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ATXboom Oct 1, 2007 10:00 PM

agree with Arby strong... those toll roads run right through employment sweet spots... More importantly are the 3 lane FREE access roads that empower everyone to get to the "sprawled out" areas easier.

austlar1 Oct 2, 2007 3:18 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by M1EK (Post 3085444)
And the poor people just hanging on in East Austin would like to stop subsidizing wealthier suburbanites' highways with their property and sales taxes. Yes, even the suburbanites in Manor are wealthy in comparison.



I'm not an expert on Phoenix - but the scatterplot makes it very difficult to believe your figures in general. Again, unless you can state that the definitions are the same for both, I'm not buying it (ref: urbanized area versus metropolitan area).

For instance, I just spent five minutes of my life that I'll never get back confirming that the TTI has Austin and Phoenix in different categories. Austin is in medium-sized cities; Phoenix is in large-sized cities. So whether or not Phoenix built more lane-miles is, as I suspected, a red herring - they're not even in the same category.

M1EK, you spend so many other minutes of your life telling everybody how wrong they are that you'll never miss these. You win on a technicality

austlar1 Oct 2, 2007 3:32 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by arbeiter (Post 3086069)
That's a bunch of baloney that the tolls are hurting the poor and lower middle classes. Much of the new suburban development that 130 is helping to engender is solidly middle-middle-class in price and nature, and a lot of those houses will be bought by people who work at Dell, other places in Round Rock, the airport, the semiconductor factories, Samsung, east side office parks, etc. The really poor parts of the eastside are still within easy driving distance of downtown via thoroughfares. And 130 doesn't really go where no other roads can, you have non-tolled options.

How can you say that. Even people with jobs at the new Samsung fab aren't pullilng down especially big bucks. Dell manufacturing locally is almost all done with contracted cheap labor. Even if these homeowners in Manor or elgin or Hutto have a combined household income of 60K, which is probably not the case for many or most of them, they are looking at mortgage, insurance, taxes, auto expenses, food, clothing, child care, etc. You can't tell me that 4 or 5 bucks a day in tolls isn't a big hit for families budgeted down to the last dime. The economic data for the zip codes in Manor, Hutto, etc. suggest that the areas are not affluent. Many of the people that bought new homes out there did so with sub-prime loans that are starting to show up as a major problem in those markets. I personally know one family that bought in Manor in one of the cheapie subdivisions near the new 130 road. She does work in sales for Dell bringing home a little over 30K, and he has just started a landscaping business and drives all over the place to earn a living. They have 2 young children. I know another young family in that same new subdivision. He works for a swimming pool maintainance business as a manager making about 30K. She has been sick with Crone's disease and can't work right now. They have enormous medical bills. These are not by any stretch of the imagination well-off people. They are very typical of the kind of residents that are making their way over to the new expanded east side. The tolls are going to make life that much more difficult for them and thousands like them.

The really poor parts of the old east side are rapidly disappearing. Gentrification is in full swing. Out in Manor or Elgin or DelValle, you can get new construction for upwards of $110,000, with more spacious homes plentiful for under 150K. Try finding anything at that price in the older close-in neighborhoods in the traditional east side. It does not exist any longer, except in the most run down and crime ridden areas. Given that choice it is easy to understand the appeal of these new neighborhoods.

austlar1 Oct 2, 2007 3:48 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by M1EK (Post 3085444)
And the poor people just hanging on in East Austin would like to stop subsidizing wealthier suburbanites' highways with their property and sales taxes. Yes, even the suburbanites in Manor are wealthy in comparison.



I'm not an expert on Phoenix - but the scatterplot makes it very difficult to believe your figures in general. Again, unless you can state that the definitions are the same for both, I'm not buying it (ref: urbanized area versus metropolitan area).

For instance, I just spent five minutes of my life that I'll never get back confirming that the TTI has Austin and Phoenix in different categories. Austin is in medium-sized cities; Phoenix is in large-sized cities. So whether or not Phoenix built more lane-miles is, as I suspected, a red herring - they're not even in the same category.

