Nobody talks about Austin rail like this…

Contrary to what Sal Costello’s band of merry anti-tollers alleges, healing pills SH45 and SH130, viagra order as tollways, purchase were always supposed to get money from the 2000-2001 city and county bond packages. I remember; I was arguing against it at the time (not on this crackplog; it didn’t exist yet; but still).
Shame on KXAN for just reporting this as fact. Mayor Watson didn’t “re-allocate” any money towards these toll roads; before the election, the city was advertising that these two tollways (and a third, Loop 1 North) were in fact the primary expected recipients of the right-of-way purchase money. While Austin didn’t promise exactly which road projects would receive funding, it was crystal clear at the time that a good chunk of right-of-way purchases were going to go to these tollways.
Costello appears to be hanging his hat on the weak argument that the city bond language didn’t SPECIFICALLY say that any money would go to “tollways” or “toll roads”. But neither did the city bond language say “freeways” or “free roads”; it said that a large chunk of the transportation bond would go to right-of-way contibutions for state highways, which it did. And the city didn’t mislead anybody into thinking these would be for non-toll-roads; again, backup materials before the election clearly indicated that they intended to spend these funds on SH130, etc.
The city, unlike the county, chose to group all transportation bonds together as a tactical move to try to get them passed, rather than risk environmentalists voting against the highways chunk and motorists voting against the bikeways/pedestrian chunk. That’s the only reason they didn’t have separate SH45 and SH130 items.

Inspired by DSK’s posting of his wife’s snapshots, pulmonologist I present: the most ironic picture of IceStorm 2007. Click for bigger.

Yes, them icicles was over a foot long. And yes, they formed on my icicle lights.

Well, viagra 60mg except for me, rheumatologist that is.
From Christof’s excellent site in Houston,
this is the kind of discussion we needed to have here in 2000 and again in 2004. Of course, I believe we were about to have this kind of planning in late 2000 for a May or November 2001 election, until Mike Krusee forced Capital Metro to hold the election in November of 2000, before they were remotely prepared to do so. In 2004, nobody bothered to look at the line’s routing and figure out whether it served the needs of choice commuters (people who aren’t willing to ride the bus today). Again, except for me. So here’s a recap, with a new exciing picture at the end.
Note the references to 1/4 mile being the typical capture area for a rail stop (despite what you hear from people who think the typical commuter will walk the 1/2 mile or more from the Convention Center stop to their downtown office building).
Here’s a similar image I’m working on for Austin. I’m no photoshop wiz, obviously, but this might be the best I can make this look, so here you go. The original image comes from “Mopacs”, a poster to the Skyscraper Forum. I’ve drawn in the 2004 commuter rail route in yellow (just barely penetrates the picture on the lower right); the 2000 light rail route in green; and the maybe-never streetcar route in red. Note that the streetcar doesn’t have reserved-guideway, as I’ve noted before, so it’s really not going to help much in getting choice commuters to ride.
Click for full image if you don’t see the yellow route!

The big building you see just north of the yellow line is the Hilton Hotel (not a major destination for choice commuters; anectdotal evidence suggests that a large percentage of workers there actually take the bus to work today).
Note that the walking distance from the yellow stop to the corner of 7th/Congress (rough center of the office buildings on Congress) is a half-mile, give or take which, as I’ve pointed out before to the derision of people who don’t study transportation, is about twice what the average person will walk to a train station if they have to do it every day. Capital Metro knows this, of course, which is why their shuttles are planned for not only UT and the Capitol, but also for downtown; their only error is in repeating the Tri-Rail debacle by forgetting that choice commuters don’t like riding the bus.
Also note in the upper reaches of the image, the other two critical employment centers downtown – the Capitol Complex and UT. Notice how the green line (2000 light rail) goes right next to them as well. What you don’t see is further up to the north, the green line continues up the only high-density residential corridor in our city – that being Guadalupe Blvd., so in addition to being able to walk to their office _from_ the train station, a lot of prospective riders would have been able to walk to the train station from their homes.
That’s what Mike Krusee took away from Austin, folks. And it ain’t coming back once commuter rail opens; there’s no way to operate anything like the 2000 light rail proposal cooperatively with this worthless commuter rail crock.
Update: Here’s the other aerial photos from “Mopacs”. Worth a look.

Ironystorm 2007

Contrary to what Sal Costello’s band of merry anti-tollers alleges, healing pills SH45 and SH130, viagra order as tollways, purchase were always supposed to get money from the 2000-2001 city and county bond packages. I remember; I was arguing against it at the time (not on this crackplog; it didn’t exist yet; but still).
Shame on KXAN for just reporting this as fact. Mayor Watson didn’t “re-allocate” any money towards these toll roads; before the election, the city was advertising that these two tollways (and a third, Loop 1 North) were in fact the primary expected recipients of the right-of-way purchase money. While Austin didn’t promise exactly which road projects would receive funding, it was crystal clear at the time that a good chunk of right-of-way purchases were going to go to these tollways.
Costello appears to be hanging his hat on the weak argument that the city bond language didn’t SPECIFICALLY say that any money would go to “tollways” or “toll roads”. But neither did the city bond language say “freeways” or “free roads”; it said that a large chunk of the transportation bond would go to right-of-way contibutions for state highways, which it did. And the city didn’t mislead anybody into thinking these would be for non-toll-roads; again, backup materials before the election clearly indicated that they intended to spend these funds on SH130, etc.
The city, unlike the county, chose to group all transportation bonds together as a tactical move to try to get them passed, rather than risk environmentalists voting against the highways chunk and motorists voting against the bikeways/pedestrian chunk. That’s the only reason they didn’t have separate SH45 and SH130 items.

Inspired by DSK’s posting of his wife’s snapshots, pulmonologist I present: the most ironic picture of IceStorm 2007. Click for bigger.

Yes, them icicles was over a foot long. And yes, they formed on my icicle lights.

