Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What Did the Mopac SWAT Standoff Teach Us?

If you live in Austin and weren't aware of yesterday's SWAT standoff involving the man threatening suicide on the Barton Creek greenbelt, and the fallout from said standoff, including the shutting down of Mopac in both directions, consider yourself lucky. But here's the Statesman's article, if you're interested.

Anyway, speaking as someone who was unfortunately caught in it (heard the warning on KLBJ at 4:25 or so, got off Mopac, and then immediately spent the next hour and change stuck on Lamar) I noticed several things about how things were handled, good and bad:

  • There are no alternate routes in Austin. Whoever designed the freeway and street systems here ought to be ashamed of themselves. (Aside: one local blogger said here that this should be an incentive to get people onto buses or bikes. That would be great, if I weren't coming back from a client's office in Georgetown. Some of us need our cars, and there's no getting around it. (Aside to the aside: the link I just posted invited comments from people who couldn't switch to buses or bikes, but there was no way to leave comments.))
  • It takes very little to make a lot of people lose their patience. Both the blogger I just mentioned and I heard people on the radio wondering whether it would have been better to let the man--I think this was the phrase used on KLBJ--"off himself" and get the roads open again. Yikes. (I heard someone a little more humane as well, who said they should have used a tranquilizer such as for large animals, but I don't think that was on the radio.)
  • I can understand the closing of Mopac...if the highway hadn't been closed and, God forbid, something had happened, the cops would have been excoriated for it. But come on, guys, why in the world was there no one directing traffic at Mopac and 360? Reports were that ten cars got through at a time, and that particular light is not a quick cycle.
Some of these issues, of course, have no quick solution (at this point, there are no solutions on the table for traffic, as far as I can tell), but I think there needs to be some evaluation of the way police handled the freeway shutdown process.

Or they could just make 360/Mopac into a full freeway interchange and finish the 290/360/Lamar and 290/Mopac interchanges already.


Anonymous said...

I dont know how long you have lived in Austin but Austin wasn't designed as a master planned community so the roads came first then the interstate then Mopac, and then Loop 360. I don't think there is a single person that you can assign blame to that should be "ashamed" or for that matter a small group of people. What we should be ashamed of is the lack of rail and bicycle infrastructure. And the guy who was trying to commit suicide in a public place should be ashamed of himself for being so damn selfish. He's obviously got issues but offing yourself in a public park where people are hiking and biking by is plain selfishness.

Anonymous said...

One person shouldn't be permitted to cause so much damage to one city. Putting aside the huge amount of time and productivity wasted, how much pollution did those idling thousands of cars put in the air? Did anyone needlessly die or suffer debilitating health effects because necessary medical care wasn't accessible due to the traffic tie-up?

I'm with those who say that anybody so stupidly selfish should be remedied, and promptly. Treat them no differently than anybody else committing a crime. Start with a taser gun, if that doesn't work try a tranquilizer gun, then try shooting them in the leg, and finally if nothing else works, put a bullet through their forehead.