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paulsjv Sep 3, 2007 2:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by M1EK (Post 3045734)
3. The right hand of Cap Metro knows they won't - and has projected ridership at 1500/day (about 10% of what the 2000 projections were for light rail; about 5% of what the most recent LRT systems have been able to pull off in year one).

Okay so I'll bite. If this is the situation then why in the world did light rail fail in 2000?

RobDSM Sep 3, 2007 4:01 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by M1EK (Post 3045734)
1. Cap Metro knows people won't walk from the Convention Center to most of downtown (and obviously not to UT and the Capitol). So that puts them ahead of most of the wishful-thinkers here. However,

2. The left hand of Cap Metro thinks that many people who aren't willing to ride the direct express buses today will ride shuttle buses from the train station to their destination (and once again on the way back). Meanwhile,

3. The right hand of Cap Metro knows they won't - and has projected ridership at 1500/day (about 10% of what the 2000 projections were for light rail; about 5% of what the most recent LRT systems have been able to pull off in year one).

Just for the moment, let's ignore the downtown/UT riders and assume that they will or will not decide to transfer to a bus. I want to know who else would want to ride this? I used to work over by the #3 stop, and there is nothing over there worth stopping for. Are they trying to encourage development in East Austin in order to boost the eventual ridership? It just doesn't make any sense to me why they would even bother with this, knowing that it might make them look even worse than they already do in the public's eyes.

Saddle Man Sep 3, 2007 6:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by paulsjv (Post 3045767)
Okay so I'll bite. If this is the situation then why in the world did light rail fail in 2000?

It failed because of stupid and misinformed voters. It certainly didn't help that Rob Lippincott, the owner of Guero's, did everything he could to kill the light on South Congress. Oh, it would have disrupted his business. Boo-fuckin-hoo. Will he campaign again when it comes time to repave South Congress? I doubt it. He and his business would have greatly benefited from the light rail. Come on people. If you want omelettes, we're going to have to break some eggs. So he, along with his myopic vision, are the reason I won't go to Guero's. Well that, and the food sucks.

M1EK Sep 3, 2007 7:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by paulsjv (Post 3045767)
Okay so I'll bite. If this is the situation then why in the world did light rail fail in 2000?

CM was getting ready for an election in May or November of 2001. Krusee forced them to go early, and do so in an election where the suburban Republican vote would be at its highest (because of W). Thus, all the stars were aligned against it:

1. They didn't know for sure which streets it'd go down in a couple places (because they were forced to the polls before being done)

2. The opposition's message is simple - and works great when people are being shown a hazy route with no real details

3. The rednecks were already out at the polls

Despite all of this, it still lost by about 1500 votes, which is less than 1%. It passed in the city of Austin. Revisionist history by people like Lyndon Henry (and "SecretAgentMan" aside), a scaled-back starter segment would easily have passed in 2004 - but by then, CM had new leaders who don't really want to build rail - and Krusee found a way to get some rail built out to Round Rock someday without having to do anything nice for the hippies in Central Austin (and without his Round Rock constituents actually having to pay any taxes for it, either).

M1EK Sep 3, 2007 7:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kingkirbythegreat (Post 3046011)
It failed because of stupid and misinformed voters. It certainly didn't help that Rob Lippincott, the owner of Guero's, did everything he could to kill the light on South Congress. Oh, it would have disrupted his business. Boo-fuckin-hoo. Will he campaign again when it comes time to repave South Congress? I doubt it. He and his business would have greatly benefited from the light rail. Come on people. If you want omelettes, we're going to have to break some eggs. So he, along with his myopic vision, are the reason I won't go to Guero's. Well that, and the food sucks.

Likewise, I will never eat at Texas Chili Parlor again for the same reason. Well, the food there didn't suck.

M1EK Sep 3, 2007 7:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RobDSM (Post 3045828)
Just for the moment, let's ignore the downtown/UT riders and assume that they will or will not decide to transfer to a bus. I want to know who else would want to ride this? I used to work over by the #3 stop, and there is nothing over there worth stopping for. Are they trying to encourage development in East Austin in order to boost the eventual ridership? It just doesn't make any sense to me why they would even bother with this, knowing that it might make them look even worse than they already do in the public's eyes.

Like I've said, some of CM's leadership is anti-rail, and is convinced that they can end it for good with this. Others actually drank their own Kool-Aid and think this can actually work. Still others actually bought the pig-in-a-poke pushed by Lyndon Henry, Dave Dobbs, SecretAgentMan, and their ilk ("pass commuter rail and then work to get light rail") which as I've detailed is completely impossible anyways (commuter rail precludes light rail from happening).

