M1EK in comments: Why waste your time giving input?

Really sorry I don’t have more time to spend on this blog – day job; family; etc. But this comment needed to be saved somewhere other than CM’s blog so I could point to it. I’ve been meaning to write a long post on “staying friends versus getting something done”, public health anemia but this will have to suffice for now.
Commented to this post:

SR, capsule it’s really simple: Mike Krusee was willing to fight for his interests (kill light rail, visit this site allow commuter rail), and our city council members were not (nor was anybody else in Austin, except yours truly, as evidenced by this sad bit of history).
Talking, having charettes, staying connected, keeping in contact, maintaining relationships, giving input – none of this matters if the guy on the other side is willing to exercise his power to get what he wants and you aren’t. (This, by the way, is why I don’t bother showing up and giving ‘input’ at things like the 2020 service plan meetings – despite nice invitations and hurt feelings when not taken up on; I’m better off with speaking to hundreds of readers and having a 1% chance of slightly modifying the opinion of somebody with real power than I am giving my one input and having it roundly ignored).

In reality, the message really isn’t “don’t waste your time by giving input”, but rather, it’s make sure you’re giving your input to people who are willing to listen and are willing to exercise their power to help get what you want. An awful lot of people in the political ecosphere are very, very, very skilled at using the input-gathering process to defuse opposition to things they’ve already decided they’re going to do. Don’t allow yourself to be effectively neutered in this fashion – make sure you’re only spending your time with people who aren’t just listening politely to keep you from talking to somebody else about it.

Capital Metro’s Service 2020 plan: Stupid, Stupid, Stupid

I only have five minutes, but am officially out of time to crackplog this, so here goes.

Three special areas of stupidity in the Capital Metro 2020 plan:

Luckily for me, two others already hit two of my three major points. (No, Wells, it wasn’t due to secret meetings of the echo chamber; note Shilli wasn’t even involved).

1. Covered by Austin Contrarian: Moving major (i.e. the #1) bus routes off Congress, which is walkable and dense, to Guadalupe/Lavaca, which are infested with low density garbage for blocks in certain parts and farther away from the core of downtown, is stupid. Yes, the buses will move quicker. No, this isn’t better; the reason the buses will move quicker is that they will be far away from the places people actually want to go downtown. (No, the residential density developing west of Congress isn’t relevant here; every one possible reverse transmit commuter from one of those condo buildings is matched by a hundred or more existing work commuters trying to get to an office building – and the office building center of mass is on Congress).

2. Covered by a commenter on Capital MetroBlog; moving certain local routes like the #5 off the Drag is stupid. Most people going to UT are closer to Guadalupe than San Jacinto; this seems like a poorly justified way to pretend like Guadalupe isn’t where the action is, to forestall complaints by people like yours truly when the Red Line finally opens.
“Robert”‘s comment:

This would be a disaster. Quite a lot of the #5’s ridership–myself included–consists of UT students and staff who are destined for the engineering complex, the communications buildings, the west mall, or the six-pack–all very dense clusters on campus. The proposed changes would drop them off a good deal farther away from their destination, and at the bottom of a hill–not at all pedestrian-friendly. This seems, like the proposed switch from Congress to Guadalupe/Lavaca downtown–to be the general principle: move the bus routes away from the places people need to go, and into areas that are less congested. That is not a plan for increased ridership.

(pre-emptive comeback to inevitable complant from CM insiders: Guadalupe near UT is the best place for UT trips. Guadalupe near downtown is NOT the best place for downtown trips).

3. Covered by nobody else, so it falls to me: Eliminating West Austin routes like the #21/#22 (which my stepson uses) is stupid. Yes, I said eliminate; if you believe that the proposed ‘flexible’ service being provided in its place will (a) work and (b) last, you’re more credulous than Capital Metro deserves at this point in history.
Look, ridership on some of those routes out west IS low. But here’s a little hint: Capital Metro isn’t at risk for having their sales tax cut because too few people ride the bus in Tarrytown; they’re at risk for having their sales tax cut if enough people listen to that Neanderthal pantload Jim Skaggs and VOTE to cut their sales tax. Guess what? Voter turnout in the parts of town served by the #21/#22 is extraordinarily high. Guess what tends to happen to voter support for transit in areas with no visible transit service when you have elections on sustaining taxes to support transit service?

To say nothing of the PR impact of removing one of the primary ways transfer students from less affluent neighborhoods get to schools like O Henry and Austin High (yes, my stepson is among them; but there’s kids a lot poorer on the same buses doing the same thing). No, the flexible service, even if it lasts, won’t be any help here; nor will service being proposed to replace UT shuttles. And this may even impact students from the west who want to, say, go to the Kealing magnet school.

I’ve said for years that I give Capital Metro credit for doing the best job possible in the political environment in which they operate at the job of running a city bus service through a built environment that doesn’t naturally sustain much choice commuter interest. I’ve spent a lot of time on the internets defending them against charges of “empty buses” and the like.

