed the following concerns:

  • The City Resolution to ATD regarding Shared Streets did include meeting with Rainey residents but ATD said they were not aware that a Shared Streets Task Force had been formed, even though we sent a signed letter to ATD, the City Manager, Adler and all the Council Members.  In order to further advocate for the District, three residents from the Rainey District, Michael Abelson, Staci Livesay and Trecia Roberts spoke at the recent Citizens Communication Hour.  A group of about 50 residents from Rainey, stood up each time each person spoke. It was very impressive.  Thanks to all who came to support the team!  After that showing it is obvious that we are now an entity to be reckoned with.

  • An already congested Rainey District will become even more immovable if we shut down the main artery.  We provided multiple recommendations we would rather see implemented before moving to a street closure.

  • Ride shares will stage themselves on the south end of Rainey (as they do during SXSW) which prevents residents from SkyHouse, Windsor on the Lake and Milago from accessing their homes.  Also, the Towers of Town Lake residents will be experiencing overflow during a time when East Ave. is reduced in width due to staging activities at 44 East, 48 East, and Rainey Substation construction.

Here are some very relevant questions and concerns regarding the Pilot study and the closure of Rainey Street at certain times:

  • In our discussions with ATD we’ve asked what data was used for their recommendation and when that data was captured.  Thus far, all we know is they surveyed people on Rainey Street to get their data.  Our question is..  Why not use the reputable engineering report produced by Big Red Dog in 2017?

  • ATD said they had worked with the Rainey Business Coalition before making their recommendation.  However, as you can see HERE the President of the Rainey Business Coalition signed our Shared Streets Opposition letter and was never contacted by ATD.

  • Also, multiple members of the neighborhood were told several times by various ATD reps that there would be a neighborhood stakeholder meeting in late September or early October, prior to implementing any Rainey Street closures.  NO meeting had been scheduled or held prior to the last-minute meeting that was called the first week of November.

Suffice it to say, at this point in the process we have many more questions than answers.  We will continue to reach out to ATD to get clarity and to partner in the decision making.  We are hopeful that the City will honor transparency and remember to include the neighborhood in their planning.

Below is the letter signed by neighborhood leaders and sent to ATD and Council Members on 10.16.19

The idea to make Rainey a “Shared Street” was the outcome of a traffic/pedestrian accident that occurred very early on Sunday morning, June 9, 2019.  Soon after this, the Austin City Council, at the request of Council Member Tovo, passed a resolution directing the Austin City Manager to do a Shared Streets Pilot Study in Rainey. 

 

In response, TLNA immediately set up a task force with the desire to better understand the need for a shared streets approach and to work with the City regarding any Shared Streets pilot. This group included HOA Presidents from two of the Rainey condos, the developer of a new Rainey District high rise, the President of the TLNA, a board member from the RNA, a representative of the Rainey Business Coalition and several Rainey residents. 

 

Months before the traffic/pedestrian incident, the City Council requested Austin Transportation Dept. (ATD) to develop a mobility plan for downtown Austin, including the Rainey district. In subsequent meetings in July and September 2019, an ATD staff member told the task force that  ATD would be making recommendations to City Council regarding a “shared street” plan for Rainey Street. ATD indicated that they would be using past traffic study data to make a recommendation regarding Shared Streets.  When asked how their data would be collected, the ATD just repeated that they would be using past data. 

 

The TLNA task force is highly concerned about how the data will be collected and if it will be done at a busy time in Rainey. Therefore, they will request the opportunity to examine the data once the traffic study is completed.  We will  compare the City’s data with the data collect in December 2016 by the Big Red Dog Study.  The results of that study were shared with the City in May of 2017.  It is the task force’s understanding that after ATD completes the traffic study, there will be a public meeting to share the information.  This meeting was to be held sometime in September 2019, but it did not happen.  Now it appears that the results of the ATD pilot study will be sometime in November or December 2019.

 

TLNA Position on Shared Streets

We have significant concerns about any shared streets project for the following reasons:

 

  1. With the limited current street access, and over 2500 housing units, plus all the traffic on Rainey Street itself, any shared streets implementation would create a Rainey environment like SXSW every time the street was closed.

  2. Rainey Street would be closed to vehicular traffic during any shared streets shut down, thus forcing more congestion onto the surrounding streets.  Residents in the Milago, Windsor, 70 Rainey, Camden and Skyhouse in particular, would have difficulty with egress and ingress to their parking facilities.

  3. The Rainey District currently has very limited mobility for residents and business owners who are stakeholders in the community.  With development projects already in progress and more approved projects to come in the future, congestion will only increase.  This growing congestion also constrains access for emergency vehicles.

 

Please peruse the above letter that was sent to ATD and Council Members on October 16, 2019.

Send Questions, Comments or Feedback to: raineyinfo@gmail.com

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