Are Austin’s suburbs getting a sweet deal on transit or what?

This still apparently gets some people the wrong way. Please read it all the way through. Vomited out quickly because I really don’t have time to blog, mind but I have even less time to say this 140 characters at a time.

Despite appearances from this blog, page in real life I’m an introvert – fairly shy. Especially don’t like being in situations where I have to talk a lot to people I don’t know.

In 2000, I got on the Urban Transportation Commission and enjoyed the collegial relationship with a bunch of people who were like-minded to varying degrees, access to interesting subjects and speakers, the whole shebang. Still look back with fondness. In 2004, I became the public face of the “pro-rail but anti-Red-Line” campaign because nobody else would. This was a huge stretch for me – I’m not a politician; I don’t like to gladhand; and I’m petrified about giving speeches (not as much now, but definitely then).

It was just that important, though; nobody else would do it, so I had to. I gave speeches next to that asshat Jim Skaggs and said “if we build the Red Line, we can’t have good light rail”. I opposed the Red Line so vociferously and publically that, as expected, I got the boot from the UTC shortly after the election, and many people I used to talk to wouldn’t talk to me any more after that.

Of course, every prediction I made during that campaign turned out to be true – ridership was underwhelming; operating subsidies continue to be unmanageably huge.

Ever since then, I’ve struggled with people who don’t get why this was important. Why not just start with the Red Line and go from there, they say. Why not just expand the Red Line into something that works better?

This is insulting, people. Let me explain why.

1. I’m a smart guy.
2. I know transit really well.
3. I did something very uncomfortable for me for a long time and burned down a lot of stuff I liked to do because nobody else would say anything.

Do you folks honestly think I would have done that if I thought there was even a 1% chance we could get from “The Red Line exists” to “40,000 happy rail passengers a day at a sustainable operating subsidy of, say, 5 dollars per ride”? This was not and is not a simple difference of opinion. This was not me being a pessimist. I have lots of differences of opinion. I’m pessimistic and optimistic about lots of things. I wouldn’t go to all that trouble and burn down something I liked if I was only 99% sure the Red Line was going to be a disaster. Or 99.9%.

What most of the remaining optimists don’t understand is that there is quite literally NO way out of this mess that doesn’t require tearing up the Red Line unless you don’t care at all about how much money we spend on capital, operations, or both(*). Even the long-range plan the city and Cap Metro recently shat out admits this – getting up to something like 25,000 rail passengers in the year 2045 by, finally, ripping up part of the Red Line and replacing it with urban rail (of course, if we wait until 2045 to do this, it’ll be long too late for our city’s health, but still).

Even the city and Cap Metro get this. There’s no way to get “there” (40,000 happy rail passengers at a reasonable operating subsidy) from “here” (pretending the Red Line isn’t a huge disaster at operating subsidies of $25/ride for customers who mostly don’t even pay Capital Metro taxes). Again, the long-term plan of record right now is to build a bad urban rail line to Mueller, getting something shy of 10,000 riders/day; and then eventually building a second urban rail line that, once I’m retired or dead, will finally go up to about US 183 (pushing the DMU service out to the suburbs where it belonged all along). Again, this happens in 2045. At the end of all this, in 2045, we’ve spent five times as much money to get back to where we could be if we tore up the Red Line and built the 2000 route, and might get almost as many passengers, at a higher operating cost.

This isn’t a simple difference of opinion. For you to believe that there’s a way out of this mess now that doesn’t involve replacing the Red Line, you have to believe that I’m an idiot.

I’m not an idiot, people. We really are fucked.

Hope this helps.

(* – and if you don’t care how much money your plan costs, you are an idiot, or at best, painfully naive. No matter how much you stomp your feet and talk about how much we spend on highways, we still live in Texas and the United States, not New York or Western Europe – so costs matter a hell of a lot).

First assumption: JMVC (Capital Metro PR guy) knows that when people talk about the suburbs vs. the city, site we’re talking mostly about the Red Line. This is reasonable because the operating subsidies on the Red Line are gargantuan compared to bus service; and the Red Line thus consumes a hugely disproportionate share of Capital Metro’s operating and capital budgets. Although the video to which he links tries to muddy the issue by showing bus routes all over Austin as if they’re somehow as costly (and as attractive) as rail service, stuff we know better, don’t we?

So, let’s just talk about rail for right now, then.

Let’s consult the archives:

First, in Who Is Riding The Red Line, Part One?, I showed that the overwhelming majority of Red Line passengers are boarding at the three park and rides on the northern end of the line; NOT from the stations most people would think of as “in Austin”.

In Who Is Riding The Red Line, Part Two?, I showed that it was expected that most riders at the Lakeline and Howard stations would not be from the City of Austin due to simple geography (i.e. of the people for whom it would make sense to drive a reasonable distance in the correct direction to the station, the overwhelming majority would be outside the Capital Metro service area and the city of Austin).

In Who Is Riding The Red Line, Part Three?, a rider from up north verified that most passengers getting on board at the Lakeline Station (within Austin city limits, but just barely) are actually from Cedar Park, and pay zero Capital Metro taxes when in their home jurisdictions (no, the one or two lunches a week they might do in Austin don’t amount to a hill of beans).

