November 29, 2005

My Chest Hair Saved My Life

So the former mayor of Austin got seriously hurt while riding with the people who like to load their bikes up in their Tahoes, drive out to the country, and go for a ride, and people are claiming his helmet saved him. Which is newsworthy since he's the one who pushed an all-ages helmet law here in Austin (which got me to stop riding for a year or so), despite the fact that bicycle helmets don't appear to be working. The old "the doctor said his helmet saved his life" canard has come up, and of course, the fact that his helmet is crushed and he's alive is taken as proof that the first caused the second. Folks like the members of the ACA, who generally go riding for fun on the weekends, don't understand how anybody wouldn't want to wear a helmet; but oddly enough, a much larger percentage of those of us who ride for transportation find them ranging from uncomfortable and inconvenient to way-too-hot. And, of course, useless.

I didn't really want to talk about this story, because even though he pushed this helmet law and did a lot of other nasty things, he's lying in a hospital bed, and using his accident for political purposes is pretty wrong. But the pro-helmet people are out in force on this one, and they need to be answered.

I have a story to tell.

The one time I rode my bike down to New Braunfels to go toobing (before the reactive arthritis ruined my toes), I went over my handlebars after a light turned red too quickly for me to safely stop at an intersection on the far south end of San Marcos. I flew like Superman, put my hands out, landed and skidded in some gross black oil which the drizzle had brought to the surface of the road, and came to a stop short of the intersection. I survived (and rode on to New Braunfels, although more slowly), and a good chunk of the hair on my chest and my knees was scraped off. Cuts and bruises on both, of course.

From this, I conclude that the hair on my chest saved my life. Because I hit the pavement chest-first; and the chest hair got ripped off. That's all the proof I need.

From here on out, I'm going to make fun of anybody who rides their bike who doesn't have a really hairy chest. And I plan on pushing for mandatory bicycle chest hair laws. Because, after all, it's all about safety.

Studies which show no relationship in the real world between the amount of chest hair and likelihood of dying on the road will be ignored by me, and the people who still insist on riding despite their relative hairlessness will be mocked as potential Darwin Award winners.

I'm sorry Mayor Todd is hurt. Even though I think his work screwed Austin in a number of ways during his tenure on the Council; he doesn't deserve the painful recovery process he'll endure, at best, and his family doesn't deserve the consequences either way. But the rest of you? Just shut up about stuff you know nothing about. Even if bicycle helmets actually provided the safety benefits people think they do, you're a lot healthier over the long run if you ride your bike (helmetless!) than if you drive.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Bicycling in Austin , Personal
Posted by m1ek at 02:31 PM | Comments (16)

November 28, 2005

Use Cases Part Three: Reverse Commutes

In case you thought I'd never pick one which works well with commuter rail, we've got one (although light rail would have worked a little bit better).

Analyzing a couple of reverse commutes:

Case 1 is a young downtown resident (of one of the condo buildings now under construction, for instance) who works at IBM (which as the draft environmental impact assessment states, will be right next to one of the stations). Parking up at IBM is free, of course.

Most of the residential development downtown is on the west side of Congress (except for the Milago and the 555, which are within walking distance of the train station). This puts the majority of housing units within a 5 minute walk of the 2000 light rail line with a short shuttle bus ride for the commuter rail station; with the Milago and 555 being the opposite.

For a minor variation, my own commute when I was working at IBM was from my condominium in Clarksville, from which I could have ridden a bus to either rail station from a couple of bus options - add 10 more minutes for extra bus travel for those trips.

Numbers indicate "seats". IE, if the number gets up to 3, you had to ride in 3 vehicles to get there. T indicates transfers. W indicates wait. P indicates pedestrian trip.

Passenger TripCommuter RailLight Rail (2000)BusCar
Downtown condo to IBM For the majority: (P). Walk to shuttle bus stop.
(W). Wait for shuttle bus.
(1). Ride shuttle bus to rail station at Convention Center
(W). Short wait (we hope) for train
(2). Ride commuter rail (not stuck in traffic) to station near IBM
(P). Walk to office at IBM or Tivoli
Estimated time: 40-50 minutes (5 minute walk on each end; 5-15 minute range wait and ride on shuttle bus)
(P). Walk a few blocks to Guadalupe.
(W). Short wait for train
(1). Ride light rail train (not stuck in traffic) to station near IBM/Tivoli
(P). Walk to office.
Estimated time: 40 minutes (5 minute walk on each end).

