Density and transit service, in pictures

In 2011, this bus stop had buses stopping every 10-15 minutes during peak times; it was the highest ridership route in the system by far. Click through for streetview source so you can verify.



By 2011, this tract had been rezoned VMU (Vertical Mixed-Use).

By 2013, construction was actually underway.

In 2014, service to this stop was slashed to once every 30 minutes at peak.

This is what this stop looks like today, in 2018, when it still only sees a bus once every 30 minutes at peak:



Should you trust that Capital Metro will respond to land use changes with better transit service?

On Halloween 2018, this VMU development still sees bus service once every half an hour during peak times. The closest frequent service is at the Triangle and the other side of 2222; both outside the normal 1/4 mile walkshed appropriate for bus service. There are some medium-term plans to finally add a stop which keep getting delayed. But it’s now been five years since this complex was built; and more like ten years since it was rezoned to a more transit-supportive land use. During all that time, everybody that moved into this complex didn’t get useful bus service. Decisions were made by thousands of individuals relating to car purchases; decisions were made by the apartment management about how to market themselves; based on the fact that by 2014 they knew they’d have a bus once every half an hour. Those decisions have long-term impact that will last well beyond the date when the new ‘station’ finally arrives.

Again, should you trust that Capital Metro will respond to land use changes with better transit service? In 2011, they provided frequent service to a stop at a strip mall. When the city did their land use job and put a bunch of residents directly on top of a bus stop on a well-used route, Capital Metro cut their transit service to nearly useless levels and left it that way for five years and counting.

Don’t forget this. AURA will try to tell you it’s all about land use. Show them this example and get them to explain how it applies.

On Proposition A

Dealing with a work fire but this comment from Austin’s only good urbanist group deserved something more visible/accessible….


The housing bond is dumb when it doesn’t focus primarily on new supply.

In a city with 10 houses and 15 people that need houses, we start with 10 people in houses and 5 people homeless; and the 10 people with houses are the ones that had more money than the 5 homeless people.

Taking 2 of the houses off the market and reserving them for the 2 poorest people just makes people 6 and 7 suddenly homeless. It doesn’t house any new people; it actually spends money and we still end up with 10 people in houses and 5 people homeless. We are actually worse off overall, not better, and the people the most worse off are the poorest people who were able to afford housing before.

New supply doesn’t mean “build income-restricted apartments on a tract that was already zoned MF that the market would have gotten to soon anyways”. It doesn’t mean “take an existing apartment complex that has low rents and is in danger of being redeveloped off the market”. Neither one of those actually adds supply.

When the mayor cravenly surrendered on CodeNEXT, he made it even more clear that Proposition A would arguably make things worse. If your goal is to increase a regressive tax to pay to take the poorest N people currently served by the market and replace them with a different N of poorer people, then Proposition A is worth your support.

Cap Remap is a disaster

Let’s recap:

AURA, run by grifters and con-artists, bought in heavily to the grid redesign fairy dust theory. It didn’t hurt that their 2 chief transit gurus live on the northern part of the 5 route and hated the jog through Hyde Park and NUNA (that was responsible for a lot of riders, but not the 2 most important ones, obviously).

First few months look good. Single digit fixed ridership increases. Huge increases in rapid (but this is comparing to a year ago when frequency wasn’t good, especially weekend).

Now we’ve got our first comparison that matters: Sep 18 to Sep 17. UT is back in session; AISD kids are back in school and not able to joyride even though they’re still being offered free rides.

Guess what?

Fixed-route1 ridership is significantly down – even though one would expect the impact of Cap Remap in a flat ridership scenario to show more rides, because the redesign forces more people to take 2 rides instead of 1 to get to their destination.

september ridership table
image thanks to Caleb Pritchard


image of a portion of the tweetdeck complaints
I retweet a bunch every morning

And my “capmetroatx” column in tweetdeck suddenly became full of complaints about UT students being miserable for not having the RR and the 5 (both the 10 and the IF are now full to overcrowding, leaving many people at stops, and they’re pissed about it, in addition to the normal “where’s my supposedly frequent bus” complaint you’ll see represented to the right). This volume of complaints is huge compared to what I saw in spring of 18.


And a friend of the crackplog forwarded me this image showing how well one of the new frequent cross-town routes is doing:

Man, if only somebody had told Cap Metro ahead of time that this was a dumb idea.

Oh, wait! somebody did!

So we have at the very least some very convincing circumstantial evidence that the lower ridership probably isn’t due to weather2; it’s probably due to the fact that they took some buses away from places that were using them very well (the 5 through HP and NUNA; the RR); and put them on routes where they are not being used very well (i.e. the 335).
I’ll fill in this post with more details later. But suffice to say – the Pollyannas were wrong again; not that they’ll ever learn.