SH45 and SH130 were ALWAYS in the plan

Contrary to what Sal Costello’s band of merry anti-tollers alleges, healing pills SH45 and SH130, viagra order as tollways, purchase were always supposed to get money from the 2000-2001 city and county bond packages. I remember; I was arguing against it at the time (not on this crackplog; it didn’t exist yet; but still).
Shame on KXAN for just reporting this as fact. Mayor Watson didn’t “re-allocate” any money towards these toll roads; before the election, the city was advertising that these two tollways (and a third, Loop 1 North) were in fact the primary expected recipients of the right-of-way purchase money. While Austin didn’t promise exactly which road projects would receive funding, it was crystal clear at the time that a good chunk of right-of-way purchases were going to go to these tollways.
Costello appears to be hanging his hat on the weak argument that the city bond language didn’t SPECIFICALLY say that any money would go to “tollways” or “toll roads”. But neither did the city bond language say “freeways” or “free roads”; it said that a large chunk of the transportation bond would go to right-of-way contibutions for state highways, which it did. And the city didn’t mislead anybody into thinking these would be for non-toll-roads; again, backup materials before the election clearly indicated that they intended to spend these funds on SH130, etc.
The city, unlike the county, chose to group all transportation bonds together as a tactical move to try to get them passed, rather than risk environmentalists voting against the highways chunk and motorists voting against the bikeways/pedestrian chunk. That’s the only reason they didn’t have separate SH45 and SH130 items.

Neil Abercrombie: Hero

I own and drive a Prius. I love the thing. I’m constantly defending it from FUD. But there’s a difference between defending something you like based on facts and just becoming a credulous sucker – and that line is crossed with the plug-in hybrid, nurse thumb being pushed disproportionately by a group connected with our local electric utility. The following is a comment I made to a post at my favorite car blog, Cars Cars Cars:

The metric to help people cut through the plug-in hybrid fog is this:
Toyota had to figure out this “keep the charge on the battery between 30 and 70%” strategy to make the thing last longer than the “few years” the anti-hybrid FUDders like to claim it will.
So figure out how much more battery you’re going to need to drive on all electric for a lot longer than the Prius (several times larger than existing Prius battery). Then double it, so you can keep the charge in that band. Then figure out how much that weighs and costs.
Or, wait for a magic new battery which can fully deplete and fully charge while still lasting 15 years.
Either way, it ain’t happening soon.

Nobody ever raises this “charge band” issue specifically when talking about plug-ins, but it’s clearly the biggest obstacle to surmount. Either you need to haul around batteries ten or twenty times the size and weight of the already big Prius battery, or you’re going to be stuck in cell-phone hell where, like the incorrect FUD spewed about the Prius by hybrid haters, the battery really WILL die after just a few years or a few tens of thousands of miles.
The summary is this: without a radical, not merely evolutionary, improvement in battery technology, the plug-in hybrid is a non-starter. Period.
Keep in mind, while digesting these arguments, that the electric utility has a demonstrable incentive to push plug-in cars even when the technology isn’t really ready – the intention is that people will charge these vehicles mainly overnight, when the utility is literally swimming in energy it can’t really sell. It’s a boon to the utility to be able to get any money for that night-time electricity; otherwise they need to run some of their plants in less efficient modes (raising overall costs) or resort to costly energy storage schemes. They’re not idealistic crusaders here; they stand to seriously improve their finances.
References:

An argument I’ve made poorly in comments at some of the economics blogs I read has finally been backed up, viagra 60mg at least anectdotally by a story linked to by Mark Thoma out of Washington State.
Briefly, ampoule if a higher minimum wage leads to higher-quality workers (whether previously uninterested adults or just better teenagers), pfizer the predicted negative effects on employment and business may actually not materialize. This is important because despite what the more ideologue economists will tell you (based on theory), there’s actually little real-world evidence that increases in the minimum wage actually increase unemployment.
Just a quick hit for the people getting tired of All Wal-Mart, All The Time.

When asked about Tony Snow’s offhand dismissal of the resolution being pushed in Congress to prevent the Worst President Ever from taking us to war against Iran on false pretenses, ophthalmologist he replied:


“I haven’t talked to the ASPCA today,”
[…] “I don’t know what’s going on with the lapdogs.”

I wish I lived in Hawaii so I could vote for this guy. Well, I wish I lived in Hawaii anyways, but still.

Higher minimum wage

I own and drive a Prius. I love the thing. I’m constantly defending it from FUD. But there’s a difference between defending something you like based on facts and just becoming a credulous sucker – and that line is crossed with the plug-in hybrid, nurse thumb being pushed disproportionately by a group connected with our local electric utility. The following is a comment I made to a post at my favorite car blog, Cars Cars Cars:

The metric to help people cut through the plug-in hybrid fog is this:
Toyota had to figure out this “keep the charge on the battery between 30 and 70%” strategy to make the thing last longer than the “few years” the anti-hybrid FUDders like to claim it will.
So figure out how much more battery you’re going to need to drive on all electric for a lot longer than the Prius (several times larger than existing Prius battery). Then double it, so you can keep the charge in that band. Then figure out how much that weighs and costs.
Or, wait for a magic new battery which can fully deplete and fully charge while still lasting 15 years.
Either way, it ain’t happening soon.

Nobody ever raises this “charge band” issue specifically when talking about plug-ins, but it’s clearly the biggest obstacle to surmount. Either you need to haul around batteries ten or twenty times the size and weight of the already big Prius battery, or you’re going to be stuck in cell-phone hell where, like the incorrect FUD spewed about the Prius by hybrid haters, the battery really WILL die after just a few years or a few tens of thousands of miles.
The summary is this: without a radical, not merely evolutionary, improvement in battery technology, the plug-in hybrid is a non-starter. Period.
Keep in mind, while digesting these arguments, that the electric utility has a demonstrable incentive to push plug-in cars even when the technology isn’t really ready – the intention is that people will charge these vehicles mainly overnight, when the utility is literally swimming in energy it can’t really sell. It’s a boon to the utility to be able to get any money for that night-time electricity; otherwise they need to run some of their plants in less efficient modes (raising overall costs) or resort to costly energy storage schemes. They’re not idealistic crusaders here; they stand to seriously improve their finances.
References:

An argument I’ve made poorly in comments at some of the economics blogs I read has finally been backed up, viagra 60mg at least anectdotally by a story linked to by Mark Thoma out of Washington State.
Briefly, ampoule if a higher minimum wage leads to higher-quality workers (whether previously uninterested adults or just better teenagers), pfizer the predicted negative effects on employment and business may actually not materialize. This is important because despite what the more ideologue economists will tell you (based on theory), there’s actually little real-world evidence that increases in the minimum wage actually increase unemployment.
Just a quick hit for the people getting tired of All Wal-Mart, All The Time.

