Why Commuter Rail Will Fail In Austin

The ongoing brouhaha with Lyndon reminded me to start collecting these in one place. First in a series of at least three.
Advocates of light rail through central Austin (including myself, seek sanitary of course) were encouraged to vote for this commuter rail plan, pharm and get “light rail later”. Dave Dobbs took me to lunch and tried real hard to get me to fall into line on this, as a matter of fact. This strategy extended to electioneering by Capital Metro itself, who originally stated in Rapid Bus materials that the one proposed route was a “possible placeholder for light rail”. One example here. After getting the pro-transit forces to ease up (except me, of course), they dropped this language from their materials. Since then, Capital Metro has never mentioned running rail on the 2000 light rail route past such minor destinations as the center of downtown, the Capitol, the University of Texas, high-density residential development in West Campus and points north, and the Triangle.
From Jeff Wood’s thesis, the following:

Robin Rather, who also attended the meeting, asked the hard questions. “What is the best system and what does the Central City get out of all this?” She had a point. Bus Rapid Transit would not sit well with people who had voted overwhelmingly for light rail in 2000. “With the stroke of a pen, I could wipe out this whole proposal at the ballot box,” she said “So why should we support this if we are not getting anything out of it?”

Fast-forward to 2006. Capital Metro has eliminated any talk of reserved-guideway rail on the 2000 light rail route; and the “circulator” service being hashed out is leaning heavily towards buses (although still keeping streetcars on the list until the bitter end as is typical). Where’s it going to run? Through downtown and by the capitol; but then veering east past the south edge of UT and out to the old airport; avoiding all of the residential density which exists now or in the near future. In other words, this amazing “center-city circulator” which was supposed to make commuter rail provide some benefits to the people who pay essentially all of Capital Metro’s tax dollars has morphed into “The Bus People Living At Mueller Will Take To Get To Their Job If They’re Members Of The Small Group That Have To Pay A Lot To Park”. (Need a catchy slogan for this vehicle! Ideas gladly stolen^H^H^H^H^H^Haccepted!)
Feel good so far about falling for this snow-job, folks?

Sadly, help just as I was becoming comfortable with using Consumer Reports’ data to defend against hybrid FUD, find the most recent issue contains an article as bad as any of it out there.
Nearly every assumption they make in the article is flawed (not backed up by real-world data). Odograph has already covered the unfairness of comparing the Prius to the much smaller Corolla without at least mentioning the fact that unlike all of the other comparisons they did, web they aren’t really anything close to the same car. I noted in his comments that CR was also inconsistent about depreciation – their table charges a huge “extra depreciation” fee to the Prius, but their own statistics later in the issue show the Prius’ depreciation to be “much better than average” while the Corolla is merely “average”.
Additional points they got wrong are the infamous “battery life” scare tactic (hint: they will probably outlive your car). I’ve posted two tables below, comparing the Prius (more fairly) to the Corolla, as well as to the Camry (which is the car in the same size class as the Prius as well as its much more credible gas-only competitor), and showing their original comparison vs. the Corolla.
(scroll wayyyy down – I don’t know why Movable Type hates table tags so much, but it does; it’s down there eventually I promise).

Cost Item Prius vs. Corolla
CR’s version
Prius vs. Corolla
Fair version
Prius vs. Camry
Purchase-price premium $5700 $5700 $3001
Extra sales tax $400 $400 $201
Savings from hybrid tax credit $(3150) $(3150) $(3150)
Fuel savings $(2300) $(2300) $(3060)2
Extra insurance cost (or savings) $300 $3003 $03
Extra maintenance cost (or savings) $300 $04 $04
Extra depreciation cost $3200 $(1000)5 $(2000)5
Extra financing cost $5250 $5250 $2806
Total extra cost (savings) $5250 $750 $(7610)

Notes:

  1. Purchase price estimated from midpoint of range published in CR.
  2. Using estimated combined MPG of 24 in CR’s tests. Don’t yet know figures for new Camry.
  3. This is probably correct, but has to do with the higher purchase price more than anything else. Estimated same insurance for Camry for that reason.
  4. Previous-gen Prius broke down less than Corolla and required less scheduled maintenance (brake pads and such). Higher cost of having to go to dealer instead of independent sometimes makes up for this.
  5. Prius has depreciated less than essentially any car out there – in fact we still get offers from our dealer to buy it back for about what we paid for it 2 years ago. I’m being conservative here in favor of the Corolla and Camry, believe it or not.
  6. Proportional adjustment from extra cost to Corolla – this is probably slightly off since it’s not quite that simple, but close enough for our purposes.

    Updating yesterday’s entry, cost CR has now admitted a methodology flaw in their hybrid comparison – (which, cough admittedly, click I even carried over into my own table – I assumed their error was in data rather than in methodology). They haven’t acknowledged the inconsistency in their depreciation figures (still claiming even in the revised article that the Prius depreciates worse than the Corolla; and simultaneously claiming in their data in the car tables later in the same issue that the Corolla depreciates much worse than the Prius), but they have noted that simply adding together purchase price difference plus depreciation difference plus financing is effectively double-counting depreciation.
    Their modified figures show the Prius winning by a small amount over the Corolla. Oh, and by the way, they also haven’t addressed the fact that the Prius is a lot bigger than the Corolla – not a fair head-to-head comparison without at least mentioning that the Prius is in between the Corolla and Camry in size.
    Of course, the damage is already done. The hybrid FUDders are gleefully cackling; and the American consumer now ‘knows’ that hybrids ‘don’t save any money’. Good job, CR.

    I’ve plugged my own, pills more consistent, drugs data into CR’s corrected formula and applied them below.
    Conclusions: With the full tax credit, the Prius beats the pants off even the Corolla. Without any of the tax credit (which will eventually happen this year, since it gradually expires as more Toyota hybrids are sold), the Prius doesn’t beat the smaller Corolla (if you use accurate data) but still beats the pants off the Camry.

    Cost Item Prius vs. Corolla
    CR’s version
    Prius vs. Corolla
    Fair version
    Prius vs. Camry
    Purchase-price premium $5700 $5700 $3001
    Extra sales tax $400 $400 $201
    Extra financing cost $792 $792 $426
    Savings from hybrid tax credit $(3150) $(3150) $(3150)
    Fuel savings $(2300) $(2300) $(3060)2
    Extra insurance cost (or savings) $300 $3003 $03
    Extra maintenance cost (or savings) $300 $04 $04
    5-year resale price differential7 $(2494) $(4000)5,8 $(1000)5,8
    Total extra cost (savings) with/without tax credit $(406)
    $2744
    $(2258)
    $892
    $(6848)
    $(3698)

    Notes:

    1. Purchase price estimated from midpoint of range published in CR.
    2. Using estimated combined MPG of 24 in CR’s tests. Don’t yet know figures for new Camry.
    3. This is probably correct, but has to do with the higher purchase price more than anything else. Estimated same insurance for Camry for that reason.
    4. Previous-gen Prius broke down less than Corolla and required less scheduled maintenance (brake pads and such). Higher cost of having to go to dealer instead of independent sometimes makes up for this.
    5. Prius has depreciated less than essentially any car out there – in fact we still get offers from our dealer to buy it back for about what we paid for it 2 years ago. I’m being conservative here in favor of the Corolla and Camry, believe it or not.
    6. Proportional adjustment from extra cost to Corolla – this is probably slightly off since it’s not quite that simple, but close enough for our purposes.
    7. This is how they fixed their methodology. Negative numbers (in parentheses) indicate higher resale value for Prius.
    8. I’ve estimated higher sales price after 5 years for Prius vs. Corolla and Prius vs. Camry based on CR’s own depreciation ratings from later in the issue (see note 5).

    Disappointing one of my three loyal readers who has been bugging me for Part II of Capital Metro’s Broken Promises, approved I thought I should call attention to the bulletin board being used to hash out permanent version(s) of the McMansion Ordinance.
    Specifically, pilule I noticed that on the Task Force, the three representatives closest to my area have one guy with whom I don’t have much problem with in general, but also two people who I most certainly have: one from Hyde Park and one from NUNA.
    I did a little sleuthing on zillow.com, since I can’t yet walk as far as Hyde Park thanks to the still-mostly-unresponsive-to-treatment-arthritis. The representative from Hyde Park’s home is friggin’ huge compared to its neighbors and the typical Hyde Park bungalow.
    I did make it by the representative’s house in NUNA, which, despite not being as huge, was arguably even more incompatible with its neighbors, having the cardinal sin of “looming over its neighbor’s backyards” which is an oft-heard complaint against McMansions.
    I’d also like to call attention to an excellent thread started by Chris Cosart, who has commented here in the past.
    I’ll close with those quote from another thread on that very board:

    As I’ve pointed out with the two examples from the task force, though, this boils down to “I got mine; now you can’t have yours”. Both 111 Laurel and 4315 Avenue C are incompatible with their neighbors. Why should they be allowed to tell me how compatible I must be with mine?

    (Bet you thought I was going to address the debt issue, youth health since the Statesman wrote a scathing editorial today. That’s Part Two, prostate but it’s coming later.)
    Following up on Part One, Capital Metro has put up a survey trying to narrow down road choices for the infamous “circulator service” which represents the sum total of the ‘additions’ which were promised to transit-loving central Austinites who observed that All Systems Go doesn’t go anywhere people want to go; nor does it go near people who might want to ride.

    Notice from the picture: it doesn’t go through residential central Austin in any way, shape, or form. This service, when implemented, is just a bus (maybe a streetcar) from Mueller to UT or downtown; it does NOT do anything to make up for the slap in the face to central Austin.
    Note where it doesn’t go. It doesn’t go up Guadalupe, where tens of thousands of people live within a short walk of the 2000 light rail route. It doesn’t go next to the Triangle, a transit-oriented development which is actually BUILT, not just a twinkle in somebody’s eye. It doesn’t go by high-density residential development presently under construction in West Campus. It doesn’t reward the central Austinites who pay essentially all of Capital Metro’s bills with any transit improvements at all (and no, Rapid Bus isn’t worth shit).
    And also remember that Capital Metro has already ruled out reserved-guideway-transit for this route. This means, essentially, that whether the vehicle has rubber tires (bus) or steel wheels (streetcar), it’s still going to be stuck behind other peoples’ cars in traffic.
    Still feel good about falling for this snowjob, folks?

    Michael Bluejay made an outstanding presentation (Quicktime slides with audio) which everybody needs to read. (He presented this before the City Council right before they approved the cyclist-endangering Option III).

    Again, cialis 40mg I can’t recommend this video enough. It’s the best quick summary of this issue, with pictures, that I’ve ever seen. Watch it now.

    Inspired by a survey pushed by Tarrytown neighborhood activists, physician I’ve re-entered the fray on McMansions. Read the survey, buy information pills and note that if those regulations were enforced, essentially none of the best streets for pedestrians and residents in central Austin would be remotely legal (as opposed to current suburban-oriented zoning code, under which they’re only MOSTLY illegal).
    My latest contribution on the residential regulations discussion board relating to the McMansion debate follows. Please sign up and comment in the thread if you have an interest in this stuff. The perception that most homeowners believe that this stuff is OK is what gives these people the disproportionate power that they have today.
    In other words, right now it looks like eeevil developers are the only people who would oppose these additional restrictions, since most of the responsible adults in Austin have stayed silent. It’s my belief that the City Council will cave and essentially do whatever the task force comes up with, if it looks like their regulations have the support of a sufficiently large majority of people who expressed some interest in the process, just like another recent cowardly pandering dodge of their responsiblity as city leaders.
    This builds on a thread by Chris Cosart.

    I suppose you could sum up my “responsible urbanism” position this way:
    Neighborhoods which have vigorously fought all density and infill over the years which could have helped the city achieve its overall goals should not receive extra protection from the market forces they have distorted in the process.
    Specifically: if your neighborhood’s plan doesn’t allow for additional multifamily development not only on the fringes but on the inside of your neighborhood, in some non-trivial way, you shouldn’t expect the support of the city to defend you against incompatible development. Period.
    Living in a city entails responsibilities as well as rights. Too often, central neighborhoods such as Hyde Park and especially NUNA, have irresponsibly fought density which would have helped the city as a whole (the Villas on Guadalupe, for instance). Now, those same people who fought responsible multi-family development in places where it was drastically needed (even far away from their homes), and who, by the way, live in homes which are already big and/or incompatible with their neighbors, want additional city protection from the market distortions they themselves helped create through decades of obstructionism.
    What we need is additional multifamily infill EVERYWHERE – not just on the big roads like Guadalupe and Lamar (where you’ve fought it), but also in garage apartments, even on small lots (where you’ve fought it); in duplexes (where you’ve fought it); two and four-plexes and rowhouses even on the inside of neighborhoods (where you’ve fought it). All that fighting only resulted in gross distorting loopholes like Super-Twos and Super-Duplexes, when a more rational response to the market would have resulted in quality multi-family infill. Who knows what will result from this latest attempt to stick another finger in the dike – but I can guarantee it won’t be nice, and it won’t be what you expect.
    You won’t get my support. I hope you won’t get the City Council’s support either.

    Well, viagra 60mg I was planning on writing Part Two about finances – specifically, cost the debt issue. But, I just got the following across the wire on the austin-bikes email list (originally written by somebody else on the ACA list). Remember that one of the many levers used to try to pry the center-city away from my position of “rail which doesn’t run anywhere near central Austin isn’t worth voting for” was the promise of “rails with trails”, pushed most heartily by folks like Jeb Boyt, David Foster, and Dave Dobbs. I never fell for it, of course; it was obvious that double-tracking needed to happen in enough spots to make trails of any serious length impractical bordering on impossible, and the political (performance-oriented) hurdles seemed insurmountable. I said so, frequently (see bottom; unfortunately, I didn’t write any blog posts about this angle; I know, what are the odds).
    But, as usual, I was alone.
    Now, indications are that Capital Metro is wiggling out of yet another commitment made to central Austin in order to get the thing passed (see Part One and followup). Responses on the ACA list basically hem and haw about multi-organization planning efforts and the necessity to keep pushing and go get some money, ignoring the fact that Capital Metro and its defenders basically said this trail would get built and be useful for central Austinites; not that “if you pay your own money we might let you build one in a decade out by Leander where there’s enough room, but then again we might not”.
    The Austin-screwing Krusee-train rides again. Yee-haw!
    Here’s the quote from the ACA list:

    I was in a planning meeting with Lucy Galbraith from Capital Metro last week, and she said the words I’ve been dreading. She said there is no plan — nor has there ever been a plan — to build bike and pedestrian trails along the planned rail commuter lines.
    I had been told repeatedly by several sources in Capital Metro that they were committed to building a connected trail for bicycles and pedestrians next to every rail line to allow people to safely walk or ride to or from the nearest station. I said, on this list, I couldn’t wait for that day. It sounded swell to me.
    And I voted for the commuter rail in part because I thought it would help us get this bike trail.
    Now Ms. Galbraith is saying that Capital Metro never had any such plan. (More specifically, she said the language related to bike/pedestrian trails was ambiguous and vague.) She said there was an idea proposed for bike and pedestrian trails, but there were no funds ever allocated. She also said that Capital Metro intends to build parallel tracks in their right-of-way, so in many places there will not be room for a bike/pedestrian trail.
    So, to sum up… There never was a plan, just an idea proposed. There are no funds. And there is no room. And I, for one, feel somewhat fooled.

    Here are some excerpts from the austin-bikes list archive both from me and those who scoffed.
    One of my first on the topic:

    And I want to remind all of you that, while these bike facilities are an unquestionably good thing, it is very unlikely that Capital Metro will build them unless the performance of the starter line is fairly good, and by that I mean it has to be good enough to convince voters to continue to build the system drawn in the long-range plan. The rails-with-trails trail is not going to be part of the starter route; it’s going to be built afterwards IF AND ONLY IF the long-range plan continues to be implemented.
    Whether or not this starter line is good enough to get us on the path of implementing that long-range plan (which I think is still awful) is a matter of opinion. I think by now you all know I believe the chance that this starter line will match the extremely poor performance of Tri-Rail in South Florida, which it closely resembles in all important aspects, is quite good).
    So please vote simply based on whether you think this starter line is going to work. Voting yes in the hopes of getting bike trails is foolish if the plan itself is never going to get to that point. You might in fact be impeding the development of mass transit in our area and not get the bike trails anyways.

    The first real doozy, from David Foster. A nice guy who is probably feeling pretty down right now.

    Bike Friends,
    I have been out of town for a few days and am catching up on lots of
    email on commuter rail and rails-with-trails. Rather than responding
    to al of them, I just want to point out a few reasons why RwT is
    more likely to happen with than without commuter rail. I will be out
    of town again starting tomorrow and not back till Wednesday but I
    look forward to the post-election analysis on this forum, and I hope
    discussion of how to make rails-with-trails work should the
    referendum pass, as I hope it will
    1). Cap Metro will have more money if the referendum passes, and may
    well not be able to withstand the attack to roll back its sales tax
    and put the money into roads if it loses. This means we could lose
    funding for RwT and the All Systems Go improvements to the bus
    system as well, and cripple the agency’s chance to do any kind of
    rail system. This is of course what Skaggs and Levy want.
    2) Cap Metro will have an incentive to do RwT if the referendum
    passes, namely to increase ridership by providing an easier and
    safer way for cyclists to access the stations and trains. Cap Metro
    has also agreed to providing bike access on the trains and lockers
    and/or bike racks at the stations, which will serve the same purpose
    of increasing ridership. A cyclist will be able to ride to the
    station, leave the bike there or take it along and ride to his/her
    final destination.
    3) I do not believe that Cap Metro would commit the political
    blunder of backing out on this promise. Many of us worked to get Cap
    Metro to agree to RwT, including the bicycle advocacy organizations
    who issued the joint press release supporting the referendum (ACA,
    AMTG, TBC, and now too Trans Texas Alliance). Cap Metro gives every
    indication of wanting to go forward, including helping bring Mia
    Birk of Alta Planning in from Portland Oregon to give a presentation
    on Rails with Trails while back.