M1EK, you spend so many other minutes of your life telling everybody how wrong they are that you'll never miss these. You win on a technicality. Actually you don't. I just re-read your post. Big v/s medium sized OK, but as far as your notion that most of the new construcion in Phoenix is outside of the populated areas, you flat out lose. The 101 road connects Tempe with eastern Scottsdale with northern Phoenix with Glendale with IH10 west. This area has densities comparable to ANYTHING IN AUSTIN for most of its route. Similarly the 51 runs through fully populated areas in cnetral Phoenix and on out to densely developed areas in northern Phoenix. The 202 road is less densely developed, but when I flew into Phoenix a few weeks ago it was obvious that it too was attracting development. The 101 and 51 went where development had already taken place, development that got started back in the days of the speedy arterials

arbeiter Oct 2, 2007 5:49 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by austlar1 (Post 3087185)
How can you say that. Even people with jobs at the new Samsung fab aren't pullilng down especially big bucks. Dell manufacturing locally is almost all done with contracted cheap labor. Even if these homeowners in Manor or elgin or Hutto have a combined household income of 60K, which is probably not the case for many or most of them, they are looking at mortgage, insurance, taxes, auto expenses, food, clothing, child care, etc. You can't tell me that 4 or 5 bucks a day in tolls isn't a big hit for families budgeted down to the last dime. The economic data for the zip codes in Manor, Hutto, etc. suggest that the areas are not affluent. Many of the people that bought new homes out there did so with sub-prime loans that are starting to show up as a major problem in those markets. I personally know one family that bought in Manor in one of the cheapie subdivisions near the new 130 road. She does work in sales for Dell bringing home a little over 30K, and he has just started a landscaping business and drives all over the place to earn a living. They have 2 young children. I know another young family in that same new subdivision. He works for a swimming pool maintainance business as a manager making about 30K. She has been sick with Crone's disease and can't work right now. They have enormous medical bills. These are not by any stretch of the imagination well-off people. They are very typical of the kind of residents that are making their way over to the new expanded east side. The tolls are going to make life that much more difficult for them and thousands like them.

The really poor parts of the old east side are rapidly disappearing. Gentrification is in full swing. Out in Manor or Elgin or DelValle, you can get new construction for upwards of $110,000, with more spacious homes plentiful for under 150K. Try finding anything at that price in the older close-in neighborhoods in the traditional east side. It does not exist any longer, except in the most run down and crime ridden areas. Given that choice it is easy to understand the appeal of these new neighborhoods.

As an aside, I will say that i have Crohn's disease and understand how hard it is.

I really appreciate your care for the interests of lower-paid people in Austin, but I can't ignore what you've said, especially when I feel that the situation or facts are wrong. Yes, $4 or 5 in tolls a day would eat up poorer peoples' money, but it doesn't change the fact that

a) these tolls are not on roads that are ultimately the only way to get to cheap housing or to employment centers. you can take the frontage roads, which are free, or you can take the existing free roads, 95% of which already serve these areas fine. 130 was built to alleviate NAFTA-related traffic and to find a solution around the near impossibility of the expansion of IH-35 through central Austin. It was not built to alleviate eastside traffic, of which there is little compared to the rest of the metro area. It will end up being a catalyst for more sprawl, so it's creating its own future problems, but that's another discussion.

b) are not east-west roads except for 45. therefore, most commuting will still be done via traditional, existing, free roads. if anything, the expansion of 183 east of 35 has done more to stimulate the Hutto/Elgin/Del Valle corridor of cheap housing than 130. most scenarios of using 130 that I can think of would only result in marginal time benefit, and those would be 10-mile-plus commutes anyway, where the tolls only become an added burden to an already expensive commute. it is completely wrong to say that 130 being tolled would make many of these people's lives harder, if anything, more affluent commuters will take 130, freeing up the older roads to more traffic. most of the traffic crunch in these new bedroom communities are on roads like 79, 71 and 290, which are all way behind in plans for upgrade.