Conclusion? As usual, please don’t mistake JMVC’s paid spin for a responsible, reasonable, take on reality. In fact, the suburbs receive transit service far in excess of what would be fair given their contributions in tax dollars (remember, most of the areas served by the Red Line are attracting riders who pay ZERO Capital Metro taxes from their home jurisdictions). The suburbs that receive 0 transit service are getting their due; many of the northern suburbs that are getting non-zero service pay zero in taxes and are thus getting far more than their due; and a cursory examination of Leander would show that they’re getting back service worth more than what they pay in, so they’re getting off well too, even though unlike the rest of our suburban friends, they’re not complete freeloaders.

 

Oh, and JMVC’s statements are misleading at best.

 

Cap Metro operating subsidies – then and now

In a tweet yesterday attempting to answer yours truly without actually directly doing so, diagnosis sick JMVC said:

Oh, really?
Here’s the original graphic from the first few months of service (click for larger shot):

Here’s the figures from a few months ago when service was expanded and boardings were up to 1700-2000 (even higher during the SXSW period). Click the image for the full shot. Ridership since SXSW has settled down back to around 1700 boardings/day, it looks like, so the most current subsidy (until the connector buses were cancelled) is likely somewhere in this range below.

Draw your own conclusions. Dramatically lower? Looks like about the same to me.

Austin environmentalists continue proud tradition of harming the environment

I posted this link on twitter with the caption: “Austin Urban Rail Goes To Hell”. Note entry number for giggles.
I really don’t have time for this, more about salve with the 60 hour workweeks, shop young family including baby that still doesn’t sleep nights, and impending back surgery, but I have to say something, so I’ll be brief.
I offered a year or more ago to become involved with Leffingwell’s team on the urban rail project. I was ignored. (Note: I offered quite nicely.)
Recently, the plans have crystallized – and it’s bad. Shared running almost everywhere – except for one (admittedly long, but not really relevant) stretch from I-35 to the airport, the trains will be stuck behind cars – or at best, buses (including local buses). No, a ‘possible future transit lane’ on Guadalupe/Lavaca doesn’t mitigate; unless it’s reserved for ONLY Rapid Bus and the train – and I don’t see that happening; it’s going to be stuffed with locals too, and that’s if it even happens.

Unlike Brewster McCracken, who talked up reserved guideway everywhere except the leg out Manor to Mueller, Leffingwell’s team has relented and the plan now calls for the trains to be stuck in traffic almost everywhere important. McCracken talked about “time certainty” being a big deal on a trip to/from the airport (or to/from work, of course). You don’t get that without your own lane – period. No amount of Rapid [sic] Bus technology is going to get you there.
This rail plan, in its current state, is not worth fighting for. In fact, it’s probably worth fighting against, as was the 2004 plan that so many of the “why don’t you just stay civil” folks failed to affect in any way, shape, or form.

Be ready for a lot of the same people who claimed from 2004-2010 that car drivers would switch in droves to a train that required them to ride shuttlebuses to claim that the fact that these trains are stuck in traffic won’t keep people from switching to them.
Remember who was right before, and who’s been wrong the entire time. Or just be lazy and maintain access to the gladhanders to stay “civil” – and hold hands as we all ride the train off the cliff together – your choice.
And Not a done deal, you say? The engineering docs look pretty much done-deal level to me; as do the interactions with the media (note: the ONLY media outlet to cover the issue of guideway AT ALL was “Impact Central Texas”; their story here – good job guys; and shame on everybody else).

The urban rail system route is expected to follow Guadalupe and Lavaca streets, San Jacinto Boulevard and Congress Avenue. It will travel with traffic and may potentially receive signal priority at traffic lights, similar to Capital Metro’s buses.
An urban rail system in Austin is expected to cost $200 million in its first phase of development. The track will be 33.8 miles in length and extend from Mueller to downtown to the Austin Bergstrom International Airport. Photo by Bobby Longoria/Community Impact Newspaper. Click for a larger image.
“Big difference between this and a bus is that it can fit 170 people, mostly standing, where a bus caps out at 60 or 80,” Spillar said.

Hey guess what another big difference between this and a bus is, Rob? The bus that’s stuck behind somebody double-parked can change lanes. A train sharing a lane with cars is the worst transit possibly imaginable in a city where most people drive – it has the worst aspects of buses and the worst aspects of trains with almost none of the good parts of either.
More background on Why Streetcars Suck courtesy of Jarrett Walker here: streetcars: an inconvenient truth
So I guess I need to update my “IT’S NOT LIGHT RAIL” chart:
If your train runs on freight tracks, can’t run in the street, and requires shuttle buses – IT’S NOT LIGHT RAIL. Know what else? If your train doesn’t have its own lane – and relies on the same crap Rapid [sic] Bus uses to get a leg up, IT’S ALSO NOT LIGHT RAIL.
Summary: If you want to live in a city with good urban rail, your best bet now is probably to move away. Seriously.

spreadsheet behind this image coming sometime down the road, maybe.

