Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Austin Public Health Offering Gift Cards To Encourage All COVID-19 Vaccinations, Booster Doses

COVID-19 vaccination rates in Austin-Travis County remain static among low income communities and Travis County areas with limited access to clinics and pharmacies. To raise the vaccine uptake in our community, Austin Public Health (APH) will be offering gift cards to those who receive any dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. After much feedback on barriers to getting the shot, this incentive will be some relief for those who have to take unpaid time off work. Data shows those who are unvaccinated have worse symptoms and could be hospitalized, which ultimately causes more missed days from work or school.  

“With the Public Health Emergency set to end in May, the availability of free COVID-19 vaccines will likely drop,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “There's still time to get fully vaccinated and receive your booster dose. Now is the best time to get that next shot” 

In recent months APH has noted a decrease in demand for COVID-19 vaccines, especially first and second doses. APH’s COVID-19 Vaccine Incentive Program, which offered gift cards to those receiving their first and second doses, also saw a drop in interest. APH will now be offering these gift cards to: 

  • Anyone (of any age) that is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and
  • Anyone receiving their first, second, or booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The number of patients who could receive a gift card before these changes was limited due to eligibility restrictions from the funding source.  

The following vaccination rates are cause for concern in Austin-Travis County (as of March 1): 

  • 59.6% of Black residents, 39.6% of Hispanic residents and 37.4% of White residents remain unvaccinated. 
  • Only 38.2% of our entire population has received an additional dose following the primary series. 
  • Less than half (41.5%) of 5-to-11-year-olds and only a tenth (10.3%) of 6 6-month-to-4-year-olds have completed their primary series. 

“It’s important for everyone to remember we’re still in a pandemic; COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, its presence is being felt every day in doctor’s offices and hospitals,” said APH Director Adrienne Sturrup. “Let’s make Austin and Travis County a safer place for you and me by getting up to date with your vaccines.” 

You can find a list of upcoming APH events here

Vaccine Providers   

Visit Vaccines.gov (Vacunas.gov in Spanish) to find flu and COVID-19 vaccine providers near you.        

Free COVID-19 tests    

Free mail-order rapid antigen test kits are available once again through covid.gov/tests. Households are eligible for another round of four tests for a limited time.    

At-home COVID-19 test kits are available at APH Neighborhood Centers while supplies last. The U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services also lists community-based testing sites online.     

Free masks (N-95 respirators)     

Use the CDC’s mask-locator tool to find pharmacies near you that provide free masks (N-95 respirators). It does not show current inventories, so check with the location for availability.

Austin Public Works Launches Open House for the MoKan Trail, Virtual Open House link below

The City of Austin is making progress on plans for expanding a new urban trail in east Austin. Now, it’s time for Austin residents to weigh in on whether the project is on track. 

The MoKan Trail Preliminary Engineering Phase Virtual Open House, launched today, debuts recommendations for the trail’s alignment and design features. The open house is available in English and Spanish 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Sunday April 23, 2023. 

The open house focuses on six segments of the .75-mile trail extension between North Pleasant Valley Road and Springdale Road, each with unique design challenges and considerations. Surveys in English and Spanish inviting feedback on proposed design solutions for each segment are included as part of the online open house. 

“I’m pleased to see Austin’s Mobility Bond dollars put to work in east Austin,” said Council Member José Velásquez, who represents District 3. “Investing in trails is crucial to meeting our City’s mobility goals for walking, biking and transit. We need residents to get involved to make this trail the best it can be.” 

During the open house comment period, the MoKan Trail project team is providing four opportunities to meet the team, ask questions and provide feedback in person: 

*Spanish interpretation available at this date. Un intérprete de español estará disponible durante este hora. 

“It’s important to us to get the public involved early in the project process so they can provide meaningful input,” James Snow, Austin Public Works Interim Director, said. “And we want to make every effort to meet people where they are, rather than ask them to come to us.”  

illustrated map of the project limits

Plans for this trail connection have been years in the making. Once complete, the entire 1.5-mile MoKan Trail will connect an existing protected bike path on Pedernales Street to the Southern Walnut Creek Trail system. The trail will also connect to the Project Connect Green Line Pleasant Valley Transfer Station.  

