Extra time to walk: Austin making downtown crosswalks safer for pedestrians

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin is giving pedestrians a head start with a couple of extra seconds of protection walking in downtown Austin.

The Austin Transportation Department is in the process of installing more leading pedestrian intervals (LPI’s) at 110 downtown intersections, doubling the current amount of LPI’s in the city.

LPI’s are automatic and give people an extra five to seven seconds to walk before cars get the green light to drive. The city notes that other places like San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles have seen decreases in crashes between drivers and pedestrians since boosting their numbers of LPI’s. ATD officials also point to a Transportation Research Board Study which concluded that LPI’s can reduce the number of pedestrians hit by drivers by as much as 60%

Every intersection within the area bordered by 15th Street, North Lamar Boulevard, West Cesar Chavez Street and Interstate 35 features an LPI for at least one pedestrian crossing, the city reports.

Lewis Leff, the Transportation Safety Officer for ATD, explained that the only way you’ll notice one of these LPIs at an intersection is if you spot a pedestrian walk signal that activates a few seconds before the car traffic that runs parallel.

“We strongly believe more LPIs on the highest-risk traffic corridors will increase safety for everyone. We will regularly assess the LPIs’ performance and make adjustments as needed,” Arterial Management Division Manager Jen Duthie said.

While downtown Austin makes up less than 1% of Austin’s road network, more than 10% of crashes involving pedestrians happen in the area, the transportation department says.

Leff explained that high frequency of crashes is why the department is adding LPI’s in the area.

“It’s exciting to make progress on something we’ve been working towards for a while, ” he explained. “We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback from people that live and work and play downtown.”

The City believes LPIs will work in conjunction with its “Vision Zero” goal of achieving zero traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries on Austin roadways.

Leff sees these added LPIs as a “good start” toward curbing traffic deaths.

“I think that we’ve got a long way to go, but this is the sort of investment we want to make with positive benefits for low cost of our time and resources,” he said.

The City’s goal is a 50/50 transportation mode share where 50% of Austinities commute by walking, bicycling, taking transit, or using any transportation mode besides driving alone.

Currently, 74 percent of Austinites commute by driving alone, the transportation department reports. 

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