c) the housing affordability ratio in austin is among the lowest in the nation, at just over 3 x median wages. (lower meaning more affordable) if they're having a hard time entering the market of home ownership here, then they will likely have a tougher time in any other market except for some other southern cities, and places like san antonio and houston. and i bet in those cities, they'd be commuting much longer and further out, negating some of the benefits of slightly cheaper homes. the truth of the matter is, austin has a very favorable cost of living, even with the rise in housing prices. when you compare it to a new prefab subdivision in humble or conroe it might not, but that's a very skewed perception of the entire national housing picture.

d) these toll roads are simply a different way to present what are essentially the same costs to the taxpayer. it's either pay-per-use (where some pay in the form of tolls or everyone pays (in the former of higher gasoline taxes). the toll roads got built as quickly as they did because of their ability to skirt the normal political process. i can guarantee you that if they were built the traditional way, we wouldn't be having this conversation, because there would be no roads to argue about.

austlar1 Oct 2, 2007 8:56 AM

Thanks, Arbeiter, I appreciate your civil and thoughtful reply. I just want to make a few points, and then I need to back away from this topic. I get too involved in it for my personal comfort.

I realize that 130 was sold to the public as some sort of relief road necessitated by the increased NAFTA truck traffic. The reality is that it is already starting to function as a kind of outer eastern loop allowing local traffic off of 290 and 71 to scoot around to RR and over to Cedar Park/Leander or up to Georgetown without having to fight the traffic and lights on 183 or the frequent anytime of day or night traffic jams on 35. The northbound entrance to 130 at 71 in Del Valle just opened a few weeks ago, and the amount of traffic turning off 71 from BOTH directions onto 130 is jawdropping. It is clear that 130 is going to be a road used more by area residents than by through car and truck traffic. It is doubtful that truckers are going to want to fork over the really hefty tolls to use the new road unless forced to do so. Developers are eager to build housing in this corridor, and have already started. Most of these projects are not fancy and the price point is low. Buyers tend to be blue collar, trades people, low level state employees, medical workers, office park workers etc.. They tend to be "workers" as opposed to managers or professionals They do live pay check to paycheck,and the powers that be in Austin are hopeful that this new frontier will prove to be a land of "affordable" housing for this segment of the population. Meanwhile back in Central Austin affordable (by local standards) housing on the east and south sides is no longer so affordable. There are pockets of decent housing in the outlying parts of both the south and east side, but they are increasingly rare. Just check out the "real estate for sale" section of Craig's List to get a really good idea of what prices are like in A-town nowadays. I realize that compared to many parts of America, Austin seems a bargain. Perhaps, but people living here on modest incomes experience Austin as being quite expensive, and it strikes many of us (I am one of them, by the way) as unfair that the affluent sections of Austin have mostly free roadways at their disposal, especially when the original plans for the Austin road network called for freeways on the eastside, freeways to the airport from IH35, the eventual completion of 183 past Ben White as a freeway, 290 east as a freeway. Now the plan is to complete these projects as toll roads with no prospect of any of these road ever reverting to freeway. I would not object to 130 as a toll road, if these other roads were not also being included in the toll package. All together they constitute a situation where eastsiders have a choice to pay tolls or choke and fumein traffic on surface roads. I know that funding is problematic, but I submit to you that having politicians and non-elected officials make a decision of this magnitude without the consent of the electorate is wrong, wrong, wrong. Meanwhile the business dominated legislature and governor have conspired to convice the public that toll roads, especially toll roads operated by private concerns, are the only alternative. My final point is that toll roads will not contain sprawl in any meaningful way, so the idea that a toll road is somehow better because it will slow growth is pretty unrealistic.

M1EK Oct 2, 2007 12:55 PM

130 was always sold as a potential toll road. I remember when the bonds (for it, SH45N, and one segment of SH45S, I think) were floated, and some folks were asking why we still need to make these right-of-way 'donations' through general funds when it's going to have tolls on it (future projects have since promised to rebate those 'donations').

