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Loop 360 Section 4: Old Spicewood Springs Road to US 183

March 28, 2012 Public Meeting Concerns


Barbara and Paul Schumann

Introduction
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is developing a project aimed at improving traffic flow, safety, and mobility along Loop 360 in Travis County. The department is proposing a series of innovative intersection improvements to increase safety and reduce travel time through the corridor that will be shaped by feedback from residents and drivers. The limits of the proposal extend from U.S. 183 to U.S. 290. For conceptual planning and public outreach purposes, the overall project has been divided into four sections. Section 4 extends from Old Spicewood Springs Road to U.S. 183. Section 3 extends from Westlake Drive to Lakewood Drive. Section 2 extends from Westbank Drivel Scottish Woods Trail to Las Cimas Parkway. Section 1 extends from 800 feet southeast of Mopac Expressway (Loop 1) to Walsh Tarlton Lane. All of the improvements suggested involved the four major intersections in section 4: Old Spicewood Springs Rd. Elimination of cross median traffic and left turn from Old Spicewood Springs Rd. 360 North.

Spicewood Springs Rd./Bluffstone Lane Elimination of left truns from 360 onto Spicewwod Springs Road and Blufstone Lane while continuing to allow through traffic between Spicewood Springs and Bluffstone.

Great Hills Trail Elimination of cross 360 traffic on Great Hills Trail and elimination of left turn from Great Hills Trail East onto 360.

U.S. 183 Includes an additional southbound leftturn lane along Loop 360, an additional right turn lane on the northbound U.S. frontage road and extends the northbound Loop 360 right turn lane.

Through traffic time saved for this section of 360 were estimated to be between 23% and 28%, depending upon time of day and direction. The maximum time saved was estimated to be one minute 35 seconds northbound during the PM peak. For a copy of the material handed out at the meeting, go to: http://www.scribd.com/doc/87224664/Loop360Section4 Meeting?secret_password=1ohcphgi00rglw0t75rv For more information about the project including drawings, descriptions and animations1 presented at the meeting go to: http://www.txdot.gov/project_information/projects/austin/loop360/section4.htm

Comments
First, some comments on the format: The restriction of not allowing questions was very poor. Some of questions that were attempted had to do with qualifications of what was being presented and when they were left unanswered left a portion of the audience confused. Surely theres a better way to run a public meeting than that. The content of the presentation was not structured well. It was too long and the conclusions were left to the end rather than discussing them upfront and then explaining how they got to those conclusions.

Although I could not get the animations to run online. They are embedded in the Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Loop360Issues/322112161136138) and are available on Vimeo if you dont have access to Facebook.. (http://vimeo.com/39552614, http://vimeo.com/39552732, http://vimeo.com/39552943)

There was no consistent orientation of the graphics and animation. Its customary to orient this type of material with the north up. If not, north should be indicated on each graphic. The animations (the key selling point) were too small and difficult to see. Theres much going on and it takes too long for a viewer to get oriented as to what they are seeing, much less what it means. Too much technical terms and data. Residents are not interested in that. They are interested in what does it mean to me. And, most are not interested in Loop 360 through traffic times. Its access and mobility in and out of the neighborhoods for their daily lives going to work, schools, shopping, etc. that they are interested in. It was never clear what the goals of the project were meant to be and the assumptions underpinning the project.

Other concerns were: The presenter misspoke when he said that adding a third lane would not increase the throughput. The presentation was biased. When the alternatives were discussed, only the costs were addressed, not the benefits. When the innovative Intersections was discussed, only the benefits were discussed. The alternatives mentioned were: a) Do nothing b) Optimize synchronization of signals c) Add a third lane d) Construct overpasses e) Toll road The devil is in the details with respect to the animations. In all cases they showed that the innovative intersection made the problem (congestion) go away. No solution is that good. I saw no evidence of traffic from/to side streets other than the main intersections. Well never know how the models resulting in the animations were developed: a) What was the data and how was it obtained? b) What are all the assumptions? c) What rules was each vehicle following? d) What happens when you change any of the variables? e) Was light synchronization assumed? If so, then comparing the innovative intersections with synchronization to the current without synchronization is not a fair comparison. f) Where are the school busses? g) Etc There was no quantification of local traffic impacts. There were no considerations of complexity in the traffic flow. Traffic is a system of intelligent, adaptive agents with emergent properties. Traffic jams can emerge from the system without external cause. As a result severe congestion can occur with much higher frequency than predicted from normal statistics. I dont believe the models used take this into consideration.

At this point I am not convinced that there is sufficient research backing the use of innovative intersections on Loop 360, nor is there sufficient experience with the designs to warrant many applications of them on Loop 360.

Contacts
Barbara Schumann: bjschumann21010@gmail.com Paul Schumann: paschumann2009@gmail.com