Austin Public Works’ Urban Trails Program is managing the project through all phases of design, construction, and inspection. Funding sources for the trail include the voter-approved 2020 Mobility Bond and $1 million in federal Community Project Funding secured by Congressman Lloyd Doggett. 

Residents can learn more and subscribe for project updates at the project website: AustinTexas.gov/MoKanTrail

Friday, March 10, 2023

City Steps in to Help Relocate Salvation Army Clients


The Salvation Army agrees to extend downtown shelter operations for up to 30 days.

After discussions with the City of Austin, the local advisory board of The Salvation Army Austin Area Command (The Salvation Army) has agreed to extend its downtown shelter operations for up to 30 days. The extension will cost up to $100,000, funded by the City. In the meantime, the organization will coordinate with the City’s Homeless Strategy Division and other service partners to facilitate the placement of clients. If case management is not available in new temporary housing settings, The Salvation Army staff will continue to provide that service to their clients.

The City Council’s Public Health Committee met on March 8, and committee members expressed concern about The Salvation Army shelter’s planned closure on March 15 and the impact on clients. Public Health Committee members requested that The Salvation Army extend its downtown operations to allow for safe placement of all clients.

Austin Interim City Manager Jesús Garza authorized the Homeless Strategy Division to exhaust all options to find placements for The Salvation Army clients. Today, staff reported to Council that the Homeless Strategy Division and community partners have identified alternative shelter or housing for approximately 50 remaining shelter clients.

Clients of The Salvation Army will likely be accommodated in a variety of settings, including local shelters, apartments secured by a service provider, transitional housing programs, board and care homes, and, if needed, hotel stays arranged through a nonprofit partner.

“Addressing this crisis in such a short period of time has only been possible through the collaboration and creativity of our community partners – over a dozen of whom have stepped forward to offer shelter beds, housing, and other resources,” Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey said. “We also appreciate the willingness of The Salvation Army to extend operations to allow for a more thoughtful transition.”

This morning, the Homeless Strategy Division and other service providers visited clients and case managers at the downtown shelter to give an overview of relocation options and answer questions about the process. Clients were assured that they would be offered a local placement before the shelter closes.

“The residents of The Salvation Army shelter should never have been left in limbo as they were, but I truly appreciate that folks from our Homeless Strategy Division and Austin Public Health have stepped in to help the residents with compassion and urgency to ensure everyone has a safe space to stay,” Mayor Kirk Watson said. “From day one, I’ve pushed The Salvation Army to keep the shelter open while they sell the building and they’ve finally relented at least for the short term. While this is a temporary solution to an emergency, the work done here represents the kind of responsive service the City is now delivering to all its residents. I thank the City employees involved.”

Next steps include communication and dialogue with The Salvation Army clients, completing the process of matching clients to available locations, and coordinating logistics of program intake, transportation, and move-in. The Homeless Strategy Division will continue to regularly report on progress until all shelter clients are accommodated.

To learn more about homelessness in Austin, please visit www.austintexas.gov/homelessness

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Council Approves Measure to Expand Public Charging Stations

In recognition of the growing surge of electric vehicles in Austin, the City Council took steps Thursday to ensure the city has a robust network of public charging stations.

The Council voted to direct the City Manager to develop a plan for the equitable distribution of public charging stations, including DC (direct current) fast chargers and Level 2 chargers, which are more common in homes and workplaces.

The resolution, brought by District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool, aligns with the goals of the Austin Climate Equity Plan, which calls for reaching net-zero community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 as well as the distribution of a mix of public charging stations throughout the city. A more immediate challenge of the climate plan is the goal of reducing our use of fossil fuels to nearly zero by 2030.

“Making charging stations, especially fast chargers, more accessible throughout the city might nudge people who may be on the fence about electric vehicles to make the switch,” Pool said. “Having more access and more users will go a long way toward reducing our use of fossil fuels community wide.”

