This is the category archive for "High Grade Bile".
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August 17, 2011

Short Shot

I'm hosting a bunch of people from other companies at work, and about as busy as you'd expect at home with 2 little kids, a teenager working on college apps, and school about to start. Here's a quick surfacing and shot just because I got pissed off enough this morning to spend a minute.

As you may now, Cap Metro is cancelling most rail shuttles. Their mouthpiece JMVC and various hanger-on cheerleaders are claiming this is because "nobody needs them" (paraphrasing). Set the wayback machine to 2004-2008, when I was telling you that choice commuters would, mostly, not use a service that required them to transfer to shuttle buses. I've written so much about shuttle buses over the years that I should have made a category for it a long time ago, but here's a search that should get you started.

Anyways, I was attacked repeatedly and from multiple fronts for this claim that shuttlebuses would drive away most potential non-currently-bus-riding passengers and the ridership would mostly be limited to the (few) people within walking distance - it would never and could never be a light rail-like-line with light-rail-like ridership.

Fast forward again to 2011. The shuttles are, mostly, empty. Why? Because some of (the few) people within walking distance are using the Red Line, and people outside of walking distance are, mostly, not. Why not? Cap Metro won't tell you - but it's because I was right back then, and deserve a fucking apology now. Won't hold my breath.

And don't hold your breath for more blogging - I'm too busy to waste much time and energy on a populace, and especially, intelligentsia that seems hell-bent on making the same mistake over again - except, this time, JMVC and crew have convinced decision-makers not to listen to the guy who was right before. Notice this stupid rail debate last night - not invited; turned into another typical Cheerleaders Vs. Neanderthals useless exercise like the last 100 times.

Y'all are about to get precisely what you deserve.

March 28, 2011

Demoralized

Sitting in a hotel room in ice-cold New Jersey on an awful business trip, and see this in a long thread of tweets:

Continue reading "Demoralized" »

March 21, 2011

A Really Crappy Chart For Your Monday

Since so many people either don't get why the Red Line continues to be a problem or are disingenuously pretending not to know, I'm starting a flowchart for you. Thank me later. Click on the image below to get the full (part 1 only) chart.

If you want more, let me know.

December 27, 2010

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.

Continue reading "Austin environmentalists continue proud tradition of harming the environment" »

December 03, 2010

You Idiots, You Blew It Up

I posted this link on twitter with the caption: "Austin Urban Rail Goes To Hell". Note entry number for giggles.

I really don't have time for this, with the 60 hour workweeks, young family including baby that still doesn't sleep nights, and impending back surgery, but I have to say something, so I'll be brief.

I offered a year or more ago to become involved with Leffingwell's team on the urban rail project. I was ignored. (Note: I offered quite nicely.)

Recently, the plans have crystallized - and it's bad. Shared running almost everywhere - except for one (admittedly long, but not really relevant) stretch from I-35 to the airport, the trains will be stuck behind cars - or at best, buses (including local buses). No, a 'possible future transit lane' on Guadalupe/Lavaca doesn't mitigate; unless it's reserved for ONLY Rapid Bus and the train - and I don't see that happening; it's going to be stuffed with locals too, and that's if it even happens.

Unlike Brewster McCracken, who talked up reserved guideway everywhere except the leg out Manor to Mueller, Leffingwell's team has relented and the plan now calls for the trains to be stuck in traffic almost everywhere important. McCracken talked about "time certainty" being a big deal on a trip to/from the airport (or to/from work, of course). You don't get that without your own lane - period. No amount of Rapid [sic] Bus technology is going to get you there.

This rail plan, in its current state, is not worth fighting for. In fact, it's probably worth fighting against, as was the 2004 plan that so many of the "why don't you just stay civil" folks failed to affect in any way, shape, or form.

Be ready for a lot of the same people who claimed from 2004-2010 that car drivers would switch in droves to a train that required them to ride shuttlebuses to claim that the fact that these trains are stuck in traffic won't keep people from switching to them.

Remember who was right before, and who's been wrong the entire time. Or just be lazy and maintain access to the gladhanders to stay "civil" - and hold hands as we all ride the train off the cliff together - your choice.

And Not a done deal, you say? The engineering docs look pretty much done-deal level to me; as do the interactions with the media (note: the ONLY media outlet to cover the issue of guideway AT ALL was "Impact Central Texas"; their story here - good job guys; and shame on everybody else).