And the idea that eastsiders are forced to use toll roads is nonsense. The routes they would take into Austin itself aren't tolled (unless they live incredibly far out on 290) - the main impact of these tolls are going to be on NW Austinites going to the airport, for instance, or on new exurbanites going to work at Dell in Round Rock. These people aren't poor by any reasonable stretch of the imagination, and it's about time they started paying something closer to the cost of their choice to live out there.

M1EK Oct 2, 2007 12:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by austlar1 (Post 3087153)
M1EK, you spend so many other minutes of your life telling everybody how wrong they are that you'll never miss these. You win on a technicality

That's not a technicality. I said that the claim was made that Austin built more freeway miles during X years than any other medium-sized city; and you retorted with Phoenix. From the very beginning, I said I wasn't sure they were considered medium-sized, but I also pursued the logic branch where they _were_ just in case.

JAM Oct 2, 2007 5:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by austlar1 (Post 3087572)
Perhaps, but people living here on modest incomes experience Austin as being quite expensive, and it strikes many of us (I am one of them, by the way) as unfair that the affluent sections of Austin have mostly free roadways at their disposal,

This is the argument that I disagree with and do not feel it holds water. Each community has just as much disposable income. The "affluent" as you call them, spend their "big" paychecks on real estate and the higher associated taxes. In the end, they have about the same money set aside for transportation as the "non-affluent". They can't and don't want to afford paying the tolls anymore than people in lower priced real estate areas. Yes, one could argue they live there by choice, but so will the people who live out near 130. Just because they build it, doesn't mean they have to come. And let me also mention that a lot of people in central Austin have worked and saved their whole lives to be able to barely afford to live where they do. That doesn't make them rich, that makes them hard workers that saved some of their money along the way, probably giving up a lot of life's other pleasures along the way. They have also downsized from a McMansion in the burbs in order to afford it. Only a small percentage of the population is rich. The rest are just working for a living just like everyone else.

I don't like paying the toll any more than the next guy. However, I do want to get there, and am willing to pay the toll to get there. Right now, I refuse to leave during rush hour and don't even bother doing so. There is so much grid lock on I-35 or Mopac it is impossible to get anywhere. I wouldn't call that a free road at disposal - I call it trapped. Whose is trapping me? People who live in outlying area's heading home or heading into work. Not only do they use central Austin roads for free, but they get nice, brand new toll roads to drive home on as well. That doesn't seem fair. It would be nice to have a toll road built along side Mopac to help relieve all that congestion. Clogged roads are not good for anyone. More pollution, more fuel burned, more wasted time.

Maybe a fair way to do it would be to toll all Austin roads during rush hour. That way, people in outlying areas don't pay a toll during non-rush hour time, and they have a quick way to get around for free during non-rush hours. Its rush hour that causes the need for all these lanes. Most of the time, these roads just sit empty - what a waste.

austlar1 Oct 3, 2007 9:14 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by M1EK (Post 3087667)
130 was always sold as a potential toll road. I remember when the bonds (for it, SH45N, and one segment of SH45S, I think) were floated, and some folks were asking why we still need to make these right-of-way 'donations' through general funds when it's going to have tolls on it (future projects have since promised to rebate those 'donations').

And the idea that eastsiders are forced to use toll roads is nonsense. The routes they would take into Austin itself aren't tolled (unless they live incredibly far out on 290) - the main impact of these tolls are going to be on NW Austinites going to the airport, for instance, or on new exurbanites going to work at Dell in Round Rock. These people aren't poor by any reasonable stretch of the imagination, and it's about time they started paying something closer to the cost of their choice to live out there.