Initial cosponsors joining Pool on the resolution were Mayor Kirk Watson and Council Members  Zohaib “Zo” Qadri, José 'Chito' Vela, and Alison Alter. Mayor Pro Tem Paige Ellis and Council Members Vanessa Fuentes, Natasha Harper-Madison, and Ryan Alter also signed on as cosponsors.

The number of electric vehicles in Austin has grown by nearly 40% over the past year, according to data provided by nonprofit Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance, or TxETRA.

Recent federal action has opened competitive funding opportunities for the city to finance the charging stations, including $20 million of National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) funding to CAMPO, $2.5 billion in NEVI Clean Fuel Infrastructure grants, and credits up to $100,000 per charging station.

With its vote, the Council further directed the City Manager to coordinate with local and regional partners on this initiative, and to establish priorities for an initial three-year implementation phase of the plan. The Council expects a progress report with timelines by mid-September.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

COVID-19 Emergency SNAP Benefits Are Ending – Here Is What to Do

This month everyone in Texas who receives benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will see a decrease in those benefits. Each of these 3.6 million households will receive at least $95.00 less than in the months prior.  

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, Congress made the decision to allow each household that receives SNAP benefits to receive the maximum amount of monthly assistance. This measure to allow for SNAP Emergency Allotments was intended to help those who were most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

These SNAP Emergency Allotments were supposed to end at the same time as the COVID-19 pandemic health emergency which is still on-going. However, Congress passed the Omnibus Appropriations Bill in December of last year. This bill allowed for more money to be available for the Summer EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) program for low-income families with kids. To free-up more money for that program, the bill calls for an earlier end to the SNAP emergency allotments; it took effect on March 2. 

For households wishing to offset this reduction in benefits, it is recommended that they update their information as soon as possible about medical, housing, child or disabled adult care costs using the any one of the following resources: 

  • Visit YourTexasBenefits.com, log into your account and find the case you want to make changes to. Select Details, then Open Change Report. 
  • Use the YourTexasBenefits mobile app (free on the Apple App or Google Play Store). 
  • Find your local HHSC benefits office, and report changes in person at your local HHSC benefits office.  
  • Call 2-1-1 and select option 2 to update your information.  

For a list of deductions that you can request from HHSC please look at sections A-1420 through A-1429.4 of the Texas Works Handbook.  

Another useful resource for those impacted by this decision is Double Up Food Bucks. This program allows Texans to use their SNAP EBT Card to buy more fruits and vegetables. For every dollar you spend on produce at participating farmers’ markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and grocery stores with your EBT Card, Double Up Food Bucks will add another dollar for you to buy more. You can find participating locations at DoubleUpTexas.org. 

Find a nearby food bank by typing your zip code into Feeding Texas network website to find participating food banks in your city. The Central Texas Food Bank located at 6500 Metropolis Dr., Austin, TX 78744 is a great resource for Austin residents. Contact the Central Texas Food Bank at 512-282-2111. 

AUS prepares passengers for a busy Spring Travel Season ahead

With a slew of events heading to Austin this spring, including SXSW, Dell Match Play, NASCAR, Texas Relays, and the CMT Awards, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) advises passengers to expect a busy terminal beginning March 8th through early April. 1,822,198 passengers traveled through AUS in March 2022 – making it the busiest March in airport history. This year, airlines are offering 10% more seats than last – poising March 2023 to top March 2022.

“We’re excited for the return of Spring Travel Season,” said Towanda Cordon, Acting Deputy Chief of Operations. “AUS has taken steps to prepare the airport for the influx of travelers during March and April by coordinating with airlines and other on-airport partners to ensure we are staffed appropriately for the period. We ask that passengers plan ahead, arrive early, use our tips and pack their patience as our teams prepare for their arrival.”

When to arrive at AUS

  • Passengers using general Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening should arrive at least 2.5 hours before departure for domestic flights and 3 hours before departure for international flights.
  • Passengers that need to check luggage, return a rental car, or complete other activities before joining the TSA security line should arrive even earlier.
  • TSA PreCheck and Clear users can expect a faster security process than those using general TSA screening.  On-site TSA PreCheck enrollment is now offered to departing passengers after they are cleared through security through a new enrollment program, which you can learn more about here.

