Why The Horse Isn’t Dead

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.

Recording this email for posterity, stomach since I firmly believe this kind of discussion should be in the public eye – so it’s possible for others to see whether the input was acted on or just ignored (as is commonly the case).

This is expanded feedback from the forum – as you may know I was on the UTC for 5 years and used to be a serious bicycle commuter and still maintain a healthy interest, and I live about 500 feet from the intersection in question.
First issue is the fact that the bike lanes ‘downstream’ of the intersection were recently restriped all the way back to the intersection. This removes much of the supposed reason for bike boxes (in the old design where the bike lanes didn’t start for 100 feet or so past the intersection, the bike boxes would have allowed cyclists to be at the front of through traffic so they could get ‘up and over’ rather than having to wait behind motorists – now there is literally no reason to even get in the bike box.
The second problem is one of signage and paint – without a “Stop HERE on Red” sign, motorists don’t typically stop that far back from the intersection – even when white lines exist on the pavement. Coloring the bike box would help but would, I think, not be sufficient.
Please forward my email to the CTR people and invite them to contact me if they would like. I’d be very happy to share continued observations as I go through this intersection an average of 2 times per day, usually in the rush hours.
Regards, Mike Dahmus

Extracted from a comments thread on facebook; name omitted to protect privacy in case they mind.

we can always count on our buddy Mike to leave no dead horse unbeaten! Certainly Urban Rail will be great (if we do it right) and we all need to support it, approved but calling the redline ‘useless’ is a bit much. Perhaps useless to you, Mike, but so are dozens of bus routes (and roads for that matter) you will never use – that doesn’t make them useless to the folks who do (and will) use them.

And my response:

(done with the old rail timetables, not the new presumably slower ones which aren’t up yet).
The Red Line is ‘useless’ because for most people, it will be a slower commute than the existing express bus service. We spent a lot of capital dollars, in other words, to get lower quality service than what we already had. (And operating costs are likely to be close to express bus with the shuttle-bus costs added in).
And it is most definitely not a dead horse – because your agency continues to seek to spend additional scarce rail dollars on the Red Line (repeating Tri-Rail’s mistake of trying to polish a you-know-what instead of building something more useful somewhere else) and on other similarly useless commuter rail lines – meaning those dollars obviously can’t be spent on the CoA project.

So tell me, readers, is the argument of the CM guy compelling at all? Before the rebuttal? After? I really mean what I say here – the horse isn’t dead, because it keeps getting fed. Those rail dollars (federal and local) could in fact be saved for the City of Austin’s urban rail program – but once they’re spent on commuter rail they’re gone for good, and we aren’t exactly swimming in other money to make up the difference. We need to stop further ‘investments’ in commuter rail, in other words, if the urban rail line is to have a decent shot at getting built in our lifetimes.

7 Replies to “Why The Horse Isn’t Dead”

  1. Um… as a secondary side effect it’s revitalising North Lamar? Of course, they’ve always had the best bus service in the city (with the #1) so I don’t know if it’s just speculation or people will actually move there.
    There are a few parcels in East Austin that are being developed that were blight also.
    Just trying to find a positive spin. I’m with you, I don’t see why people would want to give up those super comfy express buses with free wi-fi that drop them off one block from Congress.

  2. One has to pretend that the Triangle doesn’t exist (much more dense, far away from the Red Line) to attribute the development at Crestview Station to the rail line.
    Yes, I know they’re using it as a selling point, in other words, but it obviously isn’t much of an actual help, or they’d have been able to get at least as dense as the Triangle did.

  3. agreed with M1EK here. What revitalization has happened on N. Lamar due to the line, other than Crestview? There are still sketchy hotels, day laborer storefronts, etc., on that stretch of N. Lamar and I haven’t seen anywhere that they will be going away any time soon.
    If anything, I have seen more revitalization along Airport over the last two years. More funky new local businesses, that kind of thing. I attribute that to Mueller, not the rail.
    I haven’t been to see the new development at MLK, but again, while the rail was the immediate spur, that neighborhood has been on the cusp for a while. I lived on the Manor corridor for three years and it is swarming with hipsters and young hipster couples with kids. It was only a matter of time before development/gentrification started to move south from that node.

  4. Politically speaking, it is very difficult to kill an existing program like this. I can’t imagine anyone really moving to kill this unless the ridership numbers are just pathetic. Nothing is going to happen without some ridership numbers in hand. Until then, CM can just say “wait until we open it for service.”
    I think the best that you can hope for is no more investment in this (stations/trains/extension to Congress). You need a political champion, M1EK. Need someone on council or a county commissioner to lead on this issue. hard to get attention unless you have someone that can generate some press helping you out.

  5. el_longhorn,
    Yes, the Red Line is a fact on the ground – I am trying to prevent any further investment (tens of millions of dollars already planned from local, i.e. Cap Metro, funds to build Green Line – similar mistake; and other plans to double-track sections of the Red Line (even a proposal to triple-track part of it)).
    Mainly looking for feedback on whether this messaging works as a response to people who glibly assert that talking about the Red Line like this is ‘beating a dead horse’.

  6. Ridership numbers will be key. Once we get numbers, the horse ain’t dead anymore and we have to decide whether it is worth keeping. That would be a great time to start up the attacks.

  7. Very interesting. As someone who used to live in the “outskirts” of town (i.e., Oak Hill, then Shady Hollow) I always waited for the day when we’d have light rail.
    I’m not sure what to make of the Red Line, but the commuter rail idea is interesting. The biggest problem I see with the Red Line (besides delays) is what to do once you get in town.
    In its defense, I do think that the Red Line will reduce some LDV traffic on 183 and Mopac. After all, you don’t need a large reduction in traffic to relieve congestion (unless we have the rebound effect). So maybe the direct benefit will be to those in Leander and Cedar Park, but folks living in north and northwest Austin will see an indirect benefit from the Red Line.
    I think there’s a middle ground between putting more money behind the Red Line/Sausage Links/etc and urban rail. But it wouldn’t be Austin if we went over schedule and over budget, would it?

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