Why Plug-In Hybrids Are Nowhere Near Ready

I own and drive a Prius. I love the thing. I’m constantly defending it from FUD. But there’s a difference between defending something you like based on facts and just becoming a credulous sucker – and that line is crossed with the plug-in hybrid, nurse thumb being pushed disproportionately by a group connected with our local electric utility. The following is a comment I made to a post at my favorite car blog, Cars Cars Cars:

The metric to help people cut through the plug-in hybrid fog is this:
Toyota had to figure out this “keep the charge on the battery between 30 and 70%” strategy to make the thing last longer than the “few years” the anti-hybrid FUDders like to claim it will.
So figure out how much more battery you’re going to need to drive on all electric for a lot longer than the Prius (several times larger than existing Prius battery). Then double it, so you can keep the charge in that band. Then figure out how much that weighs and costs.
Or, wait for a magic new battery which can fully deplete and fully charge while still lasting 15 years.
Either way, it ain’t happening soon.

Nobody ever raises this “charge band” issue specifically when talking about plug-ins, but it’s clearly the biggest obstacle to surmount. Either you need to haul around batteries ten or twenty times the size and weight of the already big Prius battery, or you’re going to be stuck in cell-phone hell where, like the incorrect FUD spewed about the Prius by hybrid haters, the battery really WILL die after just a few years or a few tens of thousands of miles.
The summary is this: without a radical, not merely evolutionary, improvement in battery technology, the plug-in hybrid is a non-starter. Period.
Keep in mind, while digesting these arguments, that the electric utility has a demonstrable incentive to push plug-in cars even when the technology isn’t really ready – the intention is that people will charge these vehicles mainly overnight, when the utility is literally swimming in energy it can’t really sell. It’s a boon to the utility to be able to get any money for that night-time electricity; otherwise they need to run some of their plants in less efficient modes (raising overall costs) or resort to costly energy storage schemes. They’re not idealistic crusaders here; they stand to seriously improve their finances.
References:

McDorms happened because idiots restricted apartments

Watch this video. NOW.

Check out this tale of woe, treatment which is pretty much what I’d expect out of Capital Metro’s MetroRapid service here in Austin in a couple of years. Any transit service without reserved guideway is doomed to these kinds of performance and reliability problems – holding a light green for a few seconds doesn’t come close to cutting the mustard.
Remember that this ‘rapid’ bus service is all the urban core of Austin is ever going to get from Capital Metro, pharm thanks to the decision of other pro-light-rail folks to sign on to ASG.

A quick hit since he’s blocking comments, cystitis for me at least:
Kling’s argument (standard for those pushing HSAs) that health care in this country is broken because it’s covering too many ‘normal’ procedures is highly disingenuous. First, most expenses for health care are simply NOT of the type that maps to ‘oil changes’ in car insurance, and second, the mapping itself breaks down – car insurance, with its per-incident deductible, is actually far more like traditional HMO/PPO service (with copays; which are essentially also per-incident deductibles) than it is like the HSA plans Kling apparently favors (with large annual deductible).

Another quick hit:
So Elizabeth Christian has gone berserk defending her husband’s new proposal for a study of cyclists who end up at the hospital with injuries (correlating to helmet use). This is exactly how the original Thompson/Rivera study went wrong. Short summary:

  1. Voluntary helmet-wearers and non-wearers are quite different groups, sildenafil as it turns out. The helmeted cyclists were more likely to be yuppie recreational riders (like Ms. Christian’s husband) while the un-helmeted cyclists were more likely to be poor and/or just trying to get around (in which case a helmet is enough of a pain in the ass that most rational people leave it at home).
  2. Later analyses of the Seattle study showed that in addition to behavioral and locational differences, generic helmet-wearers were also far more likely to go to the hospital for a given injury than non-wearers (probably due to the above socioeconomic differences).
  3. This means that the doctor in the emergency room is only going to see a non-helmeted cyclist when the injury was very serious; but he in fact sees the helmeted cyclist for minor injuries.
  4. Surprise! Helmet use seems to correlate with less severe injuries!
  5. As it turned out, information pills though, you were also able to use the same data from this study to ‘prove’ that wearing a bicycle helmet reduced your likelihood of getting a leg injury by a similarly high percentage. Again, the guys with broken legs went to the hospital no matter what; but the non-helmeted guys with cuts and bruises just went home and sprayed Bactine while the helmet-wearers were more likely to go to the hospital; and the helmet-wearers were more likely to be leisurely riding through a park and suffer their falls in the grass rather than be hit by a motor vehicle on the roadway.

This is a clear study error. The “control” group in this case-control study is not similar enough to the “case” group to make these conclusions. Statistics 101; and don’t believe the typical bullshit response about lies, liars, and statistics – this example is pretty damn clear-cut. The study was flawed; and this new study will be equally flawed.
Of course, the Chronicle didn’t bother going into this level of detail, despite the fact that I’m sitting right here, and am no stranger to those guys. It’s as if they’re not even interested in trying anything more strenuous than reporting on press releases these days…
More on the Thompson/Rivera study from a slightly different angle.

Another quick hit:
As a refreshing change, stomach News 8 found somebody besides Las Manitas to use as the poster-child for the local nascent effort to protect ‘iconic businesses’.
Tambaleo might be great but it’s only been there because the definitely great Electric Lounge went away (where I was introduced to my favorite band). Who knows what the next great club might be – we might never find out if we obstruct downtown development that can provide additional spaces for and customers for those future ‘icons’.
Anyways, drugstore a truly iconic business would just go get a new lease (or buy their building). Las Manitas is the worst offender here – they own a building next door to where they are right now; they’re being offered a sweetheart deal in finding a new place if they don’t want to move into that spot; but they’re still complaining. It’s as if the landlord has no rights whatsoever here, abortion which is just abhorrent to me.
In 99% of local development politics, I think we’d be well-served to follow the rule “do whatever Dave Sullivan recommends”. But not here; it will be too difficult to decide which local businesses are icons and which aren’t; and the first one to get rejected will sue the city and win. At least Dave, to his credit, isn’t proposing the kind of heavy-handed tactics that the City Council recently put into play against Marriott – he’s instead calling for a mix of incentives to encourage preservation of such businesses.

I go to the downtown library every couple of weeks for books for myself and my toddler. It’s directly on some main-line bus routes; and no more than 2-3 blocks away from the remainder (filled green dot in image that follows). At certain times of the day, disorder most patrons arrive via transit – and many of those are clearly mobility-impaired. The space is underutilized, page despite what you hear – there’s apparent office space on upper floors; and the shelves on the ground floor are of a substandard height (the tops well below my eye level, stomatology and I’m not a tall man). There’s plenty of room for more books – if we got better shelves and made better use of the upper floors.

