Which one doesn’t belong?
Which one doesn’t belong, part deux?
Which one doesn’t belong?
Which one doesn’t belong, part deux?
(I had this ready to post to #atxfreedomurbanists, Austin’s only urbanist group that doesn’t suck, but facebook has been down all day and I’m tired of waiting).
In 2015, I wrote a series of posts about pushing for honesty in our transportation agencies. I promoted this effort in atxurbanists and internally at AURA, and was mocked and belittled by the leadership of AURA for my trouble.
Today, it appears that Project Connect is now repeating history so convincingly that even Julio has had enough. Too bad he didn’t think so in 2015.
Follow the two links for details.
From vast experience in this community, the engagement method you suggest (one-on-one private conversations) affords executive staff & policymakers unnacountable discretion. My – apparently ignored – request was for a public explanation of changes & formal public version control.— Julio Gonzalez Altamirano (@juliogatx) March 13, 2019Tweet by Julio Gonzalez Altamirano, just earlier today
(and the second link was:)
In 2011, this bus stop had buses stopping every 10-15 minutes during peak times; it was the highest ridership route in the system by far. Click through for streetview source so you can verify.
By 2011, this tract had been rezoned VMU (Vertical Mixed-Use).
By 2013, construction was actually underway.
In 2014, service to this stop was slashed to once every 30 minutes at peak.
This is what this stop looks like today, in 2018, when it still only sees a bus once every 30 minutes at peak:
Should you trust that Capital Metro will respond to land use changes with better transit service?
On Halloween 2018, this VMU development still sees bus service once every half an hour during peak times. The closest frequent service is at the Triangle and the other side of 2222; both outside the normal 1/4 mile walkshed appropriate for bus service. There are some medium-term plans to finally add a stop which keep getting delayed. But it’s now been five years since this complex was built; and more like ten years since it was rezoned to a more transit-supportive land use. During all that time, everybody that moved into this complex didn’t get useful bus service. Decisions were made by thousands of individuals relating to car purchases; decisions were made by the apartment management about how to market themselves; based on the fact that by 2014 they knew they’d have a bus once every half an hour. Those decisions have long-term impact that will last well beyond the date when the new ‘station’ finally arrives.
Again, should you trust that Capital Metro will respond to land use changes with better transit service? In 2011, they provided frequent service to a stop at a strip mall. When the city did their land use job and put a bunch of residents directly on top of a bus stop on a well-used route, Capital Metro cut their transit service to nearly useless levels and left it that way for five years and counting.
Don’t forget this. AURA will try to tell you it’s all about land use. Show them this example and get them to explain how it applies.
AURA, run by grifters and con-artists, bought in heavily to the grid redesign fairy dust theory. It didn’t hurt that their 2 chief transit gurus live on the northern part of the 5 route and hated the jog through Hyde Park and NUNA (that was responsible for a lot of riders, but not the 2 most important ones, obviously).
First few months look good. Single digit fixed ridership increases. Huge increases in rapid (but this is comparing to a year ago when frequency wasn’t good, especially weekend).
Now we’ve got our first comparison that matters: Sep 18 to Sep 17. UT is back in session; AISD kids are back in school and not able to joyride even though they’re still being offered free rides.
Fixed-route1 ridership is significantly down – even though one would expect the impact of Cap Remap in a flat ridership scenario to show more rides, because the redesign forces more people to take 2 rides instead of 1 to get to their destination.
And my “capmetroatx” column in tweetdeck suddenly became full of complaints about UT students being miserable for not having the RR and the 5 (both the 10 and the IF are now full to overcrowding, leaving many people at stops, and they’re pissed about it, in addition to the normal “where’s my supposedly frequent bus” complaint you’ll see represented to the right). This volume of complaints is huge compared to what I saw in spring of 18.
And a friend of the crackplog forwarded me this image showing how well one of the new frequent cross-town routes is doing:
Man, if only somebody had told Cap Metro ahead of time that this was a dumb idea.
Oh, wait! somebody did!
