Is There Really a Case for Reopening Sixth Street’s Weekends to Cars? – TOWERS Austin

A view of Sixth Road on a weekend when it’s shutd to visitors. Picture: Geoff Livingston / Flickr

Members of Austin Metropolis Council voted unanimously final Evening time to move a rereply “Referring to full strategies and quick and prolongeder-time period actions to create a safer Sixth Road environment for all,” which directs city staff To consider potential design interventions and fullly different modifications That would enhance public safety Inside the East Sixth Road bar district that’s seen Pretty A pair of current violent incidents regardmuch less of being mightbe The city’s single most closely-policed space.

In all probability the most drastic potential design change raised by the rereply and its primary sponsor, Council Member Kathie Tovo, is the proposal of reopening The street to automotive visitors on weekends — The world usually acknowledged As a Outcome of the East Sixth Road leisure district has been shutd to automotives at Evening time between Purple River and Brazos Roads from Thursday by way of Sunday As a Outcome of the Nineteen Nineties.

This isn’t The one intervention on the desk, Neverthemuch less It’d definitely be the most immediate seen change, and The appears of the cas quickly aspt this week noticed An immediateaneous horrified response from extra cityism-thoughtsed Austinites involved that the reintroduction of visitors to the district would merely inflict vehicular violence on The street’s weekend pedestrian crowds atop The prevailing rash of gun violence.

It’s definitely a proposal standing in an virtually comically exact opplace to our usually city-oriented perspective relating to The worth of pedestrianized streets, and we’ve had An excellent deal of philosophical disagreements with Council Member Tovo’s strategy to downcity’s progress Prior to now, however we’re pressured to reluctantly admit tright here Might be some revenue to the notion of automotives on Sixth Road in a restricted sense, although in any case The street’s factors stretch far deeper than infrastructure.

The Graeber House at 410 East Sixth Road Is Amongst The numerous space’s few refacetnces. Photograph by Patrick Wong

It was repeatedly emphasised by Tovo and fullly differents all by way of yesterday’s council meeting that merely reopening The street to automotives with out fullly different modifications doesn’t Appear to be on the desk. The rereply is extra bstreet in its suggestion for evaluationing options to current public safety challenges on Sixth with enter from stakeholder teams collectively with Austin’s police and hearth departments Together with EMS And native enterprise house owners, Neverthemuch less the underlying tCertainly one of The complete course of seems to be discovering strategies To cease Sixth Road’s huge weekend crowds from attaining The Sort of essential mass Confacetred a precursor to outbreaks of violence, sparked by the presence Of huge teams loitering on the pedestrianized street after the bars shut.

Even this primary assumption ought to probably acquire further research, As a Outcome of the dynamics of some current shootings right here Appear to be extra difficult Inside their origins, Neverthemuch less The althought of design interventions that break up huge open spaces on The street, whether or not that street’s open to automotives or not, could take us in The biggest course — Council Member Tovo talked about the potential Of placing in short-term seating Inside The center of The street all by way of its pedestrianized hours, Together with the a lot simpler repair of enhanced lighting infrastructure all by way of the district. 

Shuttered bars on Sixth Road in downcity Austin Through the early days of the pandemic. Photograph by Andrei Matei.

We’d definitely choose this strategy if it meant we could enhance The street’s safety wright hereas primarytaining it absolutely open to pedestrians, But when the evaluation course of sparked by this rereply does finally decide to open Sixth Road to visitors, tright here’s a proper Method to do it. First, this stretch of The street Want to be transformed from one-Method To 2-method visitors — we’ve carried out this on many surrounding one-method streets, and it’s provided clear advantages When it Includes lowered speeds and extra environment nice navigation.

Sixth Road is 4 lanes broad On this space, however a reopened mannequin Want to be lowered to solely two central lanes, one in every course. We’d line these lanes with crash-resistant concrete “Jersey obstacles,” thus reclaiming the lanes on both facet For further pedestrian space And guarded bike lanes — we’ve heard truly broadning the facetstrolls on both facet of The street Might be a bit difficult As a Outcome of of space’s historic standing, however This Is in a place to Really be A gooder everlasting reply.

Now we’re talking. Picture: nycstreets / Flickr Inventive Commons

Maintain in thoughts that in distinction to fullly different parts of downcity, tright here Are not any parking tons or parking storage entrances aprolongedside this space of Sixth Road, so the argument that reopening a portion of The street to visitors would enhance drunk driving doesn’t appear as convincing As a Outcome of it fullly differentwise might — In the meantime, visitors both park at amenities blocks amethod or make the most of ridesharing providers, circumstances that wouldn’t change with a hypothetical reopening to visitors. If designed correctly with designated ridesharing drop-off zones, a partial reopening of The street could arguably decrease drunk driving, due to the comfort of rides starting and ending immediately infacet the district And by no means requiring The further stroll to outfacet parking. 

Whether or not the addition of visitors as a bodily barrier to crowd measurement would truly measurably decrease violent incidents right here, The drawback with Sixth Road isn’t actually crowds or automotives — it’s The Sorts of corporations that fullly dominate the district, particularly comparable bars run by a handful Of Househouse owners with a monetary curiosity in primarytaining The street’s environment exactly The biggest method It is, since fullly differentwise their poor stewardship of Certainly one of downcity’s most dense collections of deeply historic buildings might finally appeal to enough adverse consideration to finally impress change.

The nook of East Sixth and Purple River Roads in 1979. Picture: Texas Historic Fee

We’ve prolonged primarytained that the extra mixed astypement Of corporations you’d as quickly as discover on The street to its good revenue till problems went south Inside the mid-Nineteen Nineties would go An prolonged Method in the direction of primarytaining an eclectic crowd Inside The world, a bstreeter clientele much less inclined to The solely-thoughtsed pursuits of reckmuch less consuming and subsequent violence — we’re very glad to see fullly different native voices currently taking An identical tone on The matter.

Past the problem of automotives, we have been thrilled To Take heed to CM Tovo level out The potential of wanting into strategies of appeal toing a extra numerous enterprise environment to this An factor of The street, although the particulars of these incentives are unknown for the second. Per Council’s dialogue, we’ll probably hear extra about potential repaires Afterward this yr — simply keep in thoughts that Sixth Road has modified its tune quite A pair of occasions since 1839, and tright here’s utterly no set off We will’t change it as quickly as extra.