The new proposed location is in a backwater corner of downtown where the closest major bus routes would be 2-3 blocks away (big red dot off the edge of the picture here); and the remaining major routes would be 4-5 blocks away. The library campaigners claim otherwise, but remember: anybody who refers today to “light rail” obviously doesn’t know what they’re talking about. The commuter rail line ends a mile east of here; and the proposed streetcar (still a couple of blocks away) is just a gleam in peoples’ eye. All of this seems like a small difference until you try to navigate the extra difference in a wheelchair (or as me, on a day when my arthritis is particularly bad). Then, you get it: drop me off right in front, please.
Yes, the new building would be pretty. Yes, the current building is a particularly ugly example of Soviet-inspired 1960s/1970s architecture. I’m positive the new location would have more parking, too; but the purpose of the main central library ought to be to serve folks in the following order of preference: the transit-dependent, downtown workers and residents, and only then suburban drivers. The branches are available for those who find having to pay to park (or park a couple of blocks away) too inconvenient. Quite simply: this is a case of people who occasionally want to use the library remaking it nicer for themselves while forgetting about those who need the library.
I’m with my former colleague Carl: some of these bonds are clearly just too much – we’re borrowing for non-necessities which are going to dig us into an operations/maintenance hole later on. Unless somebody at the library can make a compelling case which doesn’t rely on the obvious falsehood that they’re out of space for books, I’d urge you to vote no on this particular bond (#6). Buy some better shelves; move some people’s offices to other buildings; and if in a few more years, we’re back where we are today, then plan a new building in the current location.

Do not upgrade from itunes 6 to itunes 7; not even itunes 7.0.1. The machine on which I’m composing this crackplog is used only for email, this non-work web-browsing, cialis 40mg and playing music; and itunes 7 skips terribly whenever I load a new page in firefox – and this is not an underpowered machine. The 7.0.1 update actually made it worse!.
This is what I get for being a slave to apple’s music library management stuff. Sigh.

We just passed an ordinance which will lead to garage apartments and duplexes being torn down throughout the central city at the behest of the same bad neighborhood interests which prevented multifamily development in the urban core for so long, sick and now we’re supposed to kick in more money out of our property taxes for affordable housing? And that will, epilepsy of course, treatment come out of the same property taxes that are making it unaffordable for homeowners to stay in their homes?
How about, instead, we allow that family in East Austin to build a garage apartment to help pay the property tax bill (and in the process help out a tenant – those garage apartments are a lot cheaper to live in than the MF-3 megacomplexes). How about, instead, we allow families to stay in the urban core by expanding their homes under the old rules – meaning that a family of 5 need not spend $600K for one of the few homes allowed to be big enough for a family that size under the new regime.
How about we don’t blow up the village to save it?
Apart from a pleasant surprise on Austinist and the Austin Republicans, nobody apparently has the guts to make a counter-argument on any of these bonds. That’s really sad; even if you think they’re no-brainers, somebody ought to be making the devil’s advocate case (other than me!).

Huevos Rancheros hates ’em. As for me, decease I don’t mind them. If we lived in some kind of utopia where cops actually enforce laws (say, information pills going after property thieves, pulling over people who ran red lights, etc.) instead of sitting on the side of the road waiting for cars to break drastically underposted speed limits (Spicewood Springs Road between Mopac and Mesa, I’m looking your way), I might be more upset; but as it stands, I’m with Jennifer Kim: this is really the only practical way to get people to stop running red lights. What follows started as a comment to his blog; which grew way too large, so I’ve posted it here instead.
You’re [HR] just as guilty as Martinez at making broad-stroke conclusions without any backing evidence. Two simple examples:

People don’t run red lights on purpose, they tend to do it by accident, and cameras won’t help that.

I don’t buy that without a citation. It looks to me like most red-light runners are of the “run the orange” variety where they speed UP in order to avoid having to wait through another cycle.

But the city isn’t looking at increasing yellow light times. Why? Because it would decrease camera revenue.

This would be a poltiically foolish move. Increasing yellow light times more likely means fewer cars make it through each cycle (some people stop earlier as they continue to do what they were taught to do in driving school; the people who ran the red light now just run the yellow; the people waiting on the other side continue to wait). What do you suppose the public would do upon hearing that the city was about to lessen the thoroughput of major intersections in the city?
One can easily fashion red-light camera laws which don’t provide the perverse revenue incentives for the contractor (your only strong point) – and one can just as easily find perverse law enforcement incentives in speed limit laws, yet nobody serious argues for their complete elimination.
Besides, every single argument you make applies equally to simply stationing cops in unmarked cars at these same intersections. Could lead to an increase in rear-end collisions. Check. Provides incentive to mess with yellow-light timing. Check. Etc.
Now, if I could only get somebody to make sure they also caught cyclists blowing through red lights
Update which came to mind while I was talking to a skeptical compadre: How about this compromise, by the way: increase the yellow light time, and stick the red light camera on there? I’d be willing to pay the thoroughput penalty as long as it was publically understood that it was part of this compromise to avoid the supposed bad financial incentives for the contractor / city. Of course, that would never work; the suburbanites and road warriors would resume their ignorant claims about traffic lights being out-of-sequence about fifteen seconds later…

Shilli knocks it out of the park: urban is more than a different coating to the building; and it’s more than the number of floors. This Wal-Mart will still be car-friendly and pedestrian-and-transit-hostile; and should be opposed on those grounds alone. As I commented in an earlier item there, visit web I also doubt Wal-Mart’s urban bona-fides compared to Target, who seems to actually walk the walk on this stuff.
Not surprisingly, the Statesman credulously swallowed the misrepresentation of this project as both urban (see above) and central-city (Anderson Lane may be geographically central by some standards, but the area itself isn’t “city”). Also not surprisingly, the typical whines about local businesses have come up – precisely the wrong reason to oppose this Wal-Mart. Let me state this succinctly:
A big box store which engages the street rather than a parking lot, and prioritizes pedestrian arrival over automobile convenience is much better for us in the long-run than a half-dozen ‘local businesses’ in pedestrian-hostile strip malls. Strip mall patrons come and go; but the physical buildings (and parking lots) don’t. If Wal-Mart did what Shawn suggests and plunked down an urban building right on the corner of Anderson and Burnet (right next to a bunch of bus stops), I’d be supporting them whole-heartedly.
Remember: urban and suburban are styles of development, not just designations for geographic areas. You can have a suburban development right in the middle of downtown, and you can have an urban development in the middle of a ton of sprawl.