(P). Walk to downtown bus stop for #174 express bus.
(W). Wait for bus.
(1). Bus ride to stop near IBM (far from Tivoli).
(P). Walk to office
Estimated time: 50-70 minutes (5 minute walk to bus stop; 5-10 minute wait for bus; 35-45 minute bus trip; 5-10 minute walk to office)

(1). Drive (stuck in traffic, but reverse commute is free-flowing in morning; quite bad in evening) to office
(W). Find parking in own parking garage
(P). Walk to office
Estimated time: 15-45 minutes

Unless you live in Milago or 555, this commutes would be better on light rail than on commuter rail, but the car still kicks both to the curb during the morning commute and probably always will. The afternoon is where this commute really gets competitive - this is the route I used to have to drive when I worked up north and lived in Clarksville, and it's not pretty. You can sometimes save a bit of time by using alternate routes, but it's never quick; the problem is that the express bus on Burnet isn't going to be quick or reliable either since it's stuck in stoplight and slow-speed traffic conditions. Rapid bus isn't an option for this commute (at least, not initially - the long-term buildout indicates a route up Burnet). Both commuter rail and light rail allow passengers to at least obtain a more reliable commute, and in some cases even a faster one.

Having lived this commute, I'd pick light rail and MAYBE commuter rail over the car - a comfortable transit ride which took on average 5 minutes longer but was reliable and allowed me to work or read would have been a big winner. The scary thing about the commuter rail trip would be (of course) the bus transfer (if your shuttle is running late due to traffic, you're on the next train ride 30 minutes later). Light rail would have run about every ten minutes during the peak hours; so the penalty for missing a train would not be as scary.

Either rail line could pick up a small number of passengers who match this travel pattern (small because most workers at the IBM-area complexes live in Round Rock and other north/northwest suburbs; only a handful live central). The other thing this travel pattern has going for it is that the car trip is only going to get worse; while both the light rail and commuter rail trip are unlikely to get much slower since neither one relies heavily on a bus component.


Case 2 is the same downtown resident but he now works at one of the tech businesses on the 183 corridor (let's not even talk about the apalling amount of office space on Loop 360).

I've worked in several offices along this corridor while living in central Austin, so I know the area very well. An interesting fact about the light and commuter rail plans is that despite claiming to be alternatives to the 183 corridor, neither one goes anywhere near a parallel line to US 183 until they approach Cedar Park from the east. This means that the predicted rerouting or elimination of the 183-corridor express buses is really going to hurt transit in this area.

Numbers indicate "seats". IE, if the number gets up to 3, you had to ride in 3 vehicles to get there. T indicates transfers. W indicates wait. P indicates pedestrian trip.

I'm picking the first office I had at S3 in 1998 - because it happens to be located directly across Jollyville from the Pavillion Park and Ride (I would take the express bus up many mornings and ride my bike home).

Passenger TripCommuter RailLight Rail (2000)BusCar
Downtown condo to 183-corridor For the majority: (P). Walk to shuttle bus stop.
(W). Wait for shuttle bus.
(1). Ride shuttle bus to train station at Convention Center
(W). Short wait (we hope!) for train
(2). Ride commuter rail (not stuck in traffic) to station near IBM or station at Howard Lane
(W). Wait for transfer bus (no high-frequency circulator in either of these areas).
(3). Ride transfer bus to 183-corridor stop (stuck in traffic and slow)
Estimated time: 45 to 85 minutes (5 minute walk on each end; 30-35 minute train trip; 10-45 minute range wait and ride on bus)
(P). Walk a few blocks to Guadalupe.
(W). Wait for train
(1). Ride light rail (not stuck in traffic) to station near IBM or station at Howard Lane
(W). Wait for transfer bus (no high-frequency circulator in either of these areas).
(2). Ride transfer bus to 183-corridor stop (stuck in traffic and slow)
Estimated time: 45 to 85 minutes (5 minute walk on each end; 30-35 minute train trip; 10-45 minute range wait and ride on bus)
(P). Walk to downtown bus stop for 983 express bus.
(W). Wait for bus.
(1). Bus ride to stop near IBM (far from Tivoli).
(P). Walk to office
Estimated time: 50-70 minutes (5 minute walk to bus stop; 5-10 minute wait for bus; 35-45 minute bus trip; 5-10 minute walk to office)

(1). Drive (stuck in traffic, but reverse commute is free-flowing in morning; quite bad in evening) to office
(W). Find parking in own parking lot/garage
(P). Walk to office
Estimated time: 15-45 minutes