  1. normal buses, basically; remember that the Rapid changes weren’t part of the Remap – they preceded it 

  2. as is always Cap Metro’s bullshit excuse 

Why no endorsements, M1EK?

For those curious, I’m holding off on endorsing city council district 9 or mayor until one of them moves off of the “be credulous towards Capital Metro’s recent Project Connect hijacking” plan. Laura Morrison is actually the closest in receiving an endorsement under said criteria, by the way. Yes, I’m totally serious. She would need to go a little further, but she’s the only one who moved in the right direction.

I believe we cannot currently trust Capital Metro to serve better land use with better transit (since they still refuse to fix the 2014 error with rapid bus that drastically cut transit service to our city’s most transit-supportive land uses). Building light rail on Guadalamar is a no-brainer and would support existing transit-supportive land uses while easily drawing in tens of thousands of currently marginal non-riders and providing a long-term signal to support incremental improvements to land use in the future. It definitely would have more of an effect on transit sustainability (and hence climate change) than would loosening land use and then having Cap Metro bumble around with horrible stupid unforced errors like rapid bus and Cap Remap.

I believe that the mayor’s craven surrender on CodeNEXT meant we will end up with Laura Morrison’s preferred land use plan anyways, except the mayor ensured that $9M was wasted on consultants. I’d have preferred to spend that $9M on libraries and pools. If we re-elect Mayor Adler and he tries again on CodeNEXT, he has shown that he will not fight hard for whatever it is that he believes in; so we’re pretty much back where we started.

I believe that Cap Metro’s recent shift towards ART in Project Connect is the same sort of dishonest bullshit they pulled on us in 2013-2014; and must not be rewarded with credulous support. Tovo, Skidmore, and Adler are in that bucket right now. Morrison at least has expressed a little skepticism but has not come out strongly against the change of direction yet.

That’s why you haven’t seen any endorsements from me yet (and maybe not at all). But the above should make it clear what it’ll take.

Hello Bikeness My Old Friend: Part III, Or Getting Your Money’s Worth From Google Maps

(Overview Post Here)

In the last installment we ended up on Polyanna Avenue, where certain urbanists always live despite constantly being wrong.

The pictures in this post come from the commute home on Wednesday October 8th (and I went back and filled some images in the first section as well, taken on this same day).

Now for the next bit. Heading from north to south; you basically need to get from Walnut Creek across Braker Lane and your endpoint should be Georgian at Rundberg (Georgian, give or take, is the start of the long bike route that turns into the two lane part of Guadalupe).

Here’s what Google recommends as the route for the whole section.

Route map from Walnut Creek to Georgian/Rundberg, original Google version
Looks chill. Wonder if it works.

The northern part of this route matches Google’s recommendations. Whitewing is a nice slow uphill with plenty of shade and interesting houses to look at. Must have been a nice place at some point before the I-35 noise got to where it is now. Then, you end up having to take a sharp left, pedal a short deathly uphill (I’m a wimp for hills), to get to the final bit of Polyanna that takes you to Braker. Here’s some shots along the way…

View of conditions on Whitewing Ave
Typical view on Whitewing
Looking back north on Whitewing
Looking back north on Whitewing
View of hill up Thrush
Short sharp hill up Thrush. M1EK hate hills.

Crossing Braker is not a joyful experience. You need to get to the other side and start on Middle Fiskville Road, which is 100 feet or so west of the I-35 frontage road. You have two options here; either go to the frontage road and cross there (if you decide to cross there, do it as a pedestrian and then you have to do some sidewalk riding to get back west), or wait for a break in traffic and cut across to the median opening, then wait until the rush hour traffic completely stops and wind through the cars to the bike lane and use it for about 50 feet east. This actually worked out better than the frontage road option as it didn’t require any sidewalk riding but YMMV. Without the rush hour stoppage of the cars I think the pedestrian option is better.

Southbound Pollyana looking at Braker
Lovely view approaching Braker on Pollyana

Then you get a brief fast run down Middle Fiskville Road, parallel and close to I-35. Wave at me as you drive. This is OK except on most days you’re gonna lose most of your velocity to a headwind and have to go to granny gear to finish the uphill (again I’m a baby on hills). Right turn on Grady Dr, left turn on Brownie Dr, usually cars in the way that prevent an easy transition here.

