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Urban Design When Neighborhoods Go Bad

I guess everybody has their own version of Jane Jacobs…

I just read this quote from Jane yesterday:

As a general rule, I think 100 dwellings per acre will be found to be too low

from this article I found when searching on something like “Jane Jacobs and density”: Jane Jacobs-style Density: It may not be what you think

Then, today, on my neighborhood’s yahoo group, I see a nice invitation to a screening about Jacobs from, of all people, one of the board members of Preservation Austin:

Hi friends and neighbors:

We’re just two weeks away from Citizen Jane, Battle for the City, presented with the Paramount Theatre and sponsored by AIA Austin! This 2016 documentary tells how preservation and planning icon Jane Jacobs fought to save Manhattan from urban renewal in the mid-20th century. Her human-scaled approach to cities transformed the way we view urban communities and neighborhoods, with major implications for challenges we face in Austin today. We’ll discuss all of this with our expert panel following the film, including Kim McKnight, Environmental Conservation Program Manager for the Austin Parks and Recreation Department; Catherine Sak, Executive Director of Texas Downtown Association; and Bob Paterson, Associate Dean for Research and Operations (Interim) at the The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture.

VIP tickets include a pre-show meet and greet with panelists, along with hors d’oeuvres and beverages. Regular tickets are just $20! AIA Continuing Education Credits: 1LU.

Get your tickets here: https://tickets. austintheatre.org/single/ eventDetail.aspx?p=3325

Details
The Paramount Theatre and Preservation Austin present a screening of the award-winning documentary Citizen Jane: Battle for the City followed by a panel discussion featuring experts from the fields of historic preservation, urban design, and architecture. Some say that Jane Jacobs, subject of the documentary, single-handedly saved the soul of New York City in the 1960s. Join us to find out how! (AIA Continuing Education Credits: 1LU)

About the film:
“In 1960 Jane Jacobs’s book The Death and Life of Great American Cities sent shockwaves through the architecture and planning worlds, with its exploration of the consequences of modern planners’ and architects’ reconfiguration of cities. Jacobs was also an activist, who was involved in many fights in mid-century New York, to stop “master builder” Robert Moses from running roughshod over the city. This film retraces the battles for the city as personified by Jacobs and Moses, as urbanization moves to the very front of the global agenda. Many of the clues for formulating solutions to the dizzying array of urban issues can be found in Jacobs’s prescient text, and a close second look at her thinking and writing about cities is very much in order. This film sets out to examine the city of today through the lens of one of its greatest champions.” -Altimeter Films

Hope you can make it! Thanks!
Ann
Member, Board of Directors
Preservation Austin

Go see the film! It might be neat!

But also! A thought experiment: Do you think Ann, or any other board member of Preservation Austin, is picturing 100 dwelling units per acre when they throw around terms like “human-scaled”? Or do either one of the pictures in the article I linked at the top look anything like the Hyde Park you think Preservation Austin prefers?

Categories
Urban Design When Neighborhoods Go Bad Worst Person In Austin

NIMBYs: a play in five acts

Hot off the presses from its original run in the North University Neighborhood Association yahoo group, I bring you: NIMBYs: a play in five acts.

Categories
Subsidies to Suburban Sprawl When Neighborhoods Go Bad

Here They Go Again

Best-case time for Rapid Bus, cheap here we are.

The existing service on Burnet Road heading southbound into downtown in the morning rush looks like this:

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 9.45.16 AM

This basically boils down to a local bus every 22 minutes during the morning peak. Service drops slightly to 26-minute headways during the mid-day, angina and then rises back to 22 minutes during the evening peak. People from other cities may not believe this, but this actually qualifies as frequent by Austin standards. This route makes a lot of stops. Meaning it’s fairly slow, but you don’t have to walk far to pick it up (I used to use this one, occasionally, for a former work commute).

Stops on existing #3

The new Rapid Bus line running on Burnet/Lamar (the second one to be built, but the first one we’re talking about) will run every 10 minutes during the morning peak, and every “12-20 minutes” during the mid-day.