Unfortunately, neither light rail nor commuter rail is going to work for this trip, even if you brought your bike along and wanted to ride from the station to your office. (There are no good bike routes from either the prospective Howard Lane-area station or the IBM-area to the Jollyville corridor). Express buses today aren't horrible (you'll spend a good deal more time in the morning and be nearly competitive in the afternoon), but might be going away as part of this rail plan. Clearly neither rail line would gain a non-trivial number of passengers falling into this travel pattern.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Don't Hurt Us Mr. Krusee, We'll Do Whatever You Want , Transit in Austin , Use Cases
Posted by m1ek at 12:46 PM

November 26, 2005

Another Tri-Rail mention

Since I'm being assailed again by Lyndon Henry for being anti-rail-transit, I spent a bit of time looking for additional Tri-Rail mentions in the press, and found this one from the Orlando Press:

The greatest hindrance to Mica's rail, however, could come from the failure of a predecessor, South Florida's Tri-Rail, which runs from Palm Beach County south to Miami. Tri-Rail has proven costly; it has drained $433 million so far, and reports say it needs another $327 million to stay alive. Despite the investment, Tri-Rail averages only 60 percent of its projected ridership, and governments subsidize more than 70 percent of the operating costs.

The problem? Essentially, Tri-Rail doesn't go anywhere. For most of its 11-year life, Tri-Rail delved only into northern Dade County. "That's like taking a train from Volusia and dropping people off at the Seminole County line," Mica says. Connections to major workplaces and airports rely on unreliable bus systems. Moreover, Tri-Rail only runs once an hour, and is frequently late at that.

Could rewrite this as:

The problem? Essentially, All Systems Go doesn't go anywhere. It delves only into the southeastern edge of downtown. Connections to major workplaces and airports rely on unreliable bus systems. Moreover, ASG only runs twice an hour, and not at all at mid-day.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Don't Hurt Us Mr. Krusee, We'll Do Whatever You Want , I Told You So , Transit in Austin , Tri-Rail
Posted by m1ek at 02:12 PM

November 23, 2005

Thanks Be To The Baba

For Thanksgiving I'd like to thank the guy who's hosting this blog out of the goodness of his heart, Baba. He graciously agreed to rescue this thing from the purgatory of io.com after a failure to do database backups on their part left me in a real bad spot, spent a non-trivial chunk of time setting up stuff for me, and hasn't bugged me since to move on. And man, have I been lazy and cheap in not doing so.

So thanks Baba. The internet would be crackplogless if it was not for your largesse.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Personal , metablog
Posted by m1ek at 07:46 PM

November 20, 2005

Use Cases Part Two: Central Austin to Central Destinations

This use case analyzes a typical central Austin resident.

Let's consider a lawyer who lives in one of those expensive houses in Hyde Park and wants to get to his law office downtown. Mister Law-Talkin'-Guy probably has free parking available in his office building, but many downtown workers don't (they would have to pay to park). Today, Mister LTG doesn't take the bus, because it's a lot slower than his car, and he can park for free in his building.

Numbers indicate "seats". IE, if the number gets up to 3, you had to ride in 3 vehicles to get there. T indicates transfers. W indicates wait. P indicates pedestrian trip.

Passenger TripCommuter RailLight Rail (2000)BusCar
Hyde Park to Downtown Office Building (6th/Congress) (P). Walk to bus stop.
(W). Wait for bus
(1). Take normal city bus (new route) to commuter rail station out in east Austin or north on Lamar.
(W). Wait for train.
(2). Ride commuter rail to Convention Center station (not stuck in traffic).
(W). Hopefully shuttle bus is waiting for you (short wait).
(3). Ride shuttle bus "circulator" (stuck in traffic) to 4th/Congress
(P). Walk 2 blocks to office
Estimated time: 35-50 minutes

(P). Walk a few blocks to Guadalupe.
(W). Wait for train
(1). Ride light rail train (not stuck in traffic) to 6th/Congress
(P). Short (sub-block) walk to office
Estimated time: 15 minutes

(P). Walk to Speedway (for #5), Duval (for #7), or Guadalupe (for #1, #101, or Rapid).
(W). Wait for bus
(1). Ride bus (stuck in traffic - yes, even the Rapid Bus is stuck in traffic) to 6th/Congress
(P). Short (sub-block) walk to office
Estimated time: 25-40 minutes

