Hello Bikeness My Old Friend: Part III, Or Getting Your Money’s Worth From Google Maps

(Overview Post Here)

In the last installment we ended up on Polyanna Avenue, where certain urbanists always live despite constantly being wrong.

The pictures in this post come from the commute home on Wednesday October 8th (and I went back and filled some images in the first section as well, taken on this same day).

Now for the next bit. Heading from north to south; you basically need to get from Walnut Creek across Braker Lane and your endpoint should be Georgian at Rundberg (Georgian, give or take, is the start of the long bike route that turns into the two lane part of Guadalupe).

Here’s what Google recommends as the route for the whole section.

Route map from Walnut Creek to Georgian/Rundberg, original Google version
Looks chill. Wonder if it works.

The northern part of this route matches Google’s recommendations. Whitewing is a nice slow uphill with plenty of shade and interesting houses to look at. Must have been a nice place at some point before the I-35 noise got to where it is now. Then, you end up having to take a sharp left, pedal a short deathly uphill (I’m a wimp for hills), to get to the final bit of Polyanna that takes you to Braker. Here’s some shots along the way…

View of conditions on Whitewing Ave
Typical view on Whitewing
Looking back north on Whitewing
Looking back north on Whitewing
View of hill up Thrush
Short sharp hill up Thrush. M1EK hate hills.

Crossing Braker is not a joyful experience. You need to get to the other side and start on Middle Fiskville Road, which is 100 feet or so west of the I-35 frontage road. You have two options here; either go to the frontage road and cross there (if you decide to cross there, do it as a pedestrian and then you have to do some sidewalk riding to get back west), or wait for a break in traffic and cut across to the median opening, then wait until the rush hour traffic completely stops and wind through the cars to the bike lane and use it for about 50 feet east. This actually worked out better than the frontage road option as it didn’t require any sidewalk riding but YMMV. Without the rush hour stoppage of the cars I think the pedestrian option is better.

Southbound Pollyana looking at Braker
Lovely view approaching Braker on Pollyana

Then you get a brief fast run down Middle Fiskville Road, parallel and close to I-35. Wave at me as you drive. This is OK except on most days you’re gonna lose most of your velocity to a headwind and have to go to granny gear to finish the uphill (again I’m a baby on hills). Right turn on Grady Dr, left turn on Brownie Dr, usually cars in the way that prevent an easy transition here.

View of Middle Fiskville Road southbound approaching Grady
Middle Fiskville near end of uphill (facing southbound, nearing Grady)
Middle Fiskville looking back (northbound) towards Braker
Middle Fiskville looking back (northbound) towards Braker

Brownie is a downhill through areas that are the ANC’s stereotypical density nightmare (car-dependent fourplexes that have gone to pot). Still better than riding up north though. Frustratingly, you lose the ability to coast on a downhill due to a dumbass 4-way stop (this happens a lot more later). No pictures here.

Then, Google fails you. The recommended route has you going through “Brownie Neighborhood Park” which doesn’t really exist. Instead there’s a road which heads to a closed and locked gate for the charter school that took over the old Showplace Lanes bowling alley. No way through here; backtrack and ask how much you paid for these directions.

annotated google map showing closed section of road
thanks, obama
View down the actually closed road that Google recommended
Don’t believe the directions here. This is a dead-end unless you are going to pick up a kid at the charter school! And the gate was closed/locked both times so I have no idea what times it’s actually open.

Instead, you have to continue and turn on Oriole, and I was prepared to run THIS route based on pre-exploring the route in my company car previously:

Second google desktop recs
Second google rec has you going down N Creek Dr and then Rundberg. But the mobile directions on the bike take you on route 370. Weird.