NormalgeNyus Sep 3, 2007 8:13 PM

why are they so focused on the route coming from cedar park? it seems more people complain about the traffic on ih -35 so the best and first route should be going up to pflugerville round rock and georgetown . i know cedar park and leander are fast growing also but i do not yet see 183 in bad enough shape to need an alternative to the free way

M1EK Sep 3, 2007 8:59 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by NormalgeNyus (Post 3046106)
why are they so focused on the route coming from cedar park? it seems more people complain about the traffic on ih -35 so the best and first route should be going up to pflugerville round rock and georgetown . i know cedar park and leander are fast growing also but i do not yet see 183 in bad enough shape to need an alternative to the free way

Leander (and, when light rail was being floated, Cedar Park) are in Capital Metro, while Round Rock and Georgetown weren't and aren't (Pflugerville was, until a few years ago). CM also already owns the railway heading up to Leander, while Union Pacific owns the one going up to Round Rock.

M1EK Sep 3, 2007 9:14 PM

Oh, and the UP line terminates at Seaholm (just as bad if not worse for downtown/state/UT workers as is the Convention Center). And on the UP line, there's zero chance of freight being pushed to the wee hours anytime soon, so they'd probably have to use true heavy rail vehicles (worse, even, than the DMUs on the Leander line - i.e. they will never be able to corner).

DrewDizzle Sep 4, 2007 1:42 PM

That map showing the AUS-SA commuter rail makes me vomit in my mouth. Just terrible use of prime rail real estate.

JAM Sep 4, 2007 3:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by M1EK (Post 3046087)
Despite all of this, it still lost by about 1500 votes, which is less than 1%. It passed in the city of Austin. Krusee found a way to get some rail built out to Round Rock someday without having to do anything nice for the hippies in Central Austin (and without his Round Rock constituents actually having to pay any taxes for it, either).

What cities were involved in the light rail vote? Why did Austin not take on a smaller starter line w/o surrounding cities.

This anti-rail talk about RR and Krusee make me think even less of RR than I already did -what a bland, boring part of the ATX metro. If I ever hear someone from RR talk about how ugly Houston is I start rolling on the ground laughing.

M1EK Sep 4, 2007 4:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JAM (Post 3047110)
What cities were involved in the light rail vote? Why did Austin not take on a smaller starter line w/o surrounding cities.

Capital Metro is the transit agency - not "Austin", and CM has to let everybody that is in their service area (and thus pays taxes) vote. When I was on the UTC, I floated a resolution which would have demanded that Cap Metro provide some rail service to central Austin or explore withdrawing from CM's service area - it died for lack of a second; although a few months later I heard from commissioners who regretted their decision after further studying the craptacular plate of subsidizing-suburbia we were served up.

JAM Sep 4, 2007 4:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by M1EK (Post 3047125)
Capital Metro is the transit agency - not "Austin", and CM has to let everybody that is in their service area (and thus pays taxes) vote.

I'm a bit confused, I thought it was mentioned above that RR is not in CM? I'm trying to figure out how RR could have controlled the vote on light rail if they were not in CM?

"Leander (and, when light rail was being floated, Cedar Park) are in Capital Metro, while Round Rock and Georgetown weren't and aren't (Pflugerville was, until a few years ago)"

RobDSM Sep 4, 2007 5:24 PM

I find this interesting. My parents and others I know who live in NW Austin were a part of that light rail election.

It is my understanding from them, and that's all I can go by, that their neighborhood had been recently annexed by the City of Austin, and the majority of the taxpayers there were not happy about it at all. I have no poll to prove it, but I grew up there, and I can believe it. They have described it to me on many occasions as being forced into the city and forced to pay city taxes, but without any real increase in services. I haven't talked with them about it in a while, so those feelings may or may not have changed.

Consequently, shortly after this annexation came the 2000 light rail election. I remember seeing yard signs in that neighborhood that were anti-rail. People in general were really hot about having been annexed, and there was some real commitment to shoot down council members, light rail, and any new taxes being forced on them. I don't remember the exact numbers, but I do remember seeing the results of the light rail election in the paper, and my parents' newly annexed neighborhood had very solidly rejected it--by enough margin in fact, that it would appear that light rail would have succeeded had they not been allowed to vote.

I thought it was funny at the time. I'm not laughing about this craptacular commuter rail now, though, and I'm sure they aren't either. As lousy a value to them as light rail might have been, they would probably see it as a better value than this commuter rail, in spite of the much higher price tag of light rail.

M1EK Sep 4, 2007 7:44 PM

Rob, your parents were in the Cap Metro service area already, in all likelihood (it includes portions of unincorporated Travis & Williamson). And the taxes wouldn't have gone up; and, don't get me started on bitching from suburbanites about annexation ("waaah, we can't be parasites any more").

JAM, "Round Rock" didn't do anything to light rail; but their state rep (Mike Krusee) wrote the law that kneecapped it by forcing the election in 2000; then forcing elections only in Novembers of even-numbered years (bills that apply only to Cap Metro, not to any other transit agency in the state, by the way). The obvious long-term goals were to get more money for highways (this happened) and get rail service up to Round Rock without his constituents having to pay for it (this is still possible - you guys who think this line can be expanded to better serve Austin aren't paying attention to the announced "next steps" they plan on taking if they are allowed to).

arbeiter Sep 4, 2007 10:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by paulsjv (Post 3045767)
Okay so I'll bite. If this is the situation then why in the world did light rail fail in 2000?