View of Middle Fiskville Road southbound approaching Grady
Middle Fiskville near end of uphill (facing southbound, nearing Grady)
Middle Fiskville looking back (northbound) towards Braker
Middle Fiskville looking back (northbound) towards Braker

Brownie is a downhill through areas that are the ANC’s stereotypical density nightmare (car-dependent fourplexes that have gone to pot). Still better than riding up north though. Frustratingly, you lose the ability to coast on a downhill due to a dumbass 4-way stop (this happens a lot more later). No pictures here.

Then, Google fails you. The recommended route has you going through “Brownie Neighborhood Park” which doesn’t really exist. Instead there’s a road which heads to a closed and locked gate for the charter school that took over the old Showplace Lanes bowling alley. No way through here; backtrack and ask how much you paid for these directions.

annotated google map showing closed section of road
thanks, obama
View down the actually closed road that Google recommended
Don’t believe the directions here. This is a dead-end unless you are going to pick up a kid at the charter school! And the gate was closed/locked both times so I have no idea what times it’s actually open.

Instead, you have to continue and turn on Oriole, and I was prepared to run THIS route based on pre-exploring the route in my company car previously:

Second google desktop recs
Second google rec has you going down N Creek Dr and then Rundberg. But the mobile directions on the bike take you on route 370. Weird.

Oddly enough, when on the bike, you instead get recommended Route 370 in the city bike network, which requires a short stub of sidewalk + grass into Walnut Creek Elementary. (I have no idea why the desktop directions don’t let you do this; I’ve helpfully drawn the difference; but I will eventually try the Google route as honestly the Rundberg traffic heading west in the afternoon isn’t too bad to scare me away from a right turn and a quick move to the left turn lane, just haven’t tried it yet).

Annotated map of actual final route I took through Walnut Creek Elementary
Why, google desktop, won’t you let me do what I want here?

The elementary school is likely locked up most of the school day, so this is not an option unless you are going home about when I did both times so far (about 4:45 by this point). Short section where you are like “thanks for routing me in the mud and grass and hope I didn’t take a road bike, google and the City of Austin bike route map”, and then you end up on the road that turns into Georgian. Aaaah.

view down dead-end street leading to elementary school
Bike route 370 takes you through what sure looks like a dead-end…
sidewalk for route 370
Nothing says “bike route” like being forced onto a narrow sidewalk…
looking back at sharp sidewalk turn on 370
Nice sharp turn you have to navigate to get on this, errr, bike route
dirt path at Walnut Creek elementary
Hope you weren’t riding a road bike today!
Gates at Georgian entrance to Walnut Creek Elementary
Probably not a great general-purpose bike route if they lock these gates during the day…

Last sections later this week.

Hello Bikeness My Old Friend: Part 1 of the commute home: Our Fifth Second Downtown Really Sucks!

(Overview Post here).

Note: There really is a group pushing “Parmer!” as our seventh third downtown or some shit.

Anyways, here’s the first part of the trip1

image of first third of map

First few parts of this route are standard Suburban Hellscape. Exit huge parking lot, turn onto road with 60 mph design speed (but at least a relatively OK right lane). Wait on left edge of right lane at very long light at Parmer while beckoning scared suburbanites to turn right on red past you. Continue across on briefly civilized BUT STILL HOT AND WINDY 4-then-2 lane road past a long-abandoned subsidized housing project (not seen in StreetView but trust me it looks like The Walking Dead), then turn on the two oddly disconnected bike lanes2, and then OOPS I-35 WHAT THE HELL DO WE DO NOW?

yager looking westbound across II-35
atsa lot of concrete

Short explainer: Yes, you have to go on I-35 here. The other ‘options’ are: Go north to Parmer and then navigate the I-35 and Lamar intersections and then ride all the way to like Metric, and then go down Metric a long ways. This portion of Parmer is ugly and hugely congested and will kill you (and the portion of Parmer east of I-35 is even worse than those pictures above).

Or, you can take Yager to the dead-end at Lamar, then ride in the (not wide) right lane south past Walnut Creek, and then up a hill where you’ll be going 2 mph while cars pass you at 60. Again, no shoulder. No sidewalk. No nothing. Just likely death, even by my standards.

North map with skull indicators on Parmer and Lamar
avoid the skulls if you want to live

(Alternative exists which sort of combines those two – go on Lamar for a shorter time, then cut through Walnut Creek Park to eventually get to Metric. I’ll do this some day just to see what it’s like but I suspect it adds about 30 minutes to the trip).