Oddly enough, when on the bike, you instead get recommended Route 370 in the city bike network, which requires a short stub of sidewalk + grass into Walnut Creek Elementary. (I have no idea why the desktop directions don’t let you do this; I’ve helpfully drawn the difference; but I will eventually try the Google route as honestly the Rundberg traffic heading west in the afternoon isn’t too bad to scare me away from a right turn and a quick move to the left turn lane, just haven’t tried it yet).

Annotated map of actual final route I took through Walnut Creek Elementary
Why, google desktop, won’t you let me do what I want here?

The elementary school is likely locked up most of the school day, so this is not an option unless you are going home about when I did both times so far (about 4:45 by this point). Short section where you are like “thanks for routing me in the mud and grass and hope I didn’t take a road bike, google and the City of Austin bike route map”, and then you end up on the road that turns into Georgian. Aaaah.

view down dead-end street leading to elementary school
Bike route 370 takes you through what sure looks like a dead-end…
sidewalk for route 370
Nothing says “bike route” like being forced onto a narrow sidewalk…
looking back at sharp sidewalk turn on 370
Nice sharp turn you have to navigate to get on this, errr, bike route
dirt path at Walnut Creek elementary
Hope you weren’t riding a road bike today!
Gates at Georgian entrance to Walnut Creek Elementary
Probably not a great general-purpose bike route if they lock these gates during the day…

Last sections later this week.

Hello Bikeness My Old Friend: Part 1 of the commute home: Our Fifth Second Downtown Really Sucks!

(Overview Post here).

Note: There really is a group pushing “Parmer!” as our seventh third downtown or some shit.

Anyways, here’s the first part of the trip1

image of first third of map

First few parts of this route are standard Suburban Hellscape. Exit huge parking lot, turn onto road with 60 mph design speed (but at least a relatively OK right lane). Wait on left edge of right lane at very long light at Parmer while beckoning scared suburbanites to turn right on red past you. Continue across on briefly civilized BUT STILL HOT AND WINDY 4-then-2 lane road past a long-abandoned subsidized housing project (not seen in StreetView but trust me it looks like The Walking Dead), then turn on the two oddly disconnected bike lanes2, and then OOPS I-35 WHAT THE HELL DO WE DO NOW?

yager looking westbound across II-35
atsa lot of concrete

Short explainer: Yes, you have to go on I-35 here. The other ‘options’ are: Go north to Parmer and then navigate the I-35 and Lamar intersections and then ride all the way to like Metric, and then go down Metric a long ways. This portion of Parmer is ugly and hugely congested and will kill you (and the portion of Parmer east of I-35 is even worse than those pictures above).

Or, you can take Yager to the dead-end at Lamar, then ride in the (not wide) right lane south past Walnut Creek, and then up a hill where you’ll be going 2 mph while cars pass you at 60. Again, no shoulder. No sidewalk. No nothing. Just likely death, even by my standards.

North map with skull indicators on Parmer and Lamar
avoid the skulls if you want to live

(Alternative exists which sort of combines those two – go on Lamar for a shorter time, then cut through Walnut Creek Park to eventually get to Metric. I’ll do this some day just to see what it’s like but I suspect it adds about 30 minutes to the trip).

Now I have a history of being up for almost anything to avoid riding on a sidewalk. Hell, I rode a portion of the 183 frontage road to work and another portion home from work on various commutes for years. But this portion of I-35 is what finally broke me. The recommendation above from El Googs aside, I rode the sidewalk from the corner of Tech Ridge/Yager to a parking lot I could bail through, and then again for a short stretch, only to go out of my way on Park-35 Circle, then again on the sidewalk to cross Walnut Creek, and then, THEN, FINALLY, off the frontage and into an oddly disconnected but sort of nice neighborhood. So basically those stretches above that show the route on the I-35 frontage are about 1/2 parking lot (most of the first bit) and 1/2 sidewalk (all of the part after Park-35 circle and a little bit before it).

All of that done against a sticky sweaty headwind (at least the 2nd day).

