Ticketing isn’t much better than just yelling

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.

Using the new schedules on Capital Metro’s spiffy new MetroRail site; this afternoon in the 5 minutes I could spend, viagra order we now know that, hepatitis according to schedules, viagra here if you’re leaving UT for Leander and want to take the first available trip after 5:00, the express bus that currently takes you 68 minutes is on tap to be replaced by a shuttle-bus plus Red Line option that will take you either 71 or 76 minutes, depending on if you feel like taking your chances on maybe not fitting on the second shuttle bus for the 5:40 trip heading up to Leander.

Trip Pickup at UT Arrive MLK station Leave MLK station Arrive Leander station Total travel time
#987 express bus 5:04 PM N/A N/A 6:12 PM 68 minutes
Red Line with #465 shuttlebus (first one) 5:16 PM 5:28 PM 5:40 PM 6:32 PM 76 minutes
Red Line with #465 shuttlebus (second one) 5:21 PM 5:33 PM 5:40 PM 6:32 PM 71 minutes

I wonder if there was anyone who predicted way back when that the Red Line would be slower, thanks to its reliance on shuttle-buses, than existing express bus service? Nah. Couldn’t be. Nobody could have predicted this debacle way back in, say, 2004.

July 15, 2004:

The current commuter rail plan, for reference, requires both of these constituencies to transfer to shuttle buses to reach their final destination. This, as I’ve pointed out before, means that anybody who has a car and can afford parking will never ride this route.The shuttle transfer kills the performance of the transit trip to the point where only people who don’t own cars or have difficult parking situations would consider it, as is the case with today’s express bus lines.

More references:

Today’s entry: Somebody who fell for the “TOD” hype and moved into Crestview Station so they could walk to the Red Line and take it to work at UT. Morning commute this time around; assume they want to get in comfortably before 9:00AM. Note that the Red Line shuttle drops off on San Jacinto; the two bus options here drop off on Guadalupe; the typical UT office is, epidemic if anything, click closer to Guadalupe than San Jacinto.
Spoiler: Even the local bus beats the Red Line, click because of the shuttle-bus trip. Yes, even though that local bus travels through half of the congestion on the Drag.

Trip Pickup at Crestview Station Arrive MLK station Leave MLK station Arrive UT Total travel time
#1L local bus 8:13 AM N/A N/A 8:32 AM 19 minutes
#101 express bus 8:18 AM N/A N/A 8:32 AM 14 minutes
Red Line with #465 shuttlebus (first one) 8:15 AM 8:25 AM 8:28 AM 8:38 AM 23 minutes
Red Line with #465 shuttlebus (second one) 8:15 AM 8:25 AM 8:30 AM 8:40 AM 25 minutes

I wonder if there was anyone who predicted way back when that the Red Line would be slower, thanks to its reliance on shuttle-buses, than existing express bus service? Nah. Couldn’t be. Nobody could have predicted this debacle way back in, say, 2004.

July 15, 2004:

The current commuter rail plan, for reference, requires both of these constituencies to transfer to shuttle buses to reach their final destination. This, as I’ve pointed out before, means that anybody who has a car and can afford parking will never ride this route.The shuttle transfer kills the performance of the transit trip to the point where only people who don’t own cars or have difficult parking situations would consider it, as is the case with today’s express bus lines.

Well, OK, but nobody could possibly have predicted that Crestview residents might be worse off taking the train than the bus, right?
April 4, 2007

Even if we run commuter rail trains more often, a trip which relies on a shuttle bus travelling through mixed traffic for the last two miles or so will never be reliable or comfortable. This is why our friends at Tri-Rail have egg on their faces year after year after year as the promised TOD around stations never materializes. Here in Austin, we’re likely to get at least medium-density development at Crestview Station, but the residents still aren’t going to be enjoying the true benefits of TOD, and neither is the city.

More references:

Today, order thanks to skepticism from those who think my position solidified over six years on this subject is because of predetermined bias rather than actual study, read more I’ll switch from my original plan of doing use cases by “estimated level of commute interest” and instead hit what I would guess are the two best possible cases for the Red Line.
Since shuttle-buses are obviously a problem, approved and since even in the commute to UT (you know, the obvious primary destination for people riding transit in our area, that unimportant little spot) from the furthest out station in Leander, the speed of the train can’t make up for the time lost to the shuttle-bus, let’s try to assemble one of the few commutes that might not require a shuttle-bus, although that’s relatively hard to do.
Frost Tower is just on the edge of the 1/4 mile circle that most transit planners view as the maximum distance people will walk to work from a transit stop. It’s also the ONLY major office building within what’s commonly considered acceptable walking distance from the ‘downtown station’. (Me, I might actually have to take the shuttle even on that trip some days due to my feet, so I’ll plan that out too). Let’s run there from both Leander (far out park-and-ride) and Crestview (supposed TOD which will supposedly provide the only real walk-up traffic for Austin).
This case also benefits the Red Line disproportionately because both the express bus route from Leander to downtown and the #101 limited first run past UT, and then past the Capitol, then through the rest of downtown; so we’re at the very end of the slowest part of that route here. IE, we’ve picked the destination that makes the bus look its absolute worst.