Security screening & packing correctly

  • AUS has 4 security screening checkpoints and all checkpoints lead to all gates. The checkpoints open at 3:00 a.m. and TSA PreCheck and Clear are available at Checkpoints 1 and 2 West.
  • AUS Department of Aviation staff will be throughout the terminal to assist passengers.
  • The TSA has reported that AUS passengers continue to bring a record number of guns to security checkpoints. Bringing prohibited items, like firearms and liquids exceeding 3.4 oz. will cause delays for passengers.
  • Passengers can visit TSA.gov for guidance on how to pack and what items are allowed in carry-on luggage.
  • Event promotional items, bulky souvenirs and giveaways should be packed in carry-on luggage to prevent delays in the checked baggage security screening process.

Parking and/or dropping off passengers

  • Visit ABIAParking.com if you're planning to park at AUS. You can reserve a parking space and check for real-time parking availability before arriving at the airport.
  • Passengers should budget in extra arrival time for shuttle service to the terminal as it runs approximately every 15-20 minutes.
  • Use either the upper level for departures or the lower level for arrivals to drop off passengers. And vice versa - if you're picking up someone and the lower level for arrivals is backed up, have them go to the upper-level departures and pick them up there. We recommend using whichever level is least congested.
  • Allegiant and Frontier passengers are encouraged to park on-site at the South Terminal.

Mobility assistance and accessibility needs

  • Passengers who require wheelchair assistance need to contact their airline prior to their travel date to set up the service.
  • AUS offers SkySquad, a new service which connects passengers with a trained, pre-vetted airport assistant to provide an extra pair of hands from the curbside to their gate (from ticketing, checking bags, loading items onto the security belt, keeping an eye on travel items when they go to the restroom and more). Passengers need to book 24 hours in advance. Visit the SkySquad website or call (877) 359-2256.
  • AUS has a new Mobility Lounge for passengers using wheelchairs and other mobility assistive devices located on the ticketing/departures level.
    • AUS also has a new Mobility Assistance Zone, which provides priority access for Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs), taxis and rideshares to pick-up passengers with limited mobility. It is located on the lower level curbside one lane across from the G and H pick-up areas; it is free and open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. 
    • We also have a Mobility Assistance Tram, which transports Passengers with mobility needs via tram across the walkway between the car rental area and the terminal curbside. It operates 7 days a week.
  • Consider requesting TSA Cares Assistance. TSA Cares is a helpline that provides travelers with disabilities, medical conditions and other special circumstances additional assistance during the security screening process. Contact them at (855) 787-2227.

Checking into your flight

  • Airline ticket counters open at various times. Passengers should contact the airline directly for hours of operation.
  • Passengers without checked luggage can bypass the busy ticket counters and head immediately to TSA screening checkpoints using these time-saving flight check-in options:
    • Use a mobile boarding pass to skip the airline ticket counters.
    • Use a self-service kiosk located inside the terminal to print boarding passes.
    • In addition to traditional check-in procedures, some airlines offer outside curbside check-in on the upper level.

Getting the most out of AUS

  • Once inside, explore the food, new art installations, live music stages, and more using step-by-step directions on the AUS digital wayfinding map at AirportMaps.AustinTexas.gov.
  • AUS is excited to offer a special music line-up, featuring 52 different live music performances starting Monday, March 13 through Friday. March 17.  You can view a detailed schedule of our 8 music stages on the Live Music in the Air at AUS program webpage.

Information for Allegiant and Frontier travelers: Know your terminal

  • Passengers flying Allegiant or Frontier will depart from The South Terminal, which is a separate terminal located near US 183 and Burleson Road at 10000 Logistics Lane. This terminal is not accessible from the main Barbara Jordan Terminal. While we do provide shuttle service to the terminal, we encourage Allegiant and Frontier passengers to park on-site at the South Terminal to save time.

Passengers needing assistance at any point in their journey at AUS are encouraged to call the Airport Operations Center at (512) 530-2242 or to ask any Department of Aviation staff member for assistance.

