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…

TFT: Hello Bikeness My Old Friend

Due to needing to work up my stamina for a secret work-related project, and I’ll explain the reason I feel free to resume biking in a later post perhaps, today I used my son’s bike and the 801 to get to my job in the horrible suburban cube factory.1 Attached are minimally edited notes I took along the way, with a couple of photographic bits of evidence.

7:00 get on son’s bike, ride about 5 blocks to the Hyde Park Station. Easy and comfortable despite massive humidity.

7:03 arrive at stop. An 801 is pulled over at the gas station 100 feet north of me while the driver gets coffee. Next arrival is in 7 mins according to sign.

7:06 changes from 3 mins to DUE immediately.

7:08 bus here. 1 got off. 1 other bike on front. When I got on total of 8 pax left on bus. Paid with 5 quarters like a BOSS. Stopped here to debunch apparently. (waits 2 minutes).

7:10 pulls away. Wonder if debunching is required only because of previous drivers coffee break

Triangle at 7:13 1 on 0 off.

7:15 stopped at light at Houston. No station yet!

7:16 Brentwood 1 off 1 on

7:18 oh god it’s so bumpy approaching Justin Ln

7:20 Justin 1 on 0 off

7:22 unfortunate diversion up above mainlanes to hit transfer stop. Looking longingly at freeway below.

Very awkward diversion into NLTC. Bus loops through and goes back southbound on frontage to make stop. Wonder how people many times people waiting here have boarded the bus going the wrong way. (just says Tech Ridge or Southpark).

7:25: 4 or 5 got off here and nobody boarded. Now bus struggling to change lanes to turn back around for NB. Weird route through NLTC and indirect cost of turns probably adds up to almost 5 minutes.

7:28 at new stop without branding (Fairfield?). 1 got on.

7:30 rundberg. 2 got off 2 got on.

I think I’m the only one to have paid cash so far.

7:32 light stops us briefly short of Masterson station. 733 we stop. 1 off.

7:35 Chinatown. Annoying lady passenger yelling into phone. She gets off and 1 other. 0 board. Short wait for red light.

Now in very long stretch with no stops.

7:38 slow and stop for queue behind light at Yager. Lots of cars turning right here. Transit priority note. Probably much worse 15 mins ago.

7:40-7:43 Wait to turn right on Parmer and slog through I35 ramp traffic. Bus turning left on i35 (I swear they used to go to McCallen).

7:43 crossing bridge. Must be a fun turn for driver. Mention this is the way I go too.

Driving fast on frontage and shaking. 7:44 turn on Center Ridge. Didn’t take special bus entrance (exit?) instead went up Center Line. Did go in special bus entrance off Center Line. Sooo bumpy.

7:46 pull up and deboard. I think there’s 3 passengers left including me.

Bike in front of 801 at Tech Ridge

7:54 bike up to my horrible office building (much more difficult and sweaty than the first ride on the other end), sweaty and triumphant.

Friend of the crackplog Caleb asked about time and here’s the scoop. Wait time is the average based on headway (I waited a little less this morning). I used actuals for the other components.

Good news, though! According to this minimalist but correct commute calculator, the trip in the morning saved a whopping 36 cents!2


  1. since there is no shower in our new facility I’m taking the 801 up most of the way and riding all the way home this evening; hopefully not through pouring rain 

  2. bad news: I have a company car so I wouldn’t be paying the gas or the tire cost, so actually this trip cost me $1.25 more but an average person driving my current car would have saved the entire 36 cents 

Quick hit: What happens to Hyde Park in Cap Remap?

Motivated by my talk with Randy Clarke yesterday and some activity I saw on twitter.

I created these two images using Cap Metro’s trip planner; source is 4000 Speedway; destination is 800 Guadalupe; the time is in the middle of the day on this Friday (6/1, pre remap) and next Friday (6/8, post remap). I set maximum walking distance to 1/4 mile (which is the generally accepted walking distance most people will tolerate on a regular basis). These dates are good because the IF isn’t running, so this is a more accurate reflection of service that’s available always (not just when UT is in session).

Anybody see a problem here?

Pre-remap:

Short version: 23 minutes. No walk, no transfer.

Post-remap:

Short version: 33 minutes including a walk down to 38th and a transfer at 38th/Duval.

Cap Remap Prediction #1: The 335

(crossposted from Austin’s only honest urbanism facebook group).

Cap Remap prediction #1:

335: The new route on 38th Street.

(Click on the image for the interactive version).

There’s new (nearly complete) bus cutouts1 on 38th near Speedway and Red River (with no signals attached). It’s slated to run every 15 minutes. It’s recommended as the reason why Hyde Park shouldn’t be pissed off to be losing the #5.

I thought about this route today when somebody who generally has good instincts on transit told me this route is the consolation prize for losing the #5; and that it goes to Mueller. So I thought about where I usually go in Mueller; and ran a test trip for after the change from my house to the Mueller Alamo Drafthouse. Results were uninspiring. (0.5 mile walk south, decent transit trip, 0.4 mile walk west; the Mueller routing is the worst part – that walk along sunblasted construction sites is disqualifying in and of itself).