Now I have a history of being up for almost anything to avoid riding on a sidewalk. Hell, I rode a portion of the 183 frontage road to work and another portion home from work on various commutes for years. But this portion of I-35 is what finally broke me. The recommendation above from El Googs aside, I rode the sidewalk from the corner of Tech Ridge/Yager to a parking lot I could bail through, and then again for a short stretch, only to go out of my way on Park-35 Circle, then again on the sidewalk to cross Walnut Creek, and then, THEN, FINALLY, off the frontage and into an oddly disconnected but sort of nice neighborhood. So basically those stretches above that show the route on the I-35 frontage are about 1/2 parking lot (most of the first bit) and 1/2 sidewalk (all of the part after Park-35 circle and a little bit before it).

All of that done against a sticky sweaty headwind (at least the 2nd day).

If this was the beginning of YOUR bike commute and you didn’t have a history of being aggressively stubborn, you’d probably have quit. But then you hit the corner of Wren and the next street and you get the feeling that things can only go up from here…

Polyanna Avenue
gonna use this image fourteen more times this month I bet

This part of the trip is about 1/4 of the miles and about 90% of the stress of the entire commute. Next up: Getting from the bad stuff to the good stuff, with a couple of hiccups.

Here’s some images, taken later on October 10th (on the 3rd trip home in which I took pictures for both the 1st and 2nd portions of this route):

bike rack
bike rack sitch h/t to caleb
phone on bike
son’s bike has a rig for a phone which is good because this route was friggin’ complicated
ugly abandoned buildings
scenic abandoned (purportedly subsidized/income restricted) housing complex along McCallen Pass
TCEQ entrance
know how you can tell the TCEQ is a joke? I dunno, maybe the fact that it’s located on I-35 in a part you have to access via SIDEWALK…
mangled guardrail at sidewalk over Walnut Creek
wondering how bad things have to be for M1EK to take the sidewalk? wonder no more

  1. I’ve dragged the route to modify to closer to what I actually did; the recommended route from Google is slightly worse than this, even, if you can imagine, but is slightly less wiggly 

  2. useless because they don’t go to anything but the I-35 frontage road; remember that Yager dead-ends at Lamar which doesn’t even have a shoulder OR a sidewalk 

Hello Bikeness My Old Friend Part II: Overview

Day 2 is in the bag. I’ll still have to explain later why I’m doing this and why now and whatnot. But the 2nd day of riding is in the books. This will serve as an overview and intro, and yes, I’m aware how self-indulgent this sounds even for me. But then I remember that I still get an email once a year or so about directions I wrote for a bike commute to IBM twenty years ago and I resolve to power through. Some images added on a later commute (October 8th).

Plus, we’re doomed on transit, because AURA are evil lying asshole idiots. So biking is now our only hope.

I work at a horrible suburban cube factory on McCallen Pass north of Parmer and east of I-35. Basically, a mile east of I-35 and a mile north of Parmer, give or take. This is, spoiler alert, not a great place to start.

The trip up to the office is pretty easy though. Go out to Guadalupe and pick up the frequent 1 which comes every 10 minutes go a few blocks further south to the frequent 801 and ride it all the way to directly in front of my office a horrible suburban park-and-ride one mile from my office. Since my horrible suburban cube factory doesn’t have showers, in the morning I must do this so as to not destroy my image of being a respectable manager with my cow orkers. Pause for laughter.

The morning trip is easy. Takes a lot longer than driving the company car, but I can fart around on the phone. No big whoop.

Here’s what the trip all the way home in the afternoon looks like (this is, give or take, the route). I actually had to have the map up both times1 so far because there’s a hell of a lot of non-obvious squiggling back and forth north of Rundberg… Also note that alternates include going WAY THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY to my old friend Shoal Creek Boulevard, amazingly.

overview from Google Maps

Spoiler alert: On my first day riding this trip it took me 75 minutes, and that was with a tailwind. Today it took about 68 minutes with a gross headwind, so I guess I’m quickly improving or possibly failing to count correctly. This is the longest ride I have done since 2006 or so.

This commute has one huge problem and then some unattractive parts after that. The huge problem is getting across I-35 and Walnut Creek. The hike and bike trail promised in about 1749 for Walnut Creek is still just a dotted line in this part of town, so no help there. The parallel routes to I-35 are, uh, problematic. North Lamar is a horrible stroad with no shoulders or sidewalks. The closest long-running parallel on the east side is Dessau, which is even worse, and too far out of the way. So the first third of this commute is where the exciting parts are, and in my next post I’ll zoom into that section identified in the inset below as “the part where you wish you had given up”. Notice the alternates above basically require one to go up to Parmer, which is not a fun prospect in this part of town (I did ride Parmer from Mopac out past 620 in a prior life but never from Mopac to I-35 for damn good reason).