(1). Drive (stuck in traffic) to downtown
(W). Find parking in own parking garage
(P). Walk to office
Estimated time: 10-20 minutes

To me, the only transit option which seems remotely palatable to Mr. LTG is the light-rail trip, because it could save time over his drive through rush-hour traffic. None of the other options are likely to be remotely competitive in time or reliability - in fact, the light rail trip might be a BIT slower than his car too. But if you're a downtown worker who has to pay to park, or parks a few blocks away from your office, the light-rail option would be a clear winner. The light rail trip might even win Mr. LTG over since he'd have a smooth comfortable ride where he could read the Wall Street Journal, which of course he can't do when he's driving, and probably not on the bus, unless he's unusually carsickness-resistant.

Note how unreliable the trips are which involve navigating traffic. On a good day, the car would beat even the light rail trip; but on a bad day, light rail would be faster. Light rail's speed doesn't change, in other words, because it has its own lane. The bus and the shuttle-bus both suffer from this worse than even the private car does, since you can always change your route when you're driving.

This particular passenger type maps well to UT students who live at the Triangle, or to UT staffers who live anywhere central, etc. Essentially, the entire central Austin residential market could have been very well-served by light rail, but will not be served at ALL by commuter rail.

Most people in Central Austin are transit-positive. That is, even if they own a car, they're willing to seriously consider using public transportation. A good number of these folks take city buses today; but the idea that Rapid Bus is going to get a non-trivial number of the remainder to leave their cars at home is ridiculous.


What about streetcars? The Future Connections Study, as I previously noted, has settled on a route which winds from downtown up to UT, then east to Mueller, so it won't be of much use for actual residents of Central Austin. Even if it DID go "straight up the gut" as intelligent folks asked for, it wouldn't be able to beat the city bus (or Rapid Bus) - unlike light rail vehicles, streetcars share lanes with cars.

Use cases Part One: From Leander / Northwest

Start of a new series - for those who are still optimistic about this commuter rail line. A "use case" in my business (software) describes how a customer might perform a certain task using your product - in this case, we'll describe how a few prospective transit customers would get to work using 4 transportation products.

Today's example is a Leander resident who works at the University of Texas or the State Capitol. Both locations don't provide much in the way of free convenient parking, so workers at both locations currently provide a good deal of business for the 183-corridor express buses. Leander residents are much more suburban and conservative than Central Austin residents, so the performance and reliability gap between transit and the car would need to be smaller, in my opinion, to attract new riders to choose transit than it would be for the analogous central Austinite. I expect most of those who are motivated by expensive or inconvenient parking are already taking those express buses, in other words. (and the express buses are actually pretty nice; most of the time I can read in them without getting carsick).

Numbers indicate "seats". IE, if the number gets up to 3, you had to ride in 3 vehicles to get there. T indicates transfers. W indicates wait. P indicates pedestrian trip.

"Current" is indicated next to the bus trip because there are some indications that Capital Metro might eliminate some of the 183-corridor express buses in order to induce more commuter rail ridership.

Note that the "shuttle bus" portion of this trip will, even if made on a streetcar, still have the same traffic characteristics (i.e. a streetcar running in mixed traffic will still be as slow and unreliable as a shuttle bus).

See notes after the table for more.

Passenger TripCommuter RailLight Rail (2000)Bus (current)Car
Leander to the University of Texas (1). Drive to Leander park-and-ride.
(W). Wait for train.
(2). Ride commuter rail to MLK station (not stuck in traffic).
(W). Hopefully shuttle bus is waiting for you (short wait).
(3). Ride shuttle bus (stuck in traffic) to UT
(P). Walk to office
Estimated time: 1 hour, 25 minutes to 1 hour, 45 minutes

(1). Drive to Leander park-and-ride.
(W). Wait for train.
(2). Ride light rail all the way to UT (not stuck in traffic).
(P). Short walk to office
Estimated time: 1 hour

(1). Drive to Leander park-and-ride.
(W). Wait for bus.
(2). Ride express bus (stuck in traffic) to UT
(P). Short walk to office
Estimated time: 1 hour, 15 minutes to 1 hour, 45 minutes

(1). Drive (stuck in traffic) to UT area
(W). Find parking
(P). Potentially long walk to office
Estimated time: 40 minutes to 1 hour, 5 minutes