City Working on Plan to Relocate Salvation Army Downtown Shelter Clients

Austin Interim City Manager Jesús Garza announced Wednesday that the City is actively working with The Salvation Army on options to ensure guests at the organization’s downtown shelter have somewhere to go, despite The Salvation Army’s plans to close the shelter on March 15.

The Salvation Army announced on Feb. 17 that the shelter would be closing. The news came as a surprise to shelter residents and partner organizations in the homeless response community. To address the situation, the City will announce detailed plans later this week on how the current guests of the downtown shelter will be assisted.

“This is a vitally important issue to Council and to the community,” Garza said. “We are exploring all options for placement and will have a solution by the end of this week that ensures each Salvation Army resident is provided for and able to stay here in our community if they wish to do so.”

Mayor Kirk Watson expressed concern not only about the closure, but also the short notice residents were given.

“I’m disappointed that it’s taken this long for The Salvation Army to live up to the promise they made in January to take care of each and every resident that they’re displacing. I’ve been pushing them every step of the way and sent a letter to Major (Lewis) Reckline yesterday demanding that they fulfill their responsibility,” Watson said. “Last night, Salvation Army asked for help from the City to do so. Austin is home for these residents, and we will take care of our neighbors.”

Council Member Zo Qadri, who represents District 9 where the downtown shelter is located, shares Watson’s disappointment and emphasized the urgency of the current situation.

“Any community should be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable residents, and right now, we can do better. I’m disappointed that The Salvation Army didn’t adequately communicate the timeline of this closure to the District 9 constituents who are using this shelter to lift themselves out of unfortunate circumstances,” Qadri said. “The urgency of this crisis is real and the fear and uncertainty it has created is as unfortunate as it was avoidable. Moving forward, our collective priority should be to take care of our neighbors and keep them on a path towards permanent housing.”

Federal Grant Kickstarts Effort to Make It Easier for People Experiencing Homelessness to Get Help

The City of Austin’s Downtown Austin Community Court (DACC) and researchers from the University of Texas at Austin (UT) are working together to provide better data to improve services for people experiencing homelessness thanks to a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. 

The award is funding the initial co-creation and planning for improved data sharing to assist service providers in giving people experiencing homelessness easier access to basic needs like food, clothing, and assistance with public benefits. In early 2023, UT and DACC, along with the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), the Sunrise Homeless Navigation Center, and other community collaborators, submitted a further grant application which, if awarded, would provide an additional $1 million in funding over one year to develop and pilot increased service provider data sharing and a community dashboard.

“This current grant is the initial phase to co-create a real time public facing dashboard and support data sharing to provide summary information to policymakers and the community, and support the information needs of people experiencing homelessnes,” said Robert Kingham, Interim Court Administrator at the Downtown Austin Community Court. “Additionally, this project will provide us with the tools and data to support analysis that we can use to allocate services and resources more efficiently and effectively, and better inform policymakers and the community. This effort will also improve our outcome reporting, which we can use to advocate for further funding to expand the services that we provide for people experiencing homelessness.”

The project is funded by the Civic Innovation Challenge (CIVIC), a research and action competition sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Homeland Security. Teams of academic and civic partners competed for awards to support the rapid implementation of community-driven, research-based pilot projects. For CIVIC 2022, 56 teams received Stage 1 planning awards of $50,000 over 6 months.

“This grant opportunity has given us the resources we need to bring the community together to begin collaboratively designing a pilot project that is reflective of our local needs,” said Sherri Greenberg, Assistant Dean for State and Local Government Engagement at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. “By prioritizing equity, user experience for individuals experiencing homelessness, functionality for service providers, and data needs in our community, we have the potential to improve access to services and data sharing capabilities across our homeless services continuum.”

To kick off the collaborative planning process, UT and DACC hosted a co-creation workshop on October 20, 2022, which included key stakeholders from across the community. Participants included individuals with lived experience, service providers, community planning partners, and governmental organizations.

Over the grant period, UT and DACC will continue to bring together community stakeholders and service partners. The goal is to equip service providers and the community with access to better data that can help them to provide timely and tailored wrap-around services.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Spring Festival Season Begins This Week, 3/7/23

Spring Festival Season is back, and the City of Austin is preparing to welcome visitors from around the globe for events happening in the coming weeks, beginning with the iconic SXSW Conference & Festivals that officially kicks off Friday, March 10. City leaders gathered Monday at Butler Park to discuss preparations currently underway for the safety of community members and visitors during Spring Festival Season.