    My response to David:

    My statement that “you won’t get rails-with-trails if commuter rail
    fails to deliver passengers” is based on political pragmatism, not what
    Capital Metro happens to be saying right now.
    1. There is no legal requirement that they provide RwT if the election
    passes. I don’t think David disputes this. Nothing but the initial
    commuter line is really up for a vote here. I believe Capital Metro
    intends to build RwT. I also believe that if the commuter rail line
    meets my expectations (performs similar to South Florida’s Tri-Rail
    line, the only other new start of the last 20-30 years which relies on
    shuttle buses for distribution), the political pressure to give back 1/4
    cent (at least) of Capital Metro’s money will be as strong as it ever
    has been. So I don’t buy the argument that the money’s only going back
    if the election fails. I think the money’s also going back if the
    election succeeds but the starter line fails.
    2. I don’t think RwT provides much boost to ridership. This isn’t going
    to be providing cycling access to stations, for the most part; it will
    be providing cycling routes ALONG the rail line, not TO the rail line.
    The neighborhoods in Leander will continue to have no bicycling access
    to stations whatsoever – RwT will not change this. Nor will RwT improve
    access for central Austinites since the part of the line they call
    “central Austin” (really north Austin – Crestview/Wooten) is the least
    likely to have space for the trail due to narrower RoW. Also, cycling
    access to stations in this part of Austin is already pretty good –
    roughly ten million times better than in Leander or far northwest Austin.
    3. If Capital Metro wants to keep running the commuter rail line after
    this point (attempting to fix it with streetcars or by going to
    Seaholm), they’re going to need to fight a POLITICAL battle to keep that
    money. Guess what the likely casualty would be in that case? In other
    words, the “political blunder of backing out” may end up being one
    necessary part of Capital Metro’s strategy to make the rail service
    survive long enough for an attempted rescue by streetcars (or Seaholm).
    In conclusion: I respect David and, unlike many on the
    pro-commuter-rail-side, he has been an honorable and informed opponent.
    I think he’s kept that standard up here. I don’t disagree that
    rails-with-trails would be really nice if they happen; and my prediction
    that they will not occur is based on my informed guess of what will
    happen politically when the rail line fails to deliver passenger load. I
    think he honestly believes the line will deliver enough passengers to
    survive long enough for RwT to happen; and obviously I don’t.

    And a response from Eric Anderson…

    Certainly, construction of Rails-with-Trails will accelerate with voter buy-in and continued build-out of Cap Metro’s long range transit plan.
    There is however simply no evidence that any/all bike facilities associated with the Austin-Leander commuter rail line must jump through some performance hoop.
    […]
    In fact, Cap Metro spokesperson Sam Archer indicated to those present at Austin Cycling Association meeting on Oct. 11th, that immediately following an affirmative Nov. 2nd vote, Cap Metro would begin master-planning efforts for such Rails-with-Trails facilities in tandem with commuter rail planning efforts.

    STILL feel good about falling for this snow-job instead of fighting for light rail for central Austin?

    Contrary to this week’s South Park episode, mycoplasmosis I believe I’ve found the real source of “smug”: bicycle helmets.
    I happened to be browsing the archives of the Austin Cycling Association list (looking for comments about Shoal Creek) and came upon a thread about (mostly) bicycle facilities versus Foresterism. Good stuff; I usually like reading those. Then I came across a contribution which included the following:

    Unhelmeted cyclists involved in falls, decease even at moderate speeds have
    sustained irreversible head injuries and death and even helmeted
    cyclists have sustained things like broken necks in non-collision
    falls. An example of the latter happened in Austin not too long ago
    when a doctor commuting home down Guadalupe hit one of those steel
    plates covering street excavations. He fell and he died. He was a
    regular bike commuter and wore a helmet, but it did not save him. On
    the other hand, past mayor Bruce Todd apparently took a fall with no
    indication that a collision with another vehicle was involved. He
    wore a helmet and in the opinion of doctors and others, it saved his
    life by mitigating injury to his head. While not statistically
    significant in and of themselves, these incidents are not that
    uncommon overall.

    Does anybody else see the problem here? Two examples used of “why you have to wear a helmet or you’re stupid”, and in one of them, the guy died anyway; while in the other one, the guy got so badly hurt he nearly died and is still suffering brain damage even today.
    And yet, people follow up with the likes of this:

    “I’ve seen no motor vehicle/bicycle accidents, but I’ve seen a lot of
    cyclists without helmets and quite a few at night without lights.”
    As have I–always want to stop them and give them a gentle
    lecture–what I call my “as a mom” speech.

    Equating riding at night without lights (which has been clearly shown to be dangerous, in the real world data) to riding without helmets (which hasn’t). Argh.
    Folks, these things don’t work. Whatever they’re doing for your minor scrapes and scratches, there’s just no evidence in the real world that they’re doing jack squat for major injuries or deaths.

    — In HydeParkAustin@yahoogroups.com, about it “Aria K. McIntosh” wrote:
    > As a
    > builder and investor, diagnosis I understand how profits can be made, advice but there is a
    > place for everything and would like to see concentrations of students
    > elsewhere such as south of 38th rather that students between families where
    > sleeping babies are next door to rowdy houses. How many cars does the
    > average family have? 2?
    I live a block south of 38th, and have a family with a sleeping baby (2; my other child is 12). My next-door neighbors are about to have their third child, all under 6.
    That being said, the problem here is, as usual, the lack of multifamily housing in the area due to obstructionist tactics over the last few decades, which, sad to say, Hyde Park fully contributed to. A landlord who owns one or two rental houses has no incentive to crack down on badly-behaved tenants; while a landlord who owns an apartment building or even as few as one condominium unit clearly does (the former because he’ll get less money from his other tenants; the latter due to HOA rules).
    The apartment building on the alley behind us is responsible for far less noise than the average rental house on our street. That’s not a coincidence.

    An Austin branch of “Rock and Romp” is in startup planning. If you’re like me – with child and still wanting to see shows sometimes, physician please sign up for the mailing list post-haste.

    Sal Costello continues to post a shrill screed or three almost every single day to Austin Bloggers trying to get people to vote against incumbents who approved some or all of various toll road plans around these parts. Most irritating of all is that the Austin Libertarians (whose politics would logically tend to support tolls, view even on existing roads, if they were being remotely consistent about user fees) have signed on with this pantload, which shows that they’re just a bunch of suburban Republicans who don’t want to be identified with the religious right.
    If you have any interest in making sure that suburbanites pay their fair share, though, you need to vote the exact opposite way from Sal’s recommendations. These toll roads finally start to reverse the decades-long subsidization of neighborhoods like Circle C by central Austinites who have to contribute property and sales tax money to TXDOT to build ‘free’ways. At the same time, TXDOT spends most of their money in the suburbs and hardly anything remotely close to central Austin since most major roads there aren’t part of the state highway system.
    Tolls in any form are good. Tolls which changed by the time of day would be even better. Tolls which were frequently changed to ensure free-flowing traffic would be best. But any tolls are better than going back to the bad old days where Sal’s driving is subsidized by people in Hyde Park who might not even own a car.
    The truly amazing thing is that he’s managed to sucker environmentalists into opposing these toll roads. Rather than imposing tolls on roads to stop subsidizing sprawl over the aquifer, groups like SOS actually think they have the power to prevent those roads from being built at all, and have made common cause with folks who would expand 290 to 100 lanes before caring one whit about Barton Springs.
    Just say no to Sal. Tolls are a responsible way to make sure the people causing the demand actually pay the price.

    Stories like this one are becoming more prevalent, discount thanks to Consumer Reports’ hatchet-job on hybrids and their failure to fully correct their inconsistencies1 and misrepresentations2. It’s now conventional wisdom that people won’t save much, pfizer even on a Prius, here because of CR’s baloney – comparing the Prius to the Corolla as if anybody who was interested in the much larger Prius will instead cram their family into the Corolla rather than seriously considering the Camry.
    Even more irritating is the new conventional wisdom among idiot pundits that the Prius comparatively high sales is due to nothing more than the “halo effect”, when the data clearly show that the Prius is, frankly, a far better _car_ than the other hybrid cars. The Civic Hybrid still won’t even let you fold the seat down, for instance, and is a much smaller vehicle; and the Accord Hybrid doesn’t deliver much in the way of fuel economy. (I expect the Camry Hybrid, on the other hand, to do very well; Toyota’s hybrid system, again, is clearly technologically superior to that of Honda).
    The truth is that you’ll save a ton of money compared to the Camry, and a decent amount even compared to the Corolla if you buy and drive a Prius.
    You’ve set us back years, guys. Nice work.
    (1: In their own data, they show the Prius’ depreciation as “much better than average” and the Corolla as merely “average”, yet their hybrid economic comparison shows greater depreciation for the Prius. Additionally, they claim greater spending on maintenance for the Prius, which is, again, contradicted by their own data. In fact, maintenance spending on the Prius is likely to lower, if anything, due to less brake wear).
    (2: They compare the Prius only to the Corolla, a comparison only valid if you would fit your family into the Corolla absent the Prius. In fact, many, possibly even most, Prius drivers compare to midsize cars like the Camry, since the Prius is actually between the two cars in size – closer to the Camry especially in rear-seat legroom).

    I obviously haven’t written much lately – I’ve been getting progressively worse news about my arthritis (we’ve run off the end of where the infusion treatments should have worked, information pills and they haven’t – I’m not able to walk far at the present time either – much less ride my bike) so I’ve been spectacularly unmotivated to do much but occasionally snipe on the austin-bikes email list. It’s hard to justify spending much effort crackplogging about bicycling, for instance, when it doesn’t look good for me ever getting back on the bike.
    Finally, I’m now far enough out of the loop that I don’t know that I add much value even when crackplogging about Capital Metro, except in the obviously and purposefully annoying “I told you so” updates. But I still feel like I ought to be updating on their progress, since nobody else in the world ever talks about them other than Ben Wear, who vacillates between simply reinterpreting press releases and being a skeptic in the Skaggs mold.
    My cow orker keeps reminding me how neglected the crackplog has become, so I’ll try to at least do a monthly Cap Metro update. And the upcoming possible resurgence of the late unlameted all-ages helmet law (thanks to inaugural M1EK’s Worst Person In Austin Winner Bruce Todd – subject of a future crackplog if I ever get motivated) should result in a few.
    So this serves as notice that I’m alive, I guess. That’s all.

    Located blogs (mostly non-crackpot) of two friends from way back, apoplexy Laurie and Bernie Thompson from Seattle. Co-oped with both in college; might have gone to a class or three with Bernie; worked with them at IBM and later at S3. At various times, medical almost pursued both to Microsoft too, although I Was Not Stalking Them.
    Bernie created a neat startup company a while back which actually got bought; and now appears to be taking another shot. Laurie’s been published frequently in magazines since I last checked in, according to her blog.
    Bernie, actually, is indirectly responsible for me starting up the crackplog. Way back in the day, he chatted with me for a while about Seattle’s light rail proposal and had the idea that we should do a point/counterpoint blog on it (with iconography of the two of us with skinny little bodies and big giant heads). That never happened; but it gave me the idea to inflict my transportation crap on the rest of the world. So, it’s His Fault.
    (I’ve also updated the link to Kim and Anthony’s blog to reflect their move from Taiwan to Beijing).

    Since I thought I had been dumped back into moderation for the horrible sin of providing more than two (actual content-filled) postings to austin-bikes on some day in the last week (turned out to just be a delay, oncologist apparently), steroids this particular response to our good friend Roger Baker risked being unposted, and thus, I posted it here for posterity. Post-haste.

    On 09:18 AM 5/3/2006 -0500, Roger Baker wrote:

    I bet some of you thought that there wouldn’t be any bike lanes along
    SH 130 didn’t you? (hey, as an Austin taxpayer, you’re paying for
    part of it).
    […]
    …Darcie Schipull of TxDOT advised that they have hired Wilbur Smith
    Associates to develop a master plan for bike and pedestrian trails
    along SH 130. They will work with jurisdictions to develop the plans
    and to encourage them to use the plan for applying for enhancement
    funds…

    So if the City of Austin can magically come up with a few million dollars to match against another few million dollars of Federal money, we might get hike/bike trails built along parts of this road, and along parts of the Capital Metro rail line, by the time our grandkids are riding bikes, assuming they still exist by then. Note that the road was absolutely not designed for bike trails to begin with; the only concession to them is essentially the maintenance of enough right-of-way to fit them in spots. (No design allowances made for interactions cross-streets, for instance).
    Does the fact that TXDOT responded in exactly the same way as did Capital Metro penetrate the cocoons of credulity of any of y’all yet? Graciously allowing another governmental entity to build a bike trail on your unused land as long as it’s not too much trouble and as long as they pay the entire bill was always possible, and here’s the important part: EVEN WITH TXDOT.
    The only right-of-way owner the city ever had any trouble with in this regard was Union Pacific. TXDOT was always willing to let us build trails with our own money in their right-of-way. It’s not a particularly notable concession; and it does not signal support for bicycling.
    Nothing new here. Someday, maybe, y’all will get a little less credulous about what exactly you’re being promised and how much you’re willing to give away for it.

    I’m experiencing a bit of schadenfreude as the folks pushing hardest for restrictions on Austin Energy (AE)’s trimming plans in the neighborhoods with the most power outages due to tree limbs (and entire trees) falling down are forced to defend themselves against the quite accurate charges that a more vigorous pruning regime would have resulted in less problems overall. One example:

    Last week’s storms and some gratuitous vilification of
    those of us trying to preserve as much of our shade
    canopy as possible present something of a difficult
    environment for saving the trees in our alleys and
    especially along our numbered strees where lines
    cross, order so if you want to support our work, I hope you
    wll attend.

    It doesn’t help that these same people form much of the nucleus of the abominable “let’s further restrict residential development in the Center City while claiming to be against suburban sprawl” contingent.
    However, I also don’t want to see beautiful trees hacked to pieces, and, frankly, AE will do it if they’re not reined in.
    So, here’s my proposal:
    Each AE customer gets to choose between the following:
    1. AE gets to do whatever they want.
    2. AE can’t trim anything, but residents at this address will be assessed a (fairly large) monthly charge designed to build up funds for putting electric lines underground (where, in more civilized parts of the country, they generally would be). This doesn’t include wires from the street to your house; just the wires along the street. AE pays 50% of the cost of any such projects; the remaining 50% comes from the local residents’ contributions and must be spent within the local neighborhood planning district (i.e. maybe not on your individual street but not too far from it).
    Problem solved. Those who want to preserve their trees at the possible risk of cutting off their neighbors’ electricity must pay for the privilege, and the money must go into a much better long-term solution than trimming.
    (I’d choose #2 myself, by the way, depending on the charge. I don’t want my trees hacked up either; but I don’t assert the right to cut off power to my entire neighborhood).
    Next up: M1EK solves the “Drainage Emergency”.

    I just realized what’s been itching at my brain about Daryl Slusher’s letter urging people to vote against Props 1 and 2. Personally, prostate I find his arguments fairly compelling, prescription but am viscerally compelled to vote for the propositions anyways thanks to the co-opting of the evil “Costs Too Much” iconography from Skaggs and Daugherty’s execrable anti-light rail campaign of 2000.
    Here’s the important part:

    – If the amendments lose, for sale with united environmental support in favor, then the environmental movement will be seen as losing strength and will further lose influence.
    – What may well be worse for the environment and environmental movement is if the amendments pass. Then every resulting unintended, and some intended, consequence will be blamed on the environmental movement — with considerable justification if environmentalists are largely united in supporting the amendments.

    This is exactly why I thought it important for pro-transit people to vote against the 2004 Capital Metro commuter rail proposal. Here’s one relevant excerpt from one of my many crackplogs on the subject:

    In fact, it will be difficult to defend Capital Metro’s money if this election doesn’t pass. However, it will be even MORE difficult to defend Capital Metro’s money if this election does pass, and the rail service meets my expectations (matching the performance of South Florida’s Tri-Rail, the only other new start rail plan relying exclusively on shuttle buses for passenger distribution). At that point, we will have SHOWN that “rail doesn’t work in Austin”, and the long-term justification for at least 1/4 cent of Capital Metro’s money will be gone.

    There are many other cases where I made the point that, yes, if Capital Metro lost the ’04 election, it would be bad; but it’d be even worse if they won with unanimous transit-supporter support (er, yeah). The “But we did what you wanted and it sucked” argument is pretty hard to overcome the next time around.
    Yet Slusher was so royally pissed by my opposition to that plan that he wouldn’t return emails from that day forward.
    Ironic, huh?

    Just had to deal with the typical problem we’ve been facing with our “consumer-driven health plan” (i.e. HSA with high-deductible ‘insurance’) – this is perhaps the fifth or sixth time this has happened.
    1. We get bill for $X.
    2. I make sure there is $X in our Health Savings Account.
    3. I call the place and pay over the phone, medicine using some combination of the HSA “credit” card1 and our normal credit card.
    4. They wait too long to post the charge (see #8)
    5. In the meantime, online we pay for something else.
    6. We get a letter in the mail saying that our “credit card was refused”.
    7. I call them and ask which credit card failed (I usually have to split charges due to #2 above).
    8. They can’t tell me, but do say that it would have posted within 7 to 10 days of the call. Aha.
    This thing causes so much extra work compared to the old FSA, it’s just not funny.
    Of course, if you don’t actually USE medical care, the HSA is a great deal, as long as you’re wealthy enough to be paying high marginal income tax rates. But for people who actually have to use medical care, and believe me, our family qualifies, it suuuuuuuuucks.
    1: Of course, it’s really a debit card, as the rejection shows. But the fact that they run it as a credit card encourages them to wait to post the charges rather than figuring out immediately if there’s enough money in there. Big mistake.

    Just sent the following to the Planning Commission, epidemic which is the most likely place for a rebuke to the ridiculous McMansion people. (My bet is that the City Council will be more afraid of angering center-city neighborhood associations).