Here’s a diagram of the Rapid Bus route replacing the #3 (look at the purple line). The bus will only stop at the indicated ‘stations’ (bench + sign).

MetroRapid on Burnet/S Lamar

An interesting aside: Capital Metro’s newest MetroRapid presentations now only include the best example of travel time improvement for each route (somewhat OK in the case of the #3 replacement; complete bullshit on the other route). Luckily, your intrepid reporter located the old presentation from which the picture below is taken

And here’s the travel time estimate improvement graphic from Capital Metro:

MetroRapid #3 improvements

So we can see a pretty big travel improvement here – focusing on North Austin, a 20% or so time improvement over the #3. But where does that improvement come from? Traffic lights, or reducing stops?

Unfortunately, there’s no existing express service (limited-stop) on the corridor to compare to, so we can’t answer that question – but the results from the next post may serve illustrative on that metric. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, let’s imagine a couple of users of the current #3 and see how this affects them. Using 600 Congress for the destination here.

Allan Allandale boards the #3 bus today at a stop that will be served by the new MetroRapid service. He gets on the bus at Justin/Burnet today for his job downtown. Currently, this trip takes from 8:11 to 8:43. 32 minutes. In the new service, we’ll be completely credulous and assume the 20% time reduction from the entire “Domain to 10th St” trip applies equally here – and the new trip will take 25 minutes (32 – (20% == 7)). Allan saved 7 minutes.

But that’s not the only case. Scroll back up and notice the high number of #3 stops up there. Most of those are going away; unlike the other Rapid Bus line on Guadalupe/Lamar, the existing local bus is not just being cut; it’s being eliminated. So a person may have to walk quite a bit further to the new stop than the old one.

Suppose Allan’s friend Andy Allandale lives in a slightly different spot in Allandale and currently uses the bus stop at Burnet & Greenlawn. His extra walk from that bus stop down to Justin/Burnet will take about 4 minutes. Doesn’t seem like much, but remember Andy is only going to save 7 minutes on the actual bus ride. So the savings for Andy are actually only 3 minutes.

This pattern gets worse the closer in you get to town (and better the further out you get) – which makes sense. A 20% time savings is going to buy you more savings on the bus part of the trip the further out you are, and if the walk penalty is about the same, the suburbanite will benefit more from the service than will the urbanite. Unfortunately, this ruins the narrative that Rapid Bus is going to be great for Central Austin. In fact, Rapid Bus delivers its travel time benefits on the #3 route disproportionately to people who live very far out; people in Central Austin likely see little benefit even if they live right next to the stop; and zero or even worse conditions if they live next to a #3 stop that’s being eliminated.

Worse case scenario still: Ronald Rosedale currently boards the #3 at 45th and Burnet. The new Rapid Bus that eliminated the #3 actually moves away from Burnet here over to Lamar – the closest new stop will be at Sunshine and Lamar (or 40th and Lamar). 8 minute walk, which totally eliminates the time savings from the Rapid Bus trip.

Once we go further south than that, we’re into the territory where the lines overlap, and the #1 remains a (less frequent than before) option.

Now, what about frequency? On this corridor, all users see a significant increase in peak-hour frequency, roughly doubling the number of available bus trips per hour over current conditions. Mid-day frequency improvement is likely not significant (I’d wager the 12-20 minute citation here means this corridor is getting 20 minute headways and the other one 12; existing conditions are 26-minute headways).

So the conclusion for the #3 corridor? If you live far out of the core, but still close to a stop that will be served by the new service, you are going to be much better off. If, however,

On to Guadalupe/Lamar Rapid Bus next, likely next week.

Short epistle posted by me to a couple of neighborhood lists in response to attempts to rally the usual suspects behind an effort to enact rental registration in order to supposedly stop “stealth dorms”.

I promise I’ll get back to Rapid Bus someday.

Here’s the actual note I sent:

 

 

 

The attempts to tie this rental registration initiative to stealth dorms seems very similar to attempts to justify the McMansion ordinance based on a supposed “drainage emergency” (remember?).

