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M1EK
Austin, TX
Transportation blogger from Austin
Interests: Transit, rail, bus, bike, bile
Recent Activity
"If you’re of the mind that we should support a better light rail route – perhaps along Guadalupe-Lamar, also a topic amongst the transit wonk set – then you clearly are not familiar with the large base of voters on the West Side of Austin who are not going to want this construction and system in their backyard. Face facts." This is a complete and utter misrepresentation. Businesses and neighborhoods along the route have supported efforts to get it going again; and residents in the area were the strongest YES votes in 2000. Joah, there are plenty of arguments you can make for your position that are actually legitimate. Please don't keep making illegitimate ones.
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Joah, you implicitly granted Project Connect the benefit of the doubt by talking about their process as if it was above reproach. I'm sure by now you've seen the large community of Austin transit advocates and experts who have made cases that it was far from either, so you should not be surprised or upset when we take issue with that characterization of the process. A bad process can still output a good plan, too, but that's a separate discussion.
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Your characterization of the Project Connect process is inaccurate - and I didn't see you at any of the meetings I attended. The route was predetermined; the process to 'pick it' was a sham where there were various thumbs on the scales the entire time, and at the end, when the public refused to be convinced, a fait accompli was presented that took Lamar off the table. As for where the demand will be in the future - it is possible there will be more demand in the future on the Highland corridor than on Lamar, but it is very unlikely given the amount of density proposed in even their most ambitious plans. It's just not enough bodies in buildings to deliver to trains to make up for the huge existing demonstrated (not hypothetical) on Lamar/Guadalupe. Even then, that would be OK if Highland was just "good enough" (meaning that ridership would be high enough to make it a money-earner compared to bus service, so we'd eventually be able to add more service elsewhere). But it's not going to be good enough; it's going to be a low-ridership drag on the system's finances just like the Red Line is, and that means it will hurt transit overall (buses will be cut; no more rail lines will be built).
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"Perfect is the enemy of progress" is almost as bad as "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good". Both are typically deployed to support projects which, in fact, are not progress at all - and actually make things worse. Austin's transit wonks have made a long and detailed case why this rail plan makes things worse, not better. To ignore that is foolish. To characterize it as waiting for "perfect" is not just foolish but fundamentally dishonest.
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Form-based code is just activist flypaper. Without changes to height, it's meaningless (we have enough "get commercial fairly close to housing" options today with the infill options and VMU; that's NOT the problem)
Toggle Commented May 15, 2014 on Compatibility: The Map at Austin Contrarian
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The tech economy leads to more single people with more disposable income bidding up the price of apartments (including in the core), which leads some others to be outbid for those living arrangements and instead moved into the shared housing market. Since these neighborhoods were the prime actors in preventing more multifamily from coming to the market in the last few decades, it is difficult to take their claims now that they support true MF seriously. Or to care that the inevitable effects of fighting supply are coming home to roost.
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What we have that most towns don't is a huge university AND non-university growth. The people who think Austin is a college town are crazy; the high tech corridor along 360 and 183 might as well be in Silicon Valley or Seattle or Boston for all the connection it has to UT. I went to another huge state school in a TRUE college town, and there, the primary issue would be kids ruining neighborhoods. But in Austin, a ton of the people in these so-called "stealth dorms" aren't even students.
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You're assuming they're driving families with kids out of the urban core. Chris' data and Julio's data indicate otherwise. And, by the way, I learned the other day that neither of the duplex units across from Lee currently occupied are being rented to students; one is a professional couple and the other is a family with a kid(!) And at its simplest level, it's because the residents of the stealth dorms, if they're all students, are much more likely to use means of transportation other than the car than families with kids are. I wish this wasn't the case, but it is. And it makes financial sense too - when I have to pay one bus fare versus one parking bill, the bus wins; but when I have to pay four bus fares versus one parking bill, the car wins.
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Ellie Hanlon from the pro-limits side threw this back in response: http://dallascityhall.com/committee_briefings/briefings1108/QOL_boardingHouseUpdate_11032008.pdf (referred to slide 24)
Toggle Commented Feb 13, 2014 on Fact checking occupancy limits at Austin Contrarian
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This is the kind of analysis that city staff should be doing more of, or should feel free from pressure to not publicize. Thanks for your service to the city.