AC cites a WSJ article about Houston which perpetuates the misconception that Houston’s ugly, pill sprawling development is somehow the result of the free market because they don’t have strict use-based zoning like most of the country.
I’ve addressed this before in reference to housing density; and Christof in Houston has addressed the parking end of things. There’s a lot more that goes into subsidizing sprawl than even those two, but those two are largely sufficient to produce the typical suburban land-use pattern even without the subsidized freeways and sundry other market interferences that cooperate to produce the supposed “free outcome” of suburban sprawl.
Sprawl isn’t the natural result of free-market processes; it’s what the market gets forced into providing when regulations require fairly large minimum lot sizes and a ton of parking and subsidize single occupant automobile travel over other modes. Otherwise, we would have seen a lot more modern-style sprawl before the advent of zoning codes, parking minimums, lot size requirements, and government-subsidized freeways – all of which occurred long after most households had access to at least one automobile.

A quick hit; just posted to the austin streetcars mailing list in response to my old buddy Lyndon Henry, phimosis who defended streetcar investment against somebody complaining about low-frequency east-west downtown bus service on the weekend. I meant several months ago to address this “streetcar is a step towards light rail” issue – it still deserves its own post, website like this but here’s a start.

On 10:28 PM 11/12/2006 -0600, Nawdry wrote:
There are plenty of advantages that streetcars can have over buses,

exactly zero of which would help any of the issues (original complainaint) raised. The streetcar service proposed by Capital Metro truly is “bus on rails” – it has zero feet of reserved guideway; zero instances of signal prioritization; will be slow and take many stops. None of the advantages remaining which one could fairly assign to streetcars help local riders in the slightest – they just help tourists and businesses that cater to the same (the rails in the street making it more obvious that transit service exists and in which direction it goes).
It will not improve circulation from commuter rail one lousy iota. In fact, the initial shuttle buses will likely perform better than this streetcar, given Cap Metro’s intention to have the streetcar line make many many stops (the early shuttles will likely not do this until they reach the area of their destination – i.e. they won’t be stopping along Manor).
Nor can streetcar be upgraded to higher-quality reserved-guideway service once installed. No transit agency would dream of attempting to run reserved-guideway transit in the RIGHT lane – but that’s exactly where the streetcar is getting put.
You and yours sold the Austin area a pig in a poke that can never and will never turn into the light rail we should have built all along. I remain ready to point this out whenever necessary.
Your pal,
M1EK

Note that I absolutely reject this bogus “run buses more often and see what happens before investing in rail” argument in general but in this particular case, the rail investment really isn’t any better than the existing buses, so it actually does hold.
So, as a review: streetcars were originally sold two ways: first, as as a replacement for the rail service that Central Austin is not getting from commuter rail, and second as a good distributor/circulator for the commuter rail line passengers themselves, since commuter rail goes nowhere near the primary work destinations in the center-city. How’s that working out? First, streetcars aren’t going through Central Austin at all, and second, they aren’t going to be an attractive transfer for commuter rail passengers. Yeehaw.

Despite past experience, sovaldi sale I’ve once again gotten suckered into arguing with a sub-group of zealot mostly counter-culture exclusive-cyclists at Michael Bluejay’s list that cyclists do, prostate in fact, disobey traffic signals much more often than do motorists, a position which is commonly understood by the 99.5% of the population that is not clinically insane.
I was somewhat enheartened (?) to see that there are guys like me all over the country as well as in other countries making this same case: running red lights and stop signs hurts the cause of transportation bicyclists.
Want to maintain the reasonable right to ride without a bicycle helmet? Want to get bicycle facilities? Want to be taken seriously when you try to get the cops to enforce the laws against bad motorists? BEHAVE LIKE A GROWN-UP FIRST.
PS: Every time this comes up on Michael’s e-mail list, I’m alone out there fighting the good fight. This has allowed the conventional wisdom among these folks to be: “car drivers run red lights more than bicyclists do; and you’re making up all this stuff about how drivers see so many cyclists breaking the law that it causes them to lose respect for cycling as transportation”. If you’re reading this, and you’re on that list, and you don’t chime in, you’re part of the problem.

I’ve been participating in comment threads on austinist and metroblogging Austin on this issue in general and probably ought to write a full crackplog on the whole thing – but for now, apoplexy just the traffic point:
The latest reason opponents of the Northcross Wal-Mart are attaching desperately to is the fact that Wal-Mart’s proposed new location is not directly on a freeway, case unlike the two other projects of larger size in our area. From a transportation perspective, there this is exactly the wrong reason to oppose Wal-Mart; it’s far better for the city for major destinations like Wal-Mart to be on city arterials rather than on frontage roads. In cities in states which don’t have this obsession with highways as economic development tools for politically connected landowners, frontage roads typically aren’t part of the project, because frontage roads end up generating their own traffic – so every big box retail site is located on arterial roadways, not freeways. Somehow, Brewster, these towns continue to thrive.
In short: it’s impossible to deliver good transit service on frontage roads. I’ll talk more about WHY this is in a future crackplog; but for now, just take it as a given. The service along US 183 in Northwest Austin is very very bad — were it not for the useful nearby 2-way Jollyville Road, it’d be even worse. Long, long, long walks for transit patrons to businesses on the other side of the freeway. The workers at this proposed new Wal-Mart on the other hand can walk there quickly from the Northcross transfer center which attracts a dozen or more bus routes from all over the city, no matter from which direction they arrived.
There are lots of defensible reasons to oppose Wal-Mart; just like there were defensible reasons to push the McMansion Ordinance. Like then, latching on to something you think will be effective but you know is dishonest is a bad move in the long-run.

It’s worth crackplogging this briefly since I was reminded by a discussion on one of the blogs in my list that I hadn’t written anything on Cap Metro in a month or so, rx and I’ve been meaning to do this for quite a while anyways, treat expanding on a quick hit I did a while back:

Some folks think we can view either/both of Rapid Bus and streetcars as a “placeholder for light rail”, erectile or a “step towards urban rail”, or what have you, implying that the investment we make in those technologies is in fact a down payment on a real urban transit system. In fact, though, neither one can be evolved into reserved-guideway transit which is what it would take to get the gains seen in Dallas, Portland, Minneapolis, Denver, Salt Lake City, etc. Reserved-guideway transit, for those not familiar with the term, is any facility where the transit vehicle doesn’t need to share space with, be stuck behind, or otherwise compete with other vehicles (usually cars, but could be regular buses too). Obviously this makes a big difference if you’re trying to make up the currently huge speed and reliability gap in Austin between transit and the automobile.