    Dear Planning Commissioners:
    My name is Mike Dahmus; I served on the city’s Urban Transportation Commission for about 5 years, and I live and own property in two central city neighborhoods. As a resident of OWANA, I chaired the transportation subcommittee for our neighborhood plan, and remain to this day very proud of the work we all (especially Dave Sullivan, who chaired the zoning subcommittee) did in making sure our neighborhood answered the question “where do you want your additional density” with a more responsible answer than “NO”.
    Since then, many other central neighborhoods have failed in their responsibility to identify appropriate infill and have instead attempted to stand athwart the market and yell “stop”, as the saying (sort-of) goes. Today, you find yourselves considering yet another attempt to artificially retard the market from solving our housing problems for us — all under the guise of a so-called “drainage emergency”. The same neighborhoods that prevented and delayed multi-family housing from being built anywhere in or near their neighborhoods for so long (resulting in a plague of superduplexes and other rental housing as the unstoppable demand for close-in living by students could not be denied) now want you to further restrict residential development at precisely the time when we should, in fact, be allowing more density and more infill. And, of course, these same groups claim to be against sprawl.
    Consider our case – I have a family of four living in a 1250 square-foot house on a 6000 square-foot lot in NUNA. My next-door neighbor is about to have a new addition, raising their family to 5, in a house about 1050 square feet. We’re both presumably the kind of people who you’d rather have in center-city neighborhoods than party houses full of rowdy undergraduates; but we’re precisely the ones who will be most hurt by these overreaching regulations. In fact, both of us bought our houses assuming that we would eventually build up; and yes, even the supposed compromise engineered by the working group will drastically affect both of us – likely making it financially impossible to expand our homes. We both have detached garages (his with an apartment overtop) and we both have narrow lots. The task force’s “solution” to cases like ours is to build a basement, or seek a variance. Fat chance.
    My family will probably stay, although our rights to develop will be unfairly eliminated. My neighbor, on the other hand, probably won’t. Neither of us would seek to build a McMansion, but we (especially they) need more space to be comfortable – even my grandparents’ family of 12 had more square feet per person than my neighbors will without building up.
    The beauty of this is that I already live next to a duplex – built “straight up from the 5 foot setback line” on the other side of my home.
    The drainage emergency itself is a joke – yes, there are real drainage problems, but notice that the only item in the regulations which could possibly have a direct effect on drainage is OPTIONAL (impervious cover changes). And, of course, regulations which only apply to new homes can’t be said to be a fair response to a drainage problem which older homes of course contribute to. I’ve mentioned several times on the group’s discussion board that there’s a trivially simple way to address drainage problems – simply change the utility’s drainage billing to a formula based on the square feet of impervious cover. That way, old houses which cover too much of their lot will have to pay more to solve the problem, and so will new houses.
    Finally, the task force itself is a joke – it’s staffed by people who mainly fall into two groups – 1: those who already have big homes which violate the spirit, if technically not the letter, of the new regulations, see footnote below; and 2: those who have small families, i.e., childless couples.
    The only correct answer to this group is “NO”. Instead of further restricting center-city development, we need to be allowing more small-scale multifamily infill to relieve the demand for close-in living. We need to make it easier, not harder, for families to stay in the city for the sake of center-city schools. And we need to make it clear that those who have been irresponsible in the past by obstructing worthwhile projects ought not be rewarded now for their bad works.
    I chose not to become engaged with this group despite Chris Allen’s invitation because I firmly believe that you do not negotiate over how MUCH to drag your city in precisely the wrong direction – you simply say “NO. That’s the wrong way”. I hope you’ll join me in opposing this plan on those grounds.
    Thank you for your time.
    Regards,
    Mike Dahmus
    1: (member), NUNA, on Laurel Lane – lives in a home with an ‘incompatible’ front setback, and her second story ‘towers over the backyards of her neighbors’. (member), Hyde Park, lives in a huge house which dwarfs its neighbors. Several other task force members live in huge houses, albeit on bigger lots than the two mentioned specifically, and I haven’t seen them personally.

    Some answers to questions raised by my letter to the Planning Commission and today’s Statesman article. Updates will be made here as I think of them and/or receive comments or emails.

    1. I believe the greatest effect of this ordinance is going to be to make small-lot bungalow homes less attractive to buy than they are today which will probably lead to more deteriorating rental stock rather than an owner-occupied renaissance. McMansions themselves are hurt less by these rules than are traditionally styled two-story residences which are quite common on the narrow lots of Hyde Park.
    2. Despite being a response to a “drainage emergency”, more about the sum effect of the regulations being proposed is that it will become even more proportionally expensive to build “up” rather than “back”. Consequence: more impervious cover; worse drainage.
    3. Garage apartments appear to count towards the FAR total. Consequence: fewer housing units in the central city. Existing garage apartments would be more likely to be demolished so that the owner could put a more practical second story on the “front house”.
    4. Detached and attached garages count, find over a certain square footage. More credit is given to detached than attached garages, which is good from an aesthetic perspective but stupid from a drainage perspective.
    5. Yes, one of the proposed solutions for those who want more space than the new regulations would allow is to just build a basement. Yes, apparently they were serious. After all, if you live in central Austin, what’s another hundred grand or so worth of cost, right?
    6. I don’t yet know where the “height” measurement is taken from (average elevation of lot or front elevation or minimum or maximum). This affects the practicality of a second story dramatically in our cases.

    More to come as I get comments / emails.

    A link from Houston I just stumbled upon today which explains why rail transit works so much better in Washington, refractionist DC than in San Francisco, malady and shows quite well the problem the commuter rail line will have in Austin. (San Francisco still has a ton of rail passengers, salve of course, but the argument is that they have far fewer than they _should_).
    Check it out here.
    Relevant excerpts (summaries – read the whole article for depth):

    • BART saves money by using existing rights of way; Metrorail maximizes ridership by puting lines where the transit demand is
    • BART serves the suburbs. Metrorail serves the suburbs and the urban core.
    • BART stations are where the cars are; Metrorail stations are where the people are.

    It strikes me that you could almost substitute “Austin’s 2004 commuter rail proposal” for BART and “Austin’s 2000 light rail proposal” for Metrorail and essentially the whole thing would stand just as well as it does now.
    And the whole thing exposes how much of a snow job Lyndon Henry and Capital Metro are pulling by calling “All Systems Go” a “light urban railway”.
    I highly recommend a full read. I’m also adding this blog to my links.

What’s Been Bugging Me About Slusher’s Letter

I just realized what’s been itching at my brain about Daryl Slusher’s letter urging people to vote against Props 1 and 2. Personally, I find his arguments fairly compelling, but am viscerally compelled to vote for the propositions anyways thanks to the co-opting of the evil “Costs Too Much” iconography from Skaggs and Daugherty’s execrable anti-light rail campaign of 2000.
Here’s the important part:

– If the amendments lose, with united environmental support in favor, then the environmental movement will be seen as losing strength and will further lose influence.
– What may well be worse for the environment and environmental movement is if the amendments pass. Then every resulting unintended, and some intended, consequence will be blamed on the environmental movement — with considerable justification if environmentalists are largely united in supporting the amendments.

This is exactly why I thought it important for pro-transit people to vote against the 2004 Capital Metro commuter rail proposal. Here’s one relevant excerpt from one of my many crackplogs on the subject:

In fact, it will be difficult to defend Capital Metro’s money if this election doesn’t pass. However, it will be even MORE difficult to defend Capital Metro’s money if this election does pass, and the rail service meets my expectations (matching the performance of South Florida’s Tri-Rail, the only other new start rail plan relying exclusively on shuttle buses for passenger distribution). At that point, we will have SHOWN that “rail doesn’t work in Austin”, and the long-term justification for at least 1/4 cent of Capital Metro’s money will be gone.

There are many other cases where I made the point that, yes, if Capital Metro lost the ’04 election, it would be bad; but it’d be even worse if they won with unanimous transit-supporter support (er, yeah). The “But we did what you wanted and it sucked” argument is pretty hard to overcome the next time around.
Yet Slusher was so royally pissed by my opposition to that plan that he wouldn’t return emails from that day forward.
Ironic, huh?

New links

The ongoing brouhaha with Lyndon reminded me to start collecting these in one place. First in a series of at least three.
Advocates of light rail through central Austin (including myself, seek sanitary of course) were encouraged to vote for this commuter rail plan, pharm and get “light rail later”. Dave Dobbs took me to lunch and tried real hard to get me to fall into line on this, as a matter of fact. This strategy extended to electioneering by Capital Metro itself, who originally stated in Rapid Bus materials that the one proposed route was a “possible placeholder for light rail”. One example here. After getting the pro-transit forces to ease up (except me, of course), they dropped this language from their materials. Since then, Capital Metro has never mentioned running rail on the 2000 light rail route past such minor destinations as the center of downtown, the Capitol, the University of Texas, high-density residential development in West Campus and points north, and the Triangle.
From Jeff Wood’s thesis, the following:

Robin Rather, who also attended the meeting, asked the hard questions. “What is the best system and what does the Central City get out of all this?” She had a point. Bus Rapid Transit would not sit well with people who had voted overwhelmingly for light rail in 2000. “With the stroke of a pen, I could wipe out this whole proposal at the ballot box,” she said “So why should we support this if we are not getting anything out of it?”

Fast-forward to 2006. Capital Metro has eliminated any talk of reserved-guideway rail on the 2000 light rail route; and the “circulator” service being hashed out is leaning heavily towards buses (although still keeping streetcars on the list until the bitter end as is typical). Where’s it going to run? Through downtown and by the capitol; but then veering east past the south edge of UT and out to the old airport; avoiding all of the residential density which exists now or in the near future. In other words, this amazing “center-city circulator” which was supposed to make commuter rail provide some benefits to the people who pay essentially all of Capital Metro’s tax dollars has morphed into “The Bus People Living At Mueller Will Take To Get To Their Job If They’re Members Of The Small Group That Have To Pay A Lot To Park”. (Need a catchy slogan for this vehicle! Ideas gladly stolen^H^H^H^H^H^Haccepted!)
Feel good so far about falling for this snow-job, folks?

Sadly, help just as I was becoming comfortable with using Consumer Reports’ data to defend against hybrid FUD, find the most recent issue contains an article as bad as any of it out there.
Nearly every assumption they make in the article is flawed (not backed up by real-world data). Odograph has already covered the unfairness of comparing the Prius to the much smaller Corolla without at least mentioning the fact that unlike all of the other comparisons they did, web they aren’t really anything close to the same car. I noted in his comments that CR was also inconsistent about depreciation – their table charges a huge “extra depreciation” fee to the Prius, but their own statistics later in the issue show the Prius’ depreciation to be “much better than average” while the Corolla is merely “average”.
Additional points they got wrong are the infamous “battery life” scare tactic (hint: they will probably outlive your car). I’ve posted two tables below, comparing the Prius (more fairly) to the Corolla, as well as to the Camry (which is the car in the same size class as the Prius as well as its much more credible gas-only competitor), and showing their original comparison vs. the Corolla.
(scroll wayyyy down – I don’t know why Movable Type hates table tags so much, but it does; it’s down there eventually I promise).

Cost Item Prius vs. Corolla
CR’s version
Prius vs. Corolla
Fair version
Prius vs. Camry
Purchase-price premium $5700 $5700 $3001
Extra sales tax $400 $400 $201
Savings from hybrid tax credit $(3150) $(3150) $(3150)
Fuel savings $(2300) $(2300) $(3060)2
Extra insurance cost (or savings) $300 $3003 $03
Extra maintenance cost (or savings) $300 $04 $04
Extra depreciation cost $3200 $(1000)5 $(2000)5
Extra financing cost $5250 $5250 $2806
Total extra cost (savings) $5250 $750 $(7610)

Notes:

  1. Purchase price estimated from midpoint of range published in CR.
  2. Using estimated combined MPG of 24 in CR’s tests. Don’t yet know figures for new Camry.
  3. This is probably correct, but has to do with the higher purchase price more than anything else. Estimated same insurance for Camry for that reason.
  4. Previous-gen Prius broke down less than Corolla and required less scheduled maintenance (brake pads and such). Higher cost of having to go to dealer instead of independent sometimes makes up for this.
  5. Prius has depreciated less than essentially any car out there – in fact we still get offers from our dealer to buy it back for about what we paid for it 2 years ago. I’m being conservative here in favor of the Corolla and Camry, believe it or not.
  6. Proportional adjustment from extra cost to Corolla – this is probably slightly off since it’s not quite that simple, but close enough for our purposes.

    Updating yesterday’s entry, cost CR has now admitted a methodology flaw in their hybrid comparison – (which, cough admittedly, click I even carried over into my own table – I assumed their error was in data rather than in methodology). They haven’t acknowledged the inconsistency in their depreciation figures (still claiming even in the revised article that the Prius depreciates worse than the Corolla; and simultaneously claiming in their data in the car tables later in the same issue that the Corolla depreciates much worse than the Prius), but they have noted that simply adding together purchase price difference plus depreciation difference plus financing is effectively double-counting depreciation.
    Their modified figures show the Prius winning by a small amount over the Corolla. Oh, and by the way, they also haven’t addressed the fact that the Prius is a lot bigger than the Corolla – not a fair head-to-head comparison without at least mentioning that the Prius is in between the Corolla and Camry in size.
    Of course, the damage is already done. The hybrid FUDders are gleefully cackling; and the American consumer now ‘knows’ that hybrids ‘don’t save any money’. Good job, CR.

    I’ve plugged my own, pills more consistent, drugs data into CR’s corrected formula and applied them below.
    Conclusions: With the full tax credit, the Prius beats the pants off even the Corolla. Without any of the tax credit (which will eventually happen this year, since it gradually expires as more Toyota hybrids are sold), the Prius doesn’t beat the smaller Corolla (if you use accurate data) but still beats the pants off the Camry.

    Cost Item Prius vs. Corolla
    CR’s version
    Prius vs. Corolla
    Fair version
    Prius vs. Camry
    Purchase-price premium $5700 $5700 $3001
    Extra sales tax $400 $400 $201
    Extra financing cost $792 $792 $426
    Savings from hybrid tax credit $(3150) $(3150) $(3150)
    Fuel savings $(2300) $(2300) $(3060)2
    Extra insurance cost (or savings) $300 $3003 $03
    Extra maintenance cost (or savings) $300 $04 $04
    5-year resale price differential7 $(2494) $(4000)5,8 $(1000)5,8
    Total extra cost (savings) with/without tax credit $(406)
    $2744
    $(2258)
    $892
    $(6848)
    $(3698)

    Notes:

    1. Purchase price estimated from midpoint of range published in CR.
    2. Using estimated combined MPG of 24 in CR’s tests. Don’t yet know figures for new Camry.
    3. This is probably correct, but has to do with the higher purchase price more than anything else. Estimated same insurance for Camry for that reason.
    4. Previous-gen Prius broke down less than Corolla and required less scheduled maintenance (brake pads and such). Higher cost of having to go to dealer instead of independent sometimes makes up for this.
    5. Prius has depreciated less than essentially any car out there – in fact we still get offers from our dealer to buy it back for about what we paid for it 2 years ago. I’m being conservative here in favor of the Corolla and Camry, believe it or not.
    6. Proportional adjustment from extra cost to Corolla – this is probably slightly off since it’s not quite that simple, but close enough for our purposes.
    7. This is how they fixed their methodology. Negative numbers (in parentheses) indicate higher resale value for Prius.
    8. I’ve estimated higher sales price after 5 years for Prius vs. Corolla and Prius vs. Camry based on CR’s own depreciation ratings from later in the issue (see note 5).

    Disappointing one of my three loyal readers who has been bugging me for Part II of Capital Metro’s Broken Promises, approved I thought I should call attention to the bulletin board being used to hash out permanent version(s) of the McMansion Ordinance.
    Specifically, pilule I noticed that on the Task Force, the three representatives closest to my area have one guy with whom I don’t have much problem with in general, but also two people who I most certainly have: one from Hyde Park and one from NUNA.
    I did a little sleuthing on zillow.com, since I can’t yet walk as far as Hyde Park thanks to the still-mostly-unresponsive-to-treatment-arthritis. The representative from Hyde Park’s home is friggin’ huge compared to its neighbors and the typical Hyde Park bungalow.
    I did make it by the representative’s house in NUNA, which, despite not being as huge, was arguably even more incompatible with its neighbors, having the cardinal sin of “looming over its neighbor’s backyards” which is an oft-heard complaint against McMansions.
    I’d also like to call attention to an excellent thread started by Chris Cosart, who has commented here in the past.
    I’ll close with those quote from another thread on that very board:

    As I’ve pointed out with the two examples from the task force, though, this boils down to “I got mine; now you can’t have yours”. Both 111 Laurel and 4315 Avenue C are incompatible with their neighbors. Why should they be allowed to tell me how compatible I must be with mine?

    (Bet you thought I was going to address the debt issue, youth health since the Statesman wrote a scathing editorial today. That’s Part Two, prostate but it’s coming later.)
    Following up on Part One, Capital Metro has put up a survey trying to narrow down road choices for the infamous “circulator service” which represents the sum total of the ‘additions’ which were promised to transit-loving central Austinites who observed that All Systems Go doesn’t go anywhere people want to go; nor does it go near people who might want to ride.

    Notice from the picture: it doesn’t go through residential central Austin in any way, shape, or form. This service, when implemented, is just a bus (maybe a streetcar) from Mueller to UT or downtown; it does NOT do anything to make up for the slap in the face to central Austin.
    Note where it doesn’t go. It doesn’t go up Guadalupe, where tens of thousands of people live within a short walk of the 2000 light rail route. It doesn’t go next to the Triangle, a transit-oriented development which is actually BUILT, not just a twinkle in somebody’s eye. It doesn’t go by high-density residential development presently under construction in West Campus. It doesn’t reward the central Austinites who pay essentially all of Capital Metro’s bills with any transit improvements at all (and no, Rapid Bus isn’t worth shit).
    And also remember that Capital Metro has already ruled out reserved-guideway-transit for this route. This means, essentially, that whether the vehicle has rubber tires (bus) or steel wheels (streetcar), it’s still going to be stuck behind other peoples’ cars in traffic.
    Still feel good about falling for this snowjob, folks?

    Michael Bluejay made an outstanding presentation (Quicktime slides with audio) which everybody needs to read. (He presented this before the City Council right before they approved the cyclist-endangering Option III).

    Again, cialis 40mg I can’t recommend this video enough. It’s the best quick summary of this issue, with pictures, that I’ve ever seen. Watch it now.

    Inspired by a survey pushed by Tarrytown neighborhood activists, physician I’ve re-entered the fray on McMansions. Read the survey, buy information pills and note that if those regulations were enforced, essentially none of the best streets for pedestrians and residents in central Austin would be remotely legal (as opposed to current suburban-oriented zoning code, under which they’re only MOSTLY illegal).
    My latest contribution on the residential regulations discussion board relating to the McMansion debate follows. Please sign up and comment in the thread if you have an interest in this stuff. The perception that most homeowners believe that this stuff is OK is what gives these people the disproportionate power that they have today.
    In other words, right now it looks like eeevil developers are the only people who would oppose these additional restrictions, since most of the responsible adults in Austin have stayed silent. It’s my belief that the City Council will cave and essentially do whatever the task force comes up with, if it looks like their regulations have the support of a sufficiently large majority of people who expressed some interest in the process, just like another recent cowardly pandering dodge of their responsiblity as city leaders.
    This builds on a thread by Chris Cosart.

    I suppose you could sum up my “responsible urbanism” position this way:
    Neighborhoods which have vigorously fought all density and infill over the years which could have helped the city achieve its overall goals should not receive extra protection from the market forces they have distorted in the process.
    Specifically: if your neighborhood’s plan doesn’t allow for additional multifamily development not only on the fringes but on the inside of your neighborhood, in some non-trivial way, you shouldn’t expect the support of the city to defend you against incompatible development. Period.
    Living in a city entails responsibilities as well as rights. Too often, central neighborhoods such as Hyde Park and especially NUNA, have irresponsibly fought density which would have helped the city as a whole (the Villas on Guadalupe, for instance). Now, those same people who fought responsible multi-family development in places where it was drastically needed (even far away from their homes), and who, by the way, live in homes which are already big and/or incompatible with their neighbors, want additional city protection from the market distortions they themselves helped create through decades of obstructionism.
    What we need is additional multifamily infill EVERYWHERE – not just on the big roads like Guadalupe and Lamar (where you’ve fought it), but also in garage apartments, even on small lots (where you’ve fought it); in duplexes (where you’ve fought it); two and four-plexes and rowhouses even on the inside of neighborhoods (where you’ve fought it). All that fighting only resulted in gross distorting loopholes like Super-Twos and Super-Duplexes, when a more rational response to the market would have resulted in quality multi-family infill. Who knows what will result from this latest attempt to stick another finger in the dike – but I can guarantee it won’t be nice, and it won’t be what you expect.
    You won’t get my support. I hope you won’t get the City Council’s support either.

