Bad Neighborhood Plans, Part Three

Well, the neighborhood that destroyed light rail’s chances in 2000 (“yes, we moved next to an active railroad; but NO, we don’t think we should live with light-rail for the benefit of the city”) has finished their neighborhood plan.

Big surprise: Calls for a drop in multifamily development.

Once again, the point of this exercise was supposed to be for neighborhoods to tell the city where they want additional density, NOT to tell the city that they want less density.

This is a city. Grow up, people!

Tee Hee, Ain’t I The Dickens, Part One

The Bush administration is at it again.

Thanks, Naderites! (Unfortunately, the Onion didn’t archive possibly the best What Do You Think ever, which generated at least two chestnuts in response to Bush’s devolution of environmental protection: “I voted for Nader. Tee Hee, Ain’t I The Dickens?” and “They say you get the government you deserve, but I don’t remember knife-raping any retarded nuns.”

Irresponsible Neighborhoods, Part Two

I was watching Channel Six for a bit while waiting for my wife to get ready to go out to a childbirth class, and I saw a zoning case being debated in front of council which has come up in a couple of the Yahoo groups I read. This particular case involves a SF-3 lot with two houses on it, each one fronting a different street (the lot has frontage on two parallel streets – not a typical corner lot) which the owner wants to subdivide into two SF-4A lots, so that each house can be a legally separate property.

A bunch of caterwauling has occurred from the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association over the fact that they explicitly rejected this kind of lot during their neighborhood planning process. The assumption is that the City Council would hear this, and rule against the zoning case because of it. (Note: the City Council ruled in favor of the applicant 7-0 on first reading; displaying what has become their typical pragmatism, but see more below).

This assumes, of course, that the City Council finds banning small lots throughout a neighborhood in the center city to be a reasonable thing to do in a neighborhood plan. I hope they didn’t; but I wonder why the plan passed in the first place.

I worked on the Old West Austin neighborhood plan. We were responsible. We allowed for densification with character throughout the neighborhood. We allowed for some multifamily which wasn’t only on arterial roadways (see future piece on Asshat Neigborhood Clowns Who Think Multi-Family Residents Don’t Care About Noise). We were specifically seeking to satisfy the intentions of the neighborhood planning process, which was NOT “Tell us WHETHER you want density”, but rather, “tell us WHERE you want density”, and we also didn’t think saying “only on Lamar” was a responsible answer.

Sadly, it seems more and more that the City Council has allowed other neighborhoods to get away with joke neigborhood plans which boil down to: Do these 20 transportation projects for us, and prevent any densification from occurring to our neighborhood, OK thanks bye.

Get Off Da Bus

It’s been rumored for a long time, but further more credible signs are afoot that Capitol Metro is abandoning plans for in-town light-rail transit in favor of a bus rapid transit system.

I could not be more alarmed at the incredible stupidity of the board and other leadership at that agency.

  1. They’re supplying commuter rail to areas which are primarily not Capital Metro taxpayers at the urging of the same state legislator who forced Capital Metro to call a rail election before they were ready, which they then lost by an incredibly small margin (winning in the city of Austin proper), primarily due to an insufficiently baked plan.
  2. For the majority of residents of the city of Austin, they’re now going to continue to provide transit which is not reliable (sure, the bus can change a traffic light ahead of it to green; but cannot move gridlocked cars out of its way) and very slow.

Of course, the disingenuous jackanapes who pushed the anti-rail campaign in 2000 will be silent about the fact that BRT takes even MORE street space from cars, and provides even LESS benefit for the money.

Capital Metro is signing its own death warrant. But as I predicted back before the 2000 election (Patrick Goetz: you still owe me a steak dinner), the state is the ultimate power here, and the state hates public transportation.

HOUSTON HAS LIGHT RAIL.

Truly, the apocalypse is nigh.

Bad Choices, Part One

I always pick the best days to bike. Here’s the transcript of my IM with a cow orker this morning:

mdahmus: so today’s trip in was hellacious. first it starts drizzling hard RIGHT AFTER JEANNE LEAVES WITH MY CAR.
mdahmus: then I get to north loop and lamar and the bike won’t go.
mdahmus: I pull over and fuck with the brakes and make them very loose; still no go.
mdahmus: then I realized the back wheel had gone out of alignment and was rubbing on the bar.
mdahmus: so I try to fix the brakes back up and realize I can’t do it without pliers (can’t hold on to the little fuckity fuck fuck wire because too wet and greasy)
mdahmus: so I rode the rest of the way in with no back brakes; making the trip down far west JUST FANTABULOUS!
mdahmus: actually got passed by Guy on 2222 at 360; longest trip in ever. fuckin’ old brakes. AND YOU WONDER WHY MORE PEOPLE DON’T BIKE, MISTER SMARMY BIKE SHOP FUCKWAD.
mdahmus: that’s me angry.