Given that this resolution claims to be a boon for renters, unhealthy has there been any outcry, at all, from renters or people who purport to represent them, for a solution like this? As a landlord who occasionally has to bother my tenants by entering the dwelling they’re paying to inhabit for things like supervising a repair crew, I have a hard time believing they’re enthusiastic about additional mandatory visits (inspections) from people they don’t know and don’t approve.

Or has this been pushed solely by nearby homeowners against certain problematic behaviors they associate with renters, such as noise and trash? If so, why are the existing enforcement mechanisms insufficient, or if they are not, in what ways will these new enforcement mechanisms somehow succeed in discouraging the real problematic behaviors being experienced (noise, trash)?

Has the affordable housing community weighed in, at all, about the sometimes-mentioned reduction in “unrelated tenants” from 6 to 4? And on the registration fee’s impact as well? (I’ve seen a posting on another neighborhood’s list from a homeowner who rents two rooms to people to help pay his mortgage and has indicated he’ll likely have to stop, and sell, if the fees are non-trivial).

I have a sneaking suspicion that this is really about stopping properties from being rented in Central Austin in general. And I cannot support measures like that, nor do I have a lot of respect for those who would.

– MD

Categories
Uncategorized When Neighborhoods Go Bad

A message I just posted to the Hyde Park NA list

In response to this site and calls to support it. Some links added as I find them. The post to which I replied, is something like “We believe in urban density but not these boarding houses / dorm duplexes”. Don’t want to quote without permission, but that was the gist.

My response was:

So I too believe in urban density, and these buildings stink. I’m eager to meet new converts to the cause! Having lived for years on E 35th next to a big duplex and across an alley from a small apartment complex, I can tell you that even with a wonderful, responsive, landlord; the apartments beat the duplex hands-down for being good neighbors.

In the past, both Hyde Park NA and NUNA fought VMU on Guadalupe and then retreated to a position of demanding no parking reductions when the first battle was ‘lost’ (which effectively prevents all but the most high-dollar developments from materializing). The neighborhood plans call for minimal increases in density (in NUNA, it would be impossible to even rebuild some of the older apartment complexes on Speedway, for instance). NUNA fought the Villas on Guadalupe. Apartments and renters are demonized on this list. On and on and on.

So, I’m assuming those against these ‘dorm-style duplexes’, which are catering to an unmet-for-decades demand for student housing close enough to ride bikes to UT are going to be in favor of increased MF development not only on the edges of our neighborhood but on good transit corridors such as Speedway and Duval, right? New morning and all?

Categories
Urban Design When Neighborhoods Go Bad

Mueller Grocery – Suburban or Urban?

Woop de doo!

Image of Mueller "Market District" from 2010
Urban or suburban?

This image is from the 2010 presentation of the Mueller “market district”. The big box in the lower right is the grocery store, which is now apparently going to be an HEB.

But the most important question by far: will it be urban or suburban? Let’s ask our old friend David Sucher of City Comforts:

Urban Starts With The Location Of The Parking Lot
Urban Starts With The Location Of The Parking Lot

 

As Chris put it,

The parking lot will be much nicer than average, but this makes the development merely suburban chic not urban.

Sadly, par for the course for our supposed ‘new urban showcase’. I’ve covered Mueller irregularly in the past as has Chris. Notice we’re in 2011 now; no sign of the Town Center; relatively little multi-family development; but the single-family homes and strip malls – they are still there and doing fine. Sigh.

As for how green and sustainable this will be, what with energy efficiency, water efficiency, etc.; a wise ass man on twitter once said this:

Green building vs. sustainability

Categories
Austin When Neighborhoods Go Bad

A Stark Choice Begins Today

Lots of people, vitamin more about including some of my favorite people at Capital Metro, page are claiming that the Red Line is now “meeting projections”. Hmm. Let’s analyze this claim by looking at the archives, shall we?

1. The Red Line was opened up in 2009 – projecting 1700-2000 boardings/day, from Day One, with the following schedule:
This is the last monthly data we get before Big Changes make for a big discontinuity in the graphs. December is, anaemia as Capital Metro wants to make sure you know, drugs a low ridership month. As usual, click for larger versions. Analysis follows the pictures.