Leander to the state Capitol (1). Drive to Leander park-and-ride.
(W). Wait for train.
(2). Ride commuter rail to MLK station (not stuck in traffic).
(W). Hopefully shuttle bus is waiting for you (short wait).
(3). Ride shuttle bus (stuck in traffic) to UT
(P). Walk to office
Estimated time: 1 hour, 35 minutes to 1 hour, 55 minutes

(1). Drive to Leander park-and-ride.
(W). Wait for train.
(2). Ride light rail all the way to UT (not stuck in traffic).
(P). Short walk to office
Estimated time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

(1). Drive to Leander park-and-ride.
(W). Wait for bus.
(2). Ride express bus (stuck in traffic) to UT
(P). Short walk to office
Estimated time: 1 hour, 20 minutes to 1 hour, 50 minutes

(1). Drive (stuck in traffic) to UT area
(W). Find parking
(P). Potentially long walk to office
Estimated time: 45 minutes to 1 hour, 10 minutes


In general, I assumed you would get to the express bus stop and wait 5-10 minutes for the express bus, and I was charitably assuming it would be on time. The remainder of that trip is from the 7:25 route in from Leander, and assuming a 5 minute or less walk from the stop. The drive is me estimating what I suppose it would take that time of day (I'd like to hear from a Leander resident that makes this trip in their car for a more accurate estimate). The commuter rail time has such a wide swing because of the shuttle bus component - buses fare worse than cars in heavy traffic due to their acceleration characteristics and the fact that they can't change their route to get around heavy traffic. In general, I assume that the more time you spend on a bus, the less reliable your trip (could be faster or slower than the average). (The express buses don't try to slow down to avoid hitting stops early on the way in in the mornings, unlike city buses, so you actually could get dropped off earlier than schedule indicates).

Note that one of the key attractions to the 2000 light rail route is its reliability. A route which doesn't require that you take shuttle buses can dependably get you to work at the same time every day. The train isn't stuck in traffic, and you don't have to make any transfers.

November 16, 2005

What Can Work

Seattle's light rail line just got a rating of "high" from the Feds meaning it's very likely they'll get the maximum possible financial contribution. Why? From the posting:

King County Executive Ron Sims said a big factor in the rating was the travel time savings. A bus from University Hospital near Husky Stadium to downtown takes 25 minutes during the afternoon rush hour compared with a projected 9 minutes for the light rail line. A bus from University Hospital to Capitol Hill takes 22 minutes compared with 3 minutes for light rail. And a bus from downtown to Capitol Hill takes 14 minutes compared with 6 minutes on light rail.

Compare and contrast to the route a rider of Capital Metro's commuter rail route would take to get from one of the northwestern park-and-rides to their office at UT or the Capitol. When you add in the shuttle bus trip through traffic (from the commuter rail station to the campus or capitol), it is doubtful that any time will be saved compared to the existing 183-corridor express buses (which also operate in traffic, but at least don't go out of their way on a dogleg through East Austin, and don't require a transfer to a second, much slower, vehicle).

Of course, Austin's 2000 light rail route would have gone from those park-and-rides straight to UT and the Capitol and then down Congress Avenue. But, sure, this will work just as well, and the Feds will be just as happy. Right.

Another Summary on Why All Systems Won't Go

I posted this to the hydeparkaustin yahoo group and didn't want it to go to waste.

The moderator asked me to provide additional background on this.

I write on this stuff voluminously at:

(category archive)

You may want to read that category archive bottom-up (chronological
order).

During 2004, I was the standard-bearer for the "pro-rail-transit but
anti-commuter-rail" side
. I was strongly in support of light rail in
2000; remained in support of such a system in 2004; and still support
it today; but this commuter rail system shares none of the aspects of
that plan which made it likely to attract new riders to public
transportation
- it neither goes by neighborhoods which want to use
transit (such as mine, NUNA, and yours, Hyde Park), nor goes TO
destinations to which people want to walk, i.e. most of downtown, the
University of Texas, and the Capitol
.

Capital Metro claims to be ready to solve this problem through "high
frequency circulators"
(Future Connections study previously linked) -
i.e. a vehicle you would board at the commuter rail stop way out in
east Austin which would take you to UT, for instance
. The problem is
that this has been tried elsewhere and never works - all you have to
do is go through the 'use case' of the prospective rider, i.e., a guy
who lives in Leander and works at UT.

Car trip: Get in car and drive there; park; walk to work.
Light rail trip: Drive to park-and-ride; take train to UT; walk to
work (probably shorter walk than car trip).
Commuter rail trip: Drive to park-and-ride; take train to east Austin;
transfer to shuttle bus; ride through backed-up traffic to UT; walk to
work.

