City now taking input online for West Campus lighting survey

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Photo Credit: Alissa Jae Lazo-Kim | Daily Texan Staff

The City of Austin is now accepting online public recommendations for the improvement of lighting in West Campus.

In May, a City Council resolution was passed that tasked the City Manager with conducting a study of nighttime lighting across West Campus, specifically the area bound by Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Guadalupe Street, North Lamar Boulevard and 29th Street.

The resolution first gained the attention of Mayor Steve Adler last spring, following several months of work between Colton Becker, former communications director for Student Government, and SafeHorns vice president Joell McNew. SafeHorns is a campus safety advocacy group that formed following the death of dance freshman Haruka Weiser in 2016.

“This is proof that the city cares and is listening, and that student efforts to mobilize and advocate for our peers are not meaningless,” nutrition senior Becker said.

Online, the survey allows people to place a dot where they think there should be an extra street light, along with comments on areas they have safety concerns about, according to Joel Meyer, pedestrian coordinator for the Austin Transportation Department.

“We want people to mark as many locations as they have concerns,” Meyer said. “We definitely want as much input as we can get.”

Meyer said ATD is also working in coordination with Austin Energy and the Austin Police Department to ensure they address all possible safety issues. Austin Energy is currently working on an inventory of all lighting in West Campus, which will become available early next year once the study is done, Meyer said.

With both the inventory and the survey, ATD will decide what areas need extra lighting and determine the cost of the new installations. Once that is completed, they will present their findings to the Council, likely sometime in April or May, Meyer said.

Landon Hackley, SG campus safety agency director, said the study is a step in the right direction and that nighttime safety in West Campus is something that has been overlooked for too long.

“It needs to be dealt with,” biomedical engineering sophomore Hackley said. “Lighting’s a huge issue, especially for people walking back at night. People just want to get back to their dorms or their apartments safely … Students are stressed enough — they don’t need to be worrying about their safety.”

Hackley said he is also working on forming a coalition of West Campus student groups — including organizations such as the Interfraternity Council, Texas Round Table and the University Panhellenic Council — to give students living in West Campus a single entity with which to lobby both the University and the city on student issues.

Becker said there’s almost no lighting in the alley surrounding his house and, considering how dense and highly traversed West Campus is, the lack of lighting is unacceptable. However, Becker said he is relieved that there has been significant progress toward addressing the issue.

“You can’t help but feel (scared) whenever you’re walking around and it’s dark outside,” Becker said. “(But) the lighting survey is not the end. It’s a means to an end, that end being improving the safety of West Campus, both real and perceived. I stress the perceived aspect of safety because that’s what informs students’ sense of security and well-being.”

Survey input can be given and more information can be found at austintexas.gov/westcampuslighting.