Toggle Commented Feb 13, 2014 on Fact checking occupancy limits at Austin Contrarian
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Sounds like you need to be introduced to the twitter account JMVC_AWX
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This Houston "monstrosity" is that way because of, not despite a lack of, laws in Houston that mandate suburban development. In this case, it's mandatory parking minimums, which are just as strict if not more in Houston. You've also got minimum lot size rules, street frontage rules, and other assorted bits and pieces which add up to, in most places, just as much of a suburban zoning code as you get in every other major city in this country. Imagine if the developer in Montrose had not had to provide N parking spaces (they might still have due to market preference, but I'm not as sure as others that they would have). Imagine a 4-story building instead, with people parking on the street (the horror!)
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No, I don't want other neighborhoods to change according to my whim - I just recognize that we get better results in the long-run when neighborhoods are allowed to change as per the individual whims of their owners. That's how we ended up with most good neighborhoods - NOT through planning that bans everything but one common suburban form.
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You've made this claim before but not provided details. There is no way I'm aware of to bypass McMansion by designating units as condos (in my understanding, any property which allows condominiums would have to have been zoned MF, to which McMansion doesn't apply). Can you clarify?
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This betrays a misunderstanding of the key point. The nice central neighborhoods are illegal under current zoning, which mandates nothing but suburban design. The LDC is not about protecting freedom, or producing good neighborhoods; it's a Frankenstein which evolved over the years from originally mandating suburban sprawl to this thing which is also intended to keep certain central neighborhoods from ever changing (even if it's just the kind of change that happened for decades in other central neighborhoods and produced very good results).
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Isn't the loopiness/turniness of some of these routes a somewhat inevitable unintended consequence of bragging for so many years about buses supposed flexibility?
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It's really simple, Tom: For every 20 units that the market justified, you and your cronies at the ANC stopped 19 from being built. The remaining 1 unit that IS being built slows the growth of housing prices a bit, but nowhere near as well as the other 19 would have.
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Yeah - it picks up at the Drag. Must be because of the 2-way. Couldn't be because it's right next to UT, and it couldn't be because south of there it's infested with tracts whose development has been stunted due to Capital View Corridors. I've walked up and down both Guadalupe and Lavaca, as well as Lamar, and the entire length of Guad/Lamar is preferable to the similar length of Lamar in roughly the same area. The first part of Lamar that got nice to walk on after redevelopment started in the 1990s was between 5th and 6th. By your logic, it must be because of the 1-way traffic, right?
Toggle Commented Aug 23, 2013 on Austin's grid circa 1940 at Austin Contrarian
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If it were ever only that simple, it'd be worth trying just to prove it either way. But you know darn well it's not. Probably a million bucks just to change two streets - restripe, put up new traffic lights, change curb cuts in various places, etc. Your insistence that Lamar is a nicer place to walk than the 1-way streets downtown is charming. I don't know whether you really believe that or not, but it's just precious either way. Those here who might be tempted to believe him, please look on Google Streetview at Guadalupe and Lavaca around 2nd street (where Great Streets has been in play) versus Lamar at, say, 8th St. Again, if 2-way is the magic tonic, then we can attribute all those nice benches and buildings-up-to-the-sidewalk on G&L to 1-way, and we can blame all the driveways and surface parking on Lamar on 2-way, right?
Toggle Commented Aug 23, 2013 on Austin's grid circa 1940 at Austin Contrarian
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Added as well (turned out when I switched to WP a year or two ago, I lost my blogroll; finally setting it back up now).
Toggle Commented Aug 23, 2013 on A New-ish Blog at Austin Contrarian
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I find Guadalupe and Lavaca more safe AND better as a pedestrian - I can drive significantly faster on Lamar, and the pedestrian environment is better on Guadalupe/Lavaca. Again, if you're going to play apples vs oranges, I will too: I'll take Guadalupe and Lavaca, which don't even have great streets treatments, over Lamar any day of the week. And since we're ignoring "all else being equal", I'm going to assume the 1-way nature of the street is why they're so good for pedestrians. 1-way traffic must be what attracted so many buildings closer to the sidewalk and 2-way traffic must be what attracted so much more driveways and surface parking to Lamar. Since Guad/Lamar are 1-way now and superior, I'm going to claim that converting Lamar to a 1-way couplet would attract better streetscape, just because. Hey, that's the way you're doing it - I should be able to do the same.