“We are so excited to welcome SXSW – the festival that made Austin famous across the globe – back to our city, along with the thought leaders and trail blazers in education, music, technology, film and television that this iconic conference and festival draws year after year,” Mayor Kirk Watson said. “We live in a special place where ideas that change the world are conceived and launched and where creativity is fostered and flourishes. We are proud of our reputation as an incubator for all of those things and welcome the thousands of folks coming to experience it.”

While visitors who are drawn to Austin by the several festivals and major sporting events scheduled over the spring season add to the vibrancy of the City and bolster the local economy, City leaders recognize they also create added strain on City resources, traffic congestion increases, and potential travel delays. Safety is the City of Austin’s priority, and at the Spring Festival Season Pre-Event Press Conference, representatives from the City and partner agencies shared preparations in place to support the safety of community members and visitors.  
“Austin is prepared, and we ask for the patience and partnership of our residents as we navigate the by-product that these wonderful festivals and tremendous events bring with them,” Watson said.

Watch a replay of Monday’s press conference on ATXN.

Austin Transportation Department

Spring Festival Season will be a busy time downtown, and delays should be anticipated from the increased congestion in the area. Expect road closures and detours, and if employees and business owners can telework during this time, they are encouraged to do so.

A map is available with all the street closures. The map also includes important information about parking areas for scooters and shared bicycles, ride-share staging areas and public transit stops. Festival attendees are invited to take advantage of all the mobility options Austin has to offer like biking, walking, taking public transit, or using one of the City’s micromobility options.

If attendees drink at Spring Festival events, it is important that they to plan to get home safe. If they make the responsible choice and leave their parked vehicles overnight, get a safe ride home after drinking, and receive a citation, they may be eligible to get the parking ticket waived. To have their ticket waived, save the receipt from the safe ride home and fill out the online Get Home Safe Ticket Waiver Form.

Austin Police Department

Please drink responsibly and have a plan to get home safely.  A no-refusal initiative will begin on March 9 and run evenings and nights through March 19. During that time, additional officers will be staffed for DWI enforcement. This initiative is an effort to enforce DWI laws and keep the public safe by encouraging drivers to make responsible decisions.

With an increase in pedestrians, everyone should ensure they are following traffic signals, signage, and officer instructions. Additional officers will be assisting at some intersections to manage pedestrian traffic.
Human trafficking is always a concern, but especially during large-scale events. For more information about human trafficking, including signs for spotting it and prevention, visit texasattorneygeneral.gov.

Pay attention to your surroundings, especially in crowds.  If you see something, say something. 

Austin-Travis County EMS

Austin-Travis County EMS (ATCEMS) will have multiple dedicated response units and personnel assigned to the downtown area to respond to calls for service and transport patients who require additional care. 
The ATCEMS Patient Collection Point will be in operation from Tuesday, March 14 through Saturday, March 18 from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. each day.

Austin Fire Department

The Austin Fire Department’s (AFD) Special Events division will be working to ensure a safe, secure experience for all by:  

  • Performing both public assembly (PA) permit and night inspections.  
  • Teams of night inspectors will be out and about during the entire event, ensuring venues operate safely. The focus will be on inspections for overcrowding as well as general fire- and life-safety issues, including locked/blocked/obstructed exits, and complaint calls. 
  • AFD is part of the Public Assembly Code Enforcement (PACE) team and will be responding to overcrowding complaints in bars and other public assemblies, reports of unpermitted events, and will investigate complaint calls.  
  • Performing fire watch in those cases where necessary due to the complexity or size of particular events and/or variances allowed.
Austin Public Health

While COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Austin-Travis County area are trending downwards, the virus is still present in the community, and it is as important as ever to follow precautions to lower your risk.