So we have at the very least some very convincing circumstantial evidence that the lower ridership probably isn’t due to weather2; it’s probably due to the fact that they took some buses away from places that were using them very well (the 5 through HP and NUNA; the RR); and put them on routes where they are not being used very well (i.e. the 335).
I’ll fill in this post with more details later. But suffice to say – the Pollyannas were wrong again; not that they’ll ever learn.
For those curious, I’m holding off on endorsing city council district 9 or mayor until one of them moves off of the “be credulous towards Capital Metro’s recent Project Connect hijacking” plan. Laura Morrison is actually the closest in receiving an endorsement under said criteria, by the way. Yes, I’m totally serious. She would need to go a little further, but she’s the only one who moved in the right direction.
I believe we cannot currently trust Capital Metro to serve better land use with better transit (since they still refuse to fix the 2014 error with rapid bus that drastically cut transit service to our city’s most transit-supportive land uses). Building light rail on Guadalamar is a no-brainer and would support existing transit-supportive land uses while easily drawing in tens of thousands of currently marginal non-riders and providing a long-term signal to support incremental improvements to land use in the future. It definitely would have more of an effect on transit sustainability (and hence climate change) than would loosening land use and then having Cap Metro bumble around with horrible stupid unforced errors like rapid bus and Cap Remap.
I believe that the mayor’s craven surrender on CodeNEXT meant we will end up with Laura Morrison’s preferred land use plan anyways, except the mayor ensured that $9M was wasted on consultants. I’d have preferred to spend that $9M on libraries and pools. If we re-elect Mayor Adler and he tries again on CodeNEXT, he has shown that he will not fight hard for whatever it is that he believes in; so we’re pretty much back where we started.
I believe that Cap Metro’s recent shift towards ART in Project Connect is the same sort of dishonest bullshit they pulled on us in 2013-2014; and must not be rewarded with credulous support. Tovo, Skidmore, and Adler are in that bucket right now. Morrison at least has expressed a little skepticism but has not come out strongly against the change of direction yet.
That’s why you haven’t seen any endorsements from me yet (and maybe not at all). But the above should make it clear what it’ll take.
should have been no surprise. If you follow me on twitter, and why wouldn’t you,1 you’ve been hearing about this ever since my meeting with Clarke at the end of May. If you missed the news, try Caleb’s run-down.
The angle nobody is covering so far is that while a bond election is probably required to pay for the infrastructure bills involved, no technical “rail referendum” is necessary. So Cap Metro buys themselves a lot of wiggle room here – asking the city to hold a bond election in a low turnout time if they choose to, for instance.
As for the rest of it: it’s over. AURA, FAN, #atxrail – they were all warned; and they all stayed silent in a stupid naive attempt to fix things with the back-channel communications that never meant anything, and as a result, we’re never getting light rail in Austin.
Today’s “worst person in Austin” award goes to Randy Clarke, who is just a more effective liar than the old leadership. Nobody in the community asked for robot buses as a fig leaf for BRT, but that’s what he’s claiming the community wants and needs. That’s enough for ten awards, but one will have to suffice. But honorable mention “worst person in Austin” awards go to the credulous nitwits in those groups above, who were all warned back when there was time to make enough fuss to possibly change this2, and chose yet again to disregard my warnings.
It’s too late now. You were warned.
Motivated by my talk with Randy Clarke yesterday and some activity I saw on twitter.
I created these two images using Cap Metro’s trip planner; source is 4000 Speedway; destination is 800 Guadalupe; the time is in the middle of the day on this Friday (6/1, pre remap) and next Friday (6/8, post remap). I set maximum walking distance to 1/4 mile (which is the generally accepted walking distance most people will tolerate on a regular basis). These dates are good because the IF isn’t running, so this is a more accurate reflection of service that’s available always (not just when UT is in session).
Anybody see a problem here?
Short version: 23 minutes. No walk, no transfer.
Short version: 33 minutes including a walk down to 38th and a transfer at 38th/Duval.
