Uh, thanks, but no

Contrary to what Sal Costello’s band of merry anti-tollers alleges, healing pills SH45 and SH130, viagra order as tollways, purchase were always supposed to get money from the 2000-2001 city and county bond packages. I remember; I was arguing against it at the time (not on this crackplog; it didn’t exist yet; but still).
Shame on KXAN for just reporting this as fact. Mayor Watson didn’t “re-allocate” any money towards these toll roads; before the election, the city was advertising that these two tollways (and a third, Loop 1 North) were in fact the primary expected recipients of the right-of-way purchase money. While Austin didn’t promise exactly which road projects would receive funding, it was crystal clear at the time that a good chunk of right-of-way purchases were going to go to these tollways.
Costello appears to be hanging his hat on the weak argument that the city bond language didn’t SPECIFICALLY say that any money would go to “tollways” or “toll roads”. But neither did the city bond language say “freeways” or “free roads”; it said that a large chunk of the transportation bond would go to right-of-way contibutions for state highways, which it did. And the city didn’t mislead anybody into thinking these would be for non-toll-roads; again, backup materials before the election clearly indicated that they intended to spend these funds on SH130, etc.
The city, unlike the county, chose to group all transportation bonds together as a tactical move to try to get them passed, rather than risk environmentalists voting against the highways chunk and motorists voting against the bikeways/pedestrian chunk. That’s the only reason they didn’t have separate SH45 and SH130 items.

Inspired by DSK’s posting of his wife’s snapshots, pulmonologist I present: the most ironic picture of IceStorm 2007. Click for bigger.

Yes, them icicles was over a foot long. And yes, they formed on my icicle lights.

Well, viagra 60mg except for me, rheumatologist that is.
From Christof’s excellent site in Houston,
this is the kind of discussion we needed to have here in 2000 and again in 2004. Of course, I believe we were about to have this kind of planning in late 2000 for a May or November 2001 election, until Mike Krusee forced Capital Metro to hold the election in November of 2000, before they were remotely prepared to do so. In 2004, nobody bothered to look at the line’s routing and figure out whether it served the needs of choice commuters (people who aren’t willing to ride the bus today). Again, except for me. So here’s a recap, with a new exciing picture at the end.
Note the references to 1/4 mile being the typical capture area for a rail stop (despite what you hear from people who think the typical commuter will walk the 1/2 mile or more from the Convention Center stop to their downtown office building).
Here’s a similar image I’m working on for Austin. I’m no photoshop wiz, obviously, but this might be the best I can make this look, so here you go. The original image comes from “Mopacs”, a poster to the Skyscraper Forum. I’ve drawn in the 2004 commuter rail route in yellow (just barely penetrates the picture on the lower right); the 2000 light rail route in green; and the maybe-never streetcar route in red. Note that the streetcar doesn’t have reserved-guideway, as I’ve noted before, so it’s really not going to help much in getting choice commuters to ride.
Click for full image if you don’t see the yellow route!

The big building you see just north of the yellow line is the Hilton Hotel (not a major destination for choice commuters; anectdotal evidence suggests that a large percentage of workers there actually take the bus to work today).
Note that the walking distance from the yellow stop to the corner of 7th/Congress (rough center of the office buildings on Congress) is a half-mile, give or take which, as I’ve pointed out before to the derision of people who don’t study transportation, is about twice what the average person will walk to a train station if they have to do it every day. Capital Metro knows this, of course, which is why their shuttles are planned for not only UT and the Capitol, but also for downtown; their only error is in repeating the Tri-Rail debacle by forgetting that choice commuters don’t like riding the bus.
Also note in the upper reaches of the image, the other two critical employment centers downtown – the Capitol Complex and UT. Notice how the green line (2000 light rail) goes right next to them as well. What you don’t see is further up to the north, the green line continues up the only high-density residential corridor in our city – that being Guadalupe Blvd., so in addition to being able to walk to their office _from_ the train station, a lot of prospective riders would have been able to walk to the train station from their homes.
That’s what Mike Krusee took away from Austin, folks. And it ain’t coming back once commuter rail opens; there’s no way to operate anything like the 2000 light rail proposal cooperatively with this worthless commuter rail crock.
Update: Here’s the other aerial photos from “Mopacs”. Worth a look.