The “smarmy bike shop fuckwad” refers to the helpful people at my no longer favorite bike shop (one I haven’t gone to in quite a while now) who failed to do anything about the “I can’t maintain my fuckin’ brakes because they’re such a pain in the ass; even though I’m already carrying around a wrench for the few brake things I can maintain” situation the last time I had the bike in because they couldn’t get the right parts, but “don’t worry, dude, they’re fine”.

How well do you think a car would sell if every time it got a flat tire and you put the doughnut on, you had to redo your brakes? NOT VERY FUCKING WELL I THINK!

Bad Neighborhoods, Part One

Austin’s neighborhood Nazis are at it again. In an article about the current activities of the Envision Central Texas project, an inoffensively driven planning exercise which seeks to lay out in broad brushes whether people all over the place are really against sprawl or not; the Statesman wrote:

Austin neighborhood leaders also are worried the scenarios could hurt the character of their neighborhoods. Bryan King, president of the Austin Council of Neighborhoods, said the type of density envisioned for neighborhoods in Scenario D could be disastrous. “Any scenario that is chosen must respond to neighborhood plans,” King said. “The neighborhood plans come first. Envision Central Texas comes second.”

Back when I worked on the Old West Austin neighborhood plan; it was understood that this exercise was fundamentally a way for central-city neighborhoods to show where additional density should occur; not whether it should occur. And we took that responsibility seriously; advocating additional development (both commercial and residential) on the edges and in a few places in the interior of the neighborhood. Since then, every neighborhood of note in the city, including my new neighborhood in North University, has used this process to try to push all densification out to commercial arterials; and even there in absurdly limited terms. The same people who fought the Villas, a reasonable apartment complex right next to Guadalupe Street within walking distance of UT, are fighting future similarly smart infill projects throughout Austin’s central city. And all of these wankers drive cars with SoS stickers on them. Oh, the irony.

Dilweed in Paradise

It’s ironic that this dilweed lives in Honolulu, one of a very small number of really effective city-bus-only transit systems in the United States. This presumably gives him the temerity to claim that the investment in public transit in this country, dwarfed by spending on highways, is a “waste” when most of it has, at the urging of schmucks like him, gone to those same city bus systems which are completely ineffective at removing suburban commuters from their single-occupant vehicles in almost every other city in the country. Yes, they provide mobility to some poor people who can’t afford cars; and for a trivially small number of people who don’t have parking at their destinations.

But the only thing that works for choice commuters (outside the oddball cities like Honolulu where parking is expensive enough to make a real difference) is prioritized transit, that being separate right-of-way such as rail, or buses running in exclusive lanes. Unfortunately, people on both sides of this debate continue to buy into the canard that cities should be required to show improvements in stuck-in-traffic only-poor-schmucks-use-them city bus systems before investing in any kind of rapid transit, be it light rail, BRT, monorail, subway, or whatever else. The most disappointing thing are the transit advocates who buy into this nonsense; not realizing that the true goal of most of the people diverting rapid transit investment into city bus systems is to kill those transit systems entirely (much harder to convert a light rail line back to single-occupant motor vehicle use, after all).

We went through this in Austin; with many road warriors hiding behind the idea that we should force Capital Metro to “run the bus system better” before investing in rapid transit, ignoring the fact that by any objective means, they’re already running the bus system about as well as it could possibly be run. That meaning that a city bus system alone will never, ever, EVER pull an additional non-trivial number of automobile commuters out of their cars; since almost all of those people who could possibly be practically served by the bus are already riding it. Most UT employees for whom the cost of parking is an issue are already riding the various 183-corridor and I35-corridor express buses. Most state employees who don’t get free parking are already riding various other express buses and flyers. And most private-sector employees get parking for free; so why on earth would they want to ride an ‘express’ bus whose guarantee is that if run perfectly in the absolutely best possible route circumstance (their driveway is at the last bus stop before the freeway; their office is at the first stop after the freeway exit), it could be almost as fast as their automobile, since it’s stuck in the same traffic?

It doesn’t matter how slow the traffic on Mopac gets; the bus will never be competitive with the private automobile for most people. The only way to compete is therefore to provide prioritized routing for transit – meaning rail, or as a poor second choice, HOV lanes for buses.

Period. There’s nothing more Capital Metro can do; you could run a city bus every ten seconds on every major arterial in the suburbs and not attract one more person to ride it to their job since their car will be substantially faster and they don’t have to pay for parking.