  • In a time when international travel is high, getting vaccinated will increase protection against COVID-19 variants and sub-variants during the Spring Festival Season.
  • Wearing a mask during travel and in crowds will lower the risk of getting COVID-19.
Austin Parks and Recreation

Leave No Trace to protect Austin’s parks, trails, and green spaces. When visiting:

  • Respect other visitors. 
  • Take trash, leftover food, and pet waste with you when you leave Austin’s green spaces.
  • Plan ahead.
  • Dress for the weather.
  • Bring bags for pet waste, scoop the poop, and dispose of bags in designated areas.
  • For more information visit AustinTexas.gov/LeaveNoTrace.

Communication During Spring Festival Season  

The City of Austin (@austintexasgov) and Austin Emergency Management (@AustinHSEM) will utilize Twitter to share relevant information using #SpringFestATX.  

The Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police), Austin-Travis County EMS (@ATCEMS), and the Austin Fire Department (@austinfiredept@AustinFireInfo) will also employ their Twitter feeds for time-sensitive public safety notifications. 

Community members and visitors should call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency – where there is an immediate threat to life or property – and Austin 3-1-1 (512-974-2000) to report a non-emergency situation. 

Details and updates for Spring Festival Season will be posted on austintexas.gov/springfestivalATX

About Austin Center for Events 

The Austin Center for Events (ACE) is a collaborative assembly of City of Austin departments and agencies designed to streamline special event permitting on public and private property. ACE is anchored by teams from Austin Public Health, Transportation, Parks, Music, Police, Fire, EMS, Code, Austin Resource Recovery, Development Services, and partner agencies. ACE works closely with event organizers to guide them through the special event permitting process.

Reminder Space Still Available for Spring Break Lifeguard Training, Lifeguard Hiring Event March 8

What: Lifeguard Hiring Event
Who: Aquatic Division, Parks and Recreation Department, City of Austin
When: Wednesday March 8, 4–8 p.m.
Where: Aquatic Office, 2818 San Gabriel St.
Why: Space Still Available for Spring Break Lifeguard Training

Aquatic team is now hiring hundreds of lifeguards at $20 per hour! Lifeguard training and hiring starts at age 15. Most lifeguards get certified during spring break to be ready to work in the summer! Training and uniforms are free. 

Potential lifeguards are encouraged to come to this event to complete the job application and hiring paperwork, then register for training. Applicants should bring their photo ID and social security cards. 

More information at LifeguardAustin.com.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Austin Municipal Court North Substation Reopens with Expanded Virtual Services

Austin Municipal Court has resumed in-person services at its North Substation location at 12425 Lamplight Village Avenue. After being shut down due to concerns surrounding the pandemic, Municipal Court North Substation is now open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.      

This location serves as an in-person customer service center; there are currently two service windows available. There is also a computer kiosk available in the lobby where customers may contact the court virtually. Customers may now contest a parking ticket with a Civil Hearing Officer; speak to a Youth Services team member regarding juvenile cases; fill out a payment plan application with support from Compliance staff; and/ or print a copy of their driving record, as well as access relevant court information via the web. The kiosk is free and available for use upon request of Municipal Court staff at this location. Customers are not able to speak to a judge or prosecutor or appear for court at the North Substation.   

The Austin Municipal Court's main location at the Bergstrom Tech Center is open for all services at 6800 Burleson Road, Building, 310, Suite 175. Operating hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended hours on Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.   

For more details about court services, please call (512) 974-4800 or contact the Municipal Court via Live Chat, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. by visiting www.austintexas.gov/court

Friday, March 3, 2023

APD Launches New Non-Emergency Reporting System

The Austin Police Department (APD) has partnered with Versaterm Public Safety’s Case Service to launch a new non-emergency online reporting system via ireportaustin.com. Case Service is an artificial intelligence (AI) assistant that instantly communicates with community members through voice, mobile, web, and text. The AI assistant conducts a full interview with the person filing a report and provides key information to the police department. This system allows the report to be accepted into the official offense report database within hours or a similar time frame as if an officer wrote the report. This platform reduces wait times for community members and speeds up the investigation process.