Trip Pickup at rail station Arrive downtown station Leave downtown station Arrive Frost Total travel time
#1L local bus from Crestview 8:02 AM N/A N/A 8:35 AM 33 minutes
#101 express bus from Crestview 8:18 AM N/A N/A 8:43 AM 25 minutes
Red Line with walk from station 8:15 AM 8:35 AM 8:35 AM 8:40 AM 25 minutes
Red Line with #460 shuttlebus (first one) 8:15 AM 8:35 AM 8:38 AM 8:40 AM 25 minutes
Red Line with #460 shuttlebus (second one) 8:15 AM 8:35 AM 8:40 AM 8:42 AM 27 minutes

Shuttlebus travel times my estimate; only timepoint is much further down the route. No time advantage to taking the shuttle for the closest major office building. Note that I only had the walk from the train station be to the middle of the block between Congress and Brazos since you could presumably enter the building from the back. The buses drop off right in front.
Summary: Even from Crestview Station to Frost, there is no time advantage to taking the Red Line for the commuter. A slight advantage in reliability will probably, however. Ironically, although I doubt Rapid Bus will do much, it only has to save one minute over the limited service it replaces to make the Red Line lose this contest.
Now, from Leander:

Trip Pickup at rail station Arrive downtown station Leave downtown station Arrive Frost Total travel time
#983 express bus from Leander Station 8:00 AM 9:26 AM(*) 9:26 AM 9:31 AM 91 minutes
Red Line with walk from station 7:54 AM 8:56 AM 8:56 AM 9:01 AM 67 minutes
Red Line with #460 shuttlebus (first one) 7:54 AM 8:56 AM 8:59 AM 9:01 AM 67 minutes
Red Line with #460 shuttlebus (second one) 7:54 AM 8:56 AM 9:01 AM 9:03 AM 69 minutes

(* – express bus drops off on Guadalupe; 5 minute walk per google). Had to switch the rail trip later than before because the one used above doesn’t start from Leander.
Guess what? This meets my expectations as shown in this old post. Despite Capital Metro’s ridiculous claims that this line serves Austin and even “central Austin”, the only real beneficiaries of this service are those who live far enough out to be able to use the distant park-and-rides; a lot of whom are residents of Cedar Park and Round Rock, who don’t even pay Capital Metro taxes. (I ran the Lakeline numbers quickly on a piece of paper and people boarding there can save about 20 minutes over the express bus, going to Frost; Round Rock residents driving to the Howard Lane P&R can hop the train now but no express bus service existed before; both of those two nominally ‘Austin’ park-and-rides are unlikely to serve many Austin residents as they are right on the edge of the city limits).
Out of time. Hope this mollifies the skeptics. Bet it won’t.

In the “Why do I keep calling Tri-Rail a failure, information pills and why do I keep saying the Red Line is going to match its record” department; this graphic below is from this spreadsheet, treatment which is a work in progress on developing some metrics from the national transit database.
There are those who think that any rail is good rail; and there are those who think that any rail is bad rail. Then there are those like me who recognize that some rail systems do a much better job than others in a “new rail city” at delivering new riders – and it’s frustrating how few seem to recognize intuitively the difference between a city like Houston, where the trains are packed and voters overwhelmingly approved a massive expansion as a result, and an area like South Florida, where after 20-25 years and a massive investment in double-tracking a very LONG route through a very heavily populated area, no community support for rail has developed despite a much more supportive population when the service started.
The metric I have here is basically “how much of the metro area did they get to ride the train, adjusted for mile of track”. Here’s why that’s a good starting point: You should have the goal of maximizing return on your investment – your investment is basically miles of track; and your return is how many people ride – but to compare metro areas against each other, you should also consider how many people are IN that area to begin with (delivering 20,000 riders per weekday in Portland is a far greater achievement than delivering 20,000 riders per weekday in Manhattan).
Light rail systems are being used everywhere here except South Florida and Austin, obviously. (In both our cases, unlike the other cities here, commuter rail has effectively precluded light rail – and is being sold as a light rail analogue anyways).
After the break, the picture…