(crossposted from Austin’s only honest urbanism facebook group).
(Click on the image for the interactive version).
There’s new (nearly complete) bus cutouts1 on 38th near Speedway and Red River (with no signals attached). It’s slated to run every 15 minutes. It’s recommended as the reason why Hyde Park shouldn’t be pissed off to be losing the #5.
I thought about this route today when somebody who generally has good instincts on transit told me this route is the consolation prize for losing the #5; and that it goes to Mueller. So I thought about where I usually go in Mueller; and ran a test trip for after the change from my house to the Mueller Alamo Drafthouse. Results were uninspiring. (0.5 mile walk south, decent transit trip, 0.4 mile walk west; the Mueller routing is the worst part – that walk along sunblasted construction sites is disqualifying in and of itself).
It’s basically anchored on Berkman, on the east edge of the residential side of Mueller; too far from the Town Center [sic]. What about the other end? It turns around at Exposition and Westover; at the Randall’s shopping center and Casis Elementary.
My prediction: This route is going to go over like a lead balloon. It’s nice to anchor a crosstown route at a school, but it has to be a middle or high school to really work. You’ve got a grocer, but there’s better ones closer in. The Mueller residents might take it to transfer to a N/S line (say, the 801), but the transfer is awkward (pretty long walk from the WB stop to the SB 801 station at 39th2, for instance) and the number of people in Mueller pales compared to the people along Speedway. This route is likely going to have total ridership similar to the corresponding segment (basically north part) of the old #21/#22, but is going to run 2-4 times as often.
Oh and those folks along Speedway – there’s no utility in taking this route at all to replace their previous direct to downtown. They’re better off walking an extra 0.3 miles (not total, this is additional) to the #7. Some will just resume driving downtown, of course, because the proportional penalty they incur due to this change is very large compared to the total length of the trip.
tldr: I predict the 335 will be mostly empty.
They’ve just cut off access to one of the few members of the press willing to report fairly and honestly on them because they didn’t like things he posted on twitter (that were absolutely true, and damped down far below reality).
Cap Metro is unsalvageable, folks.
Mike Dahmus, a transit blogger who is known for getting into heated online spats with fellow urbanists, argues that the plan tries to do too much for those outside the core. He highlights a reduction in service to Hyde Park, one of the densest neighborhoods in the city, as well as the already implemented extension of the 801 rapid route to Slaughter Lane, as flawed attempts to address the suburbanization of poverty, a phenomenon he says is “largely a myth used by suburbanites to gain access to services they aren’t paying taxes for.” The most obvious example, he says, is MetroRail. The money Cap Metro spends to bring commuters into town from as far away as Leander dwarfs the revenue it brings in through fares.
Note the emphasis.
Not “Former member of the Urban Transportation Commission known for making controversial but correct calls on transit”.
It maps to “Crazy Person”.
What merited such a description? It must have been the e-mail conversation. Let’s go to the tape!
(Stick with me as I reformat this):
Sorry for short disjointed email. All I have time for today is dictation and some phone clean up.
Of the changes going in in the first round soon, the ones that are the most problematic for me are the elimination of the Hyde Park section of the five, and the 21/22 changes. If capital metro were using the more standard quarter mile walking distance, it would leave large sections of Hyde Park with no frequent service whatsoever. However, in a very dishonest attempt to make things look better, they use a half mile walking radius for rapid bus stations, even though that's not an excepted practice in the industry. The original connections 2025 proposal actually called for eliminating all of the one and three runs that remain, which right now is about every half hour.
So, capital metro is out there selling this plan as if it's a ridership over coverage redesign, which tends to put an image in peoples mind that walkable places with density like Hyde Park should be gaining service, when the reality in our case is that we're losing service. The people gaining service in this plan are actually in more suburban areas, especially those on the far reaches of the rapid bus routes, where are the benefits of the fewer stops approach actually outweighs the longer walks.