And of course the Hyde Park resident 'use case' is even worse, since
taking commuter rail is not even remotely feasible - you (and I) would
be stuck taking the "Rapid Bus" which is an even worse scenario than
the above.

My fear was that a badly designed starter system (which this is) will
show Austinites that rail doesn't work
- meaning that we won't get any
more rail, not even GOOD rail. And this system is VERY badly designed
- it almost exactly matches Tri-Rail in South Florida (where I come
from) in its reliance on shuttle buses to get passengers anywhere
worth going
, rather than doing what all successful light rail starter
lines have done
, which is go straight to a few major employment
centers without requiring transfers.

Anyways, I spent the year pushing this position all over town, in
events at UT and at the ANC, and was constantly attacked by my
pro-transit friends for risking getting 'no rail at all'. The
pro-transit establishment
claimed that we could pass commuter rail and
then quickly get light rail put back in the plan
, i.e., running down
lamar and guadalupe, past the Triangle and Hyde Park, to UT and the
Capitol and then downtown.

I never bought the snow-job; but unfortunately, many people in the
center-city DID buy it. It ended up getting me kicked off the UTC by
councilmember Slusher
, as a matter of fact, but I thought that,
regardless of the consequences to me, SOMEBODY needed to raise the
position that bad rail could, in fact, be worse than delayed rail.

And now here we are. Guadalupe will not see light rail from Future
Connections. (I don't think it will for decades, since this commuter
rail plan is so bad that it will destroy the public's desire to try
any new rail lines for years and years to come once they see that
nobody wants to ride it since it's so uncompetitive even compared to
existing express bus routes). In fact, no rail of any kind will be
headed up our way, since even if you take the most optimistic reading
possible of the Future Connections study, they would be building
streetcar (still stuck in traffic, but hey, it's on rails in the
pavement)
out to the Mueller project; not up this way.

If anybody has any questions, you can ask me in the forum, or via
private email, and I'd be happy to fill in any more details.

Update: Unpaid blog QA intern "U. Nidentified Cow-orker" alerted me that the "voluminously" link didn't work. Thanks, U.N.!

November 15, 2005

Letter to Chronicle about FC

Just sent this:

Many well-intentioned people, including most of the staff of the Chronicle, advised Central Austinites to hold their nose and vote "yes" on the All Systems Go commuter rail plan, despite the fact that it goes nowhere near existing and proposed residential density, and nowhere near minor employment centers like the University of Texas or the Capitol Complex (to say nothing of most of downtown). In fact, the pro-rail-transit but anti-stupid-rail position fell all the way down to me, whose sole qualification was serving on the UTC for a few years. I was attacked quite viciously for daring to suggest that perhaps the right response was to vote No, as in "No, this isn't the right rail plan; come back with something like the 2000 plan, scaled back to get us over the top".

Well, now, the other shoe has dropped. The "Future Connections Study", on which those credulous folks based their hopes for adding back rail for central Austin, has released their draft technology review, which has now ruled out any mode requiring a reserved guideway. Meaning: no light rail; no bus rapid transit. You get either a shuttle bus or a streetcar; but either way you're going to be stuck in the same traffic you would be if you just drove.

More on my blog at: http://mdahmus.thebaba.com/blog/

The majority of the pro-transit establishment owes Austin an immediate apology for being part of this snowjob.

More Future Connections Stuff Is Up

The "Library" has a bunch of documents up from the most recent set of meetings for the Future Connections study, i.e., the "let's pretend like we considered rail to get central Austin off our back for screwing them with a commuter rail plan that doesn't go anywhere near them or minor destinations like UT and the Capitol Complex" exercise.

I'm only partway through and don't have time for full analysis now, but I will note that it is disappointing (but not surprising) that NONE of the objectives for this service include the simple one:

make it MORE ATTRACTIVE to ride transit than it is today, i.e., close at least some of the gap between the private automobile and public transportation in one or more of the following: (reliability, speed, comfort).

These guys still don't get it - you can't just rest your hopes on build it and they'll come; you also have to make sure that what you build is GOOD. And shuttle buses operating in mixed traffic aren't "good" unless you're somebody who can't afford their own car. Capital Metro already owns all of THAT market.