Categories
I Told You So When Neighborhoods Go Bad

The Austin Neighborhoods Chronicle

Lots of people, vitamin more about including some of my favorite people at Capital Metro, page are claiming that the Red Line is now “meeting projections”. Hmm. Let’s analyze this claim by looking at the archives, shall we?

1. The Red Line was opened up in 2009 – projecting 1700-2000 boardings/day, from Day One, with the following schedule:
This is the last monthly data we get before Big Changes make for a big discontinuity in the graphs. December is, anaemia as Capital Metro wants to make sure you know, drugs a low ridership month. As usual, click for larger versions. Analysis follows the pictures.

Categories
Austin PS: I am not a crackpot When Neighborhoods Go Bad

My endorsements

Lots of people, vitamin more about including some of my favorite people at Capital Metro, page are claiming that the Red Line is now “meeting projections”. Hmm. Let’s analyze this claim by looking at the archives, shall we?

1. The Red Line was opened up in 2009 – projecting 1700-2000 boardings/day, from Day One, with the following schedule:
This is the last monthly data we get before Big Changes make for a big discontinuity in the graphs. December is, anaemia as Capital Metro wants to make sure you know, drugs a low ridership month. As usual, click for larger versions. Analysis follows the pictures.

Categories
When Neighborhoods Go Bad

Poor Little Rich Girl

So if you had two candidates for city office in a city where campaign laws limit donations to a fairly modest sum to prevent undue influence by the rich, and you saw a story like this one:

(Candidate B) appears to be gaining ground. She raised $44,885 in the past few weeks, loaned her campaign another $40,000[…]
(Candidate A) has raised nearly $170,000 since the fall — nearly $100,000 of it from early January to early April, the period reflected in Thursday’s finance reports.

which one of those candidates do you think the media could, responsibly and rationally, call the “little guy” or the “establishment candidate”? Which one do you think would be painted as the rich one in bed with the old money in Austin, and which one do you think would be painted as the voice of the masses?


Well, you’d be wrong.
Randi Shade has gotten more people to donate money to her – and Kathie Tovo, the supposed ‘voice of the neighborhoods’, is loaning herself money that most of us couldn’t afford to get to a run-off. Shade has deeper and broader support among the population as a whole, obviously, while Tovo is relying on the fact that the Austin Neighborhoods Council, the most conservative political entity in the city representing purely the interests of the wealthiest central homeowners, is a turnout machine especially in the lowest-turnout elections (run-offs).


Statesman story


Wait a minute, I hear you saying, the Austin Neighborhoods Council? Conservative? Rich?


It’s a dirty little secret, occasionally alluded to even in the horribly biased Austin Chronicle, that the Austin Neighborhoods Council is really representing what one of their writers called the landed gentry. For instance, as I wrote back in the days of the McMansion Ordinance in this post:

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Austin Bicycling in Austin High Grade Bile Lousy Bike Facilities Transportation When Neighborhoods Go Bad Worst Person In Austin

Austin environmentalists continue proud tradition of harming the environment

My most recent Austin Sierran arrived (guess what? M1EK is a life member!) and as I usually do, I read the minutes from the monthly meeting. In it, I learned that the board apparently opposes plans to build a bike/pedestrian bridge across Barton Creek (to fill a huge gap in the bicycle commuting infrastructure in that part of town – where the frontage roads end on either side of the creek). They oppose this bridge because the construction of the pilings would likely impact the creekfloor and a few other features – in a part of the watershed that’s very close-in already (arguably not contributing to the springs at all) – a likely one-time disturbing-the-sediment impact akin to the kinds of floods we see ten times a year in a rainy year.

The geniuses behind this decision suggested more improvements to South Lamar, which is only a couple of miles, a couple of extra hills, and another freakin’ expressway out of the way for cyclists trying to commute to the center-city from points far southwest and west. Yes, there are people who commute from this far out – not as many as we would like, of course, hence the issue.