The 21/22 are a slightly different story. Those areas are definitely walkable and urban, but medium ridership. Low by the standard of our more successful bus routes, to be sure, but also have lower subsidies than the redline, for instance. There's a major political and equity problem with those routes. They tend to have two types of riders disproportionately: number one is students transferring into the West Austin elementary middle and high schools, and number two, people living east taking the bus west to work at places like Randalls or Tarrytown pharmacy. It's true that the residence in Tarrytown really use the services, but that's not the only metric that should matter in a case like this.
So on equity grounds, the plan fails. That would be OK if it was a pure ridership play, but you can see from the Hyde Park example that it doesn't meet that metric either. A true ridership over coverage play would have restoring all of the locals on Lamar and Guadalupe to the way they used to be as the number one priority, given the demonstrated high demand for ridership and walkable focus of those neighborhoods.
Let me know if any questions. And again I apologize for the poor formatting, I was dictating this outside my son's Boy Scout meeting.
That was supposed to be Tarrytown residents RARELY use the services. Sorry.
What are examples of suburban areas gaining service? Are you referring to one of the rapid routes going down to Slaughter etc? Anything else?
Also, most of the complaints I've heard have been the opposite...that low income people on the outskirts (where they've been forced to live as Austin prices go up) are getting shafted. Do you see any evidence of that?
Also, what is your theory for why Metro's ridership has dropped in recent years amidst record population growth?
Main example of suburban areas gaining service is additional frequency on the 80x routes and Red Line.
And why Cap Metro lost ridership is the same reasons - Red Line requires huge op subsidies which led to cuts in local urban bus service. Rapid cut locals on corridor by half and ridership still hasn't recovered.
Finally, the "suburbanization of poverty" theme is largely a myth used
by suburbanites to gain service they're not paying taxes for. A few
poor people move out, sure, but the median income in Pflugerville is
higher than East Austin. Most of the poor people who were in Austin
ten years ago are still in Austin today, paying taxes to support Cap
Metro but losing rides to pay for rides at the edges of the service
area for nontaxpayers. (Note location of park and rides obviously
tends to attract people from outside the service area - majority of
Red Line riders don't pay Cap Metro taxes, for instance).
I had a contest last week trying to get people to identify a stop
losing service (I was dumb and included enough detail for it to be
easy). Laundrette, Holly & Robt E Martinez, is slated to completely
Here's a zoom-in of the new world if CM gets their way - 1/4 of a mile
at least to the closest LINE, much more than 1/4 of a mile to the
actual stops. This is in an urban medium-density area with a good grid
which still has very high transit usage.
(in the new plan, #22 is being shortened and now runs mainly N/S along
Chicon; #17 runs CC, nothing runs on Holly or REM).
CM's overall strategy on the plan seems to align with good practice
from other regions about reducing winding routes and increasing
frequency at the expense of transfers. But when you zoom in to areas
of concern, you see that something's not quite right - even the areas
that you would expect to get better service or at least keep it,
pretty much aren't. (CM hides this by moving to "1/4 mile from LINE,
not STOP" or even "1/2 mile from stop" metrics which are bullshit).
Hope this is enough,
Here's another question:
John Laycock tells me that the plan will double the number of households with access to frequent transit and increase by 75% the number of households in poverty w/access to frequent transit. Do you believe that is true?
No, I do not. They are using sketchy metrics like "distance to the
LINE instead of to the STOP", and using 1/2 mile instead of 1/4 mile,
just like I pointed out Cap Metro was doing earlier. They're also
using "people within X distance of rapid bus lines have access to
frequent transit" which is even worse - many households whose closest
'frequent' transit is rapid bus face an even longer walk to the bus
stop from their home (and sometimes on the destination end) than 1/2
And I know you can't use this in your story, but bear in mind that
both Laycock and Crossley are public-sector folks who appear to (in
the medium-term) be angling for contracts that might come from Capital
Metro. Their independence is highly questionable given that their
financial prospects may depend on not angering those folks.
I have a day job at a horrible corporate cube farm and don't use
transit regularly now - every dumb opinion I give you is legitimately
my own with no possibility of personal gain ;+)