If this was the beginning of YOUR bike commute and you didn’t have a history of being aggressively stubborn, you’d probably have quit. But then you hit the corner of Wren and the next street and you get the feeling that things can only go up from here…

Polyanna Avenue
gonna use this image fourteen more times this month I bet

This part of the trip is about 1/4 of the miles and about 90% of the stress of the entire commute. Next up: Getting from the bad stuff to the good stuff, with a couple of hiccups.

Here’s some images, taken later on October 10th (on the 3rd trip home in which I took pictures for both the 1st and 2nd portions of this route):

bike rack
bike rack sitch h/t to caleb
phone on bike
son’s bike has a rig for a phone which is good because this route was friggin’ complicated
ugly abandoned buildings
scenic abandoned (purportedly subsidized/income restricted) housing complex along McCallen Pass
TCEQ entrance
know how you can tell the TCEQ is a joke? I dunno, maybe the fact that it’s located on I-35 in a part you have to access via SIDEWALK…
mangled guardrail at sidewalk over Walnut Creek
wondering how bad things have to be for M1EK to take the sidewalk? wonder no more

  1. I’ve dragged the route to modify to closer to what I actually did; the recommended route from Google is slightly worse than this, even, if you can imagine, but is slightly less wiggly 

  2. useless because they don’t go to anything but the I-35 frontage road; remember that Yager dead-ends at Lamar which doesn’t even have a shoulder OR a sidewalk 

Hello Bikeness My Old Friend Part II: Overview

Day 2 is in the bag. I’ll still have to explain later why I’m doing this and why now and whatnot. But the 2nd day of riding is in the books. This will serve as an overview and intro, and yes, I’m aware how self-indulgent this sounds even for me. But then I remember that I still get an email once a year or so about directions I wrote for a bike commute to IBM twenty years ago and I resolve to power through. Some images added on a later commute (October 8th).

Plus, we’re doomed on transit, because AURA are evil lying asshole idiots. So biking is now our only hope.

I work at a horrible suburban cube factory on McCallen Pass north of Parmer and east of I-35. Basically, a mile east of I-35 and a mile north of Parmer, give or take. This is, spoiler alert, not a great place to start.

The trip up to the office is pretty easy though. Go out to Guadalupe and pick up the frequent 1 which comes every 10 minutes go a few blocks further south to the frequent 801 and ride it all the way to directly in front of my office a horrible suburban park-and-ride one mile from my office. Since my horrible suburban cube factory doesn’t have showers, in the morning I must do this so as to not destroy my image of being a respectable manager with my cow orkers. Pause for laughter.

The morning trip is easy. Takes a lot longer than driving the company car, but I can fart around on the phone. No big whoop.

Here’s what the trip all the way home in the afternoon looks like (this is, give or take, the route). I actually had to have the map up both times1 so far because there’s a hell of a lot of non-obvious squiggling back and forth north of Rundberg… Also note that alternates include going WAY THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY to my old friend Shoal Creek Boulevard, amazingly.

overview from Google Maps

Spoiler alert: On my first day riding this trip it took me 75 minutes, and that was with a tailwind. Today it took about 68 minutes with a gross headwind, so I guess I’m quickly improving or possibly failing to count correctly. This is the longest ride I have done since 2006 or so.

This commute has one huge problem and then some unattractive parts after that. The huge problem is getting across I-35 and Walnut Creek. The hike and bike trail promised in about 1749 for Walnut Creek is still just a dotted line in this part of town, so no help there. The parallel routes to I-35 are, uh, problematic. North Lamar is a horrible stroad with no shoulders or sidewalks. The closest long-running parallel on the east side is Dessau, which is even worse, and too far out of the way. So the first third of this commute is where the exciting parts are, and in my next post I’ll zoom into that section identified in the inset below as “the part where you wish you had given up”. Notice the alternates above basically require one to go up to Parmer, which is not a fun prospect in this part of town (I did ride Parmer from Mopac out past 620 in a prior life but never from Mopac to I-35 for damn good reason).

