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Chronicle continues to fail us

I'll get back to the Hawaii field trip reports when I get a bit more time, I promise; but in the meantime:

Katherine Gregor at the Chronicle has published yet another in what must be about a half-dozen articles by now promoting TOD on the commuter rail line. As I noted in comments, it's now 2007 (3 years after the election; 1 year before service supposedly starts), and yet nobody at the Chronicle has ever bothered to analyze the service from the perspective of a prospective passenger.

As I noted in my previous crackplog You Can't Have TOD WIthout Good T, the experience around the country is very consistent: if you expect people to pay more (relatively) to live in higher density development outside downtown, you'd better be sure that their transit alternative is a very good one.

So how about it? How have we done here? Well, each resident of these "TOD"s faces two shuttle bus rides (one each way, which will basically turn off all commuters who actually own cars), and an infrequently-running rail service (runs every half-hour during rush hours and only once in the middle of the day). Sound like good T to you? And as I've mentioned, well, about a billion times, it is impossible to morph this commuter rail line into something like 2000's light rail proposal to eliminate that shuttle bus ride to UT, the Capitol, and the part of downtown where people actually work in offices.

Anyways, this is the kind of analysis the Chronicle ought to be doing. But, instead, the recent pattern has been basically fleshing out press releases with some fluffy and modest prose which tries desperately to avoid coming to any conclusions at all - unless, of course, they happen to be conclusions supported by the ANC (or the so-called "granola mafia").

So what the hell is up at the Chronicle? I honestly didn't think I'd be pining for the days of Mike Clark-Madison, who I thought was irrationally pro-neighborhood at the time, but honestly, he's Woodward and/or Bernstein compared to the current crop. It's a sad day when you actually get better analysis of local politics from the Statesman, but that day is just about here.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Don't Hurt Us Mr. Krusee, We'll Do Whatever You Want , PS: I am not a crackpot , Transit in Austin , Transportation , Urban Design , metablog


TOD may flourish if there is enough pent-up demand for urban living. If so, it will happen despite the lack of transit -- I agree the "T" part will be a joke.

As for the Chronicle's coverage, I assume they are just catering to their advertisers' target audience. Maybe we should organize a boycott of Forbidden Fruit. ;)


If it's not linked to high-quality transit, it's just high-density development (with lots of cars) - i.e. the exact stuff that the inner neighborhoods are so afraid of.

After living in Houston for some years, I thought it would be impossible for a city to rival that city's light rail in terms of its cost and complete failure to improve the transportation picture in any conceivable manner.

Then I moved to Austin, and I learned that it's apparently quite easy to build an expensive rail line that will remove negligible if any vehicles from the road.

I don't think the Houston light rail was ever expected to *improve* traffic. Just keep it from getting worse as fast in town.
I personally would judge the Houston light rail to be a big success. Last time I was there I saw tons of people on the Astrodome/medical center/downtime line all hours of the day. The trains ran frequently, they dropped you off right in front of the places you wanted to be, they weren't held up in traffic, etc.

Uh, "downtime" should read "downtown"

Yes, I agree with DSK - Houston's light rail, among the experts, is viewed as a modest success at worst. At a bare minimum, it has improved operating costs (replacing many heavily-used buses that used to clog up Main Street) and it has arguably even drawn some car-owning commuters to transit (what light rail is usually best at).

The Houston light rail is only a success in terms of ridership numbers because they elminated the bus routes that went up and down main street and the shuttles from Med Center park and rides that took the same route. Instead of 10,000 people a month on buses and park and rides, it's now 10,000 a month on light rail. I don't see the gain in replacing one form of mass transit with a much more expensive one. Houston light rail won't be a success until it's expanded and actually removes vehicles from the uber-congested roads and freeways

The contention that Houston's ridership is only former bus riders has not been borne out by any study I've trusted - the contrary has been the case - they have attracted substantial numbers of riders who never rode the bus before. Christof Spieler, for one, has reassured me on this point.

But even for the former bus riders, there are dramatic savings in operating costs for METRO when they ride the train instead of the bus (and the buses were freed up for better uses).

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