So yesterday we were going to swim lessons and I noticed 5 kids walking along the 71 access road. I pointed them out to Julie as “Schools back in session”. Then I realized. Those kids were walking from the Govalle bus back to our neighborhood. Which meant that they had to walk 1/4 mile from Travis High to the 7-11 at Oltorf and Parker. Take the bus down Parker to Parker and 71, then walk 1/2 mile back into our neighborhood.
Then this morning I noticed a woman and her child waiting at the bus stop by Ware Rd. And a guy walking home from work along Burleson from Oltorf.
So while the bus might not have had high ridership, it definitely reached places that other buses don’t and the loss of service is affecting people in very obvious ways.
So according to this story, Round Rock has developed an express bus service. But not any express bus service, this one takes riders from downtown Round Rock to the CapMetro park and ride facility at Tech Ridge.
For those not in the know. Round Rock has declined to be part of Capital Metro. This is why they don’t have bus service in Round Rock.
So rather than have an express ride into downtown Austin you get an express ride to pickup another express bus almost completely subsidized by Austin citizens!
They’re also talking about building rail to take their residents from downtown Round Rock to one of the Red Line stops. In other words, they get public transportation for their citizens almost completely subsidized by the citizens of neighboring cities!
This would be less obnoxious if Round Rock wasn’t ridiculously rich thanks to the tax receipts it collects for every Dell Computer sold in the state of Texas.
We don’t need a border wall in the valley. We need one along Howard and McNiel.
So, we found out yesterday that the most convenient bus to me is planned to go away. I can’t say I’m surprised. It goes to a couple industrial parks South of me, tools through my neighborhood, heads downtown and ends up in Enfield. It’s a nice route to have if you need it, but it’s hardly transporting a lot of people. I am sad though, because it’s part of why I was excited about our house. It’s a <20 minute trip downtown on the #9. We're also losing the #328 which went from our area to Barton Creek mall.
It doesn’t look like anyone in my neighborhood is interested in fighting it though.
But there are some interesting positives. The number 30 is going to terminate at the South Congress transit center near my house, and go by Central Market, Barton Creek Mall, and Zilker Park. Which is a pretty nice route. The transit center is probably a 20 minute walk or 10 minute bike ride from my house.
We are getting the number 300 Govalle route going by the West side of Mabel Davis park. While it’s a bit of a walk to get over there, that route goes by the HEB on Riverside, the MetroRail station (which might be useful if my company moves where they’re hinting at), GACA offices and the Blue Theater. So a pretty cool route. I’d thought about taking the 300 before, but it was always a transfer or 1 mile walk. Now it should be a quarter mile walk.
Still a bit sad about the #9. Maybe we’ll get a new route down Burleson when the Pleasant Valley extension to Todd Lane gets built.
I’ve got to be honest. I like the idea of light rail. It’s cool. It’s different. But the more I look at non-light rail projects like Capital Metro’s Red Line and light rail projects like Dallas and Houston’s. I don’t know if they justify the cost.
When I look at transportation there is one massive problem, and it exists whether we’re talking about rail or buses. Transferring sucks.
In Austin the best case transfer takes 25 minutes. For the bus that goes closest to my house that could go up to over an hour. So no matter how awesome some potential rail line is, I still have to plan to get my transfers as close as possible. And if I miss my transfer coming home, I’ve got an hour to wait.
I think at the end of the day, the best thing that CapMetro can do is run more buses. They get a lot of flack for empty buses, but I think they could counter this with a convenience message. If their goal is to make sure that you can take a bus and never wait more than 5 minutes for a transfer, then the bus becomes much more convenient for getting places. And if a commute takes 45 minutes rather than 65 minutes, that’s a huge difference in deciding to ditch a car. And if a trip to the grocery store takes 15 minutes by bus rather than 35 minutes, I’d be much more likely to consider the bus.
We’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars just to build the new Red Line, what kind of additional bus service could we get for that?
And what about a line going up and down 360 with WiFi? It seems like no one would take it, but I’d contend that with good advertising it could be a packed route. There are a lot of workaholics on 360 and if you could let them work on their commute they’d jump at it. I think this is a big difference between the potential audience on 360 and the audience currently being shuttled into downtown.
