Austin Freedom Urbanism High Grade Bile PS: I am not a crackpot

AURA lies about homelessness

From a post on the page of the only sitting city council member to which I donated (ask me why!), I replied:

The multiple people associated with AURA commenting on this thread are doing well to continue that organization’s history of shameless public dishonesty.

1. Prop B does not “criminalize” or (slightly less inaccurately) “recriminalize” homelessness. The only way that statement could be true is if cops could go into Camp Esperanza or the ARCH and write people tickets. Anybody using the phrase “criminalize homelessness” is therefore either dishonest or ignorant. (AURA contains both!)

2. I’m an urbanist; I want more housing supply! So what happened? Well, one of the main reasons urbanists no longer have a slim majority on City Council is the District 6 election, in which Jimmy Flannigan was pantsed by a complete novice, because people did in fact pay attention to the breakdown of public order and safety. (In the general, the candidates getting support because of the failure to deal with unregulated encampments split the anti-Flannigan vote; in the runoff, he lost pretty definitively).

3. AURA previously wasted those years of a supposed urbanist majority producing basically zero or even negative housing supply (the main ‘achievement’ being an ordinance related to advanced notice of non-renewals in demolition cases pushed by Casar that if anything REDUCES housing supply). They played footsie with DSA activists who never had any real interest in increasing market supply (because they don’t believe in it).

If you’re an urbanist, stay away from AURA; they’ve been co-opted by a combination of the DSA and other liars and fools.

Transit Austin: Choose Your Own Adventure

ATCYOA: 1997 at the FTA

This page represents events that really happened.1

Titanic implications up to you. Picture courtesy of YouTube “Remember 1997”.

It’s 1997. You run Capital Metro. You raised your local sales tax from 0.75 cents to 1 full cent (the statutory maximum) a couple of years ago and you’re starting to see your savings grow. Now it’s time to discuss a major capital investment; the kind many voters say they thought they were voting for when the agency was formed many years ago.

So here we are, and again remember, this is 1997. You just took your original Red Line plan to the Federal Transit Administration.2. The FTA told you ridership projections were too low because this route wasn’t within walking distance of enough homes or destinations, and the Austin area wouldn’t support large numbers of daily transfer-riders3; so they implied heavily that they would not rate it highly and that it would be unlikely that they would agree to contribute the expected Federal share to fund the project. What do you do? Click on your choice below!4

  • I want to proceed with the 1997 plan anyways.
  • I want to regroup and come back with a better plan in a few years.

Background reading;

  1. other pages will have disclaimers indicating they represent paths not taken, or events the author considers more likely, less likely, or very unlikely 

  2. This plan was to double-track and run electric wire on the entire length of what we future-folk now also call the Red Line, except that in the future, we run diesel trains on mostly pre-existing mostly single-track 

  3. people who would transfer from a bus to the rail line or from the rail line to a shuttle-bus to get to their job downtown or at UT 

  4. I will fill in the links below if/when I write those posts, which will depend on whether there is enough interest in continuing the series 

2020 Transit Campaign

The Plan

So here’s my view on today’s unveiled proposal from Project Connect for 2020:

It’s about 80% great, 10% OK, 10% horrible.

I’m not going further than that, read on for why.

Economics Use Cases

Do renters pay property taxes?

(I’m writing this to save off for later use; I’m currently entangled in a contentious thread on NextDoor which is likely to circle back to “you don’t pay property taxes on your two rental properties; the renters do!”).

I just wrote (well, my wife did) three big checks to Travis County Tax Appraiser’s office for property taxes for the year. One for the home we live in and two for the past two homes we lived in that we now rent out.

One of our two rental properties was vacant for 1/3 of the year this year (poorly timed lease renewal that didn’t renew).

Did we get a 1/3 discount on our property taxes because there was no renter during those 4 months? No. Well, you say, you had a tenant for 8 months so the renters still paid your property taxes, so there!

OK, leave that one alone for a minute. I’ve got an even better thought experiment.

My father-in-law is a difficult customer for contractors so ended up being his own GC, basically, for renovations of a condo unit they rent out. This unit was empty, without any tenants and obviously without any income, for several years. Yes, you heard me. Yes, we talked about it on numerous occasions.

Was he exempt from having to pay property taxes for those years? Of course not.

This thought experiment is all you should need to immediately discard the glib answer that “renters pay property taxes”. They don’t. And don’t lecture me about tax incidence; that whole discussion can be short-circuited by repeating the examples above. 100% of the tax in the second case was paid by the landlord-without-renters.

The right framing is this: Being a landlord is running a business. Property taxes are an expense that you have to account for with all your other expenses. It does not get ‘passed through to renters’; because, in general, rent is set by what the market will bear. (Past thought experiments that have failed to convince stupid people have pointed out that I raised rent in years my property tax went down and vice-versa). We don’t talk about how hamburger customers pay McDonald’s property taxes. (Some people might, but they’re stupid). We say McDonald’s needs to make enough income to cover their expenses, of which property taxes is a small part. And yes, you can talk about tax incidence in a theoretical sense, but it absolutely does not mean that if the figures tell you that the tax incidence is 80% on renters, that you can predict that a 10% rise in property taxes will mean your rent next year will go up 8%. It simply doesn’t work that way. In the long-run, those taxes will eventually be reflected in rent. But that’s not how people usually are thinking about property taxes; they’re actually believing “if you raise property taxes on my landlord by $1000, my rent will go up by $1000/year”; they vote based on that mistaken understanding; so it’s actively harmful to continue to support that framing.