I understand your retreat into pandering given the difficulties you’re currently facing, adiposity and I even sympathize a bit, women’s health but let’s be clear: big retail and employment destinations do NOT NOT NOT NOT belong on frontage roads.
Here’s why.
This talking point works well with people who drive everywhere – like most folks in Allandale. It doesn’t work so well with people who actually have some experience with alternate modes of transportation, like yours truly. I used to occasionally ride the bus in the morning and get off at the stop on one side of 183 between Oak Knoll and Duval and have to go to exactly the other side – and the presence of frontage roads (destroyed an old road which used to cross) made a 2-minute walk into a 10-minute bike ride (30-minute walk). No wonder nobody else does it.

Ben Wear notes that Capital Metro is now projecting 1, ampoule 000 riders per day on the commuter rail line for the approximately $100 million investment. Yes, sick you heard right. ONE THOUSAND RIDERS PER DAY.
Let’s compare to two recent light-rail starts.
Minneapolis (opened late 2004): Ridership in 2005 grew to 25,000 per day on a 12-mile line that cost roughly $700 million and runs in a combination of in-street and separate right-of-way.
Houston: 40,000 per day on a fairly short and completely in-street runningway. That’s just to answer the “but but but Minneapolis isn’t in Texas!” cries some trogolodytes were beginning to choke on after the first example.
So let’s take the Minneapolis example. 25 times as many riders; 7.5 times as much cost. Sounds like a damn good deal to me – and we could have built that here very easily… a slightly scaled back version of the 2000 light rail plan would have cost about that much, and would have delivered at least that many riders. Remember that the next time somebody tries to convince you that this awful commuter rail plan is just light rail done cheaper and smarter.
The key in both Minneapolis and Houston is actually NOT that they run their trains more often; it’s that once a rider gets off the train, they can take a short walk to their office rather than having to hop a shuttle bus. Again, we could have had that here if we hadn’t have rolled over for Mike Krusee.
In other words, Capital Metro didn’t mess up by ordering too few cars for the amazing ridership they could get for this line; they apparently read the writing on the wall from Tri-Rail’s experience and figured out they’re not going to get many long-term choice commuters on this thing after the first batch tries the shuttle bus experience on for size so they’d better not buy too many rail cars.
And, no, upgrading the shuttle buses to streetcars won’t help since they’re still a transfer to a slow stuck-in-traffic vehicle, and it can’t be improved over time into something that works as well as light rail, but it sure as hell will bring the total cost of our worthless Austin-screwing transit-killing debacle up to something approaching Minneapolis’ successful light rail line.
In summary:
commuter rail: costs very little; does jack squat1
1: Looking for a better quick slogan here that also includes the fact that commuter rail not only doesn’t move rail transit forward, it actually moves us in the wrong direction since it precludes the later addition of light rail in the 2000 alignment. Suggestions?

RG4N’s blog roundup of reaction to their plan is finally up: relevant excerpt:

we turn to M1EK, cialis who takes issue with Councilmember Kim’s comments about the
inappropriateness of placing super-duper-centers in urban neighborhoods.

Clueflash: Allandale, hemorrhoids Crestview, angina Wooten, and North Shoal Creek are NOT URBAN NEIGHBORHOODS. Urban neighborhoods address the street with porches and front doors, not garages. Urban neighborhoods prioritize walking over driving – and have sidewalks to prove it. Urban neighborhoods would prioritize bicycle travel over the ability to warehouse cars on not just one but both sides of a major street.
Folks, just because you’re closer to downtown than Circle C is doesn’t make you “urban”. Urban is a style of development (and living); not a mere geographic indicator. When I sit here in my garage office typing this entry, I see more people walking on the sidewalk in front of my house than I do cars driving down my street – THAT’S URBAN. I see our one car (for a family of four) parked beside the house on a driveway rather than in front, because our house addresses the street with a porch and front door rather than with a garage. THAT’S URBAN.
Urban neighborhoods have a mix of densities (even if it’s all residential, although it’s better if it’s not) – on the very same street in an URBAN neighborhood, you’ll see apartments, single-family houses, granny flats, etc. In Allandale and Crestview, you see big apartment complexes on the edges, and nothing but large-lot single-family on the interior. That’s not urban; it’s just older suburban.
1960s suburban sprawl? Not urban. Not gonna be. Sorry.