Here’s the overview again, this time annotated in a way that today’s youth will understand and doubtlessly flock to blogging in response to how tuned in your author is to their ways.

Drake memes for idiot teens
Drake says no to Parmer

Anyways, tomorrow we zoom in on the horribad first third. But then, THEN:

Then you hit this intersection and you get an overwhelming sense that everything is going to be OK. (picture from first day).

Polyanna Avenue
AURA membership meeting location

Also, this is what I looked like while typing this post on my porch at 3:30 Friday afternoon. Try to restrain yourselves, it’s important.

sweaty old man on porch


  1. on my son’s bike, which I am still using, he has a little phone holder doodad which I paid for and now feel like a genius for suggesting 

Yesterday’s robot bus reveal

should have been no surprise. If you follow me on twitter, and why wouldn’t you,1 you’ve been hearing about this ever since my meeting with Clarke at the end of May. If you missed the news, try Caleb’s run-down.

The angle nobody is covering so far is that while a bond election is probably required to pay for the infrastructure bills involved, no technical “rail referendum” is necessary. So Cap Metro buys themselves a lot of wiggle room here – asking the city to hold a bond election in a low turnout time if they choose to, for instance.

As for the rest of it: it’s over. AURA, FAN, #atxrail – they were all warned; and they all stayed silent in a stupid naive attempt to fix things with the back-channel communications that never meant anything, and as a result, we’re never getting light rail in Austin.

Today’s “worst person in Austin” award goes to Randy Clarke, who is just a more effective liar than the old leadership. Nobody in the community asked for robot buses as a fig leaf for BRT, but that’s what he’s claiming the community wants and needs. That’s enough for ten awards, but one will have to suffice. But honorable mention “worst person in Austin” awards go to the credulous nitwits in those groups above, who were all warned back when there was time to make enough fuss to possibly change this2, and chose yet again to disregard my warnings.

It’s too late now. You were warned.


  1. did you not notice I hardly ever blog? 

  2. before the political class got behind it; i.e. before Watson and the city council were firmly on board 

FTA issues report on Austin Metro Rapid

Thanks to Lyndon Henry for finding and posting the link to the PDF.

Some important quotes:

In the Route 801 corridor, the primary impacts of the BRT project were to (1) replace an existing
limited stop service – Route 101 – with limited-stop service upgraded to BRT standards and new
evening service hours, (2) reduce the frequency of the existing local service – Route 1 – by half,
and (3) add a feeder route at each of the two new terminal stations to provide connections to
Route 801 from a wider area.

[…]

In summary, the BRT project had impacts on transit service that were very different between the
two corridors in two important ways:
• BRT MetroRapid Route 801 was essentially a modest upgrade of an existing limited-stop
route; in contrast, MetroRapid Route 803 introduced a BRT-standard limited-stop service
into a corridor where no limited-stop service had existed; and
• Service frequencies on the principal local route in the Route 801 corridor were
significantly lower – half their former levels – after project opening; in contrast, service
frequencies on the principal local route in the Route 803 corridor were only moderately
lower after project opening.

[…]

In 2016, two years after project opening, ridership on MetroRapid Route 801 was 5,800
boardings per average weekday. Ridership on the reduced-frequency local Route 1 was 5,700
for a total of 11,500 boardings on the principal services in the North Lamar/South Congress
corridor. Feeder Routes 201 and 275 added a total of 1,700 weekday boardings in the corridor,
some of which were transfers to/from Routes 801 and 1. The combined ridership on all four
corridor routes was 2,400 fewer weekday boardings than the combined ridership of 15,600
weekday boardings on corridor routes before project opening. This ridership loss is attributable
to three factors:
• The significantly reduced frequency – by half – of the Route 1 local service which meant
that riders who found the new MetroRapid stop locations to be inconvenient for their trips
faced longer wait times for Route 1 buses at local stops;
• The presence of limited-stop service on Route 101 before the introduction of MetroRapid
which meant that MetroRapid was only a modest improvement over existing service; and
• The higher fare for MetroRapid service compared to the fare charged on all other services
both before and after the introduction of the MetroRapid routes.
The result was that MetroRapid attracted only a modest number of new transit riders to the
corridor while the reduced local service caused a somewhat larger number of existing riders to
abandon transit in the North Lamar/South Congress corridor.