CM flacks like JMVC and board members like Mike Martinez are making statements that rail ridership has improved. Here’s 3000 words to the contrary, pulmonologist fresh off Capital Metro’s presses. First two pictures directly from them; third one directly from me.

Continue reading “Austin environmentalists continue proud tradition of harming the environment”

Chutzpah of the Year

A quick cut/paste job, there hepatitis maximizing the bang for the minimal buck. Enjoy.
In response to my jibe about the urban rail advocates cheering the Red Line, a well-meaning comment was placed asking why I care about what the Red Line did and is doing, given that everybody knows it’s just a spur. Here’s what I just posted in reply:

I will endeavor to be as brief as possible, but it’s frustrating how often I hear talk about beating a dead horse and then hear comments that make it clear I haven’t beaten it enough.
1. Although the part of the Red Line from Lamar to the CC was envisioned as an eventual spur in the 2000 line, and you and I and everybody with a brain knows it SHOULD be just a spur, Capital Metro does not agree – and is not treating it as such – and neither, now, is the city. Both Capital Metro and our city council members on the board are championing increased amounts of money spent on the Red Line as what they consider the backbone for rail service in the region. You’re engaged in wishful thinking on this one.
2. There’s only one strong backbone for rail possible in this city – and the Red Line is squatting on half of it. The city’s plan isn’t a backbone either – it envisions too low speeds; way too much shared guideway; and is unambitious even in the long-range about going far enough out to make much difference. The city’s plan is worth supporting because it’s better than nothing – but it will never be capable of being the backbone that the 2000 plan was (which is why it’s important to point out what the Red Line lost us).
3. The Red Line isn’t just a done deal either – it’s getting bigger and worse. Our city council members on Capital Metro’s board just approved the mid-day expansion in service which is going to increase the operating subsidy on this route from its already monstrously high $30+/ride – and this will result in more cuts to bus service that more Capital Metro taxpayers actually use in favor of serving a few more people from Round Rock and Cedar Park that don’t actually pay taxes.
4. If we’re going to get the city’s urban rail plan done, if it can even get passed, we need some of Capital Metro’s money to do it – and they’re going down a path where they’re spending all of it on the Red Line. (This is why it’s important to point out what the Red Line is currently losing us).
5. Even Dave Dobbs finally figured it out – in the middle of this very long piece on Light Rail Now: http://www.lightrailnow.org/news/n_aus_2010-04a.htm
“• In terms of fulfilling the long-range hope of inner-city rail transit supporters that the rail project could eventually develop into a reincarnation of the 2000 LRT concept, this became increasingly less likely, as CMTA’s management and rail planning team seemed more and more to perceive “urban commuter rail” and “Rapid Bus” as ends in themselves, while any plans for LRT to serve the Lamar-Guadalupe corridor and the Core Area receded further and further from consideration.”
(Dave took me to lunch in 2004 to try to get me not to oppose the Red Line, by the way – it’ll take him a while longer to admit that I was right – that this killed light rail here – but he’s clearly moving in that direction).

(cut/pasted from the facebook)
Those of you who think the Red Line isn’t hurting us now (via cuts to bus service and raises to bus fares) and in the future (via spending down money that is now absolutely essential to having any shot at delivering urban rail if it by some miracle can pass the election in 2012) should read these:
http://www.statesman.com/news/local/transit-board-to-vote-on-raising-bus-cutting-1035915.html

The base fare of $1 for a single bus ride and the $2 bus day pass (for non-express routes) would not change, misbirth according to the agency website. But almost everything else would.
Seniors and people with disabilities would pay 50 cents for a single bus ride. People with disabilities who qualify for MetroAccess, resuscitation the agency’s door-to-door service, capsule would also pay more. A 10-ride pass would go from $12 to $15, and a monthly MetroAccess pass would increase from $35 to $40.
The cost of riding an express bus would increase from $2.50 to $2.75, and an express bus day pass from $5 to $5.50.
Children under 6, public safety workers and military members in uniform, Capital Metro employees and their families, and workers with Capital Metro’s bus and rail contractors would still ride buses and MetroRail for free.
The cost of a two-zone MetroRail ride, meanwhile, will decrease from $3 to $2.75, with a concurrent decrease in the cost of a day pass for rail. And the cost for a shorter, one-zone rail ride will be cut in half, from $2 to $1.
The rail fare decrease would come as Capital Metro looks to increase MetroRail ridership, now between 800 and 900 boardings a day. The agency is adding 13 midday train runs — to date there has been only morning and evening service — and is in the midst of a rail marketing program expected to cost more than $200,000.

http://www.statesman.com/news/local/capital-metro-board-looks-to-increase-metrorail-spending-1032691.html

That added service will increase costs about $350,000 a year between now and 2015, according to agency documents discussed at a board committee meeting Monday.
The $6.8 million includes a $4 million increase in the contract’s contingency, as well as $1 million in anticipated crossing signal work that the Texas Department of Transportation would reimburse to Capital Metro.
The original $4.1 million contingency in the contract approved in December has been depleted to almost nothing, officials said

Certain Capital Metro flacks will tell you this is just the media picking on them. Bear in mind that most of what Wear has written has turned out to be true despite CM’s protests.
Those same flacks will try to tell you that Red Line operating cost overruns have nothing to do with raising fares and cutting service for bus passengers. Draw your own conclusions.

