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Thread: NRB -- Proposition 1: Light Rail debate

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    cmc
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    NRB -- Proposition 1: Light Rail debate

    I am on the fence on this topic, but I'm leaning towards voting against Prop 1. I'd like to hear y'all's opinions.

    When even the Austin Chronicle staff and Travis County Democrats can't agree internally agree on voting Yes for Prop 1 . . . it makes you wonder.

    I love rail in other cities (like Portland, Washington DC, Atlanta, NYC, Vancouver, etc. (and of course Europe), but for this plan, I'm tending to agree that it does way too little for too much money.

    It seems like they picked the most expensive possible route that will serve the people least likely to need it:
    $600 million dollars for a 9 mile segment from East Riverside over the Lake, through downtown, by past the UT Stadium, to Hancock and the former Highland Mall (now ACC).

    This is an already-highly-bikable area of town, so to me, this does absolutely zero for getting people out of out of long-distance car commutes on I-35 and Mopac.



    'Chronicle' Endorsements:November 4, 2014 General Elections - Proposition 1: Our endorsement for Local Prop. 1 - News - The Austin Chronicle

    The proposed Regional Rail line from Taylor to Round Rock to McNeil/Braker to 35th/Mopac, to Seaholm, to Slaughter to San Marcos . . . sounds like an excellent line. THAT is the one we should be doing now.
    http://www.letsgoaustin.org/wp-conte...rail_roads.pdf


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    sorry, meant "NBR" . . . But, to make it bike related . . .

    Taking a Bike Along?

    Bikes are always welcome on MetroRail! When trains are full, bikes are limited to eight total per train or four per compartment. Hook your bike on the racks provided and have a seat, or if you prefer, stay with your bike in the standing room section

    ...

    Bikes on the Train

    Bicycles are allowed on all MetroRail trains, and bringing one along is easy! If trains are full, bikes may be limited to eight total per train, or four per compartment.

    When you arrive at the station, please use the designated crossing area to get to the station platform. We ask that you don't ride your bike in any of the station areas, including the corridors and platforms, for safety reasons. When you hear your train announced, simply move to the area behind the white boarding line and wait to board. Please keep your bicycle close to you so it doesn't interfere with other waiting passengers, and as a courtesy, wait until all passengers have cleared the doorway before getting on. Bike racks are located in each car near the entrances.

    Please see our instructions for loading your bike on the train.

    Other Things to Know
    •Only standard-sized bicycles are permitted on board, which includes standard electric and folding bicycles.
    •We do not allow tricycles, tandems, bicycles with training wheels, cargo bikes, recumbent, or gasoline-powered bicycles or scooters on board.
    •In the event of an emergency evacuation, bicycles should remain in place on the train.
    •Cyclists are responsible for their own bicycles and all actions, injuries, losses and/or damages resulting from their bicycles in station platform areas and on board trains.
    ...

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    MoJo Mother Superior bsdctx's Avatar
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    Are there buses already running these routes? Are they full?

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    Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah mack_turtle's Avatar
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    I don't understand why the first priority in building light rail (besides doing it DECADES ago), was not making a rail go from the airport, through downtown, past UT and the football stadium, and then up to the north side tech corridor. that would have made sense. I would really like to see something that will relieve traffic on the ever-thickening MOPAC, but I can see why that is low-priority.


    as someone who has made an honest attempt to use the bus, I can see why rail makes more sense. the bus gets caught in the same traffic. for me to ride the bus 10 miles from the south side to downtown would take over two transfers. I have ridden buses and trains in several American cities and in Europe and Austin public transit is deplorable.
    Last edited by mack_turtle; 10-27-2014 at 04:35 PM.
    won't you be my neighbor?

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    MoJo Priest mtb_jeremy's Avatar
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    When the construction is one rail line at a time, it is obvious each line will benefit a subset of the population (those that live along the rail). What I don't get is why they didn't go with a plan to do a line similar to the first line. One thing is it would mean using the same model of train cars, rather than having to now get a whole inventory of some different model train. It seems like there would be a bigger impact doing a route near I-35 (north or south) or just in general out to the suburbs to help commuters since the highways aren't expanding.

    Thinking of the UT students that could use the train to go downtown, I then think of the fact that they typically aren't even tax payers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    I don't understand why the first priority in building light rail (besides doing it DECADES ago), was not making a rail go from the airport, through downtown, past UT and the football stadium, and then up to the north side tech corridor. that would have made sense. I would really like to see something that will relieve traffic on the ever-thickening MOPAC, but I can see why that is low-priority.
    .

    The current $600 million does not even make it all the way to the airport. It stops on East Riverside / Grove and the Airport extension would take even more money.

    Also, one of the points that the pro-rail critics of this plan are making is that the Lamar/Guadalupe corridor receives much higher traffic currently than a route that would go through the stadium area of east UT campus.

    If you really want to serve UT, the Drag is where all the traffic is.


    They also make the point that a line that is almost totally servicing UT might better be paid for by the State of Texas and/or UT System than by Austin taxpayers. UT students have been riding UT Shuttles to Far West and to East Riverside for years. Do they need a rail line to do the exact same thing?

    UT should pay for East Campus urban rail ? not Austin taxpayers | _______________Austin Rail Now

    Putting so much money into connecting East Riverside to downtown and the UT Medical School--it seems like part of a master plan where East Riverside will be massively profitable for real estate developers.

    I don't think it's a coincidence that the cool Lady Bird Lake boardwalk only got built with Austin taxpayer money recently (but not during the decades when East Riverside was poor).

    http://www.austintexas.gov/sites/def...c_boundary.pdf

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    As my department moves to the new Highland Campus, I'm hearing from so many students that they'll now have better access to my classes. Traffic has gotten noticeably worse up here in the last 6-12 months. I can't imagine what it's going to be like in 3 years. I'm leaning towards rolling out as many new lines as possible that can help.

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    Well, maybe part of it is not proposing the same thing that narrowly failed in 2000.



    Why Austin's ?Rail Fail? in 2000 Still Resonates Today | KUT


    This November, Austin voters will decide on one of the biggest expenditures in city history: a $1 billion proposal for a new light rail line and road improvements. It’s not the first time light rail has come before Austin voters: 14 years ago, in 2000, rail was narrowly voted down. How and why that plan failed has informed the latest plan voters will decide on this year.

    If the light rail plan had passed back in 2000, one thing’s for sure: Austin's transit network would look very different today. The 15-mile line would have gone from Ben White and South Congress through downtown on Guadalupe and Lamar, all the way up past Parmer Lane. Think of it this way: if it had been built, you could have a burger at Hopdoddy on South Congress, then hop on a train up to Anderson Lane and Lamar, where it'd be a short hike or bike ride for another burger at the other Hopdoddy.

    "2000 was kind of a pivotal moment, I think, in planning for rail transit in Austin," says Jeff Wood with The Overhead Wire, a transit consