AUSTIN, Texas — Safety improvements are slowly but surely coming to Austin’s Sixth Street entertainment district after the June mass shooting that killed one person.
Austin Energy crews replaced 64 light fixtures with brighter LED fixtures to improve lighting, according to a memo that Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon and Development Services Director Denise Lucas sent to the mayor and city council.
It’s possible the area could get even brighter, particularly on the side streets that run north to south, depending on the outcome of a lighting study. The City may also ask property owners to add more lighting to their buildings that face the alley.
The improvements are in response to the "Safer 6th Street" resolution that the council approved in July.
Work is also underway to create a dedicated staging area for first responders, which would also serve as a command post for a Rescue Task Force, the memo said. APD officers, Austin Fire Department crews and Austin-Travis County EMS medics would all be staged in the area to help get to and treat patients faster.
During the mass shooting, some patients stuck in the crowd had to be carried by police officers to safety. Some were also transported to the hospital in the back of police cars amid the chaos.
Throughout the process, the team has learned that underage drinking and fake IDs remain prevalent problems on Sixth Street. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) ran an operation in early September to target underage drinkers. The TABC and APD will now conduct more operations in the future, the memo said.
Other safety solutions are still being considered and City staffers need more time to review options.
The City could pilot various programs to attempt to get rid of the area where crowds congregate on the street. Some of the options include café seating, water barriers or other “pop up” efforts along the street that would still leave wider walkways for people to move between businesses. The street is closed to car traffic on weekend nights.
The City is also looking at how other big cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Las Vegas and more handle nightlife and entertainment district management.
Another possibility is requiring safety training for employees of entertainment businesses – something that could be enforced through the business licensing process. The team looking at solutions still needs to get feedback from business owners to figure out how to move forward with this option.
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