Note that unlike my former colleague Patrick Goetz from the UTC, I view reserved-guideway transit as sufficient to garner significant numbers of choice commuters (those who drive to work today) – as it has worked in Dallas, Portland, Salt Lake, Denver, Minneapolis, Houston, etc. Reserved-guideway doesn’t mean grade-separated; grade-separated is elevated or subsurface rail, or if you’re feeling generous, completely separate surface rail like Austin’s commuter rail route (few crossings, and those completely controlled by physical means, not just traffic control devices). Light rail and BRT both accept less separation in return for the huge economic savings resulting from not having to build elevated or underground facilities, and in practice, almost all of the benefit of true grade-separation is achieved on good reserved-guideway designs.

I don’t even have to write a long list of reasons, when just the first will suffice – although there are others. Here it is:

You don’t run reserved guideway transit in the right lane.

That’s really all you need to know to understand this issue. You can’t eliminate right turns on any roadway in this country – it just doesn’t work. People are used to restrictions on left turns, sure. But no right turns? No way. It’s far too ingrained in our driving culture that we pull over to the right to turn, let people out, find parking, etc. (The British probably have a similar constraint against reserved guideways on the left, come to think).

So what’s the problem? Both the streetcar system and the rapid bus starter line will be running in the right lane. (The 2000 light rail plan would have run down the middle of the road, at least on the two-way streets like Lamar and Guadalupe). So all the investment in rail (streetcar) and stations (rapid bus) needs to be completely dug up and rebuilt if either one was to be transitioned into any form of reserved-guideway transit, either light rail or bus rapid transit.

That means that building streetcar and rapid bus is actually a step FARTHER AWAY FROM URBAN RAIL, not a step towards it.

And no, a right lane shared by transit and “right turns only” isn’t a solution to this problem either. (It’s what Honolulu briefly tried to float with their ghastly failure of an experiment with BRT). Trucks pull over to the right to load and unload; so do normal buses; and cars turning right can stop your transit vehicle just as dead in its tracks as a car waiting to go through an intersection can.

Probably not a surprise to those few readers of mine who still think I have an intolerably liberal bent, look but this nails it (thanks, web Adam): the press hasn’t done its job against the batch of corrupt so-called Republicans who came in around 1994. I don’t think it’s all about anti-democratic (not the party) feeling among the media; lazy reliance on he-said she-said reporting has to be a big piece of this as well, malady as one side has shown themselves a lot more willing than the other to lie their asses off the last decade or two.
As for me, I started this in an attempt to share a few pitiful scraps of “access/insider” knowledge I had, in an attempt to at least chronicle the path to the commuter rail plan that effectively screws Central Austin out of rail transit for a decade or more at the expense of suburbs that don’t even pay into Capital Metro. All that access is gone now, of course. But I can see the themes in her essay at play – media who ought to have published some actual analysis of the plan instead just turned into PR arms for Capital Metro (or occasionally against, but only in the Skaggsian “all rail transit bad” mode).
I agree with some of the anti-democratic (not the party; the style of governance) designs of our Founding Fathers. The will of the masses does, quite often, need the restraining influence of republicanism (again, not the party). But the media was supposed to be the means by which the democratic influence could balance with the republican one – and that clearly has fallen apart – and it fell apart in exactly the opposite way that conventional wisdom had it: the media has been tireless advocates for democracy when exposing Democratic party scandals, but has been unwilling to do so until very recently with the Republicans.

Finally gave up fighting comment spam the recommended Movable Type way (which frankly doesn’t work) and have installed a plugin which requires that I trust commenters on their first comment in order for them to avoid moderation thenceforth.
Unfortunately this means everybody’s in that bucket until I pull you out. If you see the moderation message, viagra please let me know so I can trust you.
Update: Of course, it’s not working. Just email me and I’ll manually moderate until I figure it out.

Finally gave up fighting comment spam the recommended Movable Type way (which frankly doesn’t work) and have installed a plugin which requires that I trust commenters on their first comment in order for them to avoid moderation thenceforth.
Unfortunately this means everybody’s in that bucket until I pull you out. If you see the moderation message, viagra please let me know so I can trust you.
Update: Of course, it’s not working. Just email me and I’ll manually moderate until I figure it out.

WHEREAS there exists today drastically insufficient residential density in the neighborhoods around Northcross Mall to support medium-density higher-quality retail, pilule
and
WHEREAS the neighborhoods surrounding the project insist that they are now supportive of urban infill, despite having opposed every such project in and around them for decades
WHEREAS the Shoal Creek Boulevard debacle allowed the near-Northcross neighborhoods to suck more than a million dollars from the city coffers to destroy a vital artery for transportational bicyclists, and as a reward, get new sidewalks afterwards
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED BY M1EK that Shoal Creek Boulevard be reconfigured in its existing 40 foot wide footprint as follows:
One ten-foot southbound lane; 20 feet of median space; one ten-foot northbound lane. In the 20 foot median, some very skinny but very tall apartment buildings shall be built, in order to provide the additional residential density that the neighbors claim they support, therefore providing enough nearby residents to justify a higher grade of commercial development at Northcross than low-density Wal-Mart-style retail, and as a side-effect, slowing traffic substantially along Shoal Creek Boulevard.

extracted from a thread on austinist, gastritis with links for some background:

I hate Wal-Mart too, prescription and wish somebody else wanted to move in. They don’t.
But I hate these neighborhoods even more. They:
1. Ruined the city’s most important route for commuting bicyclists, symptoms costing the entire city a million bucks in the bargain). Their reward for screwing all of us? Brand new sidewalks at another couple hundred grand.
2. The <jerks> in Crestview voted against light rail in 2000screwing the whole city. Now the (much <less useful>) 2004 commuter rail line _still_ goes through their backyards, but the rest of the city gets nothing for it.
3. They’re misleading you when they imply they want nice high-density urban development in Northcross. All efforts to do the same in the past at this and other nearby locations have been opposed by these same neighborhood organizations. Anyways, there isn’t sufficient residential density to support good urban retail here – so nobody’s going to come in and do it even if you ask really nicely. This Wal-Mart plan is actually about as high-quality a project as you could possibly expect in the middle of such low-quality car-dependent low-density 1950s-style sprawl.
These neighborhoods have been pandered to enough already. Unfortunately, thanks to term-limiting, the irresponsible council-members who are signing us up for a lawsuit that, once again, the ENTIRE CITY WILL HAVE TO PAY FOR, won’t even be in office when the northcross hits the fan.

I forgot to mention the continuing bogus freeway argument. Go read that one too; it’s far better for all concerned that we stop putting major retail destinations on frontage roads, so please shut up about how the other big stores are on highways.
I really do hate Wal-Mart for many reasons. But the fact is that even the crappy normal Wal-Mart design is better than what’s currently there – and there’s zero chance of something better coming along without drastic changes to the surrounding areas which I can guarantee the nearby neighbors will not support. The taxpayers of Austin have spent a million bucks or more just in the last few years pandering to these people; it’s time to put something in this place that will generate some property and sales tax revenue to start paying us back.