20 Replies to “Uh, thanks, but no”

  1. But would you not agree that increasing the density within the central city (which anymore is anything inside 183, MOPAC and Ben White) is desirable? This area will always have single family homes, but I’ve been in plenty of cities that have pockets of single family interspersed with higher-density mixed use development.
    I know, I know, you’re just protecting the brand. 😉 But it is frustrating when people who should be on your side just attack you for not being pure enough. As they say, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
    And come on — you can’t tell me that you don’t want to be part of the biggest human chain since Hands Across America. You should come out on Saturday. If you do, I’d love to meet you!

  2. “As they say, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
    Well, Hope, isn’t that what a lot of us have been saying? That is what I have warned against all along, at least.
    Why sue the city in a likely-to-fail attempt to get “perfect?” A negotiation with Lincoln for low hanging fruit (better greenspace, pervious pavement, pedestrian friendly entry walkways), when added to the current Lincoln plan, is a hell of a lot more “good” than what has been there for a while.

  3. Hope,
    When you sound that reasonable, it’s hard to disagree. But it’s a fact that the neighborhoods in the area aren’t “urban” and shouldn’t be laying claim to the term on such false premises. And they don’t _want_ mixed-use development interspersed in their neighborhoods. How many garage apartments do you see in your hood? How much support do you see among your neighbors for allowing them?
    And it’s a fact that nobody was talking about wanting a development like RG4N’s BEFORE they found out who the mystery tenant was. Assuming y’all drive Wal-Mart off, this will mean that later on, those same folks can be counted on to oppose the new slightly better plan on similar grounds of traffic concerns.
    I can’t get past those two things and pretend like the majority of supporters for RG4N are more enlightened folks like you. Just can’t do it.
    So, to me, as a pragmatic observer, it looks like the choice is going to be between Wal-Mart and decaying mall. I think once Wal-Mart was out of the picture, you’d discover your modest plan is too dense for your neighbors but not dense enough to be profitable, and then we’re back to square one.

  4. Not to be dense or anything, but using your definitions of urban neighborhoods, it would seem that Austin has none to speak of.
    The best we could say is that there are pockets here and there within neighborhoods that would qualify, but Austin had never really been what anyone would call urban.

  5. Heh. Good one.
    While no neighborhood here lacks substantial flaws on the urban scale, there’s a clear difference between:
    Hyde Park, NUNA, OWANA, Clarksville, West Campus
    Allandale, Crestview, Wooten, North Shoal Creek
    that’s not just a matter of degree. Although some sidewalks are lacking even in the urban areas, and there’s a few ‘snout houses’, walk in Hyde Park for a while and then in Allandale and it’s an obvious difference.

  6. DSK – I’m fighting for better. A Supercenter with rainwater harvesting is still a Supercenter, and I don’t see the former as better in any significant way from the latter.
    Mike – Before I knew it was going to be a Wal-Mart, I didn’t even know the thing had been sold. Where was I before? I was doing freelance consulting and raising my kids and cleaning the house and leading a Girl Scout troop and…you get the picture. I voted for light rail, but didn’t follow the news coverage. I voted in council elections but didn’t always know much about candidates and looked at endorsements to figure out how to vote. Does that mean I should just sit quietly about this issue? At what point is it acceptable to pay attention to an issue and begin to act? It is frustrating to be dismissed simply because I haven’t been a neighborhood activist my whole adult life. When is it ok for me – for my neighbors – to start caring?
    Just so you’ll know, the design we’ve presented is intended primarily to demonstrate concepts — to folks like me who are new to the idea of dense development and vertical mixed use and who can use some pictures to help us get our heads around what it means. Hopefully the next step is a real neighborhood charette. And you may be right that one day we will be debating the acceptable amount of density. And if people decide they’d rather have a Supercenter than urban-type redevelopment then I suppose RG4N will see a slowing of the flow of donations and volunteers and people clamoring for yard signs. But I know what we have said to these folks, and I know what they’ve said back to us. I have more faith in my neighbors than you apparently do.
    Maybe I am just a Pollyanna – I am a Girl Scout, after all. 😉 But I believe that the policy arguments — and the majority of people in these neighborhoods — are on our side.