In today’s Chronicle, prosthetic Lee Nichols writes an article about the lack of TOD on the Red Line in which Todd Hemingson, sale Capital Metro exec, order says with a straight face:

Continue reading “Chutzpah of the Year”

M1EK in comments: Why waste your time giving input?

Really sorry I don’t have more time to spend on this blog – day job; family; etc. But this comment needed to be saved somewhere other than CM’s blog so I could point to it. I’ve been meaning to write a long post on “staying friends versus getting something done”, public health anemia but this will have to suffice for now.
Commented to this post:

SR, capsule it’s really simple: Mike Krusee was willing to fight for his interests (kill light rail, visit this site allow commuter rail), and our city council members were not (nor was anybody else in Austin, except yours truly, as evidenced by this sad bit of history).
Talking, having charettes, staying connected, keeping in contact, maintaining relationships, giving input – none of this matters if the guy on the other side is willing to exercise his power to get what he wants and you aren’t. (This, by the way, is why I don’t bother showing up and giving ‘input’ at things like the 2020 service plan meetings – despite nice invitations and hurt feelings when not taken up on; I’m better off with speaking to hundreds of readers and having a 1% chance of slightly modifying the opinion of somebody with real power than I am giving my one input and having it roundly ignored).

In reality, the message really isn’t “don’t waste your time by giving input”, but rather, it’s make sure you’re giving your input to people who are willing to listen and are willing to exercise their power to help get what you want. An awful lot of people in the political ecosphere are very, very, very skilled at using the input-gathering process to defuse opposition to things they’ve already decided they’re going to do. Don’t allow yourself to be effectively neutered in this fashion – make sure you’re only spending your time with people who aren’t just listening politely to keep you from talking to somebody else about it.

Board of Adjustment versus Urbanism

Short and not-so-sweet; still no time for this.
Those who didn’t think it was a big deal when the ANC crowd were appointed en-masse to several critical boards and commissions should be ashamed of themselves.
Go to this video. If it doesn’t advance automatically, health care no rx go to C11.
What’s here? Well, it’s just ANC guys Bryan King and Jeff Jack pressuring a property owner on a downtown block to tear down a deck so he can add more off-street parking. Note that not a single time in this entire conversation does anybody, to be fair, including the applicant, even mention the fact that some people patronizing this small business or living in the apartment might not drive every single trip. Only once does anybody bring up the fact that ample on-street parking exists (of course, gasp!, people would have to pay!)
This is downtown, people. This isn’t the suburbs. For those who think the government influence on development is mainly to force density, this ought to be (but probably isn’t) a wake-up call: the primary influence of the government is to force car-dependent development patterns to continue even downtown.
And those who think the ANC crowd and their patron Laura Morrison are going to leave downtown alone and just focus on keeping the neighborhoods suburban should think again, too. Nowhere is safe from these people; right before this video I watched the Planning Commission fail to come to a recommendation on a hotel at 5th/Colorado because the ANC contingent wanted to force another couple hundred grand in concessions for affordable housing (used as a convenient crutch in this case; none of those people actually have any interest in affordable housing or they’d support more multi-family development in their neighborhoods).
Sickening. You were warned; but most of you didn’t listen.

Don’t Let The Door Hit You, Fred

So my alma mater has scheduled the worst team in 1-AA for a game in 2011. This sucks. But it can be improved. Allow me to share with you the second verse of The Nittany Lion fight song; no, disorder no rx not the idiotic Big Ten one awkwardly added in 1993; the classic one; the one I sung marching to the stadium in uniform every week; the one I sing to my kids today; the one that none of the megahomers at Black Shoe Diaries likely even know.
Follow the links on each line. We clearly can turn some past disgraces on their end, neuropathist if our primary goal is to schedule pansies. We can also re-establish some classic rivalries with the traditional powers that used to rule football with us back when Paterno was young. Get to it, this Tim Curley!

There’s Pittsburgh with its Panther,
and Penn her Red and Blue,
Dartmouth with its Indian (woowoowoowoowoo),
and Yale her Bulldog, too (ruff, ruff).
There’s Princeton with its Tiger (grrrr),
and Cornell with its Bear (BEAR NOISE).
But speaking now of victory,
We’ll get the Lion’s share.

We may need to change the last two lines to something more suitable; like “But speaking now of filling our 110,000 seat stadium without playing road games; We’ll get the Curley’s Share”. Also, we may want to skip Pittsburgh; they may actually win once in a while. But we can work on those details later.
As I told Mr. RUTS, THIS IDEA FREE FOR STEALING. Pay special attention to Yale and Princeton. Those jerks.

