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When to Replace Smoke Detectors

Posted by sydjohnson on February 09, 2017  /  in Blog, Uncategorized  /  No Comments

Photo by Final Phase Inspection

When is the best time to replace your smoke detectors?

According to the experts, every 8 – 10 years is typically when you should replace a smoke detector.

Manufacturers’ instructions will vary from brand to brand, so, keeping up with service times is essential to protecting your home. Change the batteries at least twice a year as recommended by FEMA.

Once the batteries are changed out, push the test button to ensure functionality. There are two types of detectors; hard wired and battery operated. It is current Austin code that every bedroom, hallway, and area that is heavily occupied, like living rooms, has a smoke detector.

For more tips and advice on how to install and maintain smoke detectors in your home, visit the City of Austin online today. To take part in the Free Smoke Alarm program, offering smoke alarms to any person in need, by visiting AustinTexas.gov.

DIY Moving Tips

Posted by sydjohnson on January 17, 2017  /  in Articles, Blog, Home Buyers Tips  /  No Comments

When it comes time to move in Austin, here are some tips that will help get you by.

Moving can be a stressful time. You are excited about moving into your new place, but you may not be apprehensive about the move itself. Organization becomes your best friend if you are considering a DIY move.

1) Set up childcare. Whether it is a family member or someone you hire for the move, having childcare in place is a must while you are moving back and forth between the old home and the new home. It’s impossible to move those heavy boxes with kiddos wrapped around your ankle.

2) Set up meals ahead of the move. Just like childcare, meals are the last thing you want to think about when making a move. Prepare meals ahead of time to keep at the new place that can easily be warmed up.

3) Throw out the items you no longer need. There is no doubt you will come across things during packing that you have forgotten about, no longer use, or simply don’t have the room for. Donate these items to a local charity or have a garage sale and make money toward moving costs.

4) Take inventory of your belongings. Now that you have gone through and thrown out what you don’t need, it’s beneficial to make an inventory list to ensure your belongings make it to your new place. Check each item off the list as it is packed up. Your inventory list is also useful for home insurance.

5) Pack items that you don’t need access to.Toiletries, clothes, and such important electronics should be packed in overnight bags and separate from what is going into the moving truck. It is important to pack by the room. For instance, you want to avoid packing pots and pans with the kid’s room.

6) Label each box accordingly. Ensure everything is labeled somehow, whether marker or labels, for easier unpacking. It will also be useful for the movers to place the boxes in the appropriate room, eliminating the huge pile of boxes in the new place could take even longer to unpack because you have to figure out where it all goes.

7) Use plastic tote boxes to pack. Cardboard boxes can be ruined during a move and it’s almost guaranteed that not everything will get unpacked immediately upon move in. Plastic bins will be the way to go when staying organized. Purchase the totes with lids, pack seasonal items such as decorations, clothing, and so on, and then stack them in the garage without worrying about weather elements ruining anything.

Make your move. By using these organization tips during your move, you can save time, money and the additional headache. It will all be worth it once you’re settled in and the pride of moving yourself is priceless.

4th of July Events in the Austin Area!

Posted by marketing on July 01, 2016  /  in Blog  /  No Comments

Check out any of these great Austin area Independence Day celebrations near you!

Austin
40th Annual HEB Austin Symphony July 4th Concert and Fireworks 40th annual July Fourth Concert and Fireworks
Date: July 4th
Concert start: 8:30 PM
Fireworks start: 9:30 PM
Place: Vic Mathias Shores (Auditorium Shores)
Price: Free

NWACA (Northwest Hills) 4th of July Parade
Date: July 4th
Starts: 9:00 AM
Place: North Hills Drive
Price: Free

Bee Cave
Hill Country Galleria Independence Day Celebration
Date: July 4th
Place: Hill Country Galleria
Starts: 6:30 PM
Price: Free

Buda
Red, White and Buda Red White and Buda
Date: July 4th
Place: Buda City Park
Festival starts: 7:00 PM
Fireworks start: 9:30 PM
Price: Free

San Marcos
Summerfest SummerFest
Date: July 4th
Place: Plaza Park
Festival starts: 6:00 PM
Fireworks start: 9:30 PM
Price: Free

Round Rock
July Fourth Frontier Days Celebration July Fourth Frontier Days Celebration 
Date: July 4th
Parade starts: 10:00 AM
Place: Downtown Round Rock
Festival starts: 12:00 PM
Place: Old Settlers Park
Fireworks start: 8:30 PM
Place: Old Settlers Park
Price: Free