The urban rail system route is expected to follow Guadalupe and Lavaca streets, San Jacinto Boulevard and Congress Avenue. It will travel with traffic and may potentially receive signal priority at traffic lights, similar to Capital Metro's buses.

An urban rail system in Austin is expected to cost $200 million in its first phase of development. The track will be 33.8 miles in length and extend from Mueller to downtown to the Austin Bergstrom International Airport. Photo by Bobby Longoria/Community Impact Newspaper. Click for a larger image.
"Big difference between this and a bus is that it can fit 170 people, mostly standing, where a bus caps out at 60 or 80," Spillar said.

Hey guess what another big difference between this and a bus is, Rob? The bus that's stuck behind somebody double-parked can change lanes. A train sharing a lane with cars is the worst transit possibly imaginable in a city where most people drive - it has the worst aspects of buses and the worst aspects of trains with almost none of the good parts of either.

More background on Why Streetcars Suck courtesy of Jarrett Walker here: streetcars: an inconvenient truth

So I guess I need to update my "IT'S NOT LIGHT RAIL" chart:

If your train runs on freight tracks, can't run in the street, and requires shuttle buses - IT'S NOT LIGHT RAIL. Know what else? If your train doesn't have its own lane - and relies on the same crap Rapid [sic] Bus uses to get a leg up, IT'S ALSO NOT LIGHT RAIL.

Summary: If you want to live in a city with good urban rail, your best bet now is probably to move away. Seriously.

spreadsheet behind this image coming sometime down the road, maybe.

October 27, 2010

Update on lack of updates

  • Very busy with new position at day job. Unlike most of the people who write or advocate on transportation, I have a non-transportation, non-government, job in the private sector; and it's now consuming all my possible time and then some. Turns out you get a lot more time to write in between builds than you do when writing planning documents. Who knew?
  • Not much to report on anyways. Ridership is back down, despite anectdotal reports to the contrary.
  • Despite that, we're going to start running even more trains to places almost nobody wants to go (shuttlebuses) - making the operating cost subsidy even more monstrously high; resulting in even more cuts to bus service that actual Capital Metro taxpayers actually use. Chris Riley and Mike Martinez have done absolutely nothing to get Capital Metro on the right track here. I am critically disappointed, especially in Chris.
  • My long-range plan is still what it was a month ago - move content to WordPress on my own domain to give my gracious host a long-deserved break; start building back story to refer to from new posts to make them easier to write (and the older ones easier to refer to without having to wade through current content which is no longer current).
  • In the meantime, it's difficult to get enthusiastic about crackplogging anyways - thanks to a couple of local sites which apparently think that even though people still call the damn thing light rail; people still think it can be expanded to serve the city's core; people still think it just needs better connections - that somehow I've been beating a dead horse. Or that Capital Metro would change their plans if I just eased up on them.
  • It doesn't help that local rail and downtown advocates keep sucking up to the people who got us into this mess. Every time I see one of these guys 'like' some irrelevant piece of news about the Red Line on facebook, l want to scream - you idiots; don't you realize that this thing is killing urban rail right this very minute? Where would you rather be able to take a train in ten years from your downtown condo - a cow pasture in Leander or the University of Texas? The middle of a huge parking lot a half-mile from Lakeline Mall or the Triangle? You can't have both; you'd better make up your damn mind.

So there's where we are. I recommend you pay attention to the twitter for short comments on whatever's going on in the meantime.


April 09, 2010

All I Am Saying Is Please Stop Saying This Saying, Now

"the perfect is the enemy of the good". Sounds great, right? But recently, this has been most heavily applied to:

1. The Nueces/Rio Grande "Bike Boulevard" project, in which the infrastructure proposed will make automobile traffic skyrocket.

2. The Red Line, which is carrying a few hundred people a day and actually prevents light rail from being built in the one corridor which every other city in the country would be using to carry tens of thousands of people a day.

In the past, it's been applied to situations like Shoal Creek, too. Other flavors commonly applied are "this is a good start" or "you have to start somewhere".

Folks, I'm not even going to link the voluminous reams of reportage I've done over the years on the Red Line and the Shoal Creek Debacle - check the category links on the right from the main page. This is more of a general complaint: not everything you do is progress. It might seem obvious, but frankly, that's the only reason that's logical that so many people have pulled out these stupid sayings for the three disasters above.

