Traffic congestion dropped during the first six weeks of the "Don't Block the Box" campaign in which Austin Police Department officers ticketed motorists that blocked intersections during peak periods, according to APD. The campaign's success has resulted in four additional intersections being monitored, law enforcement officials announced.
Starting May 18, Austin Police Department officers will now be stationed at the four intersections along Cesar Chavez between Brazos and Red River streets. Before the campaign expansion, officers were previously stationed between Guadalupe and Congress streets along downtown Cesar Chavez Street during morning and evening rush hours.
“We’re improving mobility into and out of downtown and making it easier for folks to get around,” said Jim Dale, Austin Transportation Department acting assistant director. “Where we may have three or fours cars backed into the intersection, we’re seeing that reduced to where maybe it’s one or two [cars stacked up] or if we are having those three and four cars [stacked up], it’s not happening as often.”
Although officers are positioned at only four intersections from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 4 to 6:30 p.m., 18 Austin intersections now have "Don’t Block the Box" signs. However, the laws behind the campaign apply to every intersection, Dale said, and violating motorists should still expect a ticket.
“We want to make sure that the serious injury and fatal crashes are reduced. That’s really what our goal is—not just to get congestion relieved,” APD Lt. Robert Richman said. “The behavior of blocking that box, the behavior of being a discourteous driver is slowing everybody down. This is what’s causing the congestion.”
APD has issued 1,570 moving violations at "Don’t Block the Box" intersections since April 6. Officers are issuing citations to drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists for the following behaviors:
- Red light violations
- Blocking intersections
- Failure to stop at the proper place
- Failure to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk
- Failure to yield to the pedestrian control device
- Driving in bus lanes
- Reckless driving
- Unsafe movements
- Delivery trucks stopping during peak times that block or interfere with traffic
Drivers who pull into the intersection to make a left-hand turn may sometimes not be able to complete their turn until the light turns red. Richman said officers are not citing those drivers.
The Transportation Department and APD are working together on what intersections to closely monitor next and for how long concentrated enforcement in those areas should last, Dale said.