Pflugerville
Pflugerville Pfirecracker Pfestival Pflugerville Pfirecracker Pfestival
Date: July 4th
Place: Pflugerville Lake
Starts: 6:00 PM
Price: Free

Cedar Park
Fourth of July Celebration Fourth of July Celebration
Date: July 4th
Parade starts: 10:00 AM
Place: HEB (Cedar Park) Center
Festival starts: 4:00 PM
Place: Milburn Park
Price: Free

Bastrop
Bastrop Patriotic Festival Bastrop Patriotic Festival
Date: July 2nd
Place: Fisherman’s Park
Starts: 4:00 PM

Lago Vista
Lago Vista Fourth of July Celebration Lago Vista Fourth of July Celebration
Date: July 2nd
Parade starts: 10:00 AM
Place: Dawn Drive
Festival starts: 11:00 AM
Place: Near Greenshore Park and Lago Vista Golf Course
Price: Free

Leander
Leander Liberty Fest Leander Liberty Fest
Date: July 3rd
Starts: 6:00 PM
Place: Highway 183 between Hero Way and San Gabriel Parkway
Price: Free

Mayor Adler’s “Smart Corridor Resolution”

Posted by marketing on July 01, 2016  /  in Blog  /  No Comments

Last month, Austin Mayor Steve Adler introduced a resolution to upgrade transportation along some of Austin’s most congested roadways.  Here’s his press release!

According to a new Public Policy Priorities poll commissioned by the Austin Monitor, the worst thing about living in Austin is — by far — transportation. More than half of Austinites (51%) chose transportation, beating out housing (20%) by better than a 2-to-1 margin. More Austinites are frustrated at transportation than they are at all their other concerns combined.

It’s time to do something meaningful to address our frustrations with traffic options and congestion.

Last week I introduced the Smart Corridor Resolution to help kick off the community discussion about our mobility challenges. Our Council and community should have a robust discussion about this city’s mobility needs, and all options should be considered. The Smart Corridor plan, which will decrease traffic congestion, improve transit, increase transportation options, and build safer sidewalks and protected bike paths, should be a part of that discussion which starts today at the Mobility Committee’s meeting at City Hall.

The streets in the Smart Corridor plan are the ones we drive on all the time: Airport Boulevard, East Riverside Drive, North and South Lamar, FM969 & MLK, and Burnet. Almost half (49.6%) of Austin’s population lives within two miles of these streets, and they were not built to carry this much traffic. If we can turn these old state highways into Smart Corridors, we’ll be improving traffic congestion in a way that makes transit more effective and attractive and makes biking and walking safer and more convenient.

What makes these roads “Smart Corridors”?

So what would we be doing to these old state highways that would turn them into “Smart Corridors”? Everybody gets something, so the roads would better for everyone: pullouts and queue jumps for rapid transit, protected paths for bicycles, sidewalks and safe crosswalks for pedestrians, turn lanes and access management for vehicles, and smart signals that we can time remotely in response to weather, special events such as games letting out, collisions, etc.

Here’s how that would work:

Never get stuck behind a bus again

Ever get stuck behind a bus? You won’t on a Smart Corridor because of pullouts. See in the picture above how the bus pulls out of traffic to offload passengers? Buses pull over, and you keep going. It’s that simple.

Queue jumps are how the bus gets back into the flow of traffic. Special traffic lights give the bus a 10-second head start, giving the bus an advantage over regular traffic that keeps the bus moving, which in turn makes public transit more attractive. This is one example of how we can reduce traffic congestion in a way that helps other forms of transportation, in this case buses.

“Cycle Tracks” – AKA protected bike lanes

Another way we can help traffic is by building what are called “cycle tracks,” or protected bike paths. There are a lot of ways this helps traffic congestion: First, surveys show that thousands of people in Austin would ride their bikes more if they had safe, protected bike paths, and even if you’re not one of those people the driver in the car in front of you might be. Also, protected lanes reduce bike-related injuries at intersections by 75%, which isn’t just a safety benefit. Collisions are a major source of traffic delays. Finally, if bikes have their own lane, vehicles won’t have to slow down to avoid cyclists.

Everyone wins by getting where they’re going more quickly and much safer, and we’re improving traffic congestion in a way that makes active transportation a better option for many people.  A 2013 study by the City of Austin found that 50% of Austinites would be more likely to bike to work or on errands if they had safe, protected bike paths.

Turning bays and left-turn lanes

Ever had to stop a few times driving down Lamar or Burnet because someone was turning left mid-block? Getting stuck behind someone turning left isn’t just annoying. It’s a design flaw in an old state highway, but it’s something we can fix by turning it into a Smart Corridor. By limiting the driveways and building dedicated left-turn lanes, we can minimize blockages and increase traffic flow by directing the turning vehicle out of the through lane.