tldr version: The 801 changes caused ridership to DROP in this corridor. The FTA concluded so based on Capital Metro’s own numbers. It’s time for the water-carriers like “Novacek” to abandon their attempts to spin the unspinnable.

And it was easily foreseeable as I pointed out in this post from 2014…

TFT: Hello Bikeness My Old Friend

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

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

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

7:06 changes from 3 mins to DUE immediately.

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

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

Triangle at 7:13 1 on 0 off.

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

7:16 Brentwood 1 off 1 on

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

7:20 Justin 1 on 0 off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now in very long stretch with no stops.

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

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

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

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

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

Bike in front of 801 at Tech Ridge

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

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

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


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

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

Let’s Go To The Movies: Also: Why Nobody Takes The Bus There!

In a happy coincidence, this twitter thread came to me as I was about to take the family over to our go-to theatre; the Alamo Drafthouse at Mueller, to watch a bougie family entertainment (I have kids, sue me; Christopher Robin was good). When I posted some details about our upcoming trip, friend-of-the-crackplog Hunter S Thompson Caleb Pritchard was appropriately dismayed.

More importantly, it’s worth exploring this trip from my house a few blocks on the interior of Hyde Park as an example of how even ‘better’ transit service has a long ways to go, but stay tuned after that; because there’s a little more to it.

Let’s talk time!

From a long time ago, you may remember cheezy minimalist graphics like the ones below, which made their first appearance in the best-est “Why Rapid Bus sucks” post that still holds for a little while longer until the two infill stops are fully integrated. In this case, you can see the components of the trip from my house to the Alamo Drafthouse in Mueller, as follows:

DRIVING TRIP (what we actually did): 7 minute drive, 1 minute to park, 1 minute to walk from the garage to the front door of the theatre.

TRANSIT TRIP (what we could have done): 9 minute (0.4 mile) walk down to 38th and Guadalupe; typical wait of 7.5 minutes for the 335 bus (15 minute frequencies on this route! Best we’ve got!); 14 minute bus trip to the closest stop in Mueller (Berkman and Simond); and an 8 minute (0.4 mile) walk to the theatre’s front door. 1

Now here they are combined on the same graph2.

See a problem yet? Hint: When just the walk to the bus stop from my house (the first part of four on the transit trip) is essentially as long (in time) as the entire driving trip, counting parking the car in the garage and walking from the garage to the theatre, you might not be competitive overall.

Well, you might be tempted to reply, surely the bus is cheaper!

Let’s talk money!

I have bad news for you. The Alamo Drafthouse at Mueller validates parking (which would have been $3.00 for us); but not bus fare. So here’s the way those trips cost out, and note that this is temporarily cheaper for the bus trip as my 2 kids that would normally have had to pay are actually riding free for the remainder of the summer.3

The driving trip costs around 60 cents, thanks to this handy but minimalist commute calculator, originally designed for bike commutes but usable for this purpose, that helpfully excludes bullshit like depreciation and insurance.4. The transit trip would have cost $5.00 (two day passes for the two adults).

So what?

Now for the interesting parts. What would we expect in a better world?

Let’s imagine for a moment that being “transit-oriented” in Austin actually meant what it means in the rest of the world. How would the equation above be different?

For one, the parking garage would have to be less convenient than the transit. This means that the transit needs to drop off in front; and the parking needs to be at least a short walk away (move the transit stop directly in front of the business; leave the parking garage where it is for now, I guess).

