Pilot program to close Rainey Street off to cars kicks off

A pilot program kicked off Thursday, closing Rainey Street off to cars, three days a week during select hours.

The pilot will operate through March 2020 and is run by the Austin Police and Austin Transportation. The program closes Rainey Street off to “motor vehicle traffic” each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. 

“I think the streets on the weekends is too dangerous for cars to be driving up and down, there are a lot of people walking up and down the street crossing the street wherever they feel like.” said Jared Rutherford, general manager of the “Half Step” cocktail bar.

Rutherford, says he has seen a number of pedestrians clipped by cars, and recently -- saw a woman, get hit. He was one of a number of businesspeople to weigh in on the pilot program, in a survey the city sent out. 

“I’d like to see all of [the accidents] stop, and I think in the long term, it will mean greater foot traffic on the street too which is good for us as a business,” he said. 

“Drinking and driving's always gonna be a problem, but also we just have a lot of pedestrians walking in the street not kind of paying attention to everything around them, lots of scooters.” echoed Abbey Maslyn, a server at G’Raj Mahal.

Down the road at Icenhauer's, barback and doorman Brandon Cronk agrees that something needs to give. 

“You have everybody running through the street so it’s also a safety issue like a little bit as well, and then you have the scooters that are everywhere. So, we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.” Cronk said. 

He says the plan looks good on paper, though he is worried about the congestion it may cause. 

“Everybody clogging up the street corners down there on Holly and East Drive, and then up here near the Ihop I think it’s just going to be more congested, more choke points.” 

Max Nutt, manager at Little Lucy’s Mini Donuts, says he would like to see more crosswalks and designated Uber drop-off points, instead. 

“There’s already issues with parking availability in the area, and this just kind of hamstrings that a little bit more,” he said. 

Rutherford agrees there may be issues.

“I mean that is a concern with the plan, it’s something that we’re just going to have to work with and adapt," Rutherford said.

Officials plan to gather safety data over the next three months and say they will use what they learn to make changes.