Smart traffic lights & hybrid beacons

We can also make some smart changes when it comes to signalization. First, we can install smart traffic lights. Everyone wants us to time the lights now, but our existing technology is outdated. You know how we time the lights now? We send a city worker out with a stopwatch and a clipboard once every four years to do it by hand. This is not how we should be managing traffic in one of the smartest cities in the world.

The Smart Corridor plan would include funding for new, smarter traffic lights that the Traffic Management Center could adjust remotely. If there is an accident, a flood, a concert letting out, or any other event affecting traffic, we could instantly change the light patters to make our traffic flow better — you know, exactly like you thought the lights worked now.

Also, we can install pedestrian hybrid beacons that are already in use in some places around Austin. These make our roads safer by reducing collisions involving pedestrians by 69%, but they also increase traffic flow because they only stop traffic when someone needs to cross the street and not on an automatic cycle.

How much would this improve traffic?

It’s important to know that the way we measure the effectiveness of roadways such as these old state highways is to measure delays at intersections. When we talk about traffic congestion on these roads, we talk about delays at intersections. If the intersections work better (as each of the changes described above would do), that means your wait at those intersections is shorter.

Here are some representative examples of what city planners say would happen if we do the Smart Corridor plan:

South Lamar: Turning South Lamar into a Smart Corridor would have a profound effect on traffic congestion. If we make the long-term improvements included in the Smart Corridor plan, wait times at intersections during morning rush hour on South Lamar would improve 61%. If we do nothing, wait times at intersections in the mornings will increase 216%.

In the evening rush hour, wait times at intersections will decrease 51% if we do the long-term projects. If we do nothing, evening rush hour delays will increase 113%.

North Lamar: If we turn North Lamar Boulevard into a Smart Corridor, morning delays at intersections would decrease 48%, and evening delays at intersections would decrease 49%.  Comparative data is not yet available.

Burnet Road: If we do the long-term work on Burnet Road, morning delays at intersections would decrease 11% and afternoon rush hour delays would go down 27%. Comparative data is not yet available.

Airport Boulevard: If we do the long-term projects in the Smart Corridor plan, delays at intersections during your morning commute would decrease 10%; if we do nothing, delays will increase 40%.

In evening rush hour, wait times at intersections would decrease 20%; if we do nothing, wait times at those same intersections will increase 40%.

Tumlin Report: Fix the corridors

To fix all of Austin’s mobility problems would cost $8.5 billion. The Smart Corridor plan is where we begin. Jeffrey Tumlim‘s report to the Austin Transportation Department says one of our biggest priorities as a city should be improving our corridors.

“Austin has a problem of success. Austin is a thriving city, and its success has resulted in severe traffic congestion,” wrote Tumlin. “Austin’s current success threatens its future.”

Among the eight priorities Tumlin identified was “implement corridor plans with a focus on walkability.”

“The City of Austin has invested great effort in developing several thoughtful corridor and special district plans. … These plans and others establish Austin’s forward-thinking planning, and they are already positively impacting the urban landscape.”

We paid millions of dollars to develop these corridor plans, and right now they’re sitting on a shelf — literally. It’s time to take them down and get to work.

How clogged roads become “Smart Corridors”

Summer Energy Saving Tips

Posted by marketing on June 27, 2016  /  in Blog  /  No Comments

Summer’s just around the corner, and so is the infamous Texas heat!  Here are a few tips to save energy, and a few dollars as well!


1.  Fans can make temperatures around you feel up to 4 degrees cooler.
2.  Set your thermostat at 78 degrees or higher when your home is unoccupied.
3.  Keep debris, high grass and other obstructions away from your air conditioner’s condenser so airflow to the unit is not blocked.
4.  Clean your A/C condenser/evaporator coils at the beginning of the season.
5.  Clean or replace filters monthly.
6.  Caulk or weather-strip around your windows and doors.
7.  Shade your outdoor A/C unit.
8.  Plant trees to shade your south and west facing windows.

summer heat shown on thermometer with 100 degrees Fahrenheit and 38 degrees Celsius. Sunlight breaking through cumulus clouds on blue sky in background. Photo taken with dslr camera, flash used.

Fireflies are back in Austin!

Posted by marketing on May 31, 2016  /  in Blog  /  No Comments

Have you been seeing an abundance of fireflies this spring? The wet weather has something to do with it!

http://m.chron.com/news/houston-texas/texas/article/Fireflies-in-Texas-7942907.php