    Well, viagra 60mg I was planning on writing Part Two about finances – specifically, cost the debt issue. But, I just got the following across the wire on the austin-bikes email list (originally written by somebody else on the ACA list). Remember that one of the many levers used to try to pry the center-city away from my position of “rail which doesn’t run anywhere near central Austin isn’t worth voting for” was the promise of “rails with trails”, pushed most heartily by folks like Jeb Boyt, David Foster, and Dave Dobbs. I never fell for it, of course; it was obvious that double-tracking needed to happen in enough spots to make trails of any serious length impractical bordering on impossible, and the political (performance-oriented) hurdles seemed insurmountable. I said so, frequently (see bottom; unfortunately, I didn’t write any blog posts about this angle; I know, what are the odds).
    But, as usual, I was alone.
    Now, indications are that Capital Metro is wiggling out of yet another commitment made to central Austin in order to get the thing passed (see Part One and followup). Responses on the ACA list basically hem and haw about multi-organization planning efforts and the necessity to keep pushing and go get some money, ignoring the fact that Capital Metro and its defenders basically said this trail would get built and be useful for central Austinites; not that “if you pay your own money we might let you build one in a decade out by Leander where there’s enough room, but then again we might not”.
    The Austin-screwing Krusee-train rides again. Yee-haw!
    Here’s the quote from the ACA list:

    I was in a planning meeting with Lucy Galbraith from Capital Metro last week, and she said the words I’ve been dreading. She said there is no plan — nor has there ever been a plan — to build bike and pedestrian trails along the planned rail commuter lines.
    I had been told repeatedly by several sources in Capital Metro that they were committed to building a connected trail for bicycles and pedestrians next to every rail line to allow people to safely walk or ride to or from the nearest station. I said, on this list, I couldn’t wait for that day. It sounded swell to me.
    And I voted for the commuter rail in part because I thought it would help us get this bike trail.
    Now Ms. Galbraith is saying that Capital Metro never had any such plan. (More specifically, she said the language related to bike/pedestrian trails was ambiguous and vague.) She said there was an idea proposed for bike and pedestrian trails, but there were no funds ever allocated. She also said that Capital Metro intends to build parallel tracks in their right-of-way, so in many places there will not be room for a bike/pedestrian trail.
    So, to sum up… There never was a plan, just an idea proposed. There are no funds. And there is no room. And I, for one, feel somewhat fooled.

    Here are some excerpts from the austin-bikes list archive both from me and those who scoffed.
    One of my first on the topic:

    And I want to remind all of you that, while these bike facilities are an unquestionably good thing, it is very unlikely that Capital Metro will build them unless the performance of the starter line is fairly good, and by that I mean it has to be good enough to convince voters to continue to build the system drawn in the long-range plan. The rails-with-trails trail is not going to be part of the starter route; it’s going to be built afterwards IF AND ONLY IF the long-range plan continues to be implemented.
    Whether or not this starter line is good enough to get us on the path of implementing that long-range plan (which I think is still awful) is a matter of opinion. I think by now you all know I believe the chance that this starter line will match the extremely poor performance of Tri-Rail in South Florida, which it closely resembles in all important aspects, is quite good).
    So please vote simply based on whether you think this starter line is going to work. Voting yes in the hopes of getting bike trails is foolish if the plan itself is never going to get to that point. You might in fact be impeding the development of mass transit in our area and not get the bike trails anyways.

    The first real doozy, from David Foster. A nice guy who is probably feeling pretty down right now.

    Bike Friends,
    I have been out of town for a few days and am catching up on lots of
    email on commuter rail and rails-with-trails. Rather than responding
    to al of them, I just want to point out a few reasons why RwT is
    more likely to happen with than without commuter rail. I will be out
    of town again starting tomorrow and not back till Wednesday but I
    look forward to the post-election analysis on this forum, and I hope
    discussion of how to make rails-with-trails work should the
    referendum pass, as I hope it will
    1). Cap Metro will have more money if the referendum passes, and may
    well not be able to withstand the attack to roll back its sales tax
    and put the money into roads if it loses. This means we could lose
    funding for RwT and the All Systems Go improvements to the bus
    system as well, and cripple the agency’s chance to do any kind of
    rail system. This is of course what Skaggs and Levy want.
    2) Cap Metro will have an incentive to do RwT if the referendum
    passes, namely to increase ridership by providing an easier and
    safer way for cyclists to access the stations and trains. Cap Metro
    has also agreed to providing bike access on the trains and lockers
    and/or bike racks at the stations, which will serve the same purpose
    of increasing ridership. A cyclist will be able to ride to the
    station, leave the bike there or take it along and ride to his/her
    final destination.
    3) I do not believe that Cap Metro would commit the political
    blunder of backing out on this promise. Many of us worked to get Cap
    Metro to agree to RwT, including the bicycle advocacy organizations
    who issued the joint press release supporting the referendum (ACA,
    AMTG, TBC, and now too Trans Texas Alliance). Cap Metro gives every
    indication of wanting to go forward, including helping bring Mia
    Birk of Alta Planning in from Portland Oregon to give a presentation
    on Rails with Trails while back.

    My response to David:

    My statement that “you won’t get rails-with-trails if commuter rail
    fails to deliver passengers” is based on political pragmatism, not what
    Capital Metro happens to be saying right now.
    1. There is no legal requirement that they provide RwT if the election
    passes. I don’t think David disputes this. Nothing but the initial
    commuter line is really up for a vote here. I believe Capital Metro
    intends to build RwT. I also believe that if the commuter rail line
    meets my expectations (performs similar to South Florida’s Tri-Rail
    line, the only other new start of the last 20-30 years which relies on
    shuttle buses for distribution), the political pressure to give back 1/4
    cent (at least) of Capital Metro’s money will be as strong as it ever
    has been. So I don’t buy the argument that the money’s only going back
    if the election fails. I think the money’s also going back if the
    election succeeds but the starter line fails.
    2. I don’t think RwT provides much boost to ridership. This isn’t going
    to be providing cycling access to stations, for the most part; it will
    be providing cycling routes ALONG the rail line, not TO the rail line.
    The neighborhoods in Leander will continue to have no bicycling access
    to stations whatsoever – RwT will not change this. Nor will RwT improve
    access for central Austinites since the part of the line they call
    “central Austin” (really north Austin – Crestview/Wooten) is the least
    likely to have space for the trail due to narrower RoW. Also, cycling
    access to stations in this part of Austin is already pretty good –
    roughly ten million times better than in Leander or far northwest Austin.
    3. If Capital Metro wants to keep running the commuter rail line after
    this point (attempting to fix it with streetcars or by going to
    Seaholm), they’re going to need to fight a POLITICAL battle to keep that
    money. Guess what the likely casualty would be in that case? In other
    words, the “political blunder of backing out” may end up being one
    necessary part of Capital Metro’s strategy to make the rail service
    survive long enough for an attempted rescue by streetcars (or Seaholm).
    In conclusion: I respect David and, unlike many on the
    pro-commuter-rail-side, he has been an honorable and informed opponent.
    I think he’s kept that standard up here. I don’t disagree that
    rails-with-trails would be really nice if they happen; and my prediction
    that they will not occur is based on my informed guess of what will
    happen politically when the rail line fails to deliver passenger load. I
    think he honestly believes the line will deliver enough passengers to
    survive long enough for RwT to happen; and obviously I don’t.

    And a response from Eric Anderson…

    Certainly, construction of Rails-with-Trails will accelerate with voter buy-in and continued build-out of Cap Metro’s long range transit plan.
    There is however simply no evidence that any/all bike facilities associated with the Austin-Leander commuter rail line must jump through some performance hoop.
    […]
    In fact, Cap Metro spokesperson Sam Archer indicated to those present at Austin Cycling Association meeting on Oct. 11th, that immediately following an affirmative Nov. 2nd vote, Cap Metro would begin master-planning efforts for such Rails-with-Trails facilities in tandem with commuter rail planning efforts.

    STILL feel good about falling for this snow-job instead of fighting for light rail for central Austin?

    Contrary to this week’s South Park episode, mycoplasmosis I believe I’ve found the real source of “smug”: bicycle helmets.
    I happened to be browsing the archives of the Austin Cycling Association list (looking for comments about Shoal Creek) and came upon a thread about (mostly) bicycle facilities versus Foresterism. Good stuff; I usually like reading those. Then I came across a contribution which included the following:

    Unhelmeted cyclists involved in falls, decease even at moderate speeds have
    sustained irreversible head injuries and death and even helmeted
    cyclists have sustained things like broken necks in non-collision
    falls. An example of the latter happened in Austin not too long ago
    when a doctor commuting home down Guadalupe hit one of those steel
    plates covering street excavations. He fell and he died. He was a
    regular bike commuter and wore a helmet, but it did not save him. On
    the other hand, past mayor Bruce Todd apparently took a fall with no
    indication that a collision with another vehicle was involved. He
    wore a helmet and in the opinion of doctors and others, it saved his
    life by mitigating injury to his head. While not statistically
    significant in and of themselves, these incidents are not that
    uncommon overall.

    Does anybody else see the problem here? Two examples used of “why you have to wear a helmet or you’re stupid”, and in one of them, the guy died anyway; while in the other one, the guy got so badly hurt he nearly died and is still suffering brain damage even today.
    And yet, people follow up with the likes of this:

    “I’ve seen no motor vehicle/bicycle accidents, but I’ve seen a lot of
    cyclists without helmets and quite a few at night without lights.”
    As have I–always want to stop them and give them a gentle
    lecture–what I call my “as a mom” speech.

    Equating riding at night without lights (which has been clearly shown to be dangerous, in the real world data) to riding without helmets (which hasn’t). Argh.
    Folks, these things don’t work. Whatever they’re doing for your minor scrapes and scratches, there’s just no evidence in the real world that they’re doing jack squat for major injuries or deaths.

    — In HydeParkAustin@yahoogroups.com, about it “Aria K. McIntosh” wrote:
    > As a
    > builder and investor, diagnosis I understand how profits can be made, advice but there is a
    > place for everything and would like to see concentrations of students
    > elsewhere such as south of 38th rather that students between families where
    > sleeping babies are next door to rowdy houses. How many cars does the
    > average family have? 2?
    I live a block south of 38th, and have a family with a sleeping baby (2; my other child is 12). My next-door neighbors are about to have their third child, all under 6.
    That being said, the problem here is, as usual, the lack of multifamily housing in the area due to obstructionist tactics over the last few decades, which, sad to say, Hyde Park fully contributed to. A landlord who owns one or two rental houses has no incentive to crack down on badly-behaved tenants; while a landlord who owns an apartment building or even as few as one condominium unit clearly does (the former because he’ll get less money from his other tenants; the latter due to HOA rules).
    The apartment building on the alley behind us is responsible for far less noise than the average rental house on our street. That’s not a coincidence.

    An Austin branch of “Rock and Romp” is in startup planning. If you’re like me – with child and still wanting to see shows sometimes, physician please sign up for the mailing list post-haste.

    Sal Costello continues to post a shrill screed or three almost every single day to Austin Bloggers trying to get people to vote against incumbents who approved some or all of various toll road plans around these parts. Most irritating of all is that the Austin Libertarians (whose politics would logically tend to support tolls, view even on existing roads, if they were being remotely consistent about user fees) have signed on with this pantload, which shows that they’re just a bunch of suburban Republicans who don’t want to be identified with the religious right.
    If you have any interest in making sure that suburbanites pay their fair share, though, you need to vote the exact opposite way from Sal’s recommendations. These toll roads finally start to reverse the decades-long subsidization of neighborhoods like Circle C by central Austinites who have to contribute property and sales tax money to TXDOT to build ‘free’ways. At the same time, TXDOT spends most of their money in the suburbs and hardly anything remotely close to central Austin since most major roads there aren’t part of the state highway system.
    Tolls in any form are good. Tolls which changed by the time of day would be even better. Tolls which were frequently changed to ensure free-flowing traffic would be best. But any tolls are better than going back to the bad old days where Sal’s driving is subsidized by people in Hyde Park who might not even own a car.
    The truly amazing thing is that he’s managed to sucker environmentalists into opposing these toll roads. Rather than imposing tolls on roads to stop subsidizing sprawl over the aquifer, groups like SOS actually think they have the power to prevent those roads from being built at all, and have made common cause with folks who would expand 290 to 100 lanes before caring one whit about Barton Springs.
    Just say no to Sal. Tolls are a responsible way to make sure the people causing the demand actually pay the price.

    Stories like this one are becoming more prevalent, discount thanks to Consumer Reports’ hatchet-job on hybrids and their failure to fully correct their inconsistencies1 and misrepresentations2. It’s now conventional wisdom that people won’t save much, pfizer even on a Prius, here because of CR’s baloney – comparing the Prius to the Corolla as if anybody who was interested in the much larger Prius will instead cram their family into the Corolla rather than seriously considering the Camry.
    Even more irritating is the new conventional wisdom among idiot pundits that the Prius comparatively high sales is due to nothing more than the “halo effect”, when the data clearly show that the Prius is, frankly, a far better _car_ than the other hybrid cars. The Civic Hybrid still won’t even let you fold the seat down, for instance, and is a much smaller vehicle; and the Accord Hybrid doesn’t deliver much in the way of fuel economy. (I expect the Camry Hybrid, on the other hand, to do very well; Toyota’s hybrid system, again, is clearly technologically superior to that of Honda).
    The truth is that you’ll save a ton of money compared to the Camry, and a decent amount even compared to the Corolla if you buy and drive a Prius.
    You’ve set us back years, guys. Nice work.
    (1: In their own data, they show the Prius’ depreciation as “much better than average” and the Corolla as merely “average”, yet their hybrid economic comparison shows greater depreciation for the Prius. Additionally, they claim greater spending on maintenance for the Prius, which is, again, contradicted by their own data. In fact, maintenance spending on the Prius is likely to lower, if anything, due to less brake wear).
    (2: They compare the Prius only to the Corolla, a comparison only valid if you would fit your family into the Corolla absent the Prius. In fact, many, possibly even most, Prius drivers compare to midsize cars like the Camry, since the Prius is actually between the two cars in size – closer to the Camry especially in rear-seat legroom).

    I obviously haven’t written much lately – I’ve been getting progressively worse news about my arthritis (we’ve run off the end of where the infusion treatments should have worked, information pills and they haven’t – I’m not able to walk far at the present time either – much less ride my bike) so I’ve been spectacularly unmotivated to do much but occasionally snipe on the austin-bikes email list. It’s hard to justify spending much effort crackplogging about bicycling, for instance, when it doesn’t look good for me ever getting back on the bike.
    Finally, I’m now far enough out of the loop that I don’t know that I add much value even when crackplogging about Capital Metro, except in the obviously and purposefully annoying “I told you so” updates. But I still feel like I ought to be updating on their progress, since nobody else in the world ever talks about them other than Ben Wear, who vacillates between simply reinterpreting press releases and being a skeptic in the Skaggs mold.
    My cow orker keeps reminding me how neglected the crackplog has become, so I’ll try to at least do a monthly Cap Metro update. And the upcoming possible resurgence of the late unlameted all-ages helmet law (thanks to inaugural M1EK’s Worst Person In Austin Winner Bruce Todd – subject of a future crackplog if I ever get motivated) should result in a few.
    So this serves as notice that I’m alive, I guess. That’s all.

    Located blogs (mostly non-crackpot) of two friends from way back, apoplexy Laurie and Bernie Thompson from Seattle. Co-oped with both in college; might have gone to a class or three with Bernie; worked with them at IBM and later at S3. At various times, medical almost pursued both to Microsoft too, although I Was Not Stalking Them.
    Bernie created a neat startup company a while back which actually got bought; and now appears to be taking another shot. Laurie’s been published frequently in magazines since I last checked in, according to her blog.
    Bernie, actually, is indirectly responsible for me starting up the crackplog. Way back in the day, he chatted with me for a while about Seattle’s light rail proposal and had the idea that we should do a point/counterpoint blog on it (with iconography of the two of us with skinny little bodies and big giant heads). That never happened; but it gave me the idea to inflict my transportation crap on the rest of the world. So, it’s His Fault.
    (I’ve also updated the link to Kim and Anthony’s blog to reflect their move from Taiwan to Beijing).

The Bile And What To Write About

The ongoing brouhaha with Lyndon reminded me to start collecting these in one place. First in a series of at least three.
Advocates of light rail through central Austin (including myself, seek sanitary of course) were encouraged to vote for this commuter rail plan, pharm and get “light rail later”. Dave Dobbs took me to lunch and tried real hard to get me to fall into line on this, as a matter of fact. This strategy extended to electioneering by Capital Metro itself, who originally stated in Rapid Bus materials that the one proposed route was a “possible placeholder for light rail”. One example here. After getting the pro-transit forces to ease up (except me, of course), they dropped this language from their materials. Since then, Capital Metro has never mentioned running rail on the 2000 light rail route past such minor destinations as the center of downtown, the Capitol, the University of Texas, high-density residential development in West Campus and points north, and the Triangle.
From Jeff Wood’s thesis, the following:

Robin Rather, who also attended the meeting, asked the hard questions. “What is the best system and what does the Central City get out of all this?” She had a point. Bus Rapid Transit would not sit well with people who had voted overwhelmingly for light rail in 2000. “With the stroke of a pen, I could wipe out this whole proposal at the ballot box,” she said “So why should we support this if we are not getting anything out of it?”

Fast-forward to 2006. Capital Metro has eliminated any talk of reserved-guideway rail on the 2000 light rail route; and the “circulator” service being hashed out is leaning heavily towards buses (although still keeping streetcars on the list until the bitter end as is typical). Where’s it going to run? Through downtown and by the capitol; but then veering east past the south edge of UT and out to the old airport; avoiding all of the residential density which exists now or in the near future. In other words, this amazing “center-city circulator” which was supposed to make commuter rail provide some benefits to the people who pay essentially all of Capital Metro’s tax dollars has morphed into “The Bus People Living At Mueller Will Take To Get To Their Job If They’re Members Of The Small Group That Have To Pay A Lot To Park”. (Need a catchy slogan for this vehicle! Ideas gladly stolen^H^H^H^H^H^Haccepted!)
Feel good so far about falling for this snow-job, folks?

