Dear City of Austin Traffic Gurus: an open letter

Traffic is a mess during SXSW. Everyone knows this. Part of the problem is not the traffic but the pedestrians. Pedestrians are everywhere! This is a good thing because the foot traffic is not auto traffic. But the foot traffic is impeding the progress of the auto traffic.

I drive to the convention center when I’m at SXSW, because my daughter lives in the Austin area and I stay with her rather than at a hotel. One morning I sat on Cesar Chavez through 7 light changes on Cesar Chavez and Brazos and never moved an inch.

Another morning a very irritating man in a state trooper vest waved me off from using the perfectly good Brazos entrance to the parking structure and made me go around the block to use the San Jacinto entrance. It took me 15 minutes to go around the block.

That’s a lot of sitting still in traffic, polluting the air and burning gas unnecessarily. The reason? Pedestrians use the same traffic lights as cars. When a light turns green, mobs of people hit the crosswalk and cars cannot move. As soon as the walkers clear, the light is red again.

So here’s my advice, City of Austin traffic gurus. (I know you are trying to find ways to reduce congestion.) Change the light set up. Have a green moment in every direction for pedestrians from any corner to any corner. No cars, just people. Then have a green light for cars – no pedestrians allowed in the crosswalks during that time. The people move, the cars move. Everyone gets a turn all their own. It would help.

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