January 29, 2004

Mike Levy Hates Pedestrians

Mike Levy, publisher of Texas Monthly, is at it again. For those who haven't yet had the pleasure, Mr. Levy's favorite pastime is finding a local transportation issue (relating to downtown, most of the time) that irks him, and then firing off an angry email to about 100 people around the city (the people he considers movers and shakers). In said email, Mr. Levy's usual tactic is to find a city staff person whose job it is to implement some policy with which he disagrees and ascribe all sorts of sinister motivations to that employee. Said employee is almost always just carrying out the express will of the City Council, with whom Mr. Levy somehow never picks a fight directly.

Today's example is light synchronization downtown. Mr. Levy admires Houston's system (in which supposedly all lights on one corridor turn green at the same time - which is a disaster for air pollution and for pedestrians, since the incentive of the driver is to hit the gas and go as fast as possible while he still has greens). Austin's system is more properly described as sequencing, in which lights are staggered on a major corridor to encourage 25mph automobile travel (better for the air; better for safety of motorists and pedestrians).

Mr. Levy, of course, ascribes this instead to a supposed desire by Austen Librach to ruin downtown traffic so that light rail becomes more viable. (Hence the title of this entry - pick the most awful reason for doing something that your audience will ascribe to your designated villain, and stick it in his mouth no matter what he really says).

Levy's audience will probably buy it, since most of the people on his list are knuckle-dragging I-can't-imagine-anything-but-single-occupant-vehicle-travel pedestrians-are-Communist old-school Austin Republicans. But really. If somebody was trying to sabotage commutes to make light rail look better, wouldn't they instead gum up Mopac and I-35, since at its worst, the downtown part of the typical suburbanite's commute is 5 or 10 minutes of the hour - 90 minute total trip? And who, dare I ask, would be responsible for the current gumming up of I-35 and Mopac?

Yes, readers, it's the suburban wankers (assisted by Cap Metro destroyer Mike Krusee who used his power at the state lege to force an early election) who narrowly voted down light rail in 2000. Or, maybe, it's the guys in charge of TXDOT who built highways to serve real estate speculators rather than actual transportation needs.

Or maybe, just maybe, it's Mike Levy, who, instead of using his awesome powers for good (getting downtownites to understand that nothing but rail can fix traffic there since we ain't gonna knock down skyscrapers to add more lanes) has squandered them on evil. Yes, folks, it's all because Mike Levy Hates Pedestrians.

January 20, 2004

Envision Circle C in Downtown Austin

Well, the neighborhood associations of the center city are at it again; this time trying to rally the troops against the clear consensus expressed in the Envision Central Texas surveys.

The Austin Neighborhoods Council, umbrella wing for most of the worst of the lot (the kind of people who opposed the Villas on Guadalupe by claiming that rush-hour traffic would get horrible because of all of the students driving their SUVs to UT) is now fighting the Envision Central Texas project because people voted in huge numbers to direct new development to "infill", i.e., build stuff closer in to the city so we don't destroy quite as much of the environment around Austin that we (a) depend on and (b) enjoy. This consensus was overwhelming.

And yet, it still doesn't penetrate these peoples' heads that perhaps they'd get more support from the public at large if the sum total of the last ten neighborhood plans wasn't "please don't build anything new in or around our neighborhood, and please get rid of a bunch of existing multi-family development here, and please spend ten million dollars on these improvements when you're done with all of that". Their tack, instead, apparently, is going to be More Of The Same: Obstructionism in the name of "preserving neighborhoods", as if we're too unintelligent to notice that "neighborhoods" in real cities consist of more than single-family homes.

Here's the note they sent:

NEIGHBORHOOD PRESIDENTS AND REPRESENTATIVES -- PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO
YOUR MEMBERS ON YOUR LIST SERVE. THANKS.

MoNAC Meeting, Tuesday January 20, 6:30 pm

Westminster Manor, 4100 Jackson
Avenue
[Park in north parking lot, enter through Health
Care Center ask directions to Harris Bell Hall]

Guest Speaker:

Beverly S. Silas, Executive Director, Envision Central Texas (ECT)

ECT Mission
Statement (
www.envisioncentraltexas.org) :

"To assist in the public development and implementation of a regional
vision addressing the growth of Central Texas, with an emphasis on land
use, transportation and environment. By working with the people of
Central Texas and build a consensus, we can preserve and enhance our
region's quality of life, natural resources and economic prosperity."


************************************************************************
************************************************************************
****************

Austin Neighborhoods Council (ANC) has put these thoughts and questions
forward:

The City of Austin neighborhood planning process, initiated several
years ago, has completed 21 neighborhood plans to date, involving at
least 7,000 direct participants for plans that cover 138,000 residents
(a participation rate of 5% vs. the ECT participation rate of 1%). In
each of these planning efforts, the issue of accommodating growth while
balancing the quality of life in our neighborhoods has been a major
issue for both City staff and the community. In addition, the
neighborhood planning process allowed for a year-long, extensive
analysis of the consequences of specific land use decisions that was not
available in the broad-brush ECT "vision" process.

The ECT survey results show that while the majority of respondents
favored scenario D (less new land developed and putting new residents in
already developed areas) an equal number of respondents favored
"retaining the character of existing urban neighborhoods". From these
responses it is clear that while we want less urban sprawl, we do not
want to destroy existing neighborhoods with unreasonable density. We
need to ask:

1. Will the ECT "vision" final report recognize and support these
neighborhood plans as the products of the community's efforts (countless
volunteer hours!) and "vision"?