I’ve seen this argument a lot in cases where we’re talking about transit. Paul Burka over at Texas Monthly has written the latest:
I get it now. This is a real estate play. Freeways have changed cities in ways that are less than desirable. They cut off neighborhoods from the rest of the city. They are business-unfriendly, because they move traffic past commercial areas. And, of course, they contribute to sprawl and pollution. Rail changes cities in ways that are desirable. They combat sprawl by concentrating development around rail stations. The provide an opportunity for redeveloping deteriorating residential and commercial areas and adding value to the tax rolls. Freeways are better at moving people. Rail is better at moving civic values. This is why the business community in North Texas has thrown all of its weight behind this bill, and this is why it is going to pass, and Governor Perry is going to let it become law. It’s the oldest of power principles: Let the big dog eat.
But if Austin ever gets to vote on such a plan, I’ll never vote to let my gas tax money be used for rail.
What an abrupt change. He rattles of a list of benefits and then says he’ll never let his money go towards it. I see these sort of “arguments” all the time. My mother is a big proponent of them. It’s the “even though you and your friends want to take transit and this will make my experience driving better because you’re off the road, I’m going to vote against it on the off chance that this will eventually lead to me having to take transit” argument.
It’s amazing the phsycology of the human brain. And so hard to fight against these really base arguments. They seem to be ingrained at a really deep level that logic can’t touch.
So, there has long been talk about making the Riverside HEB into an HEB-Plus. My previous encounter with this sort of HEB was the Slaughter and Manchaca location. They basically took an HEB about the size of the Riverside store and added a little bit of space on it so they could fill it with Walmart style cheap stuff. I wasn’t really looking forward to the remodel until I met to pickup Stella from her grandparents at the Leander HEB-Plus a few weekends ago. It is visually appealing. It has a nice cafe. It does not look like a Walmart crammed into an HEB. So I was excited about getting an HEB-Plus at Riverside again. Julie says she won’t be visiting, but they’re building a bike path under Riverside so I’ll probably head out there once that’s done (and I finally purchase a helmet).
Then this week we drove by on the way to some theatre and noticed the Burger King is gone. My conversations about the HEB upgrade used to go like this:
Me: They’re going to upgrade the HEB at Riverside to an HEB-Plus.
Them: Where are they going to put it.
Me: They’re going to take over the parking lot behind the store.
Them: There’s a Burger King there.
And they always said it with finality. Like the fact there was a Burger King there meant that there could never be any change. Ever. So the Burger King is gone. And they have tons of construction permits and HR posters all over the place. It looks like they’re finally building it.
Here’s hoping for one of the nice stores. Coupled with light rail that HEB could probably become the HEB for central austinites who can’t afford Whole Foods. Does anyone else have any hope that they’ll build a nice store there?
It\’s available now. You can read their presentation.Lot\’s of nice pictures. Most of what I\’m seeing is really good. The anti-light rail people at Country Club Creek Trail seem like they didn\’t sway the opinions much. It\’s still one of the top priorities. I attended a meeting where there was talk about how light rail would bring in an undesirable element. Unless they\’re referring to rich yuppies I don\’t see what they\’re concerned about. If the element they\’re referring to is the element I think they\’re referring to, they\’d be better off rerouting the #7 away from Riverside drive.
Country Club Creek Trail is still a major part of the plan which is great. Once they get the trail under Riverside setup they\’ll have a great arterial for getting bike traffic from areas south of Oltorf into the commercial zones at Riverside and Pleasant Valley.
Modern architecture fares worse than traditional which is probably attributed to the fact that the participants were quite a bit older than the average Austinite.
The graph explaining what income groups people think should be represented is fascinating and representative of Austin in general I think:
I\’m glad the desire is there to keep the mix, and hopefully they\’ll be able to do so. But I hope no one\’s under the illusion that as many poor families will be housed there in the future. I honestly think that the mix of Moderate and High income is wishful thinking and that the High Income Only is more than likely where this is going. Lakefront property in Austin next to a light rail line is not going to be cheap.