Yes, emergency you haven’t seen a crackplog in a long time. I did warn you, viagra 40mg and since she came home almost a month ago, I have spent several fun overnights in the ER, and am barely sleeping (hint: preemie baby recovering from intestinal surgery is like normal newborn TO THE MAX!).
Today’s Chronicle finally covers the live music issue, with a quote or two from your truly, thanks to Wells Dunbar. I think it lets Morrison off a little too easy – but is overall a good read. For another pointer, my pals at the Austinist gave me a nice “he told you so” shout-out.
For crackplog-lite, please check the twitter. I promise the crackploggin’ will resume; but right now I’m just trying to get enough time to work.

Just sent to the morning show guys at 590-KLBJ, women’s health who were discussing the 3-foot passing rule and then let a caller drag the show down into the typical “cyclists don’t pay for roads” nonsense. They didn’t start there, but also didn’t contradict her…

Gentlemen,
Although you probably don’t remember, y’all have had me on your show a couple of times for a short talk about transportation. This morning on the way into work, I heard you and your listeners talking about the 3-foot-passing law that Gov. Perry vetoed; and the last caller I listened to made some very inaccurate points which you didn’t challenge at all which need to be corrected, regarding paying for roadways.
The fact is that in the state of Texas, the state gas tax is constitutionally dedicated to the state highway system (and schools) – meaning it cannot be spent on any roadway without a route shield (number) on it. For instance, I-35, US 183, RM 2222 – state highways; can get gas tax funding and usually do (with some local contributions thrown into the mix). While the federal gas tax has no such restriction, in practice in our area, the metropolitan planning group that disperses such money spends almost all of it on the state highway system as well.
What does that leave out? Well, essentially 99% of the streets cyclists ride on when they’re actually trying to get somewhere. Not just little roads – major roads like Enfield/15th; Cesar Chavez; all the numbered streets downtown; Windsor; Lamar north of the river; Burnet south of 183; etc. – these roads don’t get one cent of funding from the gas tax.
What about vehicle registration? Goes exclusively to the state and county governments – and the county doesn’t spend any of their money on roads inside city limits.
So cyclists do, in fact, pay for the roads they ride on – in fact, they likely overpay by orders of magnitude considering that their ‘bill’ for using one of those city-funded streets is the same as if they drove that day, yet they cause a lot more damage and take up a lot more space when they drive (you can fit a lot more cyclists on a street like Speedway than you can cars, in other words).
Please don’t let your callers get away with this kind of hurtful know-nothing reactionary attack. While “cyclists don’t pay for roads” is a patently false statement, there’s plenty of valid disagreement on the 3-foot-passing rule that could have been explored instead, and the listeners deserve that higher-quality discourse.
Regards,
Mike Dahmus
City of Austin Urban Transportation Commission 2000-2005

Looking at this in retrospect, I forgot to even mention that the city pays for its roads with general funds – mostly sales taxes, property taxes, and utility transfers. D’oh. Will email them accordingly. (Still sick with plague and no sleep).

I still don’t have much time myself, about it obviously, but did discover a great new blog called Human Transit which I’m slowly poring through – a transit planner from Portland, seems like. One of the first great finds has been a discussion of the inconvenient truth about streetcars which expands quite well on a point I’ve made here many times in the past: streetcars running in a shared lane are actually worse than buses on the metrics of speed and reliability.
Please check it out; I’m adding them to my blogroll.

Was going to do a nice outline before I jumped in, viagra 60mg but then I saw this really well-done brochure by Capital Metro on ‘how to ride the train’ which encourages this myth.
Red Line Myth #1: This ‘urban rail’ line will deliver you to within a quick, discount short, cheap walk of your office building, like most other successful (light) rail lines have done.
Look at this picture, from page 5:

Looks like the train goes right in the middle of downtown, doesn’t it? Looks like it’s right on Congress Avenue south of the Capitol, where all those big office buildings are! Firmly rebutting everything I’ve been telling you about how you’ll use commuter rail, if you do?

Continue reading “Don’t Let The Door Hit You, Fred”

Updates

So my alma mater has scheduled the worst team in 1-AA for a game in 2011. This sucks. But it can be improved. Allow me to share with you the second verse of The Nittany Lion fight song; no, disorder no rx not the idiotic Big Ten one awkwardly added in 1993; the classic one; the one I sung marching to the stadium in uniform every week; the one I sing to my kids today; the one that none of the megahomers at Black Shoe Diaries likely even know.
Follow the links on each line. We clearly can turn some past disgraces on their end, neuropathist if our primary goal is to schedule pansies. We can also re-establish some classic rivalries with the traditional powers that used to rule football with us back when Paterno was young. Get to it, this Tim Curley!

There’s Pittsburgh with its Panther,
and Penn her Red and Blue,
Dartmouth with its Indian (woowoowoowoowoo),
and Yale her Bulldog, too (ruff, ruff).
There’s Princeton with its Tiger (grrrr),
and Cornell with its Bear (BEAR NOISE).
But speaking now of victory,
We’ll get the Lion’s share.

We may need to change the last two lines to something more suitable; like “But speaking now of filling our 110,000 seat stadium without playing road games; We’ll get the Curley’s Share”. Also, we may want to skip Pittsburgh; they may actually win once in a while. But we can work on those details later.
As I told Mr. RUTS, THIS IDEA FREE FOR STEALING. Pay special attention to Yale and Princeton. Those jerks.