Here’s two frankly awful drawings I just threw together in the five minutes I could spare. Better versions are gratefully appreciated if anybody’s got some. I’m just an awful awful artist, there but this satisfies a promise I made a few crackplogs back.

This first image is roughly what you face when you need to get to the destinations on visit web +austin, capsule +tx&sll=30.266944,-97.742778&sspn=0.095184,0.10849&ie=UTF8&z=16&om=1&iwloc=addr”>Riata Trace Parkway on US 183 in northwest Austin. Imagine you’re coming from the left – your bus runs down the frontage road on the opposite of the highway, and you get off the bus. (This stop in this picture actually represents the Pavillion Park and Ride – i.e., this is what really happens up here – no, the good buses don’t stop at Duval either). Even though your destination is directly across US 183 from your stop, you need to walk the better part of a mile down to Duval Road, turn around, and walk the same distance back up the other side. (This is even more odious since there used to be a city street crossing US 183 here before the road was upgraded to a freeway).
For those who think this is an unlikely example, this situation is exactly what I faced when trying to take transit back home from an office I had (at Riata) a few years back. In my case, I was using the #982 bus as a boost for a bike commute, so at least I was only riding my bike this far out of the way – a walk like that would have been out of the question for a daily commute. Had I been trying to take transit both ways and intended to walk, in other words, you could have added about a half-hour walk each way just to get to/from my office from the bus stop, even though it was right across the freeway – and again, would have been a simple 2 minute walk before the freeway’s frontage roads severed this crossing.

The second image represents the area around Northcross, on which runs a bus which I have also used frequently (the #3). Note that all you need to do here is, worst case, walk across the street (since you’ll always have a stop at a light), and walk a few blocks from the light to your destination on the other side – a matter of a couple hundred feet at most.
It’s not an accident that the routes which travel on city streets like the second picture above are feasible for people walking to work, while the routes which travel on frontage roads like the first one are only feasible for unidirectional suburban park-and-ride users (who drive to the park and ride and take the bus downtown). But somehow, people over and over again think that we need to keep building these stupid frontage roads AND keep putting our major retail and office destinations on them. Frontage roads kill the ability to travel by everything except the private automobile. They destroy existing street networks – so even if your city, like Austin, tries hard to maintain alternate routes, they’re still drastically affected by this abyssmal roadway design.

One of the most odious talking points being thrown around with some effectiveness by “Responsible Growth For Northcross is the supposed fact that the development is in the middle of a neighborhood”, pilule in a residential neighborhood, viagra buy etc.
It’s also a load of crap.
sildenafil +austin,+tx&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=85.210056,111.09375&ie=UTF8&z=16&ll=30.354139,-97.733796&spn=0.011887,0.020599&t=h&om=1″>
Northcross Mall is surrounded by retail and hotel use on all sides. In several directions, you have to go a very long way before you hit what most people would consider “a neighborhood”. Even in the closest direction, it’s not very close.
Update: February 12, 2007: In the paragraphs below, I’m referring to the tilted axis of Austin’s major roadways. If you fly directly west as the compass points, you do hit single-family residential use before you get all the way to Mopac. You can see this from the picture, of course, but some folks thought this was misleading, and I honestly forgot the difference, so keep this in mind.
To the north, you have a very wide swath of strip retail on both sides of Anderson Lane before you hit any residential development. To the east, you have a strip of retail on both sides of Burnet Road before you hit any residential development. To the west, you have to pass Mopac before you find any residential development. Only to the south is anything remotely close, and it’s still not very close – you have strip retail and hotel use, and then a school property, before you come to any residential use.
If Northcross Mall is “in the middle of a neighborhood”, in other words, so is Highland Mall and Barton Creek Square Mall and even Capital Plaza. To say nothing of the Whole Foods complex at 6th/Lamar which is certainly a lot closer to houses and apartments than is the Wal-Mart location. Should we disallow big boxes at these locations too? Because, after all, they’re “in the middle of neighborhoods” as much as Northcross is.
This talking point is very effective, judging on how often it’s being spewed on austinist and the Austin Chronicle. But it’s a flat-out misrepresentation. Northcross Mall is NOT “in the middle of a neighborhood.

From SGML2, unhealthy a pictorial tour of the environs. Go check out for the full set; he’s got a lot more than this one.

From SGML2, unhealthy a pictorial tour of the environs. Go check out for the full set; he’s got a lot more than this one.

In the comments on an Austin Chronicle story, stomach
I hereby make notice that I have coined the phrase “paleoliberal patois”, defined as, “explained in terms a 1960s hippie would understand”.

