Reminder on AURA and this blog

As we enter another Stupid Season in Austin Transit, remember that thanks to AURA, I have no real audience anymore, so if you want me to write on transit policy, make it worth my while by publically attacking AURA somewhere they see it, tagging them and their board.

Yet Again I Am Forced To Tell You I Told You So

Many months ago I wrote this post:

This morning, M1EK jr rode the 335 2.75 miles west from the closest stop to our house, to GRID TRANSFER!!!1 to the 20, to get to his new high school. The 20 was pretty heavily ridden with fellow students.

The 335 was a personal limo, in which the driver drove just one person, my son, for 2.75 miles.

(Previously, a friend of ye olde crackplog has pointed out similar results on his own ride; and the actual ridership statistics are pretty dismal. Go look them up yourself if you need to).

Here’s the last line of that post from May of 2018:

Remember this (and the hundred previous times I was right about Cap Metro) the next time a smiling gladhander tells you to “take what he says with a grain of salt”.

Why were you dropped, blocked, or unfriended; April 2019 edition

See the pinned tweet thread if I’m public at the time you read this, otherwise I’ve cut/pasted some of the key text below the nice graphic.

Hey gang! To make my time on the internet more productive, I’m no longer engaging with anybody who engages with AURA, especially their board, who did something incredibly shitty to me that drastically limited my ability to affect local policy. This means I’ll be forcing an unfollow.

This especially means their past and present board and board-adjacent folks, including at the top of the list; Goff, Wojtewicz, Somers, Keshet, etc.

Unless we have some kind of real-life connection or I have other reasons for viewing you more fondly, if you are with AURA, you are against me, and I’m not giving free analysis anymore to those who are against me. Toodles.

Again, in case people somehow didn’t understand, if you participate with AURA in any way other than to attack them for the shitty stuff they did to me, we’re done, unless I have some kind of real-life connection or other reason to view you more fondly than the average egg.

This is not because I expect you to change. Almost none of you will. It’s because dealing with my unpaid volunteer activism being continuously co-opted by and/or for the benefit of those who cut off my air supply is not good for my health, and I’ve decided to stop allowing it to happen, even indirectly, and spend my time elsewhere.

It’s also because, had they done what they did to me to any one of dozens of people I considered online allies and friends, I’d have immediately had your back against them, but none of you did the same for me.

Same thing goes with FAN, now that one of the former board members of AURA who actually executed the offense is on their board. If you work with @atxfriends and you aren’t doing anything about Wojtewicz, we aren’t friends, and I don’t want anything to do with you.

Project Connect: Here We Go Again Again

(I had this ready to post to #atxfreedomurbanists, Austin’s only urbanist group that doesn’t suck, but facebook has been down all day and I’m tired of waiting).

In 2015, I wrote a series of posts about pushing for honesty in our transportation agencies. I promoted this effort in atxurbanists and internally at AURA, and was mocked and belittled by the leadership of AURA for my trouble.
Today, it appears that Project Connect is now repeating history so convincingly that even Julio has had enough. Too bad he didn’t think so in 2015.
Follow the two links for details.


From vast experience in this community, the engagement method you suggest (one-on-one private conversations) affords executive staff & policymakers unnacountable discretion. My – apparently ignored – request was for a public explanation of changes & formal public version control.— Julio Gonzalez Altamirano (@juliogatx) March 13, 2019

Tweet by Julio Gonzalez Altamirano, just earlier today


(and the second link was:)

Honesty Agenda best starter post (actually the second in the series though).

What will it take to elect an urbanist?

In District 9, or any of the wealthier close-in districts such as 5, 7, and 10? (Districts 1, 2, 3, and 4 are a different calculus).

Should you appeal to students? It’s hard to get them registered here in Austin, and the ones that make it through that gauntlet don’t seem to show up. Riley tried and lost. Skidmore tried and lost.

Students don’t reliably vote.

Should you appeal to renters? It’s hard to get them registered here in Austin, and the ones that make it through that gauntlet don’t seem to show up. Riley tried and lost. Gauldin tried and lost. Skidmore tried and lost.

Renters don’t reliably vote.

Should you appeal to the LGBTQIA community? Skidmore hit that drum very hard. But there’s no point in focusing your appeal to people who don’t get to vote in your district (yes, their money might be useful, but in the end you need votes). I suspect that many of those most loudly applauding her campaign don’t actually live in D9.

People who don’t live in your district can’t vote for you.

You know who votes? Who turns out reliably, whether you like it or not?

People who own houses RELIABLY VOTE.

So rhetoric talking about desegregation that implies that single-family zoning is racist is not gonna work. Neither is appealing to other forms of identity politics. I don’t care what you hear in your echo chamber; the fact is that your electorate (the one you have to win with) doesn’t care for it.

There IS one way that could work; that nobody has yet tried.

A couple years ago, a guy who the Skidmore campaign knows well ran a referendum in Hyde Park in which a large majority of respondents agreed to loosen the restrictions on development that were preventing the construction of ADUs. This referendum was run through the Hyde Park Neighborhood Contact Team, a group tilted dramatically in favor of NIMBYs, and the respondents were disproportionately homeowners in one of Austin’s most restrictive neighborhoods. Yet he WON. He got the group to agree to an urbanist outcome.

How did this guy make this magic feat happen?

By framing urbanism in terms of expanding freedom, not constricting it.

Wouldn’t it be neat if you could build an ADU? Would you like us to change the rules to allow you to build one?

Don’t talk about the things your neighbor could or couldn’t build, in other words. Talk about how restrictive the current regulatory scheme is TO THEM, the heroic property owner. Why is the city telling them what they can and can’t do with their property; the property they worked so hard to afford; the property they pay substantial taxes on every year. Why is the city stopping them from putting a second floor on their house? Why is the city requiring them to add a parking place they don’t want?

Appealing to the better natures of the landed gentry might work with a few people (it works with me). But it clearly doesn’t work with most people. So try appealing to their desire to have more control over what they can build. MOST people don’t like the idea of being told they can’t build on their lot. Doesn’t matter whether they have the money now or ever; it matters that they aspirationally might some day.

This may not work in a city council election, but hell, the other approaches haven’t worked and this approach at least isn’t toxic to the people who are turning out to vote in your election. Why not try it?

What would we call such an approach? The best (not good) name I’ve come up with so far is freedom urbanism, and you’re not going to find it at AURA. Join me here instead if you want to talk about it.

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