Sadly, help just as I was becoming comfortable with using Consumer Reports’ data to defend against hybrid FUD, find the most recent issue contains an article as bad as any of it out there.
Nearly every assumption they make in the article is flawed (not backed up by real-world data). Odograph has already covered the unfairness of comparing the Prius to the much smaller Corolla without at least mentioning the fact that unlike all of the other comparisons they did, web they aren’t really anything close to the same car. I noted in his comments that CR was also inconsistent about depreciation – their table charges a huge “extra depreciation” fee to the Prius, but their own statistics later in the issue show the Prius’ depreciation to be “much better than average” while the Corolla is merely “average”.
Additional points they got wrong are the infamous “battery life” scare tactic (hint: they will probably outlive your car). I’ve posted two tables below, comparing the Prius (more fairly) to the Corolla, as well as to the Camry (which is the car in the same size class as the Prius as well as its much more credible gas-only competitor), and showing their original comparison vs. the Corolla.
(scroll wayyyy down – I don’t know why Movable Type hates table tags so much, but it does; it’s down there eventually I promise).

Cost Item Prius vs. Corolla
CR’s version
Prius vs. Corolla
Fair version
Prius vs. Camry
Purchase-price premium $5700 $5700 $3001
Extra sales tax $400 $400 $201
Savings from hybrid tax credit $(3150) $(3150) $(3150)
Fuel savings $(2300) $(2300) $(3060)2
Extra insurance cost (or savings) $300 $3003 $03
Extra maintenance cost (or savings) $300 $04 $04
Extra depreciation cost $3200 $(1000)5 $(2000)5
Extra financing cost $5250 $5250 $2806
Total extra cost (savings) $5250 $750 $(7610)

Notes:

  1. Purchase price estimated from midpoint of range published in CR.
  2. Using estimated combined MPG of 24 in CR’s tests. Don’t yet know figures for new Camry.
  3. This is probably correct, but has to do with the higher purchase price more than anything else. Estimated same insurance for Camry for that reason.
  4. Previous-gen Prius broke down less than Corolla and required less scheduled maintenance (brake pads and such). Higher cost of having to go to dealer instead of independent sometimes makes up for this.
  5. Prius has depreciated less than essentially any car out there – in fact we still get offers from our dealer to buy it back for about what we paid for it 2 years ago. I’m being conservative here in favor of the Corolla and Camry, believe it or not.
  6. Proportional adjustment from extra cost to Corolla – this is probably slightly off since it’s not quite that simple, but close enough for our purposes.

    Updating yesterday’s entry, cost CR has now admitted a methodology flaw in their hybrid comparison – (which, cough admittedly, click I even carried over into my own table – I assumed their error was in data rather than in methodology). They haven’t acknowledged the inconsistency in their depreciation figures (still claiming even in the revised article that the Prius depreciates worse than the Corolla; and simultaneously claiming in their data in the car tables later in the same issue that the Corolla depreciates much worse than the Prius), but they have noted that simply adding together purchase price difference plus depreciation difference plus financing is effectively double-counting depreciation.
    Their modified figures show the Prius winning by a small amount over the Corolla. Oh, and by the way, they also haven’t addressed the fact that the Prius is a lot bigger than the Corolla – not a fair head-to-head comparison without at least mentioning that the Prius is in between the Corolla and Camry in size.
    Of course, the damage is already done. The hybrid FUDders are gleefully cackling; and the American consumer now ‘knows’ that hybrids ‘don’t save any money’. Good job, CR.

    I’ve plugged my own, pills more consistent, drugs data into CR’s corrected formula and applied them below.
    Conclusions: With the full tax credit, the Prius beats the pants off even the Corolla. Without any of the tax credit (which will eventually happen this year, since it gradually expires as more Toyota hybrids are sold), the Prius doesn’t beat the smaller Corolla (if you use accurate data) but still beats the pants off the Camry.

    Cost Item Prius vs. Corolla
    CR’s version
    Prius vs. Corolla
    Fair version
    Prius vs. Camry
    Purchase-price premium $5700 $5700 $3001
    Extra sales tax $400 $400 $201
    Extra financing cost $792 $792 $426
    Savings from hybrid tax credit $(3150) $(3150) $(3150)
    Fuel savings $(2300) $(2300) $(3060)2
    Extra insurance cost (or savings) $300 $3003 $03
    Extra maintenance cost (or savings) $300 $04 $04
    5-year resale price differential7 $(2494) $(4000)5,8 $(1000)5,8
    Total extra cost (savings) with/without tax credit $(406)
    $2744
    $(2258)
    $892
    $(6848)
    $(3698)

    Notes:

    1. Purchase price estimated from midpoint of range published in CR.
    2. Using estimated combined MPG of 24 in CR’s tests. Don’t yet know figures for new Camry.
    3. This is probably correct, but has to do with the higher purchase price more than anything else. Estimated same insurance for Camry for that reason.
    4. Previous-gen Prius broke down less than Corolla and required less scheduled maintenance (brake pads and such). Higher cost of having to go to dealer instead of independent sometimes makes up for this.
    5. Prius has depreciated less than essentially any car out there – in fact we still get offers from our dealer to buy it back for about what we paid for it 2 years ago. I’m being conservative here in favor of the Corolla and Camry, believe it or not.
    6. Proportional adjustment from extra cost to Corolla – this is probably slightly off since it’s not quite that simple, but close enough for our purposes.
    7. This is how they fixed their methodology. Negative numbers (in parentheses) indicate higher resale value for Prius.
    8. I’ve estimated higher sales price after 5 years for Prius vs. Corolla and Prius vs. Camry based on CR’s own depreciation ratings from later in the issue (see note 5).

    Disappointing one of my three loyal readers who has been bugging me for Part II of Capital Metro’s Broken Promises, approved I thought I should call attention to the bulletin board being used to hash out permanent version(s) of the McMansion Ordinance.
    Specifically, pilule I noticed that on the Task Force, the three representatives closest to my area have one guy with whom I don’t have much problem with in general, but also two people who I most certainly have: one from Hyde Park and one from NUNA.
    I did a little sleuthing on zillow.com, since I can’t yet walk as far as Hyde Park thanks to the still-mostly-unresponsive-to-treatment-arthritis. The representative from Hyde Park’s home is friggin’ huge compared to its neighbors and the typical Hyde Park bungalow.
    I did make it by the representative’s house in NUNA, which, despite not being as huge, was arguably even more incompatible with its neighbors, having the cardinal sin of “looming over its neighbor’s backyards” which is an oft-heard complaint against McMansions.
    I’d also like to call attention to an excellent thread started by Chris Cosart, who has commented here in the past.
    I’ll close with those quote from another thread on that very board:

    As I’ve pointed out with the two examples from the task force, though, this boils down to “I got mine; now you can’t have yours”. Both 111 Laurel and 4315 Avenue C are incompatible with their neighbors. Why should they be allowed to tell me how compatible I must be with mine?

    (Bet you thought I was going to address the debt issue, youth health since the Statesman wrote a scathing editorial today. That’s Part Two, prostate but it’s coming later.)
    Following up on Part One, Capital Metro has put up a survey trying to narrow down road choices for the infamous “circulator service” which represents the sum total of the ‘additions’ which were promised to transit-loving central Austinites who observed that All Systems Go doesn’t go anywhere people want to go; nor does it go near people who might want to ride.

    Notice from the picture: it doesn’t go through residential central Austin in any way, shape, or form. This service, when implemented, is just a bus (maybe a streetcar) from Mueller to UT or downtown; it does NOT do anything to make up for the slap in the face to central Austin.
    Note where it doesn’t go. It doesn’t go up Guadalupe, where tens of thousands of people live within a short walk of the 2000 light rail route. It doesn’t go next to the Triangle, a transit-oriented development which is actually BUILT, not just a twinkle in somebody’s eye. It doesn’t go by high-density residential development presently under construction in West Campus. It doesn’t reward the central Austinites who pay essentially all of Capital Metro’s bills with any transit improvements at all (and no, Rapid Bus isn’t worth shit).
    And also remember that Capital Metro has already ruled out reserved-guideway-transit for this route. This means, essentially, that whether the vehicle has rubber tires (bus) or steel wheels (streetcar), it’s still going to be stuck behind other peoples’ cars in traffic.
    Still feel good about falling for this snowjob, folks?

    Michael Bluejay made an outstanding presentation (Quicktime slides with audio) which everybody needs to read. (He presented this before the City Council right before they approved the cyclist-endangering Option III).

    Again, cialis 40mg I can’t recommend this video enough. It’s the best quick summary of this issue, with pictures, that I’ve ever seen. Watch it now.

    Inspired by a survey pushed by Tarrytown neighborhood activists, physician I’ve re-entered the fray on McMansions. Read the survey, buy information pills and note that if those regulations were enforced, essentially none of the best streets for pedestrians and residents in central Austin would be remotely legal (as opposed to current suburban-oriented zoning code, under which they’re only MOSTLY illegal).
    My latest contribution on the residential regulations discussion board relating to the McMansion debate follows. Please sign up and comment in the thread if you have an interest in this stuff. The perception that most homeowners believe that this stuff is OK is what gives these people the disproportionate power that they have today.
    In other words, right now it looks like eeevil developers are the only people who would oppose these additional restrictions, since most of the responsible adults in Austin have stayed silent. It’s my belief that the City Council will cave and essentially do whatever the task force comes up with, if it looks like their regulations have the support of a sufficiently large majority of people who expressed some interest in the process, just like another recent cowardly pandering dodge of their responsiblity as city leaders.
    This builds on a thread by Chris Cosart.

    I suppose you could sum up my “responsible urbanism” position this way:
    Neighborhoods which have vigorously fought all density and infill over the years which could have helped the city achieve its overall goals should not receive extra protection from the market forces they have distorted in the process.
    Specifically: if your neighborhood’s plan doesn’t allow for additional multifamily development not only on the fringes but on the inside of your neighborhood, in some non-trivial way, you shouldn’t expect the support of the city to defend you against incompatible development. Period.
    Living in a city entails responsibilities as well as rights. Too often, central neighborhoods such as Hyde Park and especially NUNA, have irresponsibly fought density which would have helped the city as a whole (the Villas on Guadalupe, for instance). Now, those same people who fought responsible multi-family development in places where it was drastically needed (even far away from their homes), and who, by the way, live in homes which are already big and/or incompatible with their neighbors, want additional city protection from the market distortions they themselves helped create through decades of obstructionism.
    What we need is additional multifamily infill EVERYWHERE – not just on the big roads like Guadalupe and Lamar (where you’ve fought it), but also in garage apartments, even on small lots (where you’ve fought it); in duplexes (where you’ve fought it); two and four-plexes and rowhouses even on the inside of neighborhoods (where you’ve fought it). All that fighting only resulted in gross distorting loopholes like Super-Twos and Super-Duplexes, when a more rational response to the market would have resulted in quality multi-family infill. Who knows what will result from this latest attempt to stick another finger in the dike – but I can guarantee it won’t be nice, and it won’t be what you expect.
    You won’t get my support. I hope you won’t get the City Council’s support either.

    Well, viagra 60mg I was planning on writing Part Two about finances – specifically, cost the debt issue. But, I just got the following across the wire on the austin-bikes email list (originally written by somebody else on the ACA list). Remember that one of the many levers used to try to pry the center-city away from my position of “rail which doesn’t run anywhere near central Austin isn’t worth voting for” was the promise of “rails with trails”, pushed most heartily by folks like Jeb Boyt, David Foster, and Dave Dobbs. I never fell for it, of course; it was obvious that double-tracking needed to happen in enough spots to make trails of any serious length impractical bordering on impossible, and the political (performance-oriented) hurdles seemed insurmountable. I said so, frequently (see bottom; unfortunately, I didn’t write any blog posts about this angle; I know, what are the odds).
    But, as usual, I was alone.
    Now, indications are that Capital Metro is wiggling out of yet another commitment made to central Austin in order to get the thing passed (see Part One and followup). Responses on the ACA list basically hem and haw about multi-organization planning efforts and the necessity to keep pushing and go get some money, ignoring the fact that Capital Metro and its defenders basically said this trail would get built and be useful for central Austinites; not that “if you pay your own money we might let you build one in a decade out by Leander where there’s enough room, but then again we might not”.
    The Austin-screwing Krusee-train rides again. Yee-haw!
    Here’s the quote from the ACA list:

    I was in a planning meeting with Lucy Galbraith from Capital Metro last week, and she said the words I’ve been dreading. She said there is no plan — nor has there ever been a plan — to build bike and pedestrian trails along the planned rail commuter lines.
    I had been told repeatedly by several sources in Capital Metro that they were committed to building a connected trail for bicycles and pedestrians next to every rail line to allow people to safely walk or ride to or from the nearest station. I said, on this list, I couldn’t wait for that day. It sounded swell to me.
    And I voted for the commuter rail in part because I thought it would help us get this bike trail.
    Now Ms. Galbraith is saying that Capital Metro never had any such plan. (More specifically, she said the language related to bike/pedestrian trails was ambiguous and vague.) She said there was an idea proposed for bike and pedestrian trails, but there were no funds ever allocated. She also said that Capital Metro intends to build parallel tracks in their right-of-way, so in many places there will not be room for a bike/pedestrian trail.
    So, to sum up… There never was a plan, just an idea proposed. There are no funds. And there is no room. And I, for one, feel somewhat fooled.

    Here are some excerpts from the austin-bikes list archive both from me and those who scoffed.
    One of my first on the topic:

    And I want to remind all of you that, while these bike facilities are an unquestionably good thing, it is very unlikely that Capital Metro will build them unless the performance of the starter line is fairly good, and by that I mean it has to be good enough to convince voters to continue to build the system drawn in the long-range plan. The rails-with-trails trail is not going to be part of the starter route; it’s going to be built afterwards IF AND ONLY IF the long-range plan continues to be implemented.
    Whether or not this starter line is good enough to get us on the path of implementing that long-range plan (which I think is still awful) is a matter of opinion. I think by now you all know I believe the chance that this starter line will match the extremely poor performance of Tri-Rail in South Florida, which it closely resembles in all important aspects, is quite good).
    So please vote simply based on whether you think this starter line is going to work. Voting yes in the hopes of getting bike trails is foolish if the plan itself is never going to get to that point. You might in fact be impeding the development of mass transit in our area and not get the bike trails anyways.

    The first real doozy, from David Foster. A nice guy who is probably feeling pretty down right now.

    Bike Friends,
    I have been out of town for a few days and am catching up on lots of
    email on commuter rail and rails-with-trails. Rather than responding
    to al of them, I just want to point out a few reasons why RwT is
    more likely to happen with than without commuter rail. I will be out
    of town again starting tomorrow and not back till Wednesday but I
    look forward to the post-election analysis on this forum, and I hope
    discussion of how to make rails-with-trails work should the
    referendum pass, as I hope it will
    1). Cap Metro will have more money if the referendum passes, and may
    well not be able to withstand the attack to roll back its sales tax
    and put the money into roads if it loses. This means we could lose
    funding for RwT and the All Systems Go improvements to the bus
    system as well, and cripple the agency’s chance to do any kind of
    rail system. This is of course what Skaggs and Levy want.
    2) Cap Metro will have an incentive to do RwT if the referendum
    passes, namely to increase ridership by providing an easier and
    safer way for cyclists to access the stations and trains. Cap Metro
    has also agreed to providing bike access on the trains and lockers
    and/or bike racks at the stations, which will serve the same purpose
    of increasing ridership. A cyclist will be able to ride to the
    station, leave the bike there or take it along and ride to his/her
    final destination.
    3) I do not believe that Cap Metro would commit the political
    blunder of backing out on this promise. Many of us worked to get Cap
    Metro to agree to RwT, including the bicycle advocacy organizations
    who issued the joint press release supporting the referendum (ACA,
    AMTG, TBC, and now too Trans Texas Alliance). Cap Metro gives every
    indication of wanting to go forward, including helping bring Mia
    Birk of Alta Planning in from Portland Oregon to give a presentation
    on Rails with Trails while back.

    My response to David:

    My statement that “you won’t get rails-with-trails if commuter rail
    fails to deliver passengers” is based on political pragmatism, not what
    Capital Metro happens to be saying right now.
    1. There is no legal requirement that they provide RwT if the election
    passes. I don’t think David disputes this. Nothing but the initial
    commuter line is really up for a vote here. I believe Capital Metro
    intends to build RwT. I also believe that if the commuter rail line
    meets my expectations (performs similar to South Florida’s Tri-Rail
    line, the only other new start of the last 20-30 years which relies on
    shuttle buses for distribution), the political pressure to give back 1/4
    cent (at least) of Capital Metro’s money will be as strong as it ever
    has been. So I don’t buy the argument that the money’s only going back
    if the election fails. I think the money’s also going back if the
    election succeeds but the starter line fails.
    2. I don’t think RwT provides much boost to ridership. This isn’t going
    to be providing cycling access to stations, for the most part; it will
    be providing cycling routes ALONG the rail line, not TO the rail line.
    The neighborhoods in Leander will continue to have no bicycling access
    to stations whatsoever – RwT will not change this. Nor will RwT improve
    access for central Austinites since the part of the line they call
    “central Austin” (really north Austin – Crestview/Wooten) is the least
    likely to have space for the trail due to narrower RoW. Also, cycling
    access to stations in this part of Austin is already pretty good –
    roughly ten million times better than in Leander or far northwest Austin.
    3. If Capital Metro wants to keep running the commuter rail line after
    this point (attempting to fix it with streetcars or by going to
    Seaholm), they’re going to need to fight a POLITICAL battle to keep that
    money. Guess what the likely casualty would be in that case? In other
    words, the “political blunder of backing out” may end up being one
    necessary part of Capital Metro’s strategy to make the rail service
    survive long enough for an attempted rescue by streetcars (or Seaholm).
    In conclusion: I respect David and, unlike many on the
    pro-commuter-rail-side, he has been an honorable and informed opponent.
    I think he’s kept that standard up here. I don’t disagree that
    rails-with-trails would be really nice if they happen; and my prediction
    that they will not occur is based on my informed guess of what will
    happen politically when the rail line fails to deliver passenger load. I
    think he honestly believes the line will deliver enough passengers to
    survive long enough for RwT to happen; and obviously I don’t.

    And a response from Eric Anderson…

    Certainly, construction of Rails-with-Trails will accelerate with voter buy-in and continued build-out of Cap Metro’s long range transit plan.
    There is however simply no evidence that any/all bike facilities associated with the Austin-Leander commuter rail line must jump through some performance hoop.
    […]
    In fact, Cap Metro spokesperson Sam Archer indicated to those present at Austin Cycling Association meeting on Oct. 11th, that immediately following an affirmative Nov. 2nd vote, Cap Metro would begin master-planning efforts for such Rails-with-Trails facilities in tandem with commuter rail planning efforts.

    STILL feel good about falling for this snow-job instead of fighting for light rail for central Austin?