Let's look at this another way. Suppose your goal is to drive a delivery truck to New York City. Assume you're not incredibly familiar with Texas roads - so you just decide to wing it. If you drive to Houston, have you made progress towards New York? Sure. If you drive to Dallas, have you made progress to New York? Sure. Both those directions are generally towards New York (not perfectly, but you end up closer than you started). Not perfect, but progress, right?

Now how about if you drive to El Paso? Are you closer to New York now? You did something. You moved the truck quite a bit. Even though it wasn't perfect. Have you made progress? Well, as long as we define "doing anything" as "progress", you have, but this is kind of stupid, right?

That analogy matches both the Nueces/Rio Grande debacle and the old Shoal Creek debacle. We went the wrong way, but we can recover - although all of the investment in going the wrong way was a waste. The Red Line, of course, is even worse. What if you drive your delivery truck to Arizona and then it breaks down in the middle of the desert? Are you closer to New York now? Are you in serious danger of never making it to New York? Well, you had to start somewhere, right? Why not drive out into the desert - that's somewhere, isn't it? You made progress. Sure, not only are you very far away from where you started in the 'wrong' direction, you're likely going to have to buy a new truck. And you might die. But you moved - that was progress, right?

Capital Metro's Red Line - Phase 3

(image by mlhradio on flickr)

In my observation during my ninety-eight years on the Internet, exactly 99.4% of the time when people use either "the perfect is the enemy of the good" or "you have to start somewhere", they either have no idea what the hell they're talking about, or have a completely different goal in mind than you do - and are trying to make you think otherwise. For instance, Capital Metro doesn't care about delivering rail service to Austinites - they care about their survival as an agency and employees of such. Otherwise, they wouldn't be pushing so hard to continue developing commuter rail at the expense of urban rail that actually serves more of their constituents (whose elected officials have had no interest in holding their feet to the fire).

The Enb. (Yes, I'm busy).

February 18, 2010

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.

"Robert"'s comment:

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.

References:

May 25, 2009

Tri-Rail is dying; corpse still admired by idiots

Two posts I made today to the "busridersAustin" yahoo list in response to continuing misinformation from our old friend Lyndon Henry that I wanted to save for posterity. Reproduced as-is except that I've made the links live.

--- In BusRidersAustin@yahoogroups.com, Nawdry wrote:
> Well, I see Mike has basically morphed into the rant-recycling stage

Well, I see Lyndon has basically morphed back into his lying-sack-of-crap stage.

Just ONE among many of your lies:

Tri-Rail serves mostly Broward and Palm Beach Counties - extending a bit into
Dade County, but that's not the focus of the service. MetroRail is a Dade County
phenomenon (more specifically Miami) - most Tri-Rail ridership never goes that
far south. MetroRail (Dade County / Miami) is largely an artifact of the 1970s.

The area that saw transit stall out for 20 years was Broward and Palm Beach
Counties (Ft. Lauderdale is still trying to establish some momentum for a
streetcar/light-rail system against the headwinds of 20 years of Tri-Rail
failure).

Tri-Rail was planned and built during the mid-to-late 1980s; AFTER MetroRail.
The fact is that after Tri-Rail turned out to be such a disaster, nobody could
get any traction on any additional rail in the region for a couple of decades.
And now, the local governments are so enamored by Tri-Rail's 'success' that
they're writing 'doomsday budgets':

Recent Miami Herald article

Recent Palm Beach Post article

Tri-Rail ridership has, in fact, declined since the 2008 fuel spike has eased,
despite what these articles imply (note that they do not state what current
ridership actually is; if anybody cares to doubt THAT, I'll spend some time
finding the media that I read a few months back on the subject).

One can certainly conclude, with accuracy missing from anything Lyndon Henry has
ever written here, that the public in South Florida has not supported Tri-Rail
like they have, let's say, DART in Dallas or Houston's Metro system (both of
which passed expansion referendi with overwhelming support).

Some other (older) links, with links back to media (some of which has expired)
and with excerpts:

Old crackplog post

"Take the Delray Beach Tri-Rail station, for instance. It's located way west of
downtown, languishing between Linton Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue. Now, where
can one walk from that location? The whole point of public transit is to create
an alternative to driving. Yet, the thriving popular downtown area of Delray
Beach is far removed from the poorly planned station location. Thus, you still
have a downtown clogged with cars, because the Tri-Rail station is beyond
walking distance. "

[...]