To file a report online, the following guidelines must be met:
•    No immediate danger to people or property
•    The suspect is no longer on-scene
•    The reporting party must be 17 years old or older and have a valid email address
The online system accepts the following report types: 
•    Assault (minor or no injury, excluding domestic violence)
•    Threats (excluding domestic violence)
•    Burglary that does not involve fire/arson
•    Theft (excluding prescriptions, firearms, explosives, vehicle license plates, and motor vehicles of any kind)
•    Lost or missing property (excluding narcotic prescription medication, vehicle license plates, and firearms)
•    Damaged property or Graffiti
•    Fraud
•    Harassment
•    Counterfeiting or Forgery
•    Identity theft
•    Illegal use of a credit or debit card
•    Minor, non-criminal child custody issues for documentation only
•    Trespassing (suspect no longer on scene)
•    Shoplifting reports
Once a report is submitted, the individual who submitted the report will receive confirmation via email with the assigned case number. If a supplement needs to be added later, community members can create a new report and provide the original case number when prompted.
The new reporting system supports multiple languages, including English, Arabic, French, Hindi, Korean, Simplified, and Traditional Chinese, Spanish, and Vietnamese, among other languages.
We are confident this technology will streamline the reporting process, alleviate the current backlog for APD non-emergency requests submitted via 3-1-1, and provide community members personalized attention to their incidents. Upon successful deployment of this first phase, APD plans to expand the use of Case Service further. 

APD's 2023 Spring Break DWI Enforcement 'No Refusal' Initiative, March 3rd through March 19th.

The Spring Break season is quickly approaching, and the Austin Police Department (APD) wants to remind the public officers will be on patrol and looking out for drunk drivers. Two initiatives will run consecutively. In conjunction with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the first DWI Enforcement will focus on having more officers on the street making traffic stops from March 3rd through March 19th. The second, a 'No Refusal' initiative, will focus on gathering evidence in DWI arrests and will occur each night from March 9th through March 19th.

Both efforts enforce DWI laws and keep the public safe by encouraging drivers to make responsible decisions. Also, to apply for blood search warrants on suspects who refuse to provide a breath or blood specimen as the law requires.

The Austin Police Department and the City of Austin Transportation Department continue to focus on preventing deaths on Austin's streets, highways, and waterways. APD is dedicated to making the roadways and waterways of Austin safe for residents and visitors through education and enforcement.

Don't drink and drive.

Open Data Portal Gets New Look to Celebrate Open Data Day


Open Data Day is Sunday, March 5

The Communications & Technology Management Department (CTM) is proud to recognize Open Data Day, on Sunday, March 5, 2023. Open Data Day is an annual opportunity to recognize the value and importance of an open data policy in local government. In conjunction with Open Data Day, CTM has a new homepage design for the City of Austin’s Open Data Portal.

CTM is the principal information technology (IT) department for the City of Austin and administers the City’s Open Data Portal. The Open Data Portal provides easy access to open data and information about City government and is intended to spark innovation, promote public collaboration, increase government transparency, and inform data driven decision making. “Transparency in government is a key goal for Austin and CTM takes that goal seriously. We are proud to be the administrators and custodians of the Open Data Portal,” said Chris Stewart, Chief Information Officer for the City of Austin. “The portal itself is a robust tool, but the data shared from across the City is what makes the tool a valuable resource for residents and businesses.”

The Open Data Portal has been in use since 2011, after Austin City Council approved Resolution No. 20111208-074 affirming the City Council’s commitment to Open Government. The Open Data Portal provides access to City data in the form of datasets (collections of raw data) and visualizations (the interpretation of that data through tables, charts, graphs, or other tools).

The Open Data Portal has gone through multiple iterations and improvements over the last decade. This most recent upgrade includes a new homepage designed to provide a fresh look and feel, improve navigation, and improve the overall user experience. The finished product is an easy-to-navigate site with accessible datasets and helpful resources. Enhancements to the portal’s homepage went live on March 3.

In celebration of Open Data Day, we encourage you to explore the data available through the Open Data Portal.

Some of the most frequently accessed datasets are: 

Austin Public Health Offering Gift Cards To Encourage All COVID-19 Vaccinations, Booster Doses

COVID-19 vaccination rates in Austin-Travis County remain static among low income communities and Travis County areas with limited access to...