2020 Transit Campaign Economics Funding of Transportation Subsidies to Suburban Sprawl Transit in Austin

Cap Metro Fare ‘Increase’ Proposal

There’s rumblings afoot that Cap Metro is considering an across-the-board fare increase, which is stupid and sucks. Here’s a better idea, combined from two tweets I just made, but you might not see, because I’m private at the time I wrote this1.

My proposal for a fare ‘increase’ for Cap Metro is this:

  • Charge for parking at park-and-rides; $5/day to start with. Adjust up if not enough to ensure 10% of spots empty.
  • Monthly passes for discounted parking available only with proof of service area residency.
  • Offer discounted RIDE passes only to people who can prove residency in the service area (hence pay taxes to agency).
  • Charge Dan Keshet and Julio Gonzalez-Altamirano double, because they both suck.2.

If you want more writing like this, you should do something about AURA. It’s not worth the investment for me to write more of this kind of content when they control the air supply and have decided to prevent me from being heard by policy-makers. If you work with them, you are complicit.

  1. if you’re not following me, ask nicely; and if you’re friendly with AURA, the answer is no 

  2. Dan because he stole my “activist flypaper” term-coinery and won’t attribute it; Julio because he carried water for Cap Metro’s gutting of local 1 and 3 service and helped them claim they needed better land use to justify frequency there 

2020 Transit Campaign Austin PS: I am not a crackpot

Reminder on AURA and this blog

As we enter another Stupid Season in Austin Transit, remember that thanks to AURA, I have no real audience anymore, so if you want me to write on transit policy, make it worth my while by publically attacking AURA somewhere they see it, tagging them and their board.

Austin Connections 2025 Empty Buses I Told You So

Yet Again I Am Forced To Tell You I Told You So

Many months ago I wrote this post:

This morning, M1EK jr rode the 335 2.75 miles west from the closest stop to our house, to GRID TRANSFER!!!1 to the 20, to get to his new high school. The 20 was pretty heavily ridden with fellow students.

The 335 was a personal limo, in which the driver drove just one person, my son, for 2.75 miles.

(Previously, a friend of ye olde crackplog has pointed out similar results on his own ride; and the actual ridership statistics are pretty dismal. Go look them up yourself if you need to).

Here’s the last line of that post from May of 2018:

Remember this (and the hundred previous times I was right about Cap Metro) the next time a smiling gladhander tells you to “take what he says with a grain of salt”.

Austin High Grade Bile

You could do worse than learning life lessons from Zoolander

Zoolander is the documentary film of our era. If you disagree, you are bad and you should feel bad. One particular part of it comes to mind today, though.

I honestly feel like giving this speech about once a month. First, the Zoolander version:

So here’s the deal: I see JMVC constantly lying (most recently about transit AND also about the convention center shell-game), and yet people keep reacting as if they can trust him. So what the hell is the matter with you people? Am I taking crazy pills? Are you all just stupid enough to think you can trust a liar?

It’s worth noting that Mugatu (me, in this highly accurate metaphor, as I also have extremely troublesome hair and invented the piano necktie) calling out Zoolander (clearly JMVC as whatever else you can say about the dude, he’s clearly very very good looking) for his “the emperor’s new clothes” act is what finally makes Zoolander actually deliver the goods. So if enough of you listen, maybe JMVC would tell the truth for once? It’s worth a try!

Austin Connections 2025

One of these routes is not like the others

Which one doesn’t belong?

Which one doesn’t belong, part deux?

Austin High Grade Bile metablog

Why were you dropped, blocked, or unfriended; April 2019 edition

See the pinned tweet thread if I’m public at the time you read this, otherwise I’ve cut/pasted some of the key text below the nice graphic.

Hey gang! To make my time on the internet more productive, I’m no longer engaging with anybody who engages with AURA, especially their board, who did something incredibly shitty to me that drastically limited my ability to affect local policy. This means I’ll be forcing an unfollow.

This especially means their past and present board and board-adjacent folks, including at the top of the list; Goff, Wojtewicz, Somers, Keshet, etc.

Unless we have some kind of real-life connection or I have other reasons for viewing you more fondly, if you are with AURA, you are against me, and I’m not giving free analysis anymore to those who are against me. Toodles.

Again, in case people somehow didn’t understand, if you participate with AURA in any way other than to attack them for the shitty stuff they did to me, we’re done, unless I have some kind of real-life connection or other reason to view you more fondly than the average egg.

This is not because I expect you to change. Almost none of you will. It’s because dealing with my unpaid volunteer activism being continuously co-opted by and/or for the benefit of those who cut off my air supply is not good for my health, and I’ve decided to stop allowing it to happen, even indirectly, and spend my time elsewhere.

It’s also because, had they done what they did to me to any one of dozens of people I considered online allies and friends, I’d have immediately had your back against them, but none of you did the same for me.

Same thing goes with FAN, now that one of the former board members of AURA who actually executed the offense is on their board. If you work with @atxfriends and you aren’t doing anything about Wojtewicz, we aren’t friends, and I don’t want anything to do with you.