Update: One thing I notice is that in the Draft Technologies Report, they have already eliminated light rail and any other technology which uses a reserved guideway. I have to admit I'm not surprised at this decision (which I believe was made before this study even started), but AM surprised at the speed at which they've come to admit it semi-publically.

November 11, 2005

Our Credible Media Lets Him Get Away With It Again

Despite conclusive evidence to the contrary, the 'journalists' at the major networks are letting Bush get away with his claim that efforts to investigate pre-war intelligence claims are just 'revisionist history'.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why the Republicans will not lose their grip on power for years to come. Far from being a liberal-loving progressive-propaganda machine, the US major media is actually loath to call BULLSHIT even when it's a life-and-death matter like WAR; instead pushing more of the "some say, others disagree" pablum that has destroyed any concept of objective truth.

Hi Chris.

Meanwhile:

This entry was posted in the following categories: Politics (Outside Austin)
Posted by m1ek at 03:51 PM

November 10, 2005

tagged

This is the first time I've done one of these.

Gregg passed along this game...

1. Delve into your blog archive.

B. Search the archives for the 23rd post.

2. Find the 5th sentence, or closest to.

III. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions. Ponder it for meaning, subtext or hidden agendas.

C. Tag 5 more people

My 23rd entry was The Shoal Creek Debacle, Part III which had NOTHING TO DO WITH MASS-TRANSIT, SO THERE!

The 5th sentence was:

To be fair, the bike lane stretch between Steck and Anderson has one large gravel patch in it as well.

Analysis: Well, I was trying to give the wide curb lane guys a fair shake, but honestly I don't buy the claim that a wide curb lane has less debris than a bike lane - and it shows. This entry remains relevant today - see this blog category and this fun yahoo group for more.

This entry particularly sucks since I can't ride my bike now (maybe not much, ever) due to my body trying to kill me (had another subflare in the intervening time and was on crutches for another week; have not ridden bike since that posting). The good news(?) is that screwing up Shoal Creek won't matter much for me from here on out.

Guess it should have been a mass transit entry after all, dammit!

I don't know if anybody beyond a few kooks reads this thing, but what the hell: Steve Casburn can probably regale us with tales of Houston yore; Mark Hasty probably exorcised somebody on about that day; Chris was probably predicting a Democratic landslide; Jim was surely claiming to be non-partisan; and Thomas Gray was, I'm sure, still insisting it wasn't a blog.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Bicycle Commuting , Bicycling in Austin , Personal , Texas Republicans Hate Cities , When Neighborhoods Go Bad , badgers , metablog
Posted by m1ek at 12:32 PM

November 09, 2005

Rail, TOD, etc.

Responding to a comment on this old entry:

Jonathan, that's not accurate.

1. There ARE more lines in the "long-range plan", but NONE of them go anywhere near UT or the capitol or Mueller. There's one that might go down Mopac to Seaholm, where it will have the same exact problem that the starter line does; namely; that it's too far away from any destinations for people to walk; they'll have to take shuttle buses. And the starter line will be such a visible example of rail's supposed "failure" that no follow-on lines will be built for a very very very VERY long time. The whole reason I opposed the '04 plan was this danger - if you build a crappy enough starter line, it will become, as one of my UTC colleagues put it, a "finisher line".

2. TOD can't work if the line doesn't have good ridership without the TOD. Otherwise, real estate investors are going to be leery about spending more money for TOD than they would for traditional development.

3. These projections DO take into account all prospective density in east Austin, which has generally OPPOSED such projects. In fact, the TOD ordinance had to be watered down to nearly zero because of that part of town's virulent opposition to what they see as gentrification.

4. The only other area in this country which chose to run a rail line through a low-density area instead of running one from where the people are to where they want to go is: South Florida, whose 20-year experiment with Tri-Rail has plumbed new depths of failure. Shuttle buses are so unattractive to the "choice commuter" that even most of the transit-dependent in South Florida don't use Tri-Rail; they just stay on the normal bus; and NOBODY rides it who could have chosen to drive.

Compare/contrast to light rail, which is what Dallas, Portland, Houston, Minneapolis, Denver, Salt Lake City did; and what we almost did in 2000. We could easily have passed a scaled down version of the '00 plan in '04, but Mike Krusee kneecapped Capital Metro into this abomination instead.

Relevant entries in my blog which you might want to look at:

TOD and East Austin
TOD and commuter rail
How you'll use the starter line
Tri-Rail

A rare post relating to my career

I use and enjoy open source, but come on, people. Claiming that failed startups built on open source "pay dividends" while ones built on closed source don't? TO WHOM? Why should the venture capitalist care if the dividends don't end up in THEIR pocket?