The actual data point here, for those interested, is “(average daily unlinked trips) / (metro area population) expressed as a percentage”, then multiplied by 100. The extra scaling is necessary because every metro area includes vast regions not served by any of these rail lines; the figures are otherwise far too low to be compared against each other. I had to do “average daily unlinked trips” since the national transit data only breaks down into annual trips for each mode (I divided by 365). I used my l33t math skills to figure out Austin’s based on 1500 people per day (3000 unlinked trips).
It’s got some problems – for instance, Dallas is getting screwed here by the inclusion of Fort Worth in its metro area. (In contrast, Tri-Rail is fairly including all 3 South Florida counties in its population shed – it actually runs in all three – fewer miles in Dade but more passengers if I remember correctly). Also, it would be nice to adjust this for hours of service as well – note that Tri-Rail runs all day long, not just during rush hours. But it’s a start, and it backs up what I’ve been saying about the ridership numbers compared to the potential in the area.
Note that I even used the 2008 data, which is artificially high due to the gas price spike (Tri-Rail ridership collapsed back to 2007 figures in 2009; the national data warehouse doesn’t have 2009 stuff yet). Also, the population figures don’t rise until the next census – so 2008 looks even better compared to 2007 in the spreadsheet than it really was.
So does the theory fit the observed data? Yes, given its limitations. Houston looks really good – they invested relatively little money (represented by track miles) yet got big riders. Portland is way up there because they have lots of miles AND lots of riders. Salt Lake does well; a lot of people don’t pay attention – but they’re well-regarded. Given the metro area problem, Dallas fits about where I’d expect it to.
And most importantly, Tri-Rail shows its awful, awful, awful performance here. A lot of people who’ve never been to South Florida don’t know this, but it’s a fully urbanized area stretching over a size bigger than Houston with more people than Houston; several mature downtowns with lots of transit interest; etc. It’s NOT just beaches and retirees; and the retirees that ARE there started out as incredibly easy sells to rail, since most of them moved from the northeast.
Yeah, it’s a tortuous metric. What’s your suggestion?
PS: About three times now I’ve found a typo where I wrote “unliked” instead of “unlinked”. Freudian?

Heading out to Houston for the weekend. Yes, this site I’m gonna ride a real light rail train.

The Statesman and every other media outlet in town, allergist it seems, practitioner have been played for suckers again by Capital Metro – as has the City of Austin, who apparently thinks the answer to the bad intersection at 51st/Airport is just giving out tickets. Not one outlet has responded with even an ounce of critical thinking to the contention that the intersection hasn’t changed (I’d say running trains 10 times a day at 60 mph is a change from a 5 mph freight train once a week) or the idea that education can substitute for engineering.

Austin police, beginning with Monday’s MetroRail startup and for the following two weeks, will be staking out a worrisome intersection on Airport Boulevard, where the track is just a few car lengths from a traffic light and cars often illegally stop on or near the railroad.

Despite new signal gate technology meant to clear waiting traffic near the tracks, Capital Metro officials are concerned that some drivers might flout posted signs and railroad signal lights and find themselves in the path of a fast-moving train.
Police officers, at Capital Metro’s request, will be monitoring 51st Street near Airport Boulevard and will issue citations immediately to motorists who stop on the track or under the four crossing arms that Capital Metro has installed where the track crosses 51st Street.

My response in comments to the Statesman article:

I covered this intersection on my blog a long time ago and have spoken about it on KUT several times since. The idea that we can avoid problems here through education and ticketing is just ludicrous – it only takes one person who missed the media coverage out of the thousands of people driving through here to make it all for naught.

The intersection actively encourages drivers to stop on the tracks, albeit briefly, if they want to ever have a chance to make a light – and this isn’t just one direction of travel; it’s people trying to turn off Clarkson; people just trying to go across Airport to the east; and people trying to turn left onto Clarkson from the east.

But let’s just yell and ticket. That’ll work, right? As long as we can make sure that 100.0% of all drivers who ever go through here will comply.
The far better policy, of course, would be to fix the intersection, but it doesn’t play into Capital Metro’s narrative that this was a cheap and easy rail start on all existing tracks.

It only takes one driver not to get the message, or to try their luck to avoid getting stuck for three more red lights to cause a disaster here. Capital Metro needs to be held accountable for their failure to re-engineer this intersection – and nobody in the media appears willing to do anything but repeat their PR about how silly it is to stop on the tracks. Shameful.

  • I, and about 50 other cars, had to wait for the train to pass on Parmer Lane last week during it’s test run. That made for a total wait time of 4 hours for the 4 lanes of traffic waiting on the train and that is assuming 1 person per car, though we had 3. I realize that this is a byproduct of mass transit and the 5 minutes we waited had to do with safety, although in this case I assume that the time loss on traffic will be more than the time savings for the 3 riders.