Here’s the overview again, this time annotated in a way that today’s youth will understand and doubtlessly flock to blogging in response to how tuned in your author is to their ways.

Drake memes for idiot teens
Drake says no to Parmer

Anyways, tomorrow we zoom in on the horribad first third. But then, THEN:

Then you hit this intersection and you get an overwhelming sense that everything is going to be OK. (picture from first day).

Polyanna Avenue
AURA membership meeting location

Also, this is what I looked like while typing this post on my porch at 3:30 Friday afternoon. Try to restrain yourselves, it’s important.

sweaty old man on porch


  1. on my son’s bike, which I am still using, he has a little phone holder doodad which I paid for and now feel like a genius for suggesting 

Yesterday’s robot bus reveal

should have been no surprise. If you follow me on twitter, and why wouldn’t you,1 you’ve been hearing about this ever since my meeting with Clarke at the end of May. If you missed the news, try Caleb’s run-down.

The angle nobody is covering so far is that while a bond election is probably required to pay for the infrastructure bills involved, no technical “rail referendum” is necessary. So Cap Metro buys themselves a lot of wiggle room here – asking the city to hold a bond election in a low turnout time if they choose to, for instance.

As for the rest of it: it’s over. AURA, FAN, #atxrail – they were all warned; and they all stayed silent in a stupid naive attempt to fix things with the back-channel communications that never meant anything, and as a result, we’re never getting light rail in Austin.

Today’s “worst person in Austin” award goes to Randy Clarke, who is just a more effective liar than the old leadership. Nobody in the community asked for robot buses as a fig leaf for BRT, but that’s what he’s claiming the community wants and needs. That’s enough for ten awards, but one will have to suffice. But honorable mention “worst person in Austin” awards go to the credulous nitwits in those groups above, who were all warned back when there was time to make enough fuss to possibly change this2, and chose yet again to disregard my warnings.

It’s too late now. You were warned.


  1. did you not notice I hardly ever blog? 

  2. before the political class got behind it; i.e. before Watson and the city council were firmly on board 

FTA issues report on Austin Metro Rapid

Thanks to Lyndon Henry for finding and posting the link to the PDF.

Some important quotes:

In the Route 801 corridor, the primary impacts of the BRT project were to (1) replace an existing
limited stop service – Route 101 – with limited-stop service upgraded to BRT standards and new
evening service hours, (2) reduce the frequency of the existing local service – Route 1 – by half,
and (3) add a feeder route at each of the two new terminal stations to provide connections to
Route 801 from a wider area.

[…]

In summary, the BRT project had impacts on transit service that were very different between the
two corridors in two important ways:
• BRT MetroRapid Route 801 was essentially a modest upgrade of an existing limited-stop
route; in contrast, MetroRapid Route 803 introduced a BRT-standard limited-stop service
into a corridor where no limited-stop service had existed; and
• Service frequencies on the principal local route in the Route 801 corridor were
significantly lower – half their former levels – after project opening; in contrast, service
frequencies on the principal local route in the Route 803 corridor were only moderately
lower after project opening.

[…]

In 2016, two years after project opening, ridership on MetroRapid Route 801 was 5,800
boardings per average weekday. Ridership on the reduced-frequency local Route 1 was 5,700
for a total of 11,500 boardings on the principal services in the North Lamar/South Congress
corridor. Feeder Routes 201 and 275 added a total of 1,700 weekday boardings in the corridor,
some of which were transfers to/from Routes 801 and 1. The combined ridership on all four
corridor routes was 2,400 fewer weekday boardings than the combined ridership of 15,600
weekday boardings on corridor routes before project opening. This ridership loss is attributable
to three factors:
• The significantly reduced frequency – by half – of the Route 1 local service which meant
that riders who found the new MetroRapid stop locations to be inconvenient for their trips
faced longer wait times for Route 1 buses at local stops;
• The presence of limited-stop service on Route 101 before the introduction of MetroRapid
which meant that MetroRapid was only a modest improvement over existing service; and
• The higher fare for MetroRapid service compared to the fare charged on all other services
both before and after the introduction of the MetroRapid routes.
The result was that MetroRapid attracted only a modest number of new transit riders to the
corridor while the reduced local service caused a somewhat larger number of existing riders to
abandon transit in the North Lamar/South Congress corridor.

tldr version: The 801 changes caused ridership to DROP in this corridor. The FTA concluded so based on Capital Metro’s own numbers. It’s time for the water-carriers like “Novacek” to abandon their attempts to spin the unspinnable.

And it was easily foreseeable as I pointed out in this post from 2014…