    Contrary to this week’s South Park episode, mycoplasmosis I believe I’ve found the real source of “smug”: bicycle helmets.
    I happened to be browsing the archives of the Austin Cycling Association list (looking for comments about Shoal Creek) and came upon a thread about (mostly) bicycle facilities versus Foresterism. Good stuff; I usually like reading those. Then I came across a contribution which included the following:

    Unhelmeted cyclists involved in falls, decease even at moderate speeds have
    sustained irreversible head injuries and death and even helmeted
    cyclists have sustained things like broken necks in non-collision
    falls. An example of the latter happened in Austin not too long ago
    when a doctor commuting home down Guadalupe hit one of those steel
    plates covering street excavations. He fell and he died. He was a
    regular bike commuter and wore a helmet, but it did not save him. On
    the other hand, past mayor Bruce Todd apparently took a fall with no
    indication that a collision with another vehicle was involved. He
    wore a helmet and in the opinion of doctors and others, it saved his
    life by mitigating injury to his head. While not statistically
    significant in and of themselves, these incidents are not that
    uncommon overall.

    Does anybody else see the problem here? Two examples used of “why you have to wear a helmet or you’re stupid”, and in one of them, the guy died anyway; while in the other one, the guy got so badly hurt he nearly died and is still suffering brain damage even today.
    And yet, people follow up with the likes of this:

    “I’ve seen no motor vehicle/bicycle accidents, but I’ve seen a lot of
    cyclists without helmets and quite a few at night without lights.”
    As have I–always want to stop them and give them a gentle
    lecture–what I call my “as a mom” speech.

    Equating riding at night without lights (which has been clearly shown to be dangerous, in the real world data) to riding without helmets (which hasn’t). Argh.
    Folks, these things don’t work. Whatever they’re doing for your minor scrapes and scratches, there’s just no evidence in the real world that they’re doing jack squat for major injuries or deaths.

    — In HydeParkAustin@yahoogroups.com, about it “Aria K. McIntosh” wrote:
    > As a
    > builder and investor, diagnosis I understand how profits can be made, advice but there is a
    > place for everything and would like to see concentrations of students
    > elsewhere such as south of 38th rather that students between families where
    > sleeping babies are next door to rowdy houses. How many cars does the
    > average family have? 2?
    I live a block south of 38th, and have a family with a sleeping baby (2; my other child is 12). My next-door neighbors are about to have their third child, all under 6.
    That being said, the problem here is, as usual, the lack of multifamily housing in the area due to obstructionist tactics over the last few decades, which, sad to say, Hyde Park fully contributed to. A landlord who owns one or two rental houses has no incentive to crack down on badly-behaved tenants; while a landlord who owns an apartment building or even as few as one condominium unit clearly does (the former because he’ll get less money from his other tenants; the latter due to HOA rules).
    The apartment building on the alley behind us is responsible for far less noise than the average rental house on our street. That’s not a coincidence.

    An Austin branch of “Rock and Romp” is in startup planning. If you’re like me – with child and still wanting to see shows sometimes, physician please sign up for the mailing list post-haste.

    Sal Costello continues to post a shrill screed or three almost every single day to Austin Bloggers trying to get people to vote against incumbents who approved some or all of various toll road plans around these parts. Most irritating of all is that the Austin Libertarians (whose politics would logically tend to support tolls, view even on existing roads, if they were being remotely consistent about user fees) have signed on with this pantload, which shows that they’re just a bunch of suburban Republicans who don’t want to be identified with the religious right.
    If you have any interest in making sure that suburbanites pay their fair share, though, you need to vote the exact opposite way from Sal’s recommendations. These toll roads finally start to reverse the decades-long subsidization of neighborhoods like Circle C by central Austinites who have to contribute property and sales tax money to TXDOT to build ‘free’ways. At the same time, TXDOT spends most of their money in the suburbs and hardly anything remotely close to central Austin since most major roads there aren’t part of the state highway system.
    Tolls in any form are good. Tolls which changed by the time of day would be even better. Tolls which were frequently changed to ensure free-flowing traffic would be best. But any tolls are better than going back to the bad old days where Sal’s driving is subsidized by people in Hyde Park who might not even own a car.
    The truly amazing thing is that he’s managed to sucker environmentalists into opposing these toll roads. Rather than imposing tolls on roads to stop subsidizing sprawl over the aquifer, groups like SOS actually think they have the power to prevent those roads from being built at all, and have made common cause with folks who would expand 290 to 100 lanes before caring one whit about Barton Springs.
    Just say no to Sal. Tolls are a responsible way to make sure the people causing the demand actually pay the price.

    Stories like this one are becoming more prevalent, discount thanks to Consumer Reports’ hatchet-job on hybrids and their failure to fully correct their inconsistencies1 and misrepresentations2. It’s now conventional wisdom that people won’t save much, pfizer even on a Prius, here because of CR’s baloney – comparing the Prius to the Corolla as if anybody who was interested in the much larger Prius will instead cram their family into the Corolla rather than seriously considering the Camry.
    Even more irritating is the new conventional wisdom among idiot pundits that the Prius comparatively high sales is due to nothing more than the “halo effect”, when the data clearly show that the Prius is, frankly, a far better _car_ than the other hybrid cars. The Civic Hybrid still won’t even let you fold the seat down, for instance, and is a much smaller vehicle; and the Accord Hybrid doesn’t deliver much in the way of fuel economy. (I expect the Camry Hybrid, on the other hand, to do very well; Toyota’s hybrid system, again, is clearly technologically superior to that of Honda).
    The truth is that you’ll save a ton of money compared to the Camry, and a decent amount even compared to the Corolla if you buy and drive a Prius.
    You’ve set us back years, guys. Nice work.
    (1: In their own data, they show the Prius’ depreciation as “much better than average” and the Corolla as merely “average”, yet their hybrid economic comparison shows greater depreciation for the Prius. Additionally, they claim greater spending on maintenance for the Prius, which is, again, contradicted by their own data. In fact, maintenance spending on the Prius is likely to lower, if anything, due to less brake wear).
    (2: They compare the Prius only to the Corolla, a comparison only valid if you would fit your family into the Corolla absent the Prius. In fact, many, possibly even most, Prius drivers compare to midsize cars like the Camry, since the Prius is actually between the two cars in size – closer to the Camry especially in rear-seat legroom).

    I obviously haven’t written much lately – I’ve been getting progressively worse news about my arthritis (we’ve run off the end of where the infusion treatments should have worked, information pills and they haven’t – I’m not able to walk far at the present time either – much less ride my bike) so I’ve been spectacularly unmotivated to do much but occasionally snipe on the austin-bikes email list. It’s hard to justify spending much effort crackplogging about bicycling, for instance, when it doesn’t look good for me ever getting back on the bike.
    Finally, I’m now far enough out of the loop that I don’t know that I add much value even when crackplogging about Capital Metro, except in the obviously and purposefully annoying “I told you so” updates. But I still feel like I ought to be updating on their progress, since nobody else in the world ever talks about them other than Ben Wear, who vacillates between simply reinterpreting press releases and being a skeptic in the Skaggs mold.
    My cow orker keeps reminding me how neglected the crackplog has become, so I’ll try to at least do a monthly Cap Metro update. And the upcoming possible resurgence of the late unlameted all-ages helmet law (thanks to inaugural M1EK’s Worst Person In Austin Winner Bruce Todd – subject of a future crackplog if I ever get motivated) should result in a few.
    So this serves as notice that I’m alive, I guess. That’s all.

Austin Rail Politics Thesis

Following up on yesterday’s excitement where I got involved in the McMansion debate on an austin neighborhood planning email list, angina infertility pointing out that the rationale used to justify adding MORE rather than LESS regulation of what people do with their property is shoddy, epilepsy
and in which I accidentally mailed something to the whole list which I meant to send offline to one person in particular, for which I then had to apologize, to which I then received a snarky, obnoxious, rejoinder that I might want to read the Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan (which I printed out and have had on hand for 3 or 4 years now, as I’ve done with all center-city neighborhood plans, since, heck, I was a committee chair on one back in the day),
to which I then wrote this mean, mean, mean retort

Today, I call your attention to the Planning Commission recommendations for the issue. Note how few of the items listed have anything to do with drainage.
Here’s a radical idea: If the problem being addressed here really is “drainage”, i.e. storm sewers, and it MUST be, since the center-city neighborhood associations who pushed this through used the DRAINAGE EMERGENCY as the justification for their immediate moratorium, why not attack the actual problem? Here’s a simple idea. (Using single-family here; multi-family fees would require another formula).

  1. “Normal” drainage fee on monthly utility statement = X (today’s amount).
  2. Adjust for size of single-family lot. Larger lot = bigger fee.
  3. Adjust for amount of impervious cover, by percentage. More greenspace = smaller fee.
  4. Adjust for on-site detention such as rain barrels.

That’s all it would take. Anybody who wanted to live in a McMansion would be faced with a higher drainage bill. Anybody who lives in an existing house which has similarly large impervious cover ALSO pays. Make these multipliers high enough that they generate enough money for the necessary drainage facilities, and you then have a way to harness the power of development to solve the actual problem.
I wonder how interested in this actual solution to the DRAINAGE!!!!!! EMERGENCY!!!!!! the center-city neighborhood associations will be. Any guesses?
I should probably start adding this disclaimer: M1EK hates McMansions more than you do. M1EK just doesn’t like punishing property owners who don’t want to build a McMansion but might want to build a bigger house. M1EK is especially pissed off by people who use bogus excuses to hide what they really want, which is to keep ‘those people’ out of ‘their neighborhood’. M1EK is even more especially pissed off by neighborhood associations whose leaders bleat about keeping housing affordable, yet have resisted every multifamily development in and near their neighborhood for years..

After discussions with a few like-minded folks, drugstore I’ve created a group on yahoo called austin_urbanists. Some of the readers of this crackplog might be interested in joining.

Jeff Wood, information pills in the middle of a thread on lightrail_now where I’m trying to once again prevent Lyndon from wriggling off the hook, this site just posted a link to his thesis on Austin rail transportation politics in which I’m quoted a few times. A good summary for those still interested in the issue.

Austin urbanist group

Following up on yesterday’s excitement where I got involved in the McMansion debate on an austin neighborhood planning email list, angina infertility pointing out that the rationale used to justify adding MORE rather than LESS regulation of what people do with their property is shoddy, epilepsy
and in which I accidentally mailed something to the whole list which I meant to send offline to one person in particular, for which I then had to apologize, to which I then received a snarky, obnoxious, rejoinder that I might want to read the Hyde Park Neighborhood Plan (which I printed out and have had on hand for 3 or 4 years now, as I’ve done with all center-city neighborhood plans, since, heck, I was a committee chair on one back in the day),
to which I then wrote this mean, mean, mean retort

Today, I call your attention to the Planning Commission recommendations for the issue. Note how few of the items listed have anything to do with drainage.
Here’s a radical idea: If the problem being addressed here really is “drainage”, i.e. storm sewers, and it MUST be, since the center-city neighborhood associations who pushed this through used the DRAINAGE EMERGENCY as the justification for their immediate moratorium, why not attack the actual problem? Here’s a simple idea. (Using single-family here; multi-family fees would require another formula).

  1. “Normal” drainage fee on monthly utility statement = X (today’s amount).
  2. Adjust for size of single-family lot. Larger lot = bigger fee.
  3. Adjust for amount of impervious cover, by percentage. More greenspace = smaller fee.
  4. Adjust for on-site detention such as rain barrels.

That’s all it would take. Anybody who wanted to live in a McMansion would be faced with a higher drainage bill. Anybody who lives in an existing house which has similarly large impervious cover ALSO pays. Make these multipliers high enough that they generate enough money for the necessary drainage facilities, and you then have a way to harness the power of development to solve the actual problem.
I wonder how interested in this actual solution to the DRAINAGE!!!!!! EMERGENCY!!!!!! the center-city neighborhood associations will be. Any guesses?
I should probably start adding this disclaimer: M1EK hates McMansions more than you do. M1EK just doesn’t like punishing property owners who don’t want to build a McMansion but might want to build a bigger house. M1EK is especially pissed off by people who use bogus excuses to hide what they really want, which is to keep ‘those people’ out of ‘their neighborhood’. M1EK is even more especially pissed off by neighborhood associations whose leaders bleat about keeping housing affordable, yet have resisted every multifamily development in and near their neighborhood for years..

After discussions with a few like-minded folks, drugstore I’ve created a group on yahoo called austin_urbanists. Some of the readers of this crackplog might be interested in joining.

Clearly I Am A Shrinking Violet

These guys have nothing to say about this. Pushing claims of false controversy is obviously the game being played by the current crop of right-wingers (ticking off even moderate Republicans like the ones who used to run the show), diagnosis cure but it’s been very disappointing to me how much of that has rubbed off on the supposedly non-partisan libertarians.
Hint: Science doesn’t care if you don’t like the news – and it definitely doesn’t care if you don’t want to admit climate change is anthropogenic and dangerous just because the only effective solutions require some involvement from the evil State.

Chris Mooney has moved here (a much more palatable host) and I’ve added Tim Lambert.
Both often cover the distortion of science perpetrated by the current sorry crop of right-wingers. And don’t fall for bogus claims of balance by shysters trying to convince you both sides are equally bad. They’re just not. This is almost entirely a Republican problem, cheap and it’s not going anywhere. The mostly non-religious but very-rabid right-wingers at my last job were, illness despite being a highly educated and self-described moderate bunch, information pills falling for most of the denial science pushed for profit by the GOP’s pseudoscience shills. If those people are unwilling to use their critical thinking skills when their political party tells them not to, I fear for our future. I ain’t kidding.
For instance: There isn’t really any lack of consensus on global warming, people. The scientists who study climate are overwhelmingly speaking in one voice. The few skeptics who remain are largely shills funded by the oil companies. Yes, for real.
I note in passing that my buddies at Hit and Run are still curiously silent on the global warming news of the day.

I’m still not over the current flare-up of my stupid arthritis (now six months and counting since I was able to do, ophthalmologist essentially, sickness anything) so even though price -97.726307&sspn=0.016302,0.042229&q=restaurant&near=4280+Duval+Street,+Austin,+TX&btnG=Search&latlng=30304463,-97726197,18228028895964040687″>Julio’s is within a good walk, we drove to lunch. My wife wanted to pick up some vegetables at Fresh Plus too. Here’s what we had to do:

  1. Drive by Julio’s. All spaces taken. Oops.
  2. Drive by the lot at Fresh Plus. Note that it’s 2/3 empty, unlike the other big lot in the area. Sign says you will be towed if you leave the premises. Oops.
  3. Drive by the other big lot. Full. (Not really allowed for Julio’s either; probably towable).
  4. Park on street amidst many people doing the same.
  5. Walk past Fresh Plus and that other lot over to Julio’s.
  6. Eat lunch
  7. Walk back to Fresh Plus and buy vegetables
  8. Walk past 2/3 empty lot back to car

The even-more-suburban version of this would have entailed us parking at a lot for Julio’s, then having to move the car to the Fresh Plus lot, then driving home. Some folks would prefer that business customers don’t park on the street even in Hyde Park so that’s not that far off. In fact, a local small business opening was/is being held up over such concerns. (if you can’t read the hyde park group and you’re really interested in the details, email me).

This shopping center was used before by Karen McGraw as an example of a good solution to the parking-versus-neighborhood-streets ‘problem’ when another business on Guadalupe was trying to get a variance to open with far less than suburban-norm parking. Didn’t seem that good to me – pretty damn inefficient to have 2/3 of Fresh Plus’ lot sitting there empty (and the big lot shared by Hyde Park Bar & Grill and other businesses is often underutilized as well, although not today).

We’re not that unusual – when people do drive to this commercial node (many walk or bike), it’s quite often to hit several places at once. Most either do what we do and park on the street (thus pissing off the neighbors) or risk getting towed because they ‘left the premises’.

Does this strike anybody else as good? What the hell’s wrong with just abolishing these stupid parking requirements anyways – businesses that absolutely can’t live without dedicated off-street parking would continue to build it; but we wouldn’t be left with these wide expanses of mandated, but empty, parking. And if there was a huge demand for off-street parking, somebody could build (shudder) a pay lot instead of forcing businesses to subsidize drivers at the expense of cyclists and pedestrians.

Folks, if you want to live in a real city, you have to get to that place where you realize that forcing every business to have its own parking lot is just stupid, stupid, stupid. You end up with blight (like on Guadalupe) because you just can’t pound that square suburban peg into the circular urban hole.

Both Austinist and Metroblogging Austin wrote articles about Cap Metro which talked about commuter rail and didn’t link here to any one of the hundred or so articles in my vast Cap Metro commuter rail category archive. My feelings are hurt. More importantly: Baby Jebus is crying.

Update: Both have now added links to the category archive here, this site so that hopefully new readers can get a lot of backstory. Thanks, implant both of you.

A summary:

  • Capital Metro did not seek Federal money because they knew they’d not get much. The FTA was unlikely to rate this commuter rail plan very highly – even Cap Metro’s own figures show a very small number of people riding, because this piece-of-crap Krusee debacle doesn’t actually go anywhere people want to go, like UT, the Capitol, or Congress Avenue, and their bogus stuck-in-traffic ‘circulator’ is only going to circulate bums and other carless transit-dependent folks because of the extra time and discomfort involved in a three-seat ride. Oh, and it also doesn’t go near any of the center-city neighborhoods that actually like to use transit.
  • The 2000 light rail plan, on the other hand, was rated pretty highly by the FTA and would have clearly obtained a good chunk of federal funding, as would a scaled-back version of same, due to much higher projected ridership (compared to the Krusee craptrain above).
  • The union, whether you like them or not, would be committing suicide if they consented to a two-tier wage structure. Any position by Cap Metro which includes that change is, therefore, evidence that they don’t want to negotiate, but rather, that their desire is to kill the union.

New links

These guys have nothing to say about this. Pushing claims of false controversy is obviously the game being played by the current crop of right-wingers (ticking off even moderate Republicans like the ones who used to run the show), diagnosis cure but it’s been very disappointing to me how much of that has rubbed off on the supposedly non-partisan libertarians.
Hint: Science doesn’t care if you don’t like the news – and it definitely doesn’t care if you don’t want to admit climate change is anthropogenic and dangerous just because the only effective solutions require some involvement from the evil State.

Chris Mooney has moved here (a much more palatable host) and I’ve added Tim Lambert.
Both often cover the distortion of science perpetrated by the current sorry crop of right-wingers. And don’t fall for bogus claims of balance by shysters trying to convince you both sides are equally bad. They’re just not. This is almost entirely a Republican problem, cheap and it’s not going anywhere. The mostly non-religious but very-rabid right-wingers at my last job were, illness despite being a highly educated and self-described moderate bunch, information pills falling for most of the denial science pushed for profit by the GOP’s pseudoscience shills. If those people are unwilling to use their critical thinking skills when their political party tells them not to, I fear for our future. I ain’t kidding.
For instance: There isn’t really any lack of consensus on global warming, people. The scientists who study climate are overwhelmingly speaking in one voice. The few skeptics who remain are largely shills funded by the oil companies. Yes, for real.
I note in passing that my buddies at Hit and Run are still curiously silent on the global warming news of the day.