Toggle Commented Aug 23, 2013 on Austin's grid circa 1940 at Austin Contrarian
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Lamar would be safer if it were two one-way streets separated by a block, all else being equal. Or even if each one-way street was 3 lanes rather than 2. The combination of Guadalupe and Lavaca today, in other words, is safer than Lamar. Even with those lights 'synchronized so traffic moves quickly and efficiently out of downtown'. Urbanism does not require 2-way streets. This claim of yours falls on its face when I think of all the great cities of the world with tons of 1-way streets in them.
Toggle Commented Aug 22, 2013 on Austin's grid circa 1940 at Austin Contrarian
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Sounds no worse than what it was like in 1996. Still awful, just cars going two directions. Again, I'd take any number of 1-way streets downtown instead. Or, if you want to play the apples and oranges game, when I moved to Clarksville in 1997, I walked on the Lamar-Mopac section of W 6th all the time and it was far nicer than Cesar Chavez is, even today. (although it, and especially W 5th, is much nicer now). What I see is that economic conditions, traffic signals, sidewalks, and decisions to loosen stupid zoning have far more to do with making a corridor a nice place to walk than the direction of the cars do.
Toggle Commented Aug 21, 2013 on Austin's grid circa 1940 at Austin Contrarian
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OK, I finally found it. It would have been nice for you to cite it. Buried in a story about converting streets downtown here: http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/vol15/issue48/pols.twoway.html is this: In 1989, the city council voted to reconvert First and Second Streets east of I-35 to two-way. Former City Councilmember Robert Barnstone says that Public Works presented a report predicting all sorts of problems, including massive traffic tie-ups. Instead, traffic flows smoothly, and businesses saw increased sales on the commercial corridor of East First, while East Second residential dwellers saw reduced speeds and a safer street, notes Barnstone. I withdraw the claim that CC was never converted east of I-35 and apologize for the related accusations. I still don't find it particularly relevant; this wasn't the same kind of corridor being discussed downtown (no commercial uses existed on 2nd), and the traffic flow issues there are different (CC is a 2-lane 2-way street where cars turning through oncoming traffic have good visibility - so I don't see any safety issues here like I do on Lamar, for instance). And the supposed renaissance that occured here is penny ante stuff compared to 2nd street - I didn't see the area as particularly vibrant when I moved here in 1996; it's only in the last decade or so that it's turned around. General economic conditions have more to do with CC becoming more pleasant, in other words, than this conversion do - every street in downtown, even the 1-way streets, is much more pleasant now than it was in 1996.
Toggle Commented Aug 21, 2013 on Austin's grid circa 1940 at Austin Contrarian
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There is no evidence anywhere on the internet of this. The closest I can find to your 1989 contention is this site: http://www.terrain.org/unsprawl/19/ which talks about a study for Great Streets starting in 1989. No combination of cesar chavez 1989 austin (with/without boulevard) found anything else relevant. Searching for cesar chavez austin converted and nothing else relevant pops up either - except for http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_State_Highway_Loop_343, which claims that Between 1978 and 2008, a segment of Cesar Chavez Street in downtown Austin was one-way eastbound. Westbound traffic on Loop 343 was diverted to Second and Third Streets before merging back onto Cesar Chavez Street at . In 2008, as part of a larger public works project, the City of Austin converted Cesar Chavez Street back to two-way traffic along its entire length.[2] Note this talks about 'in downtown'. East of I-35 would not be 'in downtown'. While I suppose there's a possibility your recollection is correct, I find it far more likely that you're forgetting your east and west. For instance, if you are to be believed that CC was 1-way east of I-35, tell me what the other half of the couplet was. The closest streets that actually cross I-35 are 6th street to the north and Holly St to the south. Which one of those was the westbound partner to CC's eastbound 1-way stretch which supposedly existed east of I-35?
Toggle Commented Aug 21, 2013 on Austin's grid circa 1940 at Austin Contrarian
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