I think one of the big issues we see time and time again is a wishful thinking on the part of advocates for the poor and middle income. We saw this with Mueller. There was this expectation that it really wouldn\’t be that popular. That rich people really wouldn\’t want to live in East Austin so it wouldn\’t be a big deal for low and middle income housing. I think we should be planning that anyone who makes less than $75k/year is not going to be able to find housing within a 10 minute walk of the Riverside corridor within ten years time. Setup our affordable housing plans with that in mind. I think this is going to move faster than anyone thinks. Those east riverside commercial slumlords have been holding onto their property specifically waiting for the transformation to start. They\’re going to sell the minute things look good. And the first half-mile looks like it will be transformed within a couple of years. If you like the Baby A\’s on riverside you might want to drink up.
If the light rail plan actually goes through, even Canyon Oaks might get a fresh can of paint and a couple hundred dollar hike in rent.
That said, I think the plan looks great. Now I can\’t wait for them to zone Oltorf for mixed use and start getting rid of all the ugly strip malls.
On an only lightly related note I found this great resource on a CapMetro blog today. It shows you every bus stop on a bus route, so you don\’t have to guess where the bus goes. It would be better if they interfaced with Google Street View, but still very nice.
So, I was thinking about how I personally could help to promote light rail. Far too often I hear people just regurgiating stuff like “CapMetro is ineffecient” and “all the buses run empty”. Obviously these are people who don’t know the facts or just choose to ignore them. But there’s a part of our brains that like to cling to these almost religious beliefs and defend them to the death.
So as I was running around my neighborhood this morning (not on trails, but some are due this Fall). I realized that we should try to get people excited about this route. Point out where it does go. Point out the other bus (and train) routes it intersects. Point out the new projects that are being built along its route. To that end I want to compile a list of cool places to live and work and go that are within a mile of this proposed route. I’m going to try to keep updating it. If you have cool places leave them in the comments.
Here’s the route again for reference:
View Larger Map
Here’s a density map from the chamber of commerce. A bit hard to read, but it proves that this route already goes through some of the most dense parts of Austin:
Arts (Wow, The Theater Community in Austin needs to get behind this. We’re only missing approx. 4 theaters)
Austin Museum of Art
Arts on Real
The Long Center
The Dougherty Arts Center
Bass Concert Hall
UT Lab Theater
East Side Cafe
Ladybird Lake Hike and Bike Trail
Little Stacy Park
Living (Trying just to list only new stuff here, and doing a poor jobs of getting actual names)
Four Seasons Residences
Star Riverside Condos
AMLI Residential Riverside Project
Sutton Co. Condos
Cypress Real Estate Advisors Mixed-Use Project on Lakeshore
W Hotel and Residences
The Paramount’s Loft Project
HEB on Riverside
Peter Pan Golf
Riverside Golf Course
The Convention Center
University of Texas
Dell Children’s Hospital
University of Texas
All local bus routes (1-37)
All flyer bus routes (I think)
Ok, back to work. You guys help me fill in the rest. I think this is making a pretty good case for light rail.
So I started writing a comment on M1EK’s analysis of the light rail plan, but it got to long, so I’m posting it here.
Riverside makes a lot of sense for the first rail route because it’s low hanging fruit.
- There’s plenty of space in the median to run rail lines. Probably the least disruption on this route of any major road in Austin. There just isn’t another road with as much traffic, and as much space to put rails.
This is awesome. They’re proposing light rail through my neck of the woods.
View Larger Map
Hopefully this won’t get killed by all the haters in the suburbs. Maybe by throwing them a bone in the case of commuter rail they’ll let those of us in central austin have light rail.
I’m actually hopeful about this. By going down Riverside there are no obstructionist Neighborhood Associations to get in the way, and a lot of new condo developers who would love this amenity. It will provide a quick and easy way for us to get to the long center (and the Dougherty Arts Center by proxy), the hike and bike trail, etc. And I’m sure they’ll rejigger a lot of the bus routes to meet up with it.
I know I shouldn’t get excited about it, but it would be a really good change for Austin. The last few times I’ve gone downtown at night I’ve noticed that parking is becoming a nightmare. The Long center costs $7/car. Which I suppose is normal if you’re seeing a $100 show. But if you’re seeing a $15 show in the small theater it’s a bit exorbitant. We really need something like this to keep people in downtown and the cars out.