"I have ridden on Metrorail, on the other hand, and it is a joy compared to the
mess that Tri-Rail is. Metrorail actually goes places, near neighborhoods, and
other places people actually go, and it doesn't share its tracks with 8,000
mile-long freight trains. That's why it works."

and:

Old crackplog post

"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."

and:

Old crackplog post

"Luksha is among the many South Floridians who derisively note that not a single
Tri-Rail train goes through a single �downtown�, and only indirect services
via, bus, taxi or Metrorail will get you to the region�s airports after
getting off Tri-Rail. "

As should be obvious by the lead to this post, I will not stand by and let you
drag me down without responding in kind.

- MD

and

--- In BusRidersAustin@yahoogroups.com, Nawdry wrote:
> At 2009/05/25 15:41, Mike Dahmus wrote:
> >Just ONE among many of your lies:

> >

> >Tri-Rail serves mostly Broward and Palm Beach Counties - extending a

> >bit into Dade County, but that's not the focus of the service.

> >MetroRail is a Dade County phenomenon (more specifically Miami) -

> >most Tri-Rail ridership never goes that far south.


>
> Mike is just disseminating rubbish. By far the heaviest Tri-Rail
> ridership occurs at the 5 Miami-area stations, particularly the
> MetroRail Transfer station, where interface with the MetroRail rapid
> transit occurs. Tri-Rail also serves the Miami Airport.
>
> When I stayed in Deerfield Park

Heh.

Credibility, huh?

It's "Deerfield Beach", you ignoramus.

And, yes, Tri-Rail ENTERS Dade County. Of its 70 mile length, by far, the overwhelming majority of the line is in Palm Beach and Broward Counties. The fact that those stations see a bit more than typical traffic shows how stupid the plan was to rely on shuttlebuses for passenger distribution everywhere else; the only marginally successful stops are the ones that feed into the existing urban rail network in Dade County at the extreme end of a 70 mile system.

Urban rail systems never took off in Ft. Lauderdale or West Palm Beach or Boca Raton or any of the other large towns and cities along the line. Commuter rail spurred precisely nothing; no public support for more rail that might actually work - were it not for the existing MetroRail system that actually goes where people want to go, and, this is important, the 1200 magnet students riding every day, the system would have collapsed 15 years ago.

I lived there for most of my life, genius. I was around when Tri-Rail was getting started. I worked at IBM three summers and then three full years within a short shuttle ride of both the Delray Beach and Boca Raton Tri-Rail stops.

I had many coworkers that gave it a try (I lived too close for it to be of any use to me). None stuck. The shuttlebuses were the problem for every single one of them.

I've seen more than a dozen proposals for TOD come and go along the line. None stuck. The lack of choice commuters was the problem for every single one of _them_.

I was around when the original discussions about CSX vs. FEC were taking place. You're right in one small respect - the FEC wasn't available right at that instant; but there were people EVEN BACK THEN who said we'd be better served by waiting a couple of years and trying to negotiate with FEC instead of CSX. (Parallel to Austin here: Some people said, me among them, that rather than barreling ahead with a stupid dead-end Red Line commuter "ender" line, we'd be better served by waiting a few years to develop momentum for a re-run at the 2000 LRT line).

This was 20 years ago, mind you. Tri-Rail still, now, 20 years after the fact, has not approached initial ridership projections, unlike light rail starter lines all over the country which have mostly knocked them out of the park. After 20 years of disastrous failure on Tri-Rail, the number of people willing to say we should have waited for FEC has grown dramatically - including most of the political leadership in the counties paying the bills.

Those counties, by the way, are the ones that are cutting their subsidy to Tri-Rail because it was such a 'success' that they've gotten tired of the bleeding for so little benefit (again, compare and contrast to what happened in Houston and Dallas after GOOD LIGHT RAIL STARTER LINES showed people what could happen - 2/3 of the electorate voted in favor of huge expansions in both cases).

It's you whose credibility ought to be completely lacking here. You visited South Florida once and rode Tri-Rail a couple of times.

Big whoop.

I lived there for 20 years.

You're absolutely wrong, as usual.