Thanks Be To The Baba

I couldn’t put it any better myself. This is how Mike Krusee’s killed Austin’s hopes at getting intracity transit back from the dark ages of slow jerky buses.

Anybody who found their way to my bike log might have noticed a fairly large gap, hospital like the one I had in 2001-2002. I’ve had a bad flareup and a very slow recovery from another attack of what I now (as of this morning) know is Reiter’s Syndrome. The previous flareup, in 2001, was diagnosed as either Reiter’s or spondylitis. Since then, some new drugs have come out to treat spondylitis, so we were hoping to get at least enough spondylitis apparent so I could try these drugs, since in the 4 years between the 2001 flareup and the 2005 flareup, I never recovered full function in my toes (leading to less volleyball, less biking, and gradually gaining back the 40 pounds I lost in 2000-2001, when I was in the best shape of my life – so much for being in shape preventing disease). After that initial flare settled down to 70-80% function (two courses of steroids), I went on a variety of drugs (mostly Vioxx and Azulfidine, the two of which I took for essentially two years) and got up to 90% function, but couldn’t do any better. I ended up taking myself off the drugs after the long-term effects were becoming apparent – spent a couple of hours in the early morning most nights in the bathroom with severe intestinal pain. After going off the drugs, things didn’t get any worse, so I figured I had reached a new plateau of 90%, which at least I could mostly live with.
Then the 2005 flare hit. Really really bad. Much worse than 2001. Had to do a business trip with what felt like a broken ankle. Two courses of steroids again; the second course barely worked; I was nearly certain I was going to go for the world record of three. Knocked it back to the toes again, apparently, although I don’t have much flexibility in my ankle and knee, so it may still be there too. So I come back a couple months later to the rheumatologist and at the first meeting with the doctor I hear about the new biologics that can treat spondylitis; I go in for a (very expensive) bone scan; and this morning get the results. No spondylitis. Just Reiter’s. And the bone scan shows that it’s still affecting my knee and ankle too – so I’m still much worse off than I was in 2001 at this point.
When these flares hit, I can’t even walk, much less bike. Right knee and right ankle become inflamed and red. This last time I spent two weeks on crutches with a HUGE THROBBING ANKLE!!!1, and spent a few nights unable to sleep until I got me some Vicodin. Sleep was even harder during the first flare, since my elbow was also hit – I had to sleep with my arm over my head in one particular position.
No dice. No new drugs; no new research; chance of recovering full function is zero. Oh, and, if I want to lessen the chance of more degenerative arthritis as I get older, my best course of action is to give up alcohol, red meat, refined sugars, and one other thing I forget now but probably was equally difficult to imagine living without.
I’m currently at about 70% (ironically I biked to the doctors’ office in order to test out the new bike trailer with a load – got some soda on the way back to simulate the weight of my son), meaning I can play a little bit of volleyball very badly, and I can go on very short bike rides. Oh, and keep getting fatter, until I give up what joy remains in life and go vegetarian. Well, I DID have something delicious on Saturday that turned out to be cauliflower…
Excuse me while I go punch a clown. And then I need to drown my sorrows in a bacon margarita. With sugar on top.

crackplog – short for “crackpot blog”, side effects i.e., treatment have you read M1EK’s crackplog?
The evil google machine indicates today that I am the first person in the universe to use this term. Feel free to use it from here on out, but credit me.

I’ve been arguing for a long time that the “commuting calculators” pushed by cyclists to convince people to ride their bike to work are skewed, approved since they assume that you can effectively divide the total cost of owning a car by the number of days in a year, ed then get credit for each of those days you leave it in the garage.
Capital Metro’s example, for instance, assumes depreciation as one of the costs you save. (To be fair, they have now allowed you to zero out this field, which is quite a concession for them). I’d argue it should be zero or at least very low, since most of the cost of depreciation is a function of time, not miles. I’ve previously argued that a more rational accounting of costs shows that it’s unlikely that a large number of suburban commuters would begin using the bus to get to work due simply to the cost of gasoline (which is why we need a real urban rail system that provides a time incentive to use transit; not this Austin-screwing transit-killer foisted on us by Mike Krusse).
Now the Washington Post has done an analysis which, although it still includes depreciation, correctly mentions other fixed costs which don’t go away. In DC, as it turns out, you might not save anything by leaving your car in your driveway. Whatever you think of the merits of subsidizing public transportation, surely even the most reactionary of road warriors would admit that something’s wrong there.
What could be done to help fix this problem? One obvious answer is to pay for all of the costs of road use through the gasoline tax, instead of through a variety of non-user-fees as we do today (property and sales tax especially). The suburban regions of DC, like Texas, pay for a lot of their roads this way – meaning that you pay the same (hundreds to thousands of dollars a year) whether you drive 100, 10, or 0 miles a day. Anything which increases the variable cost of driving while leaving the fixed cost alone (or even decreasing it) can only help people make more efficient decisions about how to travel on each trip. Another obvious answer would be forcing insurance companies to deliver on mileage-based insurance (and, no, despite publicity, they really aren’t doing this today – or I’d be jumping all over it).

Lyndon Henry just called me “anti-rail”. I’m so mad I could chew nails.
His “bend over for Mike Krusee side” has destroyed any chance at urban rail here in Austin for a generation, seek since the starter line implemented by Capital Metro will not be able to garner significant ridership due to its reliance on shuttle buses to get anywhere you might want to go.
After this failure, geriatrician predicted by South Florida’s experience with a commuter rail plan which is almost identical to Capital Metro’s, healing Austin voters will not be willing to vote up any more rail for decades.
If anybody’s “anti-rail”, it’s him and his ilk; since their collaboration with Mike Krusee will prevent urban Austin from seeing rail until my children are middle-aged.
Update: my cow orker pointed out that lightrail_now doesn’t have public archives. Here’s the offending opening paragraph of Lyndon’s comment:

Let me just point out that, if Mike Dahmus’s anti-rail side had won last
November’s vote – i.e., the rail plan had failed – the Road Warriors would
be celebrating the “final” demise of rail transit in Austin and picking the
bones of Capital Metro for more funding for roads – highways, tollways,
etc. – in this area.

he then goes on to tell people how wonderful the commuter rail plan is, how it might be upgraded to electrified LRT (continuing his misleading crap about how sticking an electrical wire on it makes it “light rail”), and mentions the people trying to get streetcars running through downtown and an unnamed bunch of “rail advocates” trying to get light rail to run on the Rapid Bus corridor, failing to say anything about the fact that this commuter rail plan effectively precludes running light rail down that stretch of Lamar/Guadalupe.

The current brou-ha-ha with Lyndon reminded me to go check if anything’s up with Tri-Rail in South Florida. As I’ve previously written, one health they’re the best example out there of the kind of rail line Capital Metro is going to build here in Austin, in that

  • they don’t run trains very often
  • most destinations require a shuttle bus ride
  • they chose to run on a cheap existing track rather than building lines closer to those destinations (like light rail systems usually do)

Well, in the process I found an updated version of an old article I think I already used, but I hadn’t noticed one important paragraph before. The context is that they’re finally talking seriously about moving to the FEC corridor – which is where the service should have been built all along, since it allows passengers to walk to a non-trivial number of office and retail destinations. We’re even worse off here, though, since building this commuter rail line basically prevents us from building anything like the 2000 starter line. Here’s the quote:

Without a FEC/TRI-Rail alliance, McCarty sees the need for continued subsidy because of the “inherent fear of feeder bus reliability.” The buses “are often late,” she explained.

Since Tri-Rail trains only run about every half-hour during the commute peak and less often the rest of the day (like Austin’s commuter rail trains will), missing your train on the way home from work is a big deal. The “feeder” buses they’re talking about are the same kind of shuttle buses we’re going to be stuck with here in Austin, if you work downtown, at the Capitol, or at UT. And guess what? They’re going to be unreliable too – they’ll be stuck in the same traffic as your car.
Even if streetcars are used for the “high-frequency circulators” which will take you from your office to the train station, the same problem exists – since streetcars won’t have their own lane and won’t be given green lights over cross traffic. The chance that light rail will come out of the Future Connections Study is zero, since commuter rail precludes it from being built in the 2000 alignment, which is the only one good enough to merit Federal funding.
So just like in South Florida, people will experience a couple of missed trains and then, if they have any other options, will stop riding. Nobody wants to sit around for even a half-hour waiting for the next train home. And if all you’re doing is catering to riders who don’t have a choice, you might as well just dump the money into more buses.

A photographic exercise by M1EK. All pictures obtained from the 9/24/05 Future Connections steering committee presentation.




This is a bit misleading since it makes it look like Hyde Park and the neighborhoods around Airport Blvd are equally suitable for rail transit – the problem is that you can’t walk to stations along Airport from any residential developments of consequence; the area is fairly pedestrian-hostile.
Note that all of the existing and future high-density residential and employment centers are going to be served by “high-frequency circulators”, sildenafil i.e., visit shuttle buses stuck in traffic. While the incredibly important Airport Boulevard corridor gets rail. Here’s one example of a circulator movement they envision; this one is planted right on Speedway near my house. Note: there’s already high-frequency bus service to campus and downtown on this street, sales so it’s doubtful they’ll be doing anything here other than publicity:

Now, for comparison’s sake, I took the two 2017 maps, and using my awesome drawing skills, drew the 2000 light rail proposal, in blue. The jog from the Guadalupe corridor over to Congress Avenue might have happened as far north as 11th; I chose 9th as a compromise. Some versions even had it running around the Capitol on both sides — but this is a simpler drawing that still hits all the same major spots. A short distance north of this map, the 2000 light rail line would have converged with the red “All Systems Go” line and continued northwest on existing rail right-of-way towards Howard Lane, so this picture captures most of the “difference” between the proposals.


Gosh, which one would have a better chance at delivering ridership? I really can’t tell the difference. I guess Lyndon IS right – this commuter rail plan IS just as good as light rail!

Capital Metro’s On The Move E-Newsletter is still calling this thing “urban commuter rail”.
It’s not urban. It’s arguably commuter. It’s definitely rail. One and a half out of three is not enough to justify this misleading terminology. This thing goes nowhere near the urban parts of Austin. Even its just-barely-inside-downtown last station is in the part of Austin where surface parking lots are more common than buildings.
Cut it out, recipe you buttheads. Just cut it out. It’s commuter rail, doctor not “urban rail”, and adding more stations in 2020 isn’t going to make it any more urban.
If it doesn’t go anywhere near the densest residential neighborhoods or anywhere near the densest employment centers, it isn’t urban, by any stretch of the imagination. If your stations are only in locations to which you have to drive, take a bus, or be dropped off by somebody who drove, it’s not urban; not even close.
CUT IT OUT DAMMIT.

For a long time, healing Houston has been the thorn in the side of those who, disinfection like I, claim that suburban sprawl is not a natural preference of the market, but rather, the result of market distortions in the form of zoning and other anti-urban regulations and tax policies. Houston, as anybody who’s travelled through it knows, is a gigantic metastisizing suburban sprawl which takes an hour to get through and which makes even Cedar Park look attractive. There’s no density outside downtown; and the rest of the city is about as pleasant to walk through as a pit full of angry scorpions. You have to be particularly stubborn or perhaps particularly brave to live there without a car. Those of us who like to believe that removing those anti-urban regulations would lead to the market providing more traditional urban living are often stymied with the reply, “well, Houston has no zoning, and look at it”.
Now, somebody’s finally written a paper which addresses the question of Houston head-on. As expected, they’ve found that Houston’s lack of zoning is more than made up for by a combination of other regulations and tax policies (which in Houston’s case more than make up for the lack of formal zoning in effectively outlawing new urban development). Not just restrictive covenants, but a host of other policies which effectively outlaw urban development and force all residential construction into a couple of standard suburban forms (single-family houses on cul-de-sacs and three-story apartment buildings clustered around a ring of parking lots).
A good read for anybody who wonders why we have so much of the same crap in so many places.

Found this site while browsing technorati today; very car-centric but at least discusses the topic of intersection design (which obviously interests me as well). I’ve added to my links and made a bunch of comments, tadalafil trying to represent other road users (i.e. pedestrians and cyclists). Check it out.


I’m way behind on pictures because I still haven’t gotten around to trying the Windows tools which may provide satisfactory automation for my album generation (thanks, pills Phil). But here’s a teaser, from this Halloween.

I just heard from an acquaintance with the Austin Streetcars group that, stuff at Tuesday’s meeting for Future Connections, more about the Capital Metro consultant pointed at the ends of the UT shuttle bus line as examples of “Bus TOD” to presumably answer the complaint that I (and nearly everyone else in the world) state about TOD (transit-oriented development) and buses, namely, that it simply doesn’t happen in this country unless you have frequent rail transit, not just buses. In Europe, where gas is six bucks a gallon and there’s no parking anyways, you can get it with a bus station, but even there, the focus is on rail transit.
Good lord. I don’t even know where to begin with this, but I’ll try anyways. While I expect Capital Metro to continue with bogus claims that they can get TOD from the commuter rail line and maybe even the Rapid Bus line, I didn’t think even they would go so far out into left-field as to claim you can get TOD from regular, crappy, city buses.

  1. I’m pretty sure the apartment complexes predate the shuttle bus lines, at least some of them did, and their density is, if anything, lower than apartment complexes elsewhere (some are only two stories instead of the typical three you get in MF-3 zoning, for instance).
  2. Those apartment complexes have just as much parking in just the same places as similar apartment complexes do along Jollyville, or Metric Blvd. In fact, transit coverage of the Far West area is poor, except if you want to go to UT during classtime. Riverside, at least, has decent transit coverage, but you have to walk a long ways to get to them. In NEITHER place is there EVER any incentive to use transit other than to get to class – it’s going to be FAR easier and FAR quicker to use that car conveniently (and freely) parked in the lot next to your door. The very OPPOSITE of TOD.
  3. There’s no mixed-use development of any kind in the vicinity of either ‘student slum’. If you dodge driveways and walk a long ways one direction to get out of the area where there’s only apartments, you get to an area where there’s only single-family houses. If you walk a long ways the other direction, you get to an area where there’s only strip-malls. NOWHERE do you find a place where there are buildings with offices or apartments on top and retail on the bottom.
  4. Neither area is remotely pedestrian-friendly. You have to walk a long ways to get to those strip malls, and then cross a huge surface parking lot to get to the stores. Again, this is the very OPPOSITE of TOD.

Any more? Man, I’m flabbergasted that they could sink this low. It’s one thing to claim that buses can generate TOD (some people claim that BRT, at least, can do it). It’s quite another to point to two student slums as your example.

The meme “hybrids don’t save any money” has been flying fast and furious as of late; originating with people trying desperately to defend GM for having missed this boat entirely. When people of a certain (conservative, ascariasis usually) bent saw the Prius, about it they complained that more of the electric power ought to go into performance (even though for a good-mileage car, it accelerates perfectly well, i.e. I’ve not been frustrated with it when getting on the highway). Toyota complied, and now they get dinged for a less impressive mileage boost in the Highlander Hybrid.
This unidentified individual while generally liking his hybrid SUV, repeated one of the most often heard bits of hybrid FUD. To be more accurate, you can replace his comment:

As I’ve said before, if you just want to save money, a hybrid isn’t the way to go, yet.

with:

As I’ve said before, if you just want to save money on an SUV, a Highlander hybrid isn’t the way to go, yet.

Because when you compare the Prius to the Camry (same size class), it’s very easy to save money over the life of the car. Same to a lesser extent with the Civic Hybrid. The worst comparisons out there (Edmund’s) find a small savings with (Prius over Camry) and a loss everywhere else due to the questionable claim that the hybrid will have less residual value and require more maintenance, both of which are proving to be false. The Prius won best one-year residual value AND most reliable honors this year. The previous-generation Prius (nowhere near as good of a car), the oldest of which are pushing 6 now, are also very highly priced on the used market.
Hybrid Car Blog and the Prius Owners Group both
cover this FUD frequently.

I use and enjoy open source, herpes but come on, viagra 40mg people. Claiming that failed startups built on open source “pay dividends” while ones built on closed source don’t? TO WHOM? Why should the venture capitalist care if the dividends don’t end up in THEIR pocket?
When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

Responding to a comment on this old entry:
Jonathan, melanoma that’s not accurate.
1. There ARE more lines in the “long-range plan”, oncologist but NONE of them go anywhere near UT or the capitol or Mueller. There’s one that might go down Mopac to Seaholm, sale where it will have the same exact problem that the starter line does; namely; that it’s too far away from any destinations for people to walk; they’ll have to take shuttle buses. And the starter line will be such a visible example of rail’s supposed “failure” that no follow-on lines will be built for a very very very VERY long time. The whole reason I opposed the ’04 plan was this danger – if you build a crappy enough starter line, it will become, as one of my UTC colleagues put it, a “finisher line”.
2. TOD can’t work if the line doesn’t have good ridership without the TOD. Otherwise, real estate investors are going to be leery about spending more money for TOD than they would for traditional development.
3. These projections DO take into account all prospective density in east Austin, which has generally OPPOSED such projects. In fact, the TOD ordinance had to be watered down to nearly zero because of that part of town’s virulent opposition to what they see as gentrification.
4. The only other area in this country which chose to run a rail line through a low-density area instead of running one from where the people are to where they want to go is: South Florida, whose 20-year experiment with Tri-Rail has plumbed new depths of failure. Shuttle buses are so unattractive to the “choice commuter” that even most of the transit-dependent in South Florida don’t use Tri-Rail; they just stay on the normal bus; and NOBODY rides it who could have chosen to drive.
Compare/contrast to light rail, which is what Dallas, Portland, Houston, Minneapolis, Denver, Salt Lake City did; and what we almost did in 2000. We could easily have passed a scaled down version of the ’00 plan in ’04, but Mike Krusee kneecapped Capital Metro into this abomination instead.
Relevant entries in my blog which you might want to look at:
TOD and East Austin
TOD and commuter rail
How you’ll use the starter line
Tri-Rail

This is the first time I’ve done one of these.
Gregg passed along this game…

1. Delve into your blog archive.
B. Search the archives for the 23rd post.
2. Find the 5th sentence, viagra or closest to.
III. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions. Ponder it for meaning, clinic subtext or hidden agendas.
C. Tag 5 more people

My 23rd entry was The Shoal Creek Debacle, pill Part III which had NOTHING TO DO WITH MASS-TRANSIT, SO THERE!
The 5th sentence was:

To be fair, the bike lane stretch between Steck and Anderson has one large gravel patch in it as well.