For two, the parking can’t be free while the transit costs money. But do you think a business in Mueller as it exists today would be willing to make this trade? Of course not; each and every business in Mueller would die without the influx of cars from neighbors like me. They are nowhere near dense enough (by orders of magnitude) to get the clientele they need from people within walking or biking distance. And don’t forget to remember this when people credulous of the grid redesign cargo cults think they will be great for ridership – the places you’re reorienting service to serve better (your ‘secondary centers’) all have free parking, meaning the competitive transit-versus-driving value proposition is horrible compared to the traditional downtown.

For three, also, the realignment of service for Mueller focused on running things down Berkman, which might be better for the residents, but definitely not for anybody trying to get to the Town Center [sic] from outside the area. If Mueller’s reality matched its promises, transit would go straight to/from the Town Center, and residents would be within a short enough walk that they would want to go there to board buses. The actual reality isn’t that great; Mueller is too spread out, as discussed ad nauseum, so the transit has to run on Berkman.

So the real answer gets to an even more fundamental flaw in Mueller: It tries to be a “center” a la “centers and corridors” from Imagine Austin, but the density it has is nowhere near large enough to justify free transit and expensive parking, so it ends up in the uncanny valley of density. Difficult to drive in, unpleasant and expensive to take transit to, and with a tiny fraction of the people within walking and biking distance that would be required to keep their businesses in business without those drivers and their necessarily subsidized parking.

What’s the solution? Centers have to be orders of magnitude denser than this, so that parking doesn’t have to be free to keep businesses alive, or, you know, stop trying to pound a square peg into a round hole and just resume densification of our existing center where parking already doesn’t have to be free. Either way.

Also, though, please note that for a single person, this particular trip would still have been a dumb financial decision, but not quite as dumbererer as for the whole family. Consider that you have to pay a bus fare for each person (including the kids when the free summer ends), but a car full of 4 dinguses costs the same as for a single dingus driver.

Also also, though, please check out Caleb’s new gig – we expect great things!

(I’ll try to fix this up and flesh it out over the course of the week to make it a little less bare-bones but had to get this out there in case I run out of time. Remember this isn’t my day job and I don’t even have time or the cost-benefit ratio for it to be a frequent hobby anymore. Fuck AURA.)


  1. I’ve used the common practice here of assigning half the ‘headway’ to ‘wait time’ as in – the average time we’d have to wait for the bus if we just show up is 7.5 minutes. The minimum ‘wait’ time for the bus if you plan on a scheduled departure is typically 5 minutes – you’re supposed to give that long in case it’s early. The ‘wait’ time for your car is ALWAYS zero, of course. 

  2. updated on 8/14/2018 to make the phases the same across the bars, but the color scheme is still gonna suck because there’s only so much of my work time I’ll spend on making this pretty for y’all 

  3. details: two day passes at $2.50 each, kids are currently free. 

  4. Note here that even though my company car gives me gas for free, I costed out this trip as if I had to pay for it 

What a great favor done for me by the heroic journalist

The story

Cap Metro Hangs Hopes on “Connections 2025”

The quote, with the emphasis added by me

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!

The background (the unpaid labor):

(Stick with me as I reformat this):

First email


Jack,

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.

Thanks,
Mike

The second e-mail


That was supposed to be Tarrytown residents RARELY use the services. Sorry.

The first response


Thanks Mike!

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?

The third e-mail


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.

The fourth e-mail


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).

The fifth e-mail


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
lose service.

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.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1QWIxCZeZPRRN15GkB0z8QcRQXn0&ll=30.254114230537375%2C-97.72539144874577&z=16

(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,
MD

The second response


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?

The sixth e-mail


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
mile.

The seventh and final e-mail


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 ;+)

- MD

Letter to Cap Metro board: OPPOSE Connections 2025

Dear board members,

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks,
Mike Dahmus
mike@dahmus.org