New South Austin Shuttle founders want to help you bar hop safely along Menchaca Road

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — For months, neighbors along one stretch of Menchaca Road in south Austin have been voicing safety concerns.

“Leaving and entering our community was absolutely dangerous,” said Cyndy Karras.

Karras is president of Sweetwater Glen Homeowners Association, where many have complained about bar patrons parking illegally on the side of Menchaca Road, then darting across the busy roadway, where the speed limit is posted at 55 miles per hour.

“There have been multiple occasions where I’ve had to call into 911, because I’ve nearly hit several pedestrians who I did not realize were attempting to cross when it’s very dark,” Karras said.

She said things have gotten a little better since February, when they started a petition to get the Texas Department of Transportation and city leaders to make safety improvements.

After Karras and her neighbors started a petition, TxDOT conducted a speed study and found a reduction was warranted, but the agency said speed has to be reduced in stages to allow drivers to adjust. (KXAN Photo/Tahera Rahman)
After Karras and her neighbors started a petition, TxDOT conducted a speed study and found a reduction was warranted, but the agency said speed has to be reduced in stages to allow drivers to adjust. (KXAN Photo/Tahera Rahman)

TxDOT has installed more “No Parking” signs along the road in March, and the city enforces them, telling us they’ve issued about 34 tickets since then.

TxDOT also said it’ll be restriping the road to make turn lanes and lower the speed by five miles per hour in the coming weeks. They said they may reduce the speed even further in the future.

But TxDOT told KXAN it is still considering other long-term improvements like lighting, and Austin’s transportation department said it’s reviewing the need for a traffic signal study in the area and expects to have an update later this summer.

Meanwhile, Brett Berry and Randy Cunningham of Armadillo Den wanted to offer a more immediate solution to their patrons and neighbors.

Randy Cunningham (left) and Brett Berry say they wanted to offer an immediate solution while they wait for longterm safety improvements by the city and TxDOT. (KXAN Photo/Tahera Rahman)

“From the first weekend that we opened, we knew we had to have a solution,” said Berry, owner and operator of Armadillo Den.

Cunningham’s father owns a shuttle company in Lubbock, so the bartender decided to get into the family business and launch the South Austin Shuttle over the July 4 weekend.

“We just want to make it safer for everyone,” Cunningham said.

The shuttle runs a route between overflow parking on Old Menchaca Road and three bars: Armadillo Den, Lustre Pearl South and South Austin Beer Garden.

It operates Thursday through Sunday, with timings posted to social media.

Even if bar patrons use rideshare to get to the area, they can hop on the shuttle “and take it to all three bars like a little mini pub crawl” for just $2.50 per person, Berry said.

The overflow parking lot can hold about 200 cars, and the shuttle can hold 21 people at a time. Berry said each loop takes around 20 minutes, so they expect to move more than 100 people per hour.

They hope to eventually add another shuttle and do drop-offs and pick-ups at nearby apartments and neighborhoods.

“No one gets in this industry to not have a good time, and accidents are not a good time,” Berry said.

Cunningham said the South Austin Shuttle also offers rides to Q2 Stadium for Austin FC games and is available to rent Monday through Wednesday.

There have been a handful of crashes on the stretch of Menchaca Road south of Slaughter Lane, according to the city’s map. Five have been reported since July 2019. In three of those crashes, a person was hit by a car. One of them died.

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