May 11 is Austin Don’t Rush Day

Austin-Dont-Rush-LogoOn March 11, traffic was expected to be even heavier than usual due to an influx of SXSW traffic and a coinciding visit by President Obama. In fact, some people predicted an outright “carmageddon.” After all, traffic on a regular day in Austin is no picnic. Add a couple hundred thousand people and a presidential motorcade to the mix, and it sounds like a recipe for gridlock.

Instead, traffic was as much as 60% lighter than usual on Mopac. On our downtown corridors — Cesar Chavez, Congress, Guadalupe, Lamar, Lavaca, South 1st — drivers saw a 32% drop in traffic volume during the peak travel hours. The reason? Mayor Steve Adler requested that people work from home for the day if at all possible. Enough people heeded the call that it made a noticeable difference in traffic.

To see if we can replicate those results, Mayor Adler has declared May 11 Austin, Don’t Rush Day, and is asking that, during rush hours on that day, Austinites choose any transportation option other than driving alone (including skipping the traffic altogether by teleworking or doing a flex schedule). If enough people participate, we’ll see free-flowing traffic again. Of course, having good traffic one day every couple of months wouldn’t really do anyone much good. The long-term goal is to show people that it isn’t difficult to occasionally choose not to drive alone at peak hours so they might begin to make that choice one or two days a week. If that happens, we could make real headway in solving Austin’s congestion problem and making the commute easier for everyone.

What can you do to participate?

  • Flex your schedule: Instead of driving during the rush hour, go to work before or after the 7:00 am – 9:00 am rush hour, and return home before or after the 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm rush hour. (Ask your boss for permission, of course, before showing up late or leaving early!)
  • Telework: Again, get permission from your boss first, but, if you have a job that doesn’t require your presence at the workplace, you might find that you’re even more productive working from home. Make a plan ahead of time so that you take necessary material or equipment home with you the day before.
  • Use transit: It’s easy to find out if there’s a Capital Metro transit route that would work for you. Just go to where you’ll find their easy-to-use Trip Planner or download the Capital Metro app (which also provides real-time arrival info). To make transit even more attractive, Capital Metro is waiving all fares for buses and the train on May 11.
  • Share a ride: Maybe you know someone at work who lives close to you. If not, ask around. Maybe your work colleague is a neighbor and you don’t even know it.
  • Ride a bike: If you’re close enough to work, a bike ride will get you there and save you a trip to the gym later on. If you don’t live close, Capital Metro buses and the train have capacity to carry several bikes. They might get you close enough to make cycling feasible.
  • Empower your employees: If you’re an employer, let your interested employees telework or use a flexed schedule for the day. Movability can also help you develop a long-term strategy for helping encourage alternative commutes without losing productivity.

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