Rainey Street Austin-Travis County EMS patrol pilot program could become permanent

A pilot program that had Austin-Travis County medics patrolling the Rainey Street District could be making a permanent comeback.

Due to its high volume of pedestrian traffic, narrow roadway, and large component of vertical residences, ATCEMS selected Rainey for a pilot program testing out "emergency response units" or ERUs. 

On Friday and Saturday nights between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m., medics patrolled, as Austinites partied, and the benefits of four-wheeling it were clear.

"They can respond to any emergency that an ambulance would respond to," said ATCEMS Commander Kevin Parker. "So, we get places faster. Additionally, it's open-air, so our paramedics are able to interact with the public more easily."

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If an ambulance is needed, the SRU can bring the patient to a safe pickup spot.

Since the pilot ended in April, Parker has been looking at bringing the mobile medics back for good, at least on weekends.

But the details and the timeline could depend, in part, on funding.

"We don't have all the answers right now," said Parker. "How do we make this a full-time or every day thing and take it out of pilot status?"

City officials are expected to release a first draft of the new budget on Friday, including funding for EMS.