2. When will the comparative analysis of the adopted (zoning)
densities for the 21 completed neighborhood plans vs. the various ECT
scenarios be completed?

3. To reduce traffic on major highways, the ECT "vision"
indicates additional arterials will need to be widened or built. Which
neighborhoods will be impacted by this aspect of the "vision"?

Final thought: If the ECT final "vision" does not support and
incorporate neighborhood plans, then neighborhoods may not support the
ECT "vision". Without incorporation of neighborhood plans into the
final ECT "vision", developers are likely to use the ECT "vision" as
"plan" to their advantage (and our detriment).

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , When Neighborhoods Go Bad
Posted by m1ek at 02:45 PM

January 17, 2004

new link

Thanks to Chris, found a good political economics blog (or economic politics blog): The Whiskey Bar.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Republicans Hate Poor People , metablog
Posted by m1ek at 04:12 PM

January 16, 2004

Bad Neighborhood Plans, Part Three

Well, the neighborhood that destroyed light rail's chances in 2000 ("yes, we moved next to an active railroad; but NO, we don't think we should live with light-rail for the benefit of the city") has finished their neighborhood plan.


Big surprise: Calls for a drop in multifamily development.


Once again, the point of this exercise was supposed to be for neighborhoods to tell the city where they want additional density, NOT to tell the city that they want less density.


This is a city. Grow up, people!

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , When Neighborhoods Go Bad
Posted by m1ek at 12:21 PM

January 15, 2004

Tee Hee, Ain't I The Dickens, Part One

The Bush administration is at it again.


Thanks, Naderites! (Unfortunately, the Onion didn't archive possibly the best What Do You Think ever, which generated at least two chestnuts in response to Bush's devolution of environmental protection: "I voted for Nader. Tee Hee, Ain't I The Dickens?" and "They say you get the government you deserve, but I don't remember knife-raping any retarded nuns."

This entry was posted in the following categories: Republicans Hate The Environment
Posted by m1ek at 09:45 AM

Links

OK, I grabbed the links (and format) on the left from Steve, tore out a bunch of them, and will be filling in with stuff I like later on.

This entry was posted in the following categories: metablog
Posted by m1ek at 08:49 AM

January 14, 2004

New site

woo. Movable Type. I'll move the other stuff here maybe tomorrow.

This entry was posted in the following categories: metablog
Posted by m1ek at 01:08 PM

January 12, 2004

Irresponsible Neighborhoods, Part Two

I was watching Channel Six for a bit while waiting for my wife to get ready to go out to a childbirth class, and I saw a zoning case being debated in front of council which has come up in a couple of the Yahoo groups I read. This particular case involves a SF-3 lot with two houses on it, each one fronting a different street (the lot has frontage on two parallel streets - not a typical corner lot) which the owner wants to subdivide into two SF-4A lots, so that each house can be a legally separate property.

A bunch of caterwauling has occurred from the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association over the fact that they explicitly rejected this kind of lot during their neighborhood planning process. The assumption is that the City Council would hear this, and rule against the zoning case because of it. (Note: the City Council ruled in favor of the applicant 7-0 on first reading; displaying what has become their typical pragmatism, but see more below).

This assumes, of course, that the City Council finds banning small lots throughout a neighborhood in the center city to be a reasonable thing to do in a neighborhood plan. I hope they didn't; but I wonder why the plan passed in the first place.

I worked on the Old West Austin neighborhood plan. We were responsible. We allowed for densification with character throughout the neighborhood. We allowed for some multifamily which wasn't only on arterial roadways (see future piece on Asshat Neigborhood Clowns Who Think Multi-Family Residents Don't Care About Noise). We were specifically seeking to satisfy the intentions of the neighborhood planning process, which was NOT "Tell us WHETHER you want density", but rather, "tell us WHERE you want density", and we also didn't think saying "only on Lamar" was a responsible answer.

Sadly, it seems more and more that the City Council has allowed other neighborhoods to get away with joke neigborhood plans which boil down to: Do these 20 transportation projects for us, and prevent any densification from occurring to our neighborhood, OK thanks bye.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , When Neighborhoods Go Bad
Posted by m1ek at 07:50 AM

January 09, 2004

Get Off Da Bus

It's been rumored for a long time, but further more credible signs are afoot that Capitol Metro is abandoning plans for in-town light-rail transit in favor of a bus rapid transit system.

I could not be more alarmed at the incredible stupidity of the board and other leadership at that agency.

  1. They're supplying commuter rail to areas which are primarily not Capital Metro taxpayers at the urging of the same state legislator who forced Capital Metro to call a rail election before they were ready, which they then lost by an incredibly small margin (winning in the city of Austin proper), primarily due to an insufficiently baked plan.
  2. For the majority of residents of the city of Austin, they're now going to continue to provide transit which is not reliable (sure, the bus can change a traffic light ahead of it to green; but cannot move gridlocked cars out of its way) and very slow.

Of course, the disingenuous jackanapes who pushed the anti-rail campaign in 2000 will be silent about the fact that BRT takes even MORE street space from cars, and provides even LESS benefit for the money.

Capital Metro is signing its own death warrant. But as I predicted back before the 2000 election (Patrick Goetz: you still owe me a steak dinner), the state is the ultimate power here, and the state hates public transportation.

And HOUSTON HAS LIGHT RAIL.

Truly, the apocalypse is nigh.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Republicans Hate Poor People , Republicans Hate Public Transportation , Texas Republicans Hate Cities
Posted by m1ek at 02:40 PM