But you know what? If CM is stupid enough to commit this kind of suicide, after screwing the city of Austin for a generation on the rail front? I’m not so sure I’m in their corner any more – even on the city bus issue.


Rapid Bus ain’t BRT

Short and not-so-sweet; still no time for this.
Those who didn’t think it was a big deal when the ANC crowd were appointed en-masse to several critical boards and commissions should be ashamed of themselves.
Go to this video. If it doesn’t advance automatically, health care no rx go to C11.
What’s here? Well, it’s just ANC guys Bryan King and Jeff Jack pressuring a property owner on a downtown block to tear down a deck so he can add more off-street parking. Note that not a single time in this entire conversation does anybody, to be fair, including the applicant, even mention the fact that some people patronizing this small business or living in the apartment might not drive every single trip. Only once does anybody bring up the fact that ample on-street parking exists (of course, gasp!, people would have to pay!)
This is downtown, people. This isn’t the suburbs. For those who think the government influence on development is mainly to force density, this ought to be (but probably isn’t) a wake-up call: the primary influence of the government is to force car-dependent development patterns to continue even downtown.
And those who think the ANC crowd and their patron Laura Morrison are going to leave downtown alone and just focus on keeping the neighborhoods suburban should think again, too. Nowhere is safe from these people; right before this video I watched the Planning Commission fail to come to a recommendation on a hotel at 5th/Colorado because the ANC contingent wanted to force another couple hundred grand in concessions for affordable housing (used as a convenient crutch in this case; none of those people actually have any interest in affordable housing or they’d support more multi-family development in their neighborhoods).
Sickening. You were warned; but most of you didn’t listen.

Recording this email for posterity, stomach since I firmly believe this kind of discussion should be in the public eye – so it’s possible for others to see whether the input was acted on or just ignored (as is commonly the case).

This is expanded feedback from the forum – as you may know I was on the UTC for 5 years and used to be a serious bicycle commuter and still maintain a healthy interest, and I live about 500 feet from the intersection in question.
First issue is the fact that the bike lanes ‘downstream’ of the intersection were recently restriped all the way back to the intersection. This removes much of the supposed reason for bike boxes (in the old design where the bike lanes didn’t start for 100 feet or so past the intersection, the bike boxes would have allowed cyclists to be at the front of through traffic so they could get ‘up and over’ rather than having to wait behind motorists – now there is literally no reason to even get in the bike box.
The second problem is one of signage and paint – without a “Stop HERE on Red” sign, motorists don’t typically stop that far back from the intersection – even when white lines exist on the pavement. Coloring the bike box would help but would, I think, not be sufficient.
Please forward my email to the CTR people and invite them to contact me if they would like. I’d be very happy to share continued observations as I go through this intersection an average of 2 times per day, usually in the rush hours.
Regards, Mike Dahmus

Extracted from a comments thread on facebook; name omitted to protect privacy in case they mind.

we can always count on our buddy Mike to leave no dead horse unbeaten! Certainly Urban Rail will be great (if we do it right) and we all need to support it, approved but calling the redline ‘useless’ is a bit much. Perhaps useless to you, Mike, but so are dozens of bus routes (and roads for that matter) you will never use – that doesn’t make them useless to the folks who do (and will) use them.

And my response:

(done with the old rail timetables, not the new presumably slower ones which aren’t up yet).
The Red Line is ‘useless’ because for most people, it will be a slower commute than the existing express bus service. We spent a lot of capital dollars, in other words, to get lower quality service than what we already had. (And operating costs are likely to be close to express bus with the shuttle-bus costs added in).
And it is most definitely not a dead horse – because your agency continues to seek to spend additional scarce rail dollars on the Red Line (repeating Tri-Rail’s mistake of trying to polish a you-know-what instead of building something more useful somewhere else) and on other similarly useless commuter rail lines – meaning those dollars obviously can’t be spent on the CoA project.

So tell me, readers, is the argument of the CM guy compelling at all? Before the rebuttal? After? I really mean what I say here – the horse isn’t dead, because it keeps getting fed. Those rail dollars (federal and local) could in fact be saved for the City of Austin’s urban rail program – but once they’re spent on commuter rail they’re gone for good, and we aren’t exactly swimming in other money to make up the difference. We need to stop further ‘investments’ in commuter rail, in other words, if the urban rail line is to have a decent shot at getting built in our lifetimes.

Check out me on KUT yesterday about the intersection problems along Airport and notice that I’m not alone in failing to buy Capital Metro’s BS about it just being a simple education problem. Good job, diagnosis Mose, angina getting some key points across from a variety of interviewees.
While searching for something else, I stumbled on this old Chronicle article with this money quote, which backs up what I was saying for a long time about the failure of Capital Metro to seek federal funds despite it being promised in the run-up to the 2004 commuter rail election:

Continue reading “Rapid Bus ain’t BRT”