Analysis: Well, I was trying to give the wide curb lane guys a fair shake, but honestly I don’t buy the claim that a wide curb lane has less debris than a bike lane – and it shows. This entry remains relevant today – see this blog category and this fun yahoo group for more.
This entry particularly sucks since I can’t ride my bike now (maybe not much, ever) due to my body trying to kill me (had another subflare in the intervening time and was on crutches for another week; have not ridden bike since that posting). The good news(?) is that screwing up Shoal Creek won’t matter much for me from here on out.
Guess it should have been a mass transit entry after all, dammit!
I don’t know if anybody beyond a few kooks reads this thing, but what the hell: Steve Casburn can probably regale us with tales of Houston yore; Mark Hasty probably exorcised somebody on about that day; Chris was probably predicting a Democratic landslide; Jim was surely claiming to be non-partisan; and Thomas Gray was, I’m sure, still insisting it wasn’t a blog.

Despite conclusive evidence to the contrary, viagra here the ‘journalists’ at the major networks are letting Bush get away with his claim that efforts to investigate pre-war intelligence claims are just ‘revisionist history’.
This, migraine ladies and gentlemen, is why the Republicans will not lose their grip on power for years to come. Far from being a liberal-loving progressive-propaganda machine, the US major media is actually loath to call BULLSHIT even when it’s a life-and-death matter like WAR; instead pushing more of the “some say, others disagree” pablum that has destroyed any concept of objective truth.
Hi Chris.
Meanwhile:

The “Library” has a bunch of documents up from the most recent set of meetings for the Future Connections study, rheumatologist i.e., ed the “let’s pretend like we considered rail to get central Austin off our back for screwing them with a commuter rail plan that doesn’t go anywhere near them or minor destinations like UT and the Capitol Complex” exercise.
I’m only partway through and don’t have time for full analysis now, but I will note that it is disappointing (but not surprising) that NONE of the objectives for this service include the simple one:
make it MORE ATTRACTIVE to ride transit than it is today, i.e., close at least some of the gap between the private automobile and public transportation in one or more of the following: (reliability, speed, comfort).
These guys still don’t get it – you can’t just rest your hopes on build it and they’ll come; you also have to make sure that what you build is GOOD. And shuttle buses operating in mixed traffic aren’t “good” unless you’re somebody who can’t afford their own car. Capital Metro already owns all of THAT market.
Update: One thing I notice is that in the Draft Technologies Report, they have already eliminated light rail and any other technology which uses a reserved guideway. I have to admit I’m not surprised at this decision (which I believe was made before this study even started), but AM surprised at the speed at which they’ve come to admit it semi-publically.

Just sent this:
Many well-intentioned people, viagra sale including most of the staff of the Chronicle, page advised Central Austinites to hold their nose and vote “yes” on the All Systems Go commuter rail plan, discount despite the fact that it goes nowhere near existing and proposed residential density, and nowhere near minor employment centers like the University of Texas or the Capitol Complex (to say nothing of most of downtown). In fact, the pro-rail-transit but anti-stupid-rail position fell all the way down to me, whose sole qualification was serving on the UTC for a few years. I was attacked quite viciously for daring to suggest that perhaps the right response was to vote No, as in “No, this isn’t the right rail plan; come back with something like the 2000 plan, scaled back to get us over the top”.
Well, now, the other shoe has dropped. The “Future Connections Study”, on which those credulous folks based their hopes for adding back rail for central Austin, has released their draft technology review, which has now ruled out any mode requiring a reserved guideway. Meaning: no light rail; no bus rapid transit. You get either a shuttle bus or a streetcar; but either way you’re going to be stuck in the same traffic you would be if you just drove.
More on my blog at: http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/
The majority of the pro-transit establishment owes Austin an immediate apology for being part of this snowjob.

I posted this to the hydeparkaustin yahoo group and didn’t want it to go to waste.

The moderator asked me to provide additional background on this.
I write on this stuff voluminously at:
(category archive)
You may want to read that category archive bottom-up (chronological
order).
During 2004, viagra order I was the standard-bearer for the “pro-rail-transit but
anti-commuter-rail” side
. I was strongly in support of light rail in
2000; remained in support of such a system in 2004; and still support
it today; but this commuter rail system shares none of the aspects of
that plan which made it likely to attract new riders to public
transportation
it neither goes by neighborhoods which want to use
transit (such as mine,
drugstore NUNA, weight loss and yours, Hyde Park), nor goes TO
destinations to which people want to walk, i.e. most of downtown, the
University of Texas, and the Capitol.
Capital Metro claims to be ready to solve this problem through “high
frequency circulators”
(Future Connections study previously linked) –
i.e. a vehicle you would board at the commuter rail stop way out in
east Austin which would take you to UT, for instance
. The problem is
that this has been tried elsewhere and never works – all you have to
do is go through the ‘use case’ of the prospective rider, i.e., a guy
who lives in Leander and works at UT.
Car trip: Get in car and drive there; park; walk to work.
Light rail trip: Drive to park-and-ride; take train to UT; walk to
work (probably shorter walk than car trip).
Commuter rail trip: Drive to park-and-ride; take train to east Austin;
transfer to shuttle bus; ride through backed-up traffic to UT; walk to
work.
And of course the Hyde Park resident ‘use case’ is even worse, since
taking commuter rail is not even remotely feasible – you (and I) would
be stuck taking the “Rapid Bus” which is an even worse scenario than
the above.
My fear was that a badly designed starter system (which this is) will
show Austinites that rail doesn’t work
– meaning that we won’t get any
more rail, not even GOOD rail. And this system is VERY badly designed
– it almost exactly matches Tri-Rail in South Florida (where I come
from) in its reliance on shuttle buses to get passengers anywhere
worth going
, rather than doing what all successful light rail starter
lines have done
, which is go straight to a few major employment
centers without requiring transfers.
Anyways, I spent the year pushing this position all over town, in
events at UT and at the ANC, and was constantly attacked by my
pro-transit friends for risking getting ‘no rail at all’. The
pro-transit establishment
claimed that we could pass commuter rail and
then quickly get light rail put back in the plan
, i.e., running down
lamar and guadalupe, past the Triangle and Hyde Park, to UT and the
Capitol and then downtown.
I never bought the snow-job; but unfortunately, many people in the
center-city DID buy it. It ended up getting me kicked off the UTC by
councilmember Slusher
, as a matter of fact, but I thought that,
regardless of the consequences to me, SOMEBODY needed to raise the
position that bad rail could, in fact, be worse than delayed rail.
And now here we are. Guadalupe will not see light rail from Future
Connections. (I don’t think it will for decades, since this commuter
rail plan is so bad that it will destroy the public’s desire to try
any new rail lines for years and years to come once they see that
nobody wants to ride it since it’s so uncompetitive even compared to
existing express bus routes). In fact, no rail of any kind will be
headed up our way, since even if you take the most optimistic reading
possible of the Future Connections study, they would be building
streetcar (still stuck in traffic, but hey, it’s on rails in the
pavement)
out to the Mueller project; not up this way.
If anybody has any questions, you can ask me in the forum, or via
private email, and I’d be happy to fill in any more details.

Update: Unpaid blog QA intern “U. Nidentified Cow-orker” alerted me that the “voluminously” link didn’t work. Thanks, U.N.!

Seattle’s light rail line just got a rating of “high” from the Feds meaning it’s very likely they’ll get the maximum possible financial contribution. Why? From the posting:

King County Executive Ron Sims said a big factor in the rating was the travel time savings. A bus from University Hospital near Husky Stadium to downtown takes 25 minutes during the afternoon rush hour compared with a projected 9 minutes for the light rail line. A bus from University Hospital to Capitol Hill takes 22 minutes compared with 3 minutes for light rail. And a bus from downtown to Capitol Hill takes 14 minutes compared with 6 minutes on light rail.

Compare and contrast to the route a rider of Capital Metro’s commuter rail route would take to get from one of the northwestern park-and-rides to their office at UT or the Capitol. When you add in the shuttle bus trip through traffic (from the commuter rail station to the campus or capitol), tadalafil it is doubtful that any time will be saved compared to the existing 183-corridor express buses (which also operate in traffic, orthopedist but at least don’t go out of their way on a dogleg through East Austin, and don’t require a transfer to a second, much slower, vehicle).
Of course, Austin’s 2000 light rail route would have gone from those park-and-rides straight to UT and the Capitol and then down Congress Avenue. But, sure, this will work just as well, and the Feds will be just as happy. Right.

Seattle’s light rail line just got a rating of “high” from the Feds meaning it’s very likely they’ll get the maximum possible financial contribution. Why? From the posting:

King County Executive Ron Sims said a big factor in the rating was the travel time savings. A bus from University Hospital near Husky Stadium to downtown takes 25 minutes during the afternoon rush hour compared with a projected 9 minutes for the light rail line. A bus from University Hospital to Capitol Hill takes 22 minutes compared with 3 minutes for light rail. And a bus from downtown to Capitol Hill takes 14 minutes compared with 6 minutes on light rail.

Compare and contrast to the route a rider of Capital Metro’s commuter rail route would take to get from one of the northwestern park-and-rides to their office at UT or the Capitol. When you add in the shuttle bus trip through traffic (from the commuter rail station to the campus or capitol), tadalafil it is doubtful that any time will be saved compared to the existing 183-corridor express buses (which also operate in traffic, orthopedist but at least don’t go out of their way on a dogleg through East Austin, and don’t require a transfer to a second, much slower, vehicle).
Of course, Austin’s 2000 light rail route would have gone from those park-and-rides straight to UT and the Capitol and then down Congress Avenue. But, sure, this will work just as well, and the Feds will be just as happy. Right.

Page 3-6 (78 in the PDF):
“The Convention Center Station is proposed within the current ROW of 4th Street downtown. The site, stuff near IH 35 and the Austin Convention Center, pilule
is surrounded by high-rise office buildings and related downtown land uses.”
The Convention Center Station is not surrounded by office buildings of any kind. The closest large office building is many blocks away; the only large buildings within a short walk are a couple of hotels and the Convention Center itself.
Page 3-20 (92 in PDF):
“Hyde Park. The Hyde Park Neighborhood Planning Area plan expresses a desire for a successful rail transit system, and an intent to participate in planning for future station designs. The plan emphasizes making the necessary improvements to achieve this goal. The primary focus of these improvements is the enhancement of existing pedestrian connections to businesses and residential uses in close proximity to the potential rail station sites. It should be noted that this older area of Austin was planned and built around a streetcar transit system that operated early in the twentieth century (COA, 2005a).
The Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan (Hancock). The Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan includes the area of the Hancock neighborhood. Although there are no specific rail or station plans, this document mentions the possibility of rail in their future, and has had workshops to promote the idea of rail as a future transportation investment.”
Both of those refer to the LIGHT RAIL 2000 alignment down Guadalupe. NEITHER neighborhood will be able to make any practical use of this commuter rail line, even if a station is built at the closest possible point along this line.

Start of a new series – for those who are still optimistic about this commuter rail line. A “use case” in my business (software) describes how a customer might perform a certain task using your product – in this case, dentist we’ll describe how a few prospective transit customers would get to work using 4 transportation products.
Today’s example is a Leander resident who works at the University of Texas or the State Capitol. Both locations don’t provide much in the way of free convenient parking, clinic so workers at both locations currently provide a good deal of business for the 183-corridor express buses. Leander residents are much more suburban and conservative than Central Austin residents, so the performance and reliability gap between transit and the car would need to be smaller, in my opinion, to attract new riders to choose transit than it would be for the analogous central Austinite. I expect most of those who are motivated by expensive or inconvenient parking are already taking those express buses, in other words. (and the express buses are actually pretty nice; most of the time I can read in them without getting carsick).
Numbers indicate “seats”. IE, if the number gets up to 3, you had to ride in 3 vehicles to get there. T indicates transfers. W indicates wait. P indicates pedestrian trip.
“Current” is indicated next to the bus trip because there are some indications that Capital Metro might eliminate some of the 183-corridor express buses in order to induce more commuter rail ridership.
Note that the “shuttle bus” portion of this trip will, even if made on a streetcar, still have the same traffic characteristics (i.e. a streetcar running in mixed traffic will still be as slow and unreliable as a shuttle bus).
See notes after the table for more.

Passenger Trip Commuter Rail Light Rail (2000) Bus (current) Car
Leander to the University of Texas (1). Drive to Leander park-and-ride.
(W). Wait for train.
(2). Ride commuter rail to MLK station (not stuck in traffic).
(W). Hopefully shuttle bus is waiting for you (short wait).
(3). Ride shuttle bus (stuck in traffic) to UT
(P). Walk to office
Estimated time: 1 hour, 25 minutes to 1 hour, 45 minutes

(1). Drive to Leander park-and-ride.
(W). Wait for train.
(2). Ride light rail all the way to UT (not stuck in traffic).
(P). Short walk to office
Estimated time: 1 hour

(1). Drive to Leander park-and-ride.
(W). Wait for bus.
(2). Ride express bus (stuck in traffic) to UT
(P). Short walk to office
Estimated time: 1 hour, 15 minutes to 1 hour, 45 minutes

(1). Drive (stuck in traffic) to UT area
(W). Find parking
(P). Potentially long walk to office
Estimated time: 40 minutes to 1 hour, 5 minutes
Leander to the state Capitol (1). Drive to Leander park-and-ride.
(W). Wait for train.
(2). Ride commuter rail to MLK station (not stuck in traffic).
(W). Hopefully shuttle bus is waiting for you (short wait).
(3). Ride shuttle bus (stuck in traffic) to UT
(P). Walk to office
Estimated time: 1 hour, 35 minutes to 1 hour, 55 minutes

(1). Drive to Leander park-and-ride.
(W). Wait for train.
(2). Ride light rail all the way to UT (not stuck in traffic).
(P). Short walk to office
Estimated time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

(1). Drive to Leander park-and-ride.
(W). Wait for bus.
(2). Ride express bus (stuck in traffic) to UT
(P). Short walk to office
Estimated time: 1 hour, 20 minutes to 1 hour, 50 minutes

(1). Drive (stuck in traffic) to UT area
(W). Find parking
(P). Potentially long walk to office
Estimated time: 45 minutes to 1 hour, 10 minutes


In general, I assumed you would get to the express bus stop and wait 5-10 minutes for the express bus, and I was charitably assuming it would be on time. The remainder of that trip is from the 7:25 route in from Leander, and assuming a 5 minute or less walk from the stop. The drive is me estimating what I suppose it would take that time of day (I’d like to hear from a Leander resident that makes this trip in their car for a more accurate estimate). The commuter rail time has such a wide swing because of the shuttle bus component – buses fare worse than cars in heavy traffic due to their acceleration characteristics and the fact that they can’t change their route to get around heavy traffic. In general, I assume that the more time you spend on a bus, the less reliable your trip (could be faster or slower than the average). (The express buses don’t try to slow down to avoid hitting stops early on the way in in the mornings, unlike city buses, so you actually could get dropped off earlier than schedule indicates).
Note that one of the key attractions to the 2000 light rail route is its reliability. A route which doesn’t require that you take shuttle buses can dependably get you to work at the same time every day. The train isn’t stuck in traffic, and you don’t have to make any transfers.

This use case analyzes a typical central Austin resident.
Let’s consider a lawyer who lives in one of those expensive houses in Hyde Park and wants to get to his law office downtown. Mister Law-Talkin’-Guy probably has free parking available in his office building, link but many downtown workers don’t (they would have to pay to park). Today, medical Mister LTG doesn’t take the bus, about it because it’s a lot slower than his car, and he can park for free in his building.
Numbers indicate “seats”. IE, if the number gets up to 3, you had to ride in 3 vehicles to get there. T indicates transfers. W indicates wait. P indicates pedestrian trip.

Passenger Trip Commuter Rail Light Rail (2000) Bus Car
Hyde Park to Downtown Office Building (6th/Congress) (P). Walk to bus stop.
(W). Wait for bus
(1). Take normal city bus (new route) to commuter rail station out in east Austin or north on Lamar.
(W). Wait for train.
(2). Ride commuter rail to Convention Center station (not stuck in traffic).
(W). Hopefully shuttle bus is waiting for you (short wait).
(3). Ride shuttle bus “circulator” (stuck in traffic) to 4th/Congress
(P). Walk 2 blocks to office
Estimated time: 35-50 minutes

(P). Walk a few blocks to Guadalupe.
(W). Wait for train
(1). Ride light rail train (not stuck in traffic) to 6th/Congress
(P). Short (sub-block) walk to office
Estimated time: 15 minutes

(P). Walk to Speedway (for #5), Duval (for #7), or Guadalupe (for #1, #101, or Rapid).
(W). Wait for bus
(1). Ride bus (stuck in traffic – yes, even the Rapid Bus is stuck in traffic) to 6th/Congress
(P). Short (sub-block) walk to office
Estimated time: 25-40 minutes

(1). Drive (stuck in traffic) to downtown
(W). Find parking in own parking garage
(P). Walk to office
Estimated time: 10-20 minutes

To me, the only transit option which seems remotely palatable to Mr. LTG is the light-rail trip, because it could save time over his drive through rush-hour traffic. None of the other options are likely to be remotely competitive in time or reliability – in fact, the light rail trip might be a BIT slower than his car too. But if you’re a downtown worker who has to pay to park, or parks a few blocks away from your office, the light-rail option would be a clear winner. The light rail trip might even win Mr. LTG over since he’d have a smooth comfortable ride where he could read the Wall Street Journal, which of course he can’t do when he’s driving, and probably not on the bus, unless he’s unusually carsickness-resistant.
Note how unreliable the trips are which involve navigating traffic. On a good day, the car would beat even the light rail trip; but on a bad day, light rail would be faster. Light rail’s speed doesn’t change, in other words, because it has its own lane. The bus and the shuttle-bus both suffer from this worse than even the private car does, since you can always change your route when you’re driving.
This particular passenger type maps well to UT students who live at the Triangle, or to UT staffers who live anywhere central, etc. Essentially, the entire central Austin residential market could have been very well-served by light rail, but will not be served at ALL by commuter rail.
Most people in Central Austin are transit-positive. That is, even if they own a car, they’re willing to seriously consider using public transportation. A good number of these folks take city buses today; but the idea that Rapid Bus is going to get a non-trivial number of the remainder to leave their cars at home is ridiculous.
What about streetcars? The Future Connections Study, as I previously noted, has settled on a route which winds from downtown up to UT, then east to Mueller, so it won’t be of much use for actual residents of Central Austin. Even if it DID go “straight up the gut” as intelligent folks asked for, it wouldn’t be able to beat the city bus (or Rapid Bus) – unlike light rail vehicles, streetcars share lanes with cars.

For Thanksgiving I’d like to thank the guy who’s hosting this blog out of the goodness of his heart, visit web Baba. He graciously agreed to rescue this thing from the purgatory of io.com after a failure to do database backups on their part left me in a real bad spot, ambulance spent a non-trivial chunk of time setting up stuff for me, and hasn’t bugged me since to move on. And man, have I been lazy and cheap in not doing so.
So thanks Baba. The internet would be crackplogless if it was not for your largesse.