I Hate The New Facebook So Much HATE HATE HATE

So since they’ve switched it to being twitter, i.e. “ten year old girls high on methamphetamines supplied with a bunch of megaphones”, I thought the one thing I could make use of was the ability to share some pithy stupid quote from IM.
Guess again. Apparently the stuff below is just too verbose for the New Brevity. I have not felt this crotchety in quite some time.

My contribution today to software memeology:
what’s the real status of it anyways? is it: “thursday, the dude from (some other group or company) rings the doorbell, and we discover the flaming bag of algorithm” or is it that they’ve already gotten the bag and they think it’ll take until thursday to stomp it out?

What’s Up With Capital Metro?

Forestalling the yet-to-happen-but-eventually-inevitable question “what does this all mean”:

0. (Update): About an hour after I wrote this post, I see that Veolia and Capital Metro are now in even more hot water and the party is canceled; rail service delayed until at least May 15. While Martinez’ oversight now is welcome, it would have been nice for McCracken, Martinez, Leffingwell, and others to display that same interest back when CM was making decisions that depleted their reserves beyond their ability to fund commitments to the city of Austin (see #2).

Prompted by something DSK just reminded me of in IM, here’s the text of a resolution I floated in May of 2004 on the UTC:

WHEREAS the City of Austin does not receive adequate mobility benefits from the currently proposed Long Range Transit Plan due to its reliance on “rapid bus” transit without separate right-of-way
WHEREAS a “rapid bus” line does not and cannot provide the necessary permanent infrastructure to encourage mixed-use pedestrian-oriented densification along its corridor
WHEREAS the vast majority of Capital Metro funds come from residents of the City of Austin
WHEREAS the commuter rail plan proposed as the centerpiece of this plan delivers most of its benefits to residents of areas which are not within the Capital Metro service area while ignoring the urban core which provides most Capital Metro monies
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Urban Transportation Commission recommends that the City Council immediately reject Capital Metro’s Long-Range Transit Plan and begin working towards a plan which:
A. delivers more reliable and high-performance transit into and through the urban core, including but not limited to the University of Texas, Capitol Complex, and downtown
B. requires additional user fees from passengers using Capital Metro rail services who reside in areas which are not part of the Capital Metro service area
C. provides permanent infrastructure to provide impetus for pedestrian-oriented mixed-use redevelopment of the Lamar/Guadalupe corridor
IF CAPITAL METRO will not work with the City of Austin on all items above, THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the UTC advises the City Council to begin preparations to withdraw from the Capital Metro service area and provide its own transit system in order to provide true mobility benefits to the taxpayers of Austin.

It died for lack of a second. Where would we be today if we had forced greater oversight on Capital Metro back then?
(now for the original post, all of 1.5 hours old by the time I wrote the above):
1. Capital Metro’s training problems that have got them in hot water may or may not have something to do with the fact that Veolia (the agency they hired to run the trains) isn’t StarTran. StarTran is where the union gets most of their members; and they don’t like the increased use of Veolia for a variety of reasons. Keep your eye on this one.

2. The more recent debacle shows another way commuter rail screwed us: The plan was so bad; so unlikely to carry as many riders as even a half-assed light rail line; that Capital Metro reneged on their promises to seek Federal funding for half of the cost. This, combined with the fact that the cost predictably crept up some, is where most of our money went. The original cost of $90M would have originally taken $45M out of Capital Metro reserves; now with the running total somewhere around $120M depending on how you account for things, CM had to take an additional $75M out of reserves. See item #3.

Continue reading What’s Up With Capital Metro?

The thing so many right-wing economist-hacks aren’t getting

It’s not about classism or about contract law, even though it’s amazing how many of you hypocrites though it was OK for the government to throw out UAW contracts but just awful to even talk about touching AIG’s.
It’s not even too small of an issue to worry about. It’s a pretty damn big issue, by my reckoning, because at its fundamentals, it’s about not letting capitalism destroy itself, as Karl Marx predicted it would do.
As odograph puts it:

There have been a number of articles which make the argument “we must pay the AIG bonuses so that businessmen keep their trust in the system.”
I heard that a few times yesterday before it occurred to me how exactly backwards it was.
At this point in time, business needs to earn our trust. They need to convince us that they are not playing the game laid out by Taleb (and probably others) before this blew up. They need to convince us that they aren’t making long-term risky bets in exchange for short-term bonuses.
Until they convince us of that, I am not going to trust them with an unregulated, too big to fail, investment bank and bonus structure.

You want people to support free markets? Make damn sure this kind of crap doesn’t keep happening – call corporate cronyism what it is, and stop defending it because you think ‘financial services’ is somehow more worthwhile than actually making things that have some inherent value. If you lose a guy like me or a guy like odograph, you lost more than enough of the electorate to make socialism (the real kind; not the pejorative applied to mildly progressive taxation) inevitable.
Oh, and while you’re at it? Stop blaming all this crap on too much regulation. Ayn Rand’s corpse has suffered enough indignities by now, hasn’t it?

It’s not the condo dwellers complaining about the music

Jeff Ward fell for it, big-time. So did 100% of his callers on Friday afternoon. You know what I’m talking about; the “OMG! All these people moving downtown are complaining about live music!” crap.
Folks, the people pushing for the extra restrictions on live music outdoors are NOT the people downtown. As reported elsewhere, they didn’t even make up a significant part of the audience for the task force that came up with the new rules. Nor should one look at Lee Leffingwell, Laura Morrison, and Mike Martinez (the authors of the ordinance) and see some kind of rich downtown-dweller conspiracy – Morrison and increasingly Leffingwell are ANC tools first and foremost, and Martinez has been leaning that way occasionally as well (disappointing, given his usual sanity on the issue of development). If the downtown dwellers were really behind this effort, you’d be seeing this ordinance spearheaded by the like of McCracken and Wynn, wouldn’t you think?
Here’s one representative set of minutes from that task force. Notice complaints from Zilker, Castle Hill, and Travis Heights. Notice not one complaint from downtown.
As I’ve said in many a comment thread before, the primary force behind new and expanded limits on noise is the same group it’s always been: old-school single-family homeowners in Zilker and Eastwoods/Hancock. Jeff Jack’s crowd, in other words. These folks have been complaining about venues on Barton Springs and Congress and Red River ever since I’ve been here – for more than a decade; and there hasn’t been any new group of downtown residents joining them; they’re just using the supposed downtown residents as cover – most people living downtown view music as an amenity, not a problem.
Don’t fall for it. Downtown condos aren’t the enemy of live music; the ANC is.

Simplified headline

for my pal at the Statesman who wouldn’t want to risk alienating the suburbanites:
Capital Metro takes money from Austin; spends it on Leander, Cedar Park, and Round Rock.
And as a result, one of the things being considered is eliminating some express bus routes that actually work far better for Austin residents than will commuter rail. Of course, as the article points out, Austin gets screwed more than once here: we’re also not going to have funding we counted on from Capital Metro for things like the Pfluger Bridge extension and various streetscape projects.
Again, compare/contrast to light rail a la 2000: light rail would have served the same batch of suburbanites at the same exact park-and-rides, but also provided service improvements for residents of Austin – including some of the densest parts of Austin – and it would have delivered those people directly to UT, the Capitol, and the parts of downtown people actually go to – without transferring to a shuttlebus to do it. Note: implementing commuter rail service means we can never go back and do that light rail line – we have now precluded ourselves from ever serving Austin residents in a meaninfgul way with a starter line that would be a guaranteed ridership slam-dunk. The best we can do now is the half-assed 2008 CAMPO TWG rail proposal, currently languishing for lack of financing and political support – a plan which might get some trains running from Mueller to downtown in a decade; and maybe finally get trains running on Guadalupe by 2050 or so.
Still feel that supporting this commuter rail plan was the best way to get rail service to central Austin, those of you who held your nose and voted ‘yes’ in 2004?

Capital Metro express bus changes screw Austin in favor of Leander

Take a look at the following charts (done quickly; please forgive my lack of time on the business trip) showing some of the express bus routes proposed for elimination when commuter rail service begins:

The really fast express bus from Leander only runs obscenely early (6:00 – 6:30 AM). After that, you need to take the #987 (the one that runs down Mopac, 38th, Guadalupe), which, at least for the ‘late’ (7:30ish) trip, shows to be slower than commuter rail. So far so good. But what about the Lakeline Park-and-Ride, you know, the one that’s “in Austin”?

Continue reading Capital Metro express bus changes screw Austin in favor of Leander

Effort to game the numbers on Red Line begins

Slowly at first.
Latest proposals for route changes eliminate a bunch of trips on the #982; one of the northwest corridor express buses that covers much of the same ground as the Red Line will, except that the express bus takes passengers directly to their destinations without requiring a transfer to a shuttle-bus.
Also, later on in the same document:
Staff also recommends suspending specific trips on routes 984, 986, and 987 that are duplicative to MetroRail trips.
Let’s emphasize that again:
Staff also recommends suspending specific trips on routes 984, 986, and 987 that are duplicative to MetroRail trips.
Any questions why they might be doing this?
Hint: the express buses take passengers straight to the front door of UT, and very close to the Capitol Complex; in neither case requiring a transfer.
These are the same express bus routes I’ve been telling you about for years – the ones that are, still, a better option for most passengers than the Red Line although if you get all the way to Leander, the rail option starts to compete – within the probable standard deviation. For passengers at the NW Park and Ride, though, the express bus is likely faster and will remain so for quite some time. Passengers at the Pavillion P&R don’t even have an option; the Red Line doesn’t ‘serve’ them. Of course, who cares about them? They’re only actual residents of Austin who pay more than 90% of Capital Metro’s bills; they aren’t folks from Cedar Park who pay nothing for the system.
Short summary: Capital Metro is eliminating bus routes that currently serve most passengers better than the Red Line will in order to make the Red Line look a bit more ‘success’ful than it otherwise would be.

Why I’m Hard on Mueller

and note, I’m far from the only one.
Also please excuse the brevity – I’m doing this from a Wendy’s in Huntsville during a short lunch break.
Breathless media coverage from the Statesman makes you think that Mueller is the wildest dreams of urbanites and environmentalists and sustainable-liviing fans all come to life. Meanwhile, every time I raise some (informed, compared to most) criticism of Mueller, I get personal attacks in return. At times like this, I like to remind myself (and hopefully others) of the substantive, objective, reasons why Mueller presents us with problems.

Continue reading Why I’m Hard on Mueller