When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

This entry was posted in the following categories: metablog
Posted by m1ek at 11:30 AM

November 07, 2005

Hybrid FUD

The meme "hybrids don't save any money" has been flying fast and furious as of late; originating with people trying desperately to defend GM for having missed this boat entirely. When people of a certain (conservative, usually) bent saw the Prius, they complained that more of the electric power ought to go into performance (even though for a good-mileage car, it accelerates perfectly well, i.e. I've not been frustrated with it when getting on the highway). Toyota complied, and now they get dinged for a less impressive mileage boost in the Highlander Hybrid.

This unidentified individual while generally liking his hybrid SUV, repeated one of the most often heard bits of hybrid FUD. To be more accurate, you can replace his comment:

As I've said before, if you just want to save money, a hybrid isn't the way to go, yet.

with:

As I've said before, if you just want to save money on an SUV, a Highlander hybrid isn't the way to go, yet.

Because when you compare the Prius to the Camry (same size class), it's very easy to save money over the life of the car. Same to a lesser extent with the Civic Hybrid. The worst comparisons out there (Edmund's) find a small savings with (Prius over Camry) and a loss everywhere else due to the questionable claim that the hybrid will have less residual value and require more maintenance, both of which are proving to be false. The Prius won best one-year residual value AND most reliable honors this year. The previous-generation Prius (nowhere near as good of a car), the oldest of which are pushing 6 now, are also very highly priced on the used market.

Hybrid Car Blog and the Prius Owners Group both
cover this FUD frequently.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Politics (Outside Austin)
Posted by m1ek at 03:19 PM | Comments (3)

November 04, 2005

Possibly The Stupidest Thing I've Ever Heard From Capital Metro, And That's Saying A Lot

I just heard from an acquaintance with the Austin Streetcars group that, at Tuesday's meeting for Future Connections, the Capital Metro consultant pointed at the ends of the UT shuttle bus line as examples of "Bus TOD" to presumably answer the complaint that I (and nearly everyone else in the world) state about TOD (transit-oriented development) and buses, namely, that it simply doesn't happen in this country unless you have frequent rail transit, not just buses. In Europe, where gas is six bucks a gallon and there's no parking anyways, you can get it with a bus station, but even there, the focus is on rail transit.

Good lord. I don't even know where to begin with this, but I'll try anyways. While I expect Capital Metro to continue with bogus claims that they can get TOD from the commuter rail line and maybe even the Rapid Bus line, I didn't think even they would go so far out into left-field as to claim you can get TOD from regular, crappy, city buses.

  1. I'm pretty sure the apartment complexes predate the shuttle bus lines, at least some of them did, and their density is, if anything, lower than apartment complexes elsewhere (some are only two stories instead of the typical three you get in MF-3 zoning, for instance).
  2. Those apartment complexes have just as much parking in just the same places as similar apartment complexes do along Jollyville, or Metric Blvd. In fact, transit coverage of the Far West area is poor, except if you want to go to UT during classtime. Riverside, at least, has decent transit coverage, but you have to walk a long ways to get to them. In NEITHER place is there EVER any incentive to use transit other than to get to class - it's going to be FAR easier and FAR quicker to use that car conveniently (and freely) parked in the lot next to your door. The very OPPOSITE of TOD.
  3. There's no mixed-use development of any kind in the vicinity of either 'student slum'. If you dodge driveways and walk a long ways one direction to get out of the area where there's only apartments, you get to an area where there's only single-family houses. If you walk a long ways the other direction, you get to an area where there's only strip-malls. NOWHERE do you find a place where there are buildings with offices or apartments on top and retail on the bottom.
  4. Neither area is remotely pedestrian-friendly. You have to walk a long ways to get to those strip malls, and then cross a huge surface parking lot to get to the stores. Again, this is the very OPPOSITE of TOD.

Any more? Man, I'm flabbergasted that they could sink this low. It's one thing to claim that buses can generate TOD (some people claim that BRT, at least, can do it). It's quite another to point to two student slums as your example.

Halloween 2005

I'm way behind on pictures because I still haven't gotten around to trying the Windows tools which may provide satisfactory automation for my album generation (thanks, Phil). But here's a teaser, from this Halloween.


This entry was posted in the following categories: Personal
Posted by m1ek at 08:32 AM