Yes, emergency you haven’t seen a crackplog in a long time. I did warn you, viagra 40mg and since she came home almost a month ago, I have spent several fun overnights in the ER, and am barely sleeping (hint: preemie baby recovering from intestinal surgery is like normal newborn TO THE MAX!).
Today’s Chronicle finally covers the live music issue, with a quote or two from your truly, thanks to Wells Dunbar. I think it lets Morrison off a little too easy – but is overall a good read. For another pointer, my pals at the Austinist gave me a nice “he told you so” shout-out.
For crackplog-lite, please check the twitter. I promise the crackploggin’ will resume; but right now I’m just trying to get enough time to work.

Just sent to the morning show guys at 590-KLBJ, women’s health who were discussing the 3-foot passing rule and then let a caller drag the show down into the typical “cyclists don’t pay for roads” nonsense. They didn’t start there, but also didn’t contradict her…

Gentlemen,
Although you probably don’t remember, y’all have had me on your show a couple of times for a short talk about transportation. This morning on the way into work, I heard you and your listeners talking about the 3-foot-passing law that Gov. Perry vetoed; and the last caller I listened to made some very inaccurate points which you didn’t challenge at all which need to be corrected, regarding paying for roadways.
The fact is that in the state of Texas, the state gas tax is constitutionally dedicated to the state highway system (and schools) – meaning it cannot be spent on any roadway without a route shield (number) on it. For instance, I-35, US 183, RM 2222 – state highways; can get gas tax funding and usually do (with some local contributions thrown into the mix). While the federal gas tax has no such restriction, in practice in our area, the metropolitan planning group that disperses such money spends almost all of it on the state highway system as well.
What does that leave out? Well, essentially 99% of the streets cyclists ride on when they’re actually trying to get somewhere. Not just little roads – major roads like Enfield/15th; Cesar Chavez; all the numbered streets downtown; Windsor; Lamar north of the river; Burnet south of 183; etc. – these roads don’t get one cent of funding from the gas tax.
What about vehicle registration? Goes exclusively to the state and county governments – and the county doesn’t spend any of their money on roads inside city limits.
So cyclists do, in fact, pay for the roads they ride on – in fact, they likely overpay by orders of magnitude considering that their ‘bill’ for using one of those city-funded streets is the same as if they drove that day, yet they cause a lot more damage and take up a lot more space when they drive (you can fit a lot more cyclists on a street like Speedway than you can cars, in other words).
Please don’t let your callers get away with this kind of hurtful know-nothing reactionary attack. While “cyclists don’t pay for roads” is a patently false statement, there’s plenty of valid disagreement on the 3-foot-passing rule that could have been explored instead, and the listeners deserve that higher-quality discourse.
Regards,
Mike Dahmus
City of Austin Urban Transportation Commission 2000-2005

Looking at this in retrospect, I forgot to even mention that the city pays for its roads with general funds – mostly sales taxes, property taxes, and utility transfers. D’oh. Will email them accordingly. (Still sick with plague and no sleep).

I still don’t have much time myself, about it obviously, but did discover a great new blog called Human Transit which I’m slowly poring through – a transit planner from Portland, seems like. One of the first great finds has been a discussion of the inconvenient truth about streetcars which expands quite well on a point I’ve made here many times in the past: streetcars running in a shared lane are actually worse than buses on the metrics of speed and reliability.
Please check it out; I’m adding them to my blogroll.

Was going to do a nice outline before I jumped in, viagra 60mg but then I saw this really well-done brochure by Capital Metro on ‘how to ride the train’ which encourages this myth.
Red Line Myth #1: This ‘urban rail’ line will deliver you to within a quick, discount short, cheap walk of your office building, like most other successful (light) rail lines have done.
Look at this picture, from page 5:

Looks like the train goes right in the middle of downtown, doesn’t it? Looks like it’s right on Congress Avenue south of the Capitol, where all those big office buildings are! Firmly rebutting everything I’ve been telling you about how you’ll use commuter rail, if you do?

Continue reading “Updates”

Connecting some dots

1. Austin Neighborhoods Concil minutes, 10/22/2008:

Live Music Task Force – Saundra Kirk, draft recommendations to be discussed in
a public forum on Wednesday, October 29, 7:30-9:30 pm, City Council Chambers.
Report will be finalized at the task force’s final meeting on November 10, presented to
City Council November 20. Saundra Kirk and Scott Trainer noted that the sound control
recommendations are inadequate.
Jeff Jack moved and motion was seconded
Motion 1
“Authorize the ANC executive committee to draft a letter of concern to the task force
and City Council regarding the task force sound control recommendations.”
The motion passed without opposition.
The task force’s draft report is available on the City of Austin Web site under “Live
Music Task Force.”