Several reasons, but the main reason is that Austin is a very provincial, inward-thinking place when it comes to urban development. What many see as a progressive idea (community-level activism and decision-making) turned out to be Austin's undoing; letting ersatz hippies with big bank accounts cry foul and NIMBY is not progressive in the slightest. In fact, it's really downright pathetic how many of Austin's central neighborhoods pretend to be progressive when what they're really trying to protect is some kind of gaussian blur bungalow nirvana of the past.

So you didn't have the central wards entirely on board with this. You had South Congress business owners whining that the construction would affect their business combined with many other neighborhood activists complaining that it would ruin their quality of life.

Combine that with a fairly disengaged college voting population and ambivalence in the suburban sectors of Austin and it's no wonder it failed. In fact, it was the very moment I realized that Austin was more suburb than city and wasn't quite ready or willing to take a step into the future. Instead, it became overstretched, oversprawled, and NOW people are wondering what the hell happened.

RobDSM Sep 5, 2007 8:20 PM

Light rail failed for many reasons, perhaps the biggest one being that most people felt that it would have been a Cap Metro boondoggle that would have wasted a lot of tax money. Face it, light rail would not make any noticeable dent in traffic congestion, and most people would never be riding it on a daily basis. Why would they want to vote for something so expensive that has such little value to them?

In spite of the shortcomings, I would personally vote for it today. I'm not so gullible to believe that my commute would be shorter on Mopac or 35, but I do see its benefits as far as promoting a different growth pattern along the line. I would like to see more densely populated areas that are less dependent on cars, even if it is confined to just a few corridors of the city. I would like that choice to be there someday. To me, that's what it's all about, but for others, thinking out decades is of no interest to them or their wallet. I can't really blame them.

I personally think it will take something catastrophic, some sort of a major and continued energy shortage, to make a real dent in our current patterns of growth and to make people look towards dense cities and public transportation. It will take a lot to make people say, "I want to ride that," instead of, "I hope everyone else will ride that."

arbeiter Sep 5, 2007 8:55 PM

I think that's one of the things that sets Austin apart from some other cities its size - namely Portland. Ask many liberal central Austinites and they'd be hard pressed to think of themselves as more conservative or inward thinking than a Portlander, but the truth of the matter is, you've got two cities of similar metropolitan size, and one has been walking the walk for 25 years. Austin's quixotic nature meant that it just shrugged and started flailing its arms when major population growth hit - and as a result, we went from being a fairly pleasant college town, to a fairly pleasant college town surrounded on three sides by a hybrid of suburban San Antonio with the employment pattern of, say, San Jose. I challenge anyone to argue that Austin's suburban landscape isn't anything but typical and average.

Portland's MAX has 100,000 daily riders. Look at Calgary, look at Minneapolis, look at cities where it's butt-clinchingly cold, and they've got excellent ridership numbers. Even Dallas isn't doing too bad for what it is - I know people who live in Richardson in mainstream suburbia who ride DART to work every day. It's possible to change things, but instead Austin turned inward instead of looked forward. It will take an entire generation to fix what's been done. And, M1EK will tell you (many times, over and over), that commuter rail is more trouble than it's worth and only a veneer when we need to have solid wood.

M1EK Sep 5, 2007 9:11 PM

Commuter rail is more like starting to build a new house and discovering halfway through that you've built it out of asbestos and lead. You have to completely tear it down and start over before you can accomplish anything worthwhile - it can't be fixed; it can't be improved; it can't be extended; it can't be supplemented; it has to be eliminated first.

JAM Sep 6, 2007 12:37 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by M1EK (Post 3048881)
Commuter rail is more like starting to build a new house and discovering halfway through that you've built it out of asbestos and lead. You have to completely tear it down and start over before you can accomplish anything worthwhile - it can't be fixed; it can't be improved; it can't be extended; it can't be supplemented; it has to be eliminated first.

I'm not convinced about that. There are a few cities that I can think of that have commuter and light rail, Dallas, Chicago, London, Bay Area, I'm sure the list goes on. Light rail would be a great way to make your way around the core of Austin. Commuter rail would be a great way for folks who live in Leander to rail their way to work downtown Austin, albeit, the stop is more than 1/4 mile from many of the office buildings. I'm having trouble seeing Leander, Cedar Park or Round Rock voting for light rail in the near future, because they are so far away, it could never serve their needs, why would they want to pay for it. Central Austin is the only area dense enough to justify light rail at this point in time. Realistically, it seems Austin will need to pull light rail off all by herself. Is that possible with a starter line, or do these other cities get to vote it down anyway?


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