  7. By the way — DSK, I clicked on your link and discovered you’ve lived in GA and are moving to TN. I spent all but a year of my life, prior to moving to TX in GA and TN. My folks live in Murfreesboro, TN. So, you know..hi!

  8. Sorry to see you’re moving, DSK.
    Hope, there is no mechanism for RG4N or any neighborhood organization to bind the neighborhoods to an agreement with Lincoln. RG4N has not offered, and cannot offer, any meaningful assurances if Lincoln acquiesces. You might be comfortable with a debate “one day” over the acceptable amount of density there. I’m sure Lincoln would dread it — its profits would hinge on neighborhoods that have shown no taste for density and no interest in compromise. I just don’t see Lincoln trading its legal right to develop now for such a nebulous prospect.

  9. I prefer the Census Bureau’s definition of urban, which is any census tract with a population density of 1,000 per square mile, surrounded by tracts with a minimal density of 500 per square mile.
    It’s specific, measurable, and objective, not relying on the observer to make value judgments.

  10. David,
    One could certainly use that definition, but then you fall prey to bogus ‘facts’ like that the LA metro area is denser than New York’s. (It is, just because LA’s metro doesn’t include areas like New York’s country estates).
    In other words, you can have “high density suburban”. Areas of suburban Virginia certainly qualify – you get townhouses jammed together on long narrow parking lots, but the area isn’t walkable at all.

  11. Well, I went by Northcross today on my way to pick up doughnuts for the kids when the RG4Ners were out en masse. It was a sight to behold – arms linked, protecting a blighted slum from improvement.
    I’m still wondering if the supporters realize the traffic volumes for their own envisioned development would probably be the same or higher than what Lincoln has in mind.
    I’m also wondering why the neighborhood associations themselves have gotten a free pass when they should be excoriated for showing no interest in nearby redevelopment efforts until the paper runs an article.
    Mike, do your neighbors in OWA behave in this way? Maybe I should buy there instead of Crestview… If I would not be hamstrung by a small house, tiny lot, and no chance for expansion, that is.

  12. “It was a sight to behold – arms linked, protecting a blighted slum from improvement.”
    Yep, they sure got a lot of people out. I walked over there to take some photos of it.
    On the way back I talked to some of the folks at the CapMetro Northcross transfer center.
    Sorry to preach, but as you might imagine, no one in the 99% lily white protest crowd had gone over to ask the mixed black/anglo/hispanic mass transit folks what THEY thought. They were (the ones I talked to, anyway), for the Northcross development (including WalMart) and didn’t like the protest. (photos at http://www.sgml2.net/openMindAustinPart2.html)

  13. M1EK,
    i wrote a comment on and AustinContrarian thread several months ago about randall o’toole that you responded to. i was wondering if you could send me an email so i could get some info from you. thanks.

  14. M1EK,
    i wrote a comment on and AustinContrarian thread several months ago about randall o’toole that you responded to. i was wondering if you could send me an email so i could get some info from you. thanks.

  15. I wouldn’t necessarily call this an urban neighborhood, but I note that the Austin planning process considers these neighborhoods part of the Urban Core. The Census Bureau considers these urban areas. Walmart even calls the location part of their urban strategy.
    But the only one who gets called out for ridicule and chastisement for using the label “urban” are the ones who don’t support your political point of view.
    That’s my point.
    I had a chance to revisit the Wooten neighborhood plan, which calls for Anderson Lane and Burnet to be redeveloped with the downtown model of having a store front on the first floor and living space on the second floor.
    I don’t think that’s going to happen in the life cycle of this plan for a variety of reasons, but when it does, at least, at least, at least we’ll have 100 or so yards of M1EK formally approved urban lifestyle living.

  16. And the Austin planning documents also note the existing suburban residential pattern on the interior of the neighborhood. Sorry, that’s not a winner.
    As for 2-floor VMU on Burnet/Anderson, that’s a drop in the bucket. It’s better than nothing, but that’s far from enough to make up for the strictly segregated use in the interior (not just commercial vs. residential, but exclusively single-family nature of the latter).

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