2. Austin Neighborhoods Council minutes, 6/27/2007

Noise Solutions Committee Update (Scott Trainer)
City formed a committee to identify improvements to enforcement that could be made under the current
ordinance. 1. APD is retraining police and increasing the number of meters from 2 to 23. 2. The
committee is focusing on the effect of outdoor music on residents and educating the city’s Music
Commission on the need for mitigation. 3. Fire Department is assisting in crowd control, and PACE
(includes AFD, APD, TABC, code enforcement) is coordinating permitting and enforcement through
Municipal Court. APD will be contacting NAs and giving presentations on changes

3. Past list of ANC presidents, excerpted:

Past ANC Presidents
2008 Danette Chimenti
South River City Citizens
2006 – 2007 Laura Morrison
OWANA
2004-2005 Susan Pascoe
WANG
2003 Bryan King
South Lamar NA
2001 – 2002 Jim Walker
Cherrywood NA
1999 – 2000 Will Boseman
NUNA
1997 – 1998 Jeff Jack
Zilker NA

4. From yesterday’s entry, courtesy of Gary Etie: (and updated per his update):

In this video, City Council member Laura Morrison, who was instrumental in passing the Amendment that was specifically used against Shady Grove, points out that the problem was that “Shady Grove’s Permit had expired”. What Ms Morrison fails to point out is that the
March 23rd expiration date was part of (see correction and update in latest post) problems that are now coming around are related to the specific details contained in Amendments that she ramrodded through on March 12th 2009, on the consent agenda (!), as an Emergency item (!), right before SxSW, when anyone involved in the music business was going to be too busy to rally opposition. I don’t think the problem is going to go away, until Ms. Morrison either gets it, and stops carrying the ball for the voter block she wants to retain, or is removed from the process, through recall.. I think Ms. Morrison is that good, at manipulation of the planning process, and it’s that serious, in determining the future of music, in Austin.

5. From the day before:

Jeff Jack, President of Zilker Neighborhood Association and member of Austin Neighborhood Council discussed some of the local clubs in his neighborhood. He supports a balance between music and livability. The City’s current sound ordinance is ineffective, especially with a growing downtown, making entertainment districts important. Also, defined hours of operation are essential and should be limited near residential areas. Venue owners need to agree to restrictive covenants. At 85 DB, the loudness of sound is detrimental to hearing. Austin Bergstrom Airport can not have residences within a certain distance because of associated noise. Enforcement is an issue, sometimes police do not respond to a complaint in a timely manner or after the police have left, the music is cranked back up. It would be ideal if music people served as their own monitors. He would like the Live Music Task Force to develop new rules and take into consideration tougher penalties and a special zoning classification for music.

Laura Morrison’s innocent act

Well, ailment story if the minutes of the task force I’ve been pointing to were buried too far, I’ve pulled them up here for your reading pleasure. No, this doesn’t prove precisely who complained, but it is strong evidence exactly who was behind the push for the ordinance now being used against places like Freddie’s Place and Shady Grove. Here’s some things you might notice:

  • It’s not downtown residents (although one sound engineer fell for it, as well as 90% of the public; note not one single complainant at the meeting was downtown
  • It’s not new residents (note how many talk about how long they’ve lived here)
  • It’s not Californians (see above)

Judge for yourself:

C. PUBLIC INPUT
Robert Corbin, a South Austin Resident reported that a couple months ago he started hearing music inside his house, and discovered it was coming from a club over two miles away. He contacted the police, after which the owner of the club made adjustments. This is a recurring situation with Threadgills, located one mile away. The City’s sound ordinance exists to favor music. He believes no one should have to listen to music that is not of their choice and he feels terrorized in his own home. Does not understand why thisproblem occurs with today’s available technology. He expressed concern over young people’s safety, specifically the potential for hearing loss in front of loud speakers.
Jeff Jack, President of Zilker Neighborhood Association and member of Austin Neighborhood Council discussed some of the local clubs in his neighborhood. He supports a balance between music and livability. The City’s current sound ordinance is ineffective, especially with a growing downtown, making entertainment districts important. Also, defined hours of operation are essential and should be limited near residential areas. Venue owners need to agree to restrictive covenants. At 85 DB, the loudness of sound is detrimental to hearing. Austin Bergstrom Airport can not have residences within a certain distance because of associated noise. Enforcement is an issue, sometimes police do not respond to a complaint in a timely manner or after the police have left, the music is cranked back up. It would be ideal if music people served as their own monitors. He would like the Live Music Task Force to develop new rules and take into consideration tougher penalties and a special zoning classification for music.
Tressie Damron, a resident of Castle Heights neighborhood has experienced problems with loud music. She would like more education and training at the police cadet level. Right now the solution for reducing the noise is complaint driven. Clubs need sound proofing and roof-top venues should not be allowed.
Gardner Sumner, a member of Zilker Neighborhood Executive Board, lives on Treadwell Street and complains that noise comes from all directions into the night. He requests to strengthen the noise ordinance, not weaken it. In addition, the ordinance is not effective if the police do not enforce it. He does not understand why sound amplification needs to be so powerful as to travels two miles away. It is not right for people to not be able to sleep in their homes at night.
Vicki Faust, a homeowner in Travis Heights lives behind Continental Club, near Guero’s restaurant. Lately, the noise has gotten louder. She spoke with Botticelli’s South Congress owners when the restaurant first opened and they were agreeable. She now fears the local noise will hurt her Bed & Breakfast business. The two most difficult things are parking and noise. She has no complaints about Continental Club; it’s the outside venues. She would like the Live Music Task Force to identify outdoor venues near residential areas and develop special considerations. The only options she currently has to deal with noise problems are to call the police or sue the venue owners.
Michael Lahrman, a band manager stated it disturbs him what other people refer to as noise, to him noise is traffic. People are taking advantage of their neighborhoods; they may not have professional sound or set-up. He thinks Threadgills is a wonderful venue with reasonable and tasteful music. Some restaurants play music at happy hour to draw crowds, but don’t have a sound person onsite. He would like to include buses or the interstate (if it’s over 85 DB) in the noise ordinance. The answer is not to have attendees wearing headphones at a concert. Unfortunate that people are having difficulty sleeping and that needs to be recognized, but we need to protect the people who are doing it right.
Member Saundra Kirk explained that noise is any unwanted sound and asked Michael Lahrman to clarify his statement on bringing the music industry down. He responded that downtown condos will continue to pose a problem with festivals and live music as the residents complain the noise is bothersome.
Gail Armstrong, a South Austin resident for the past 30 years stated the noise ordinance is a joke. She has never had a painter invade her home; it is only the musician, who enters her private residence to perform. The types of music coming into her house are neither the choice she prefers to hear nor when she wants to hear it. She believes this situation is not right and it happens on a daily basis.
Bill Neale, moved from Dallas to Austin in 1974 and currently live on Kinney Avenue in South Austin. He experiences a lot of problems trying to sleep because of non-permitted music, most recently with Enchanted Forest that has outside parties, which after the police leave, they turn the music back up. He has called the police to report a nearby Church. Music coming from South Austin Museum of Popular Culture and Austin Pizza can be heard in his living room. He believes the “Live Music Capital of the World” mentality attributes to the problem. There are different things that make this town great like bicycling and books, not just music. He expressed a concern for the impact of loud music on kids.
Jerry Jackson, resident of South Austin in the Circle C subdivision, used to do sound and productions on a professional basis. He suggested that one solution could be to require all outside venues to have on site sound engineer. The problem arises with how the equipment is set up. He calls the police all the time about neighbors having parties that are too loud. Venues and clubs are located throughout the neighborhoods and police have problems finding the source of the sound. It is not the loudness of the sound, but the articulation, which can be controlled or contained. 85 DB may seem loud, but every yard man is making the same loudness. Lowering music at a venue will affect the patrons and could reduce opportunities.
Teresa Ferguson, a Music Commissioner explained that venues are the incubators for Austin’s live music industry; part of the conversation is about defending musicians and preserving Austin’s culture. In regulating music in neighborhoods, it is difficult to differentiate between a downtown neighborhood and an entertainment district. She suggested examining the complaint driven solution. She asked if anyone has noticed improvement or difference since meters are now used by the police. She proposed having on City staff a sound engineer to approve buildings for live music as a beneficial service. If the DB is lowered, it will be overkill and should not be the first step. There needs to be better communication on best practices, residents talking with venues, enforcement and incentives for sound proofing.

Laura Morrison’s innocence defense regarding Shady Grove is all over the news – her staffer even tried damage control in a definitely unfriendly forum over the weekend as well.
It kind of falls apart when you find, more about as I did today, illness these two sources:
Citizine Mag “Keep Austin Quiet”

Gary Etie says that “Neighborhood Groups, Council Member Morrison, certain City of Austin attorneys, et al, brought over an existing 70 dB limit that was found in the Zoning section of the Code, Chapter 25-2, and brought that language over to the Outdoor Music Venue Permit Amendment that was passed just prior to SXSW, while everybody was too busy to do anything to stop them. An Outdoor Music Venue Permit is a separate ‘Noise and Sound’ permit, issued under the Noise and Sound Ordinance, and must be obtained in addition to the Building Permit that establishes Use as a Restaurant or Cocktail Lounge.”

and AustinCityPermits.com blog: (and updated per Gary Etie’s update):

In this video, City Council member Laura Morrison, who was instrumental in passing the Amendment that was specifically used against Shady Grove, points out that the problem was that “Shady Grove’s Permit had expired”. What Ms Morrison fails to point out is that the
March 23rd expiration date was part of (see correction and update in latest post) problems that are now coming around are related to the specific details contained in Amendments that
she ramrodded through on March 12th 2009, on the consent agenda (!), as an Emergency item (!), right before SxSW, when anyone involved in the music business was going to be too busy to rally opposition. I don’t think the problem is going to go away, until Ms. Morrison either gets it, and stops carrying the ball for the voter block she wants to retain, or is removed from the process, through recall.. I think Ms. Morrison is that good, at manipulation of the planning process, and it’s that serious, in determining the future of music, in Austin.

Apparently Jeff Jack is pulling the same “who, me?” act on ANCTALK. Others will have to fight that battle, as I left there a very long time ago.
Back to work…