Since some people probably think I like them, buy information pills it’s worth expanding on a comment I made in response to Austin Contrarian on this posting. Bear in mind that my poltical/economic bent is that, medical when operating in a reasonably (lightly) regulated environment where externalities are properly assessed, human enhancement free enterprise generally provides for a more positive outcome than government intervention would do. That being said:
What did AC get wrong? Wal-Mart are definitely bad guys. They have done very little good, and most of the good they did do was way back in the mists of time when Sam Walton was pretty new to the job. Since being an early (good) competitor in some areas that badly needed a kick in the pants, they’ve devolved into a lean mean destroying machine – wiping out small town after small town after small town. (On my summer trip up to the UP of Michigan, a shiny new Wal-Mart was in the process of decimating a pretty nice old downtown – yes, they’ve still got places they haven’t killed yet). You can make money and be a bad guy – the market often isn’t the perfect frictionless machine that libertarian ideologues believe it is.
They’re bad because they build suburban crap even in the middle of urban areas. No, making the store 2 stories with a parking garage isn’t urban. Building to the street, not to your parking lot, is what makes a store urban. Unfortunately, many people on the other side of this argument have a similar misunderstanding of the issue. Target gets it, but unfortunately, appear to not have been interested in this location. (Not that I blame them; the added expense of a truly urban store isn’t justified by the surrounding low-density residential; they’d never make their money back). Costco is nicer to their workers and sells better quality stuff, but they’ve never expressed any interest in changing from their own awful suburban store format.
Wal-Mart is bad because they’ve used their size in an adversarial (monopsonial) relationship with their suppliers that has bankrupted some and seriously hurt many — companies which were providing at least medium-quality goods have either been destroyed or been forcibly shifted into selling junk because of what Wal-Mart did. (And don’t tell me they chose to sell to Wal-Mart; in vast parts of the country that’s not a ‘choice’).
Wal-Mart is bad because they’ve used their size to eliminate competitors who were providing necessary goods and services, but doing it in a way which required substantially less public investment (an old downtown area doesn’t cost the town in question much if anything; but the new one-story strip with huge parking lot on the edge of town costs them a bundle). They’re also pretty crappy to their workers, but I don’t necessarily buy the workers’ welfare arguments in rural areas, since the small-town employers weren’t paying for good heath insurance either, but there are certainly parts of the country where they can lead such a race to the bottom. But these poor areas have to pay for a lot of road upgrades, police patrols, and utility costs which would not be necessary if the downtown stores had won out. Wal-Mart doesn’t contribute jack-squat to make up for these public costs.
So why am I not afraid of them doing the same in Austin?
Unlike Microsoft, the area in which Wal-Mart enjoys monopoly profits (rural retailing) is merely garden-variety lucrative, not Scrooge-McDuckesque-roll-in-the-money-while-wearing-a-monocle insanely lucrative. There aren’t enough excess profits there to provide enough money to destroy Target and Costco (both Significantly Less Evil) in suburban and urban areas. Believe me; if there was, they’d have done it by now.
So here, at least, Wal-Mart must compete on its own merits – not like how Microsoft destroyed OS/2 and Netscape, but more like how Apple ended up as the primary name in MP3 players. They might still successfully win the urban retail market, but they’re going to have to do it the right way.
So, it’s worthwhile to despise what Wal-Mart does. It’s good to point out that they’re doing bad things. But don’t be afraid that they can do the same thing in an area Austin’s size that they’ve done to little 5,000 person towns, because they won’t. Not because they wouldn’t if they could, but because they simply don’t have the excess money it would take.
All we’ll do if we successfully keep Wal-Mart out of this location is forego a bunch of tax dollars for the benefit of a bunch of badly-behaved neighborhoods which have, I think, already been pandered to enough for one lifetime. Nobody better wants to move in, and the neighbors are being disingenuous by claiming now to have gotten the New Urbanist religion. Even if they had, though, this isn’t a very good site for urban infill – it’s still too far away from the parts of town people want to live close to.
So remember: Wal-Mart is bad. But that doesn’t make keeping them out of this empty mall the best thing for Austin.

Brewster McCracken posted a response (seemingly authentic) to this austinist thread, diet attempting to rebut many of my points about Northcross and Wal-Mart. Here’s what I said in response.

Brewster, viagra
Obviously I disagree with much of what you posted. I’ll just pick the one I know the most about, though; this peculiar idea that it’s better to put large retail destinations on “highways” rather than at the intersection of two city arterial roadways, next to a major transit center. Only in Texas (where frontage roads are viewed as the normal state of affairs rather than an occasional last-ditch tool to provide access when all else fails) would we even be having this conversation; note that the new Wal-Mart in Atlanta being compared to this one is _NOT_, I repeat, _NOT_ “on the highway”.
I refer readers again to my (artlessly drawn but hopefully at least readable) diagram linked to if you click on “M1EK” at the end of this posting. It’s simply impossible to deliver high-quality transit service on highway frontage roads — but it’s very easy to do so on arterial roadways. All you need to do is take a look at those #3 buses going up and down Burnet Road vs. the #383 buses going up and down Research Blvd. if you don’t believe me – both are operating in relatively the same density development; but one is a success and one is a failure.
Frontage roads also destroy the ability to travel by foot (for nearby pedestrians) and severely hamper travel by bicycle; but in this case, transit is probably the most important mode to worry about. Remember, though, that when dealing with frontage road development, we also have to somehow convince TXDOT to build sidewalks along the frontage road in the best-case scenario (and, of course, they’ve designed some ‘highways’ in ways that make even the provision of such sidewalks by the City of Austin impossible – US 183 near Braker Lane, for instance; in this photo-essay: http://www.io.com/~mdahmus/183sidewalks/183sidewalks.html
Pushing all our big boxes (and other employers/destinations) to frontage roads simply means the people travelling there can’t do so by any means other than the private automobile. This doesn’t hurt high-tech office workers on US 183 as much as it does the potential employees of Wal-Mart, of course.
As for the remaining points – I’m happy the neighborhoods have learned to not make the strategic error that NUNA did vis-a-vis The Villas On Guadalupe. That’s a far cry from evidence that they now support urban mixed-use development “like the Triangle”. A Triangle-style development, expanded to cover the footprint of Northcross Mall, would be bringing in not only roughly the same amount of retail as this proposal, but thousands of units of multi-family; and the nearby neighborhoods have opposed previous efforts to increase multi-family in the area quite recently (hotel conversion at south edge of property).
Regards,
Mike Dahmus (M1EK’s Bake-Sale of Bile)
Urban Transportation Commission 2001-2005

Austin Contrarian makes a good point about student rentals which further supports the contention that it’s better for surrounding neighbors if students rent individually rather than sharing a big house. My argument (re-expressed through comment to his post) was based on landlord’s disincentive to penalize tenants in a big house versus in a fourplex or apartment/condo building; his adds a point I’ve not discussed before – the “party house” factor.

Yes, check all college towns have students sharing houses, website like this but we’ve got a lot more than you would expect, order given the size of our city, health of our central-city residential economy, etc. We have so many (disproportionate for a ‘college in healthy big city’) bad student rental houses because people like my neighborhood association fought true multi-family development even on Guadalupe for decades – meaning that students who want to live near campus get artificially incented to live together in houses. Many of the students sharing these houses, in other words, would have been just as happy (or more so) in an apartment – where you can count on more amenities and less hassle – but have been forced to choose between jamming into a house or moving to Far West or Riverside.

I’ve addressed this before:

The McMansion ordinance further exacerbates the problem. The “highest use” for small single-family houses in my area particularly has now shifted much farther towards student rental and much farther away from “sell to a family that wants to live central” since the expandability of these properties has taken a drastic hit. The too-little too-late West Campus upzoning isn’t going to help now that we’ve thrown another obstacle in the way of families wealthy enough to buy entry on a small lot property but not wealthy enough to live on the bigger lots that the Karen McGraws and Mary Gay Maxwells can afford (or were able to buy back when they were merely expensive, not astronomical). In other words, despite what you heard about the ordinance protecting families, actual central Austin owner-occupant families like me and my neighbor are just getting screwing out of a future in Central Austin – when my neighbor goes, and he’s currently looking, he’ll be renting to students).