April 28, 2016

Today Mayor Steve Adler challenged Austin commuters to find a way to work that avoided rush hour traffic on May 11. This is an attempt to recreate the traffic flow when people stayed home because the President came to town for SXSW, and Austin saw traffic times drop by half on MoPac and by about half that much on our downtown streets.

“Last time I asked you to work from home,” said Mayor Adler. “This time I’m just saying, Austin don’t rush. Figure out a different work schedule. Take the bus or the train. If you can, ride your bike into work. We did it for the President. We can do it for us. If each of us does a little, we can all do a lot.”

To relieve traffic congestion, the Mayor is asking Austinites to do anything other than drive by themselves—if possible—during morning and afternoon rush hours on May 11. Alternative commuting options include working flex hours (shift work hours to earlier or later), start smart (work from home during the first part of the day and come in for the afternoon), take transit (MetroRail, MetroBus and MetroRapid), use “active transportation” (bike, run, walk, scooter, skate, paddle, etc.), or even telecommute (work remotely).

To encourage support this one-day commuter challenge, Austin’s Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is making service on ALL of their buses and trains and special access FREE to ride all day. This includes all users of MetroBus, UT Shuttle, MetroRapid, MetroFlyer, MetroExpress, MetroRapid, MetroRail, even MetroAccess. The best way to find out routes, arrival times and get updates is via the CapMetro app.

“I couldn’t be more grateful to CapMetro for boldly backing this initiative and making their services freely available to support alternative commutes for May 11,” said Mayor Adler. “Hopefully many more people will discover the benefits of transit. There are people in my office who ride the train and bus to work daily, and say it’s their most relaxing part of the day. Can you imagine your morning commute being relaxing? Count me in.”

Many businesses and organizations have already accepted the Mayor’s challenge to avoid rush hour on May 11, including all local chambers of commerce in Austin as well as some in surrounding cities, the Downtown Austin Alliance, Alliance Work Partners, Austin Technology Incubator, Austin Community College, CleanTX, Austin City UP, Austin EcoNetwork, and Texas Campaign for the Environment, and more.

“Austin is lucky to have so many mobility options for our local residents and employees. Some of the tools available to help commuters include information services like Movability Austin as well as service and app providers like CapMetro, Metropia, moovel, dadnab, B-cycle, ZipCar, car2go. Metropia and Zipcar are also offering special promotions,” said Mayor Adler.

Mayor Adler asked local ad agency GSD&M to help ease Austin’s traffic problem and create a rally cry to get Austinites behind the challenge. Austin Don’t Rush, a one-day traffic reduction effort, works in tandem with a larger creative strategy to drive awareness of and participation in the reducing Austin’s gridlock.

“We all know Austin’s traffic is some of the worst in the nation and it’s not improving. As invested, longtime members of the community, we took great pride when Mayor Adler called about the Smart City Challenge and finding a solution to tackle the traffic issue. Austin Don’t Rush is the first step in educating Austinites on how to avoid and reduce the rush-hour gridlock that affects us all. We’re fortunate in that Austin has many transportation alternatives—from bikes to buses and carpools—and this is an opportunity to get the whole city behind those,” said Duff Stewart, CEO of GSD&M.

When the Mayor cautioned people to stay home on March 11 because of the expected “carpocalypse”, drivers during peak times on MoPac experienced a 60 percent reduction in travel times versus on an average Friday. On Highway 183, travel times were down by half compared to an ordinary Friday—and we know how bad ordinary Fridays are. On our downtown corridors — Cesar Chavez, Congress, Guad, Lamar, Lavaca, South 1st — drivers during peak times saw a 32 percent drop in traffic volume and a 22 percent decrease in travel time compared to an average Friday.

The Mayor noted that alternative commuting and flex scheduling is a necessary part of a long-term solution to traffic congestion according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

“The most effective approach to reducing congestion and managing rapid growth involves multiple strategies.  Flexible work schedules and alternative commuting represent two examples of such an approach,” said Ginger Goodin, Director of TTI’s Transportation Policy Research Center.

The Smart City Challenge highlights several ways Austin can use technology to make mobility safer, cheaper, cleaner and more accessible for everyone. This November, voters might get to consider capital improvements to area roadways, which would result in increased capacity and additional transit options.

Here’s what local supporters are saying of Mayor Adler’s “Austin Don’t Rush”:

  • “We work every day to help Austinites make better commuting decisions by using flex time and social carpooling, as well as rewarding users through our partnerships with local businesses. We then leverage our data to analyze and measure travel patterns, travel times and impacts on traffic conditions,” said Mia Zmud, vice president of ecosystem partnerships at Metropia.
  • “LOVE this concept.  I’ve been telecommuting for years and, for the right situations, it’s a great solution to traffic challenges.  You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish via telephone, Skype, etc., rather than face to face!” said Debbie Johnson, Successful Giving
  • “The Austin EcoNetwork is happy to help get out the word about Mayor’s Commute Challenge “Austin Don’t Rush.” Traffic is more than just a headache, it’s also an environmental issue here in Austin. Transportation accounts for about a third of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a number that can easily start to be reduced, simply by making small behavioral changes in our everyday lives,” said Amy Stansbury, Editor-in-Chief, Austin EcoNetwork
  • “We are promoting to our ecosystem in Austin to reduce traffic on May 11,” said Andres Carvallo, CEO & Founder of CMG.
  • “On May 11, we look forward to experiencing a reduction in congestion throughout the city when employers and residents alternate their commute away from a single occupancy vehicle during rush hour.  For a day, let’s all try using other options like CapMetro, carpool, flex-time and teleworking.  Just imagine the decrease our traffic headaches that could occur if a portion of us committed to alternative transportation—even if just for a day,” said Dewitt Peart, President and CEO, Downtown Austin Alliance

Resources for commuters:

Specific offers for commuters:

From Capital Metro:

Free service all day on all CapMetro buses, trains and MetroAccess services.

From Metropia:

Bonus to qualified app users on 5/11 who Flex (travel outside 7-9am and 4-6pm) and/or DUO carpool feature.

Sponsoring a contest for app users (using promo code ADR2016) for users 5/11 who sign up for the contest to win a traffic relief kit (goodies, gift cards valuing $100 and 1000 points).

From ZipCar:

Anyone that signs up to become a Zipcar member between now and May 11 by going towww.zipcar.com/atxcommutechallenge can join for $15, and we’ll also include $25 of driving credit to help get you started.