Capital Metro's Service 2020 plan: Stupid, Stupid, Stupid
I only have five minutes, but am officially out of time to crackplog this, so here goes.
Three special areas of stupidity in the Capital Metro 2020 plan:
Luckily for me, two others already hit two of my three major points. (No, Wells, it wasn't due to secret meetings of the echo chamber; note Shilli wasn't even involved).
1. Covered by Austin Contrarian: Moving major (i.e. the #1) bus routes off Congress, which is walkable and dense, to Guadalupe/Lavaca, which are infested with low density garbage for blocks in certain parts and farther away from the core of downtown, is stupid. Yes, the buses will move quicker. No, this isn't better; the reason the buses will move quicker is that they will be far away from the places people actually want to go downtown. (No, the residential density developing west of Congress isn't relevant here; every one possible reverse transmit commuter from one of those condo buildings is matched by a hundred or more existing work commuters trying to get to an office building - and the office building center of mass is on Congress).
2. Covered by a commenter on Capital MetroBlog; moving certain local routes like the #5 off the Drag is stupid. Most people going to UT are closer to Guadalupe than San Jacinto; this seems like a poorly justified way to pretend like Guadalupe isn't where the action is, to forestall complaints by people like yours truly when the Red Line finally opens.
This would be a disaster. Quite a lot of the #5’s ridership–myself included–consists of UT students and staff who are destined for the engineering complex, the communications buildings, the west mall, or the six-pack–all very dense clusters on campus. The proposed changes would drop them off a good deal farther away from their destination, and at the bottom of a hill–not at all pedestrian-friendly. This seems, like the proposed switch from Congress to Guadalupe/Lavaca downtown–to be the general principle: move the bus routes away from the places people need to go, and into areas that are less congested. That is not a plan for increased ridership.
(pre-emptive comeback to inevitable complant from CM insiders: Guadalupe near UT is the best place for UT trips. Guadalupe near downtown is NOT the best place for downtown trips).
3. Covered by nobody else, so it falls to me: Eliminating West Austin routes like the #21/#22 (which my stepson uses) is stupid. Yes, I said eliminate; if you believe that the proposed 'flexible' service being provided in its place will (a) work and (b) last, you're more credulous than Capital Metro deserves at this point in history.
Look, ridership on some of those routes out west IS low. But here's a little hint: Capital Metro isn't at risk for having their sales tax cut because too few people ride the bus in Tarrytown; they're at risk for having their sales tax cut if enough people listen to that Neanderthal pantload Jim Skaggs and VOTE to cut their sales tax. Guess what? Voter turnout in the parts of town served by the #21/#22 is extraordinarily high. Guess what tends to happen to voter support for transit in areas with no visible transit service when you have elections on sustaining taxes to support transit service?
To say nothing of the PR impact of removing one of the primary ways transfer students from less affluent neighborhoods get to schools like O Henry and Austin High (yes, my stepson is among them; but there's kids a lot poorer on the same buses doing the same thing). No, the flexible service, even if it lasts, won't be any help here; nor will service being proposed to replace UT shuttles. And this may even impact students from the west who want to, say, go to the Kealing magnet school.
I've said for years that I give Capital Metro credit for doing the best job possible in the political environment in which they operate at the job of running a city bus service through a built environment that doesn't naturally sustain much choice commuter interest. I've spent a lot of time on the internets defending them against charges of "empty buses" and the like.
But you know what? If CM is stupid enough to commit this kind of suicide, after screwing the city of Austin for a generation on the rail front? I'm not so sure I'm in their corner any more - even on the city bus issue.