It’s basically anchored on Berkman, on the east edge of the residential side of Mueller; too far from the Town Center [sic]. What about the other end? It turns around at Exposition and Westover; at the Randall’s shopping center and Casis Elementary.

My prediction: This route is going to go over like a lead balloon. It’s nice to anchor a crosstown route at a school, but it has to be a middle or high school to really work. You’ve got a grocer, but there’s better ones closer in. The Mueller residents might take it to transfer to a N/S line (say, the 801), but the transfer is awkward (pretty long walk from the WB stop to the SB 801 station at 39th2, for instance) and the number of people in Mueller pales compared to the people along Speedway. This route is likely going to have total ridership similar to the corresponding segment (basically north part) of the old #21/#22, but is going to run 2-4 times as often.

Oh and those folks along Speedway – there’s no utility in taking this route at all to replace their previous direct to downtown. They’re better off walking an extra 0.3 miles (not total, this is additional) to the #7. Some will just resume driving downtown, of course, because the proportional penalty they incur due to this change is very large compared to the total length of the trip.

tldr: I predict the 335 will be mostly empty.


  1. which are a crock that will penalize buses; they have to leave traffic and may have trouble getting back in 

  2. or as a much more accurate friend of the crackplog points out, 38th and a half 

Update: It’s all a misunderstanding, supposedly.

Regarding yesterday’s kerfuffle:

My opinion is that you should keep your skeptic hat on (see below for reasoning). But according to Caleb:

Just got a phone call from CEO Randy Clarke himself and I am pleased to report that things have been entirely patched up. He assured me the entire affair was a major misunderstanding and that whatever message the agency flak conveyed to me was not, by any means, his intent.

As for yours truly, yesterday I tweeted this:

And late last night, I was alerted in private by somebody that Cap Metro tweeted this1 just to see this once I was alerted to it)) :

Here’s the problem. I am still blocked by @capmetroatx.

JMVC engineered this years ago; and they’ve kept it up despite claiming in person to desperately want feedback.
How seriously can you take this request to call them when they should have known that I wouldn’t even see it? (I wouldn’t, had it not been for a helpful cool dude). And how seriously can you take claims of transparency when they block their most pointed but knowledgeable critic?)

Vote in my poll to help me decide how to respond.


  1. I had to go incognito and dive into my alternate account at @buttgoat ((which you should totally follow just trust me 

On calling bullshit

Don’t sign AURA’s petition. They are assholes who are doing bad things and being dishonest about it. But even more importantly, once you have processed the message in these pictures, move on and read the money point.

As usual, it’s up to me to point out that the emperor has no fucking clothes. People, including many in AURA, have made both of these points at the same time, often very close to one another:

  1. The right lane is already a defacto bus/right-turn-lane during heavy traffic periods
  2. Making the right lane a bus/right-turn-lane will dramatically improve travel times during heavy traffic periods.

These things cannot both be true, and people who say both are either too stupid to be listened to, or too dishonest to be listened to, so of course, in Austin, we’re listening to them.

As for center-running bus lanes, fuck those. Those would even further cement the permanence of rapid bus over light rail. There is no migration path; you get buses forever if you go that way (even with right turn and bus lanes, you’re 99% of the way to killing light rail forever).

Letter to Cap Metro board: OPPOSE Connections 2025

Dear board members,

I am writing as a former member of the city’s Urban Transportation Commission and a frequent author on the subject of transit to urge you to vote NO on Connections 2025.

Despite efforts to portray this as a standard “ridership over coverage” redesign (which is defensible on its merits), Capital Metro is actually using this opportunity to double-down on the last decade of redirection of service from the dense urban core to low-density suburban areas. In the process, they are abandoning their most loyal riders to longer walks and longer waits so that they can provide service to people who live in areas that don’t pay for the services being provided.

Capital Metro is engaged in sleight of hand when promoting this redesign. Switching from the standard quarter-mile walkshed to half-mile distances is the most obvious example (also, using half-mile distance to LINES rather than to STOPS tends to hide the drastic effect of long distance between stops on lines like MetroRapid). They are using the right style (claiming ridership over coverage), but the substance is lacking, and often in direct contradiction to the stated goals of the redesign.

For instance: Neighborhoods like Hyde Park and North University, which are walkable grids with high transit ridership, are losing service. The #5 is being eliminated in this area; the #21 and #22 are to be eliminated in this area; the #1 remains non-frequent (was originally slated for complete elimination!); the #801 remains non-local. Large swaths of our most historic transit-supportive areas are being effectively abandoned (to 1/2 mile or greater walking distance, which tends to make people resort to their cars). I have also heard from patrons of the southern portions of the #5 route that similar actual service reductions to the densest areas are proposed.

I am available to answer any questions you may have. Please do the right thing and require an honest service proposal to replace this dishonest one.

Thanks,
Mike Dahmus
mike@dahmus.org