Nobody said 130 wasn't always supposed to be a toll road. 183 from IH 35 to 71 was NOT supposed to be a toll road. The new plans call for rebuilding as a toll road. Ditto for 71 from IH 35 to the airport. Ditto for 290 coming into town from 130. Where are the free roadways, other than service roads, going to be for what is likely to become the fastest growing part of the Austin area? I only wish Dell had enough jobs for all the folks that will be moving into the new "exurban" eastside. The people I see every day, myself included, trying to make our way around that neck of the woods are not well off by any stretch of the imagination. Most of us are about one paycheck away from some real trouble. Your bleeping tolls aren't gonna help one damn bit. Meanwhile, in the event you ever do find yourself in a car over in your cozy central locale needing to go somewhere further afield,, just hop on your free IH35 to points anywhere north and south, your free Mopac all the way to Parmer or Wm. Cannon, your free Ben White out to Oak Hill (soon to be tolled? I doubt it.), or your free Research 183 westbound from IH35 all the way to bleeping 620. Congratulate yourself for being so damn prescient in your choice of neighborhoods and lifestyles. I'll be stuck in traffic and construction chaos over on the eastern side of town with all of my supposedly well off neighbors, enduring years of inconvenience as the new roadways are built, armed with the knowledge that once they are built people like me are going to get stuck with the tab. Who paid for your damn roads?

austlar1 Oct 3, 2007 9:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by M1EK (Post 3087675)
That's not a technicality. I said that the claim was made that Austin built more freeway miles during X years than any other medium-sized city; and you retorted with Phoenix. From the very beginning, I said I wasn't sure they were considered medium-sized, but I also pursued the logic branch where they _were_ just in case.

And your logic brought you to a dead wrong conclusion, scatterplots and all.:banana:

austlar1 Oct 3, 2007 9:43 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by M1EK (Post 3087667)
130 was always sold as a potential toll road. I remember when the bonds (for it, SH45N, and one segment of SH45S, I think) were floated, and some folks were asking why we still need to make these right-of-way 'donations' through general funds when it's going to have tolls on it (future projects have since promised to rebate those 'donations').

And the idea that eastsiders are forced to use toll roads is nonsense. The routes they would take into Austin itself aren't tolled (unless they live incredibly far out on 290) - the main impact of these tolls are going to be on NW Austinites going to the airport, for instance, or on new exurbanites going to work at Dell in Round Rock. These people aren't poor by any reasonable stretch of the imagination, and it's about time they started paying something closer to the cost of their choice to live out there.

By "Austin itself" I gather you mean central Austin. Unfortunatley only about 10% of area jobs are located in central Austin. The rest are scattered all over the place,and the poor slobs that "chose" to live "out there" want to travel to work on express highways, just like all the new downtown residents or central Austin residents who commute to work "out there" want to drive express highways. The intown resident gets to choose among a variety of crowded but free roadways. In a few years the folks "out there" on the east side will not have any free express roads, and what little we have now is substandard at best. I don't think your imagination can stretch far enough to understand why people might feel the need to live "out there". Most of the people I know that live "out there" would love to live in a nice central neighborhood like yours, but they can't affort it.

M1EK Oct 3, 2007 12:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by austlar1 (Post 3089830)
Who paid for your damn roads?

Austin did. Austin's also paid for most of the roads that Round Rock, Cedar Park, Leander, etc. use. Cities have been net donors of transportation dollars in Texas for decades; and the toll road trend only reverses this a small amount.

The reason living out there seems so cheap is because so many of us "in here" are paying so many of your bills for you.

JAM Oct 3, 2007 5:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by austlar1 (Post 3089842)
Most of the people I know that live "out there" would love to live in a nice central neighborhood like yours, but they can't affort it.

Many can afford it. They are just not willing to downsize the brand new McMansion, lose the big yard with storage shed in back and get rid of the gas guzzling SUV.

KevinFromTexas Oct 3, 2007 6:44 PM

Yep. You'd be surprised how much you can save by not having a car. No repairs, no gas, no insurance, no inspections. There's probably more, but those are the big ones. Not to mention buying a new one and having monthly payments...

'07 Chevy Suburban you say? Get ready for 75 dollar fill ups at the pump. That's 300 bucks a month right there, probably on top of another 300 for montly payments.

hookem Oct 4, 2007 5:28 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KevinFromTexas (Post 3090537)
'07 Chevy Suburban you say? Get ready for 75 dollar fill ups at the pump. That's 300 bucks a month right there, probably on top of another 300 for montly payments.

Absolutely true... it's amazing where people will spend their disposable income. And the payments on that 07 Suburban are more like $600, probably.

I know you were talking about not owning a car altogether, but I thought I'd just throw in my own personal experience, not about living downtown per se. Just about how you can live where you want if you are willing to save and plan.

I only purchased cars outright, meaning my vehicles were always about 5-10 years old. My current vehicle is 9 years old, and I've had it 4 years. I didn't have to pay comprehensive insurance, only liability, and no car payments.

Furthermore, the first house I bought was a duplex. Lived in one side, mortgage paid by the other. I know it's not so easy to find property with that kind of cash flow these days, but it was possible at the time (1996). I still own it, and with the money I saved having net $0 housing payment for years, I was able to purchase a sf home in the Westlake area about 10 yrs later. I'm not rich, but make a decent salary. I AM getting killed by property taxes, though. Even if I had no mortgage, the property tax per month works out to owning about 2 of those '07 Suburbans: gas, payments and insurance included.

Still, I feel very fortunate. I also agree with JAM that many other people could afford to live where they want, if they are willing to manage their money accordingly. If you want to drive new cars and live in a fancy apartment when you are 21, fine -- it's a choice you've made to exploit your earning potential early. Just don't complain when you are making the median income 10 years later, and can't afford anything but the 'burbs.

IMO, very few people get rich quick. However, everyone can get rich slow.

austlar1 Oct 4, 2007 8:57 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JAM (Post 3090375)
Many can afford it. They are just not willing to downsize the brand new McMansion, lose the big yard with storage shed in back and get rid of the gas guzzling SUV.

Not many McMansions in this neck of the woods, Bubba. Most of those are out on the west side of town where there is at least some access to freeways. This side of town is the land of the McCrackerbox or the McManufactured home, and the SUV is likely to be a 10 year old pickup or a previously enjoyed Carolla or Buick. We do, however, have lots of storage sheds.

austlar1 Oct 4, 2007 9:11 AM

..

JAM Oct 4, 2007 1:24 PM

Overall, even though I don't enjoy paying the tolls, I'm glad they are coming. I work 2 jobs, sometimes 3, and my wife also works 2 jobs. We can't be sitting in traffic, otherwise it wouldn't be possible. We don't even have time for children, let alone sitting around in traffic. I hope they put some tolls in central Austin also. If you were "stuck" in my position, you'd probably like the tolls too.

JAM Oct 5, 2007 4:27 PM

Had to head east of town yesterday, down 290. This discussion made me take a closer look at the development going on out 290 from Austin all the way to Elgin. There are big box houses going up all along that route, ranging from the 100's to the 200's according to the signs. As marketing goes, I'm sure they get more expensive than that. 290 is going to continue to become a bigger problem as these burbs spring up. Heading east at 9:00AM traffic was heavy. I forgot to take a look at west bound traffic. 290 is going to need to be a limited access freeway in order to manage all that traffic - 2 lanes is not cutting it right now, and it only continues to get worse. Even TX 130 doesn't help if your heading to Houston, because once you hit 290, your stuck in traffic until you get a few miles past Elgin.

On the way out, I took 183 to 290. 183 was empty for the most part. Compared to 290 anyway.

On the way back, I hit TX 130 south to the airport. Its still FREE! I set a new speed record in my car - had a blast! Drove to the airport in record time. And then..... traffic. Its really too bad they are not going to complete 71 all the way to TX 130. Traffic on 71 sucks. Coming from Central Austin, I'm not convinced TX 130 is going to buy us anything unless your headed to Dallas or SA. People bound for Houston are still screwed.


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