It’s time to talk about Rapid Bus again.

In response to this site and calls to support it. Some links added as I find them. The post to which I replied, erectile misbirth paraphrased, this site pilule is something like “We believe in urban density but not these boarding houses / dorm duplexes”. Don’t want to quote without permission, cheap but that was the gist.

My response was:

So I too believe in urban density, and these buildings stink. I’m eager to meet new converts to the cause! Having lived for years on E 35th next to a big duplex and across an alley from a small apartment complex, I can tell you that even with a wonderful, responsive, landlord; the apartments beat the duplex hands-down for being good neighbors.

In the past, both Hyde Park NA and NUNA fought VMU on Guadalupe and then retreated to a position of demanding no parking reductions when the first battle was ‘lost’ (which effectively prevents all but the most high-dollar developments from materializing). The neighborhood plans call for minimal increases in density (in NUNA, it would be impossible to even rebuild some of the older apartment complexes on Speedway, for instance). NUNA fought the Villas on Guadalupe. Apartments and renters are demonized on this list. On and on and on.

So, I’m assuming those against these ‘dorm-style duplexes’, which are catering to an unmet-for-decades demand for student housing close enough to ride bikes to UT are going to be in favor of increased MF development not only on the edges of our neighborhood but on good transit corridors such as Speedway and Duval, right? New morning and all?
So the PR machine is out in force trying to make Rapid Bus sound great so people are distracted from the fact that the densest, website most active, decease most vibrant corridor in the city – not only now but 40 years from now – isn’t going to get rail until the 2040s, if then. In the meantime, we’re planning on building another hugely subsidized line to suburbs that don’t pay any Capital Metro taxes; and an urban rail line to a “new urban” development that is new, but isn’t urban; and even when fully built out will have far less people and far less travel demand to the core than Guadalupe/Lamar do today.

Was that sentence long enough? I pay by the period.

Anyways, so Rapid Bus? Snakes like JMVC are pitching the hell out of it and talking about it in the same breath as light rail and commuter rail as “high capacity transit” – which is a way to make people in Central Austin think they’re getting equal or nearly-equal quality.

This is bullshit.

So apparently I need to do this again – and this time, for the maximum possible fairness, I’m going to start with the BEST POSSIBLE CASE for Rapid Bus – the Burnet/Lamar corridor, where no express service currently exists.

Joker-here-we-go

  • Novacek

    “In the meantime, we’re planning on building another hugely subsidized line to suburbs that don’t pay any Capital Metro taxes”

    Which line to the suburbs are you referring to? The Green Line/Manor line that they haven’t talked about for like 10 years? And Manor does pay CapMetro taxes.

  • m1ek

    Yes, Manor. But the line will attract people from Elgin, and unincorporated areas along the line in equally large or larger numbers, and almost zero passengers from within the city limits of Austin. Just like how the Red Line serves Leander, but also Cedar Park, Pflugerville, and Round Rock, because the location of the major stations make them far more convenient for people outside the city limits of Austin than those within.

    And yes, it’s slated to be built before urban rail on Guadalupe/Lamar in the phasing plan.

  • Novacek

    1. I wouldn’t characterise a line that only exists on hand-wavy “vision” slides, isn’t being actively talked about by anyone, and has no one discussing, pushing, or planning the required pre-requisite ballot initiative as being “planned” as you did.

    2. Unlike the red line, where it has to hop over a non-member city to reach another member city (Leander) Elgin is further out (significantly) than Manor. A line won’t be run out there until they join or otherwise pay for it.

    3. Could people in Elgin drive into Manor and then ride. Yes. However:
    a. It’s twelve miles from Elgin to Manor (those vision slides are not to scale). By the time they make it that far, they’re almost half way there, lessening the incentive to park, wait, and then ride.
    b. Unlike Cedar Park (and others) vs. Leander, Manor and Elgin are approximately the same size today. Also, Elgin grew 20% in the last census, Manor _320_ % (past performance no guarantee of future results and all that, but I expect Manor will be signifcantly larger than Elgin in the future).

    To whatever extent that Cedar Park residents and others ride (which I’m not attempting to argue here) the above factors should ensure that Manor riders _significantly_ outnumber Elgin riders.

    4. The uincorporated areas along that line are almost all in the Austin ETJ, and some in the Manor ETJ. They haven’t been annexed because there’s not a lot of people there (so not a lot of free-riders). If/when significant residential/commercial development occurs there, they will be annexed. The window for free-riding is small.

  • m1ek

    You’re missing the phasing plan – which, unfortunately, I have not been able to locate lately. It explicitly mentions the Green Line as preceding later phases of urban rail.

    As for the Elgin question, Elgin fits the role of Liberty Hill and other areas upstream of Leander. Pflugervillians on the southern side of their city can get utility out of the Green Line similar to how Cedar Parkers do with the Red Line; many people from the southern end of PF come down to 290 and then into town that way. It’s way too early to say whether the free-riding problem will be as bad as it is on the Red Line, where it is very bad indeed, but it’s also straining the limits of credulity to assert that it will be small. Manor is very small compared to the outlying areas around it, and the idea that they’ll all just be annexed seems ridiculous.

  • Novacek

    I’m not missing it. I recall seeing those slides as well, and like you I looked for them to refresh my memory and couldn’t seem to find them. I just think that anything that far in the future is enough in doubt (in existence, precedence, and order) that “planned” is overstating it.

    “Pflugervillians on the southern side of their city can get utility out of the Green Line ”
    The very southern-most tip of Flugerville is 9 miles from Manor. _Could_ they drive to Manor, sure. But the distance will limit the numbers, plus they’d be driving pretty far East to head West (my understanding is your claim on the Red Line is that Austinites won’t drive a mile north to head south on it).

    “but it’s also straining the limits of credulity to assert that it will be small.”
    Why? Every factor is working to ensure that it’s small (relative populations and growth rates, distances, directions).

    “and the idea that they’ll all just be annexed seems ridiculous.”
    Austin’s history has shown that when development of sufficient size occurs, so does annexation. That eastern area is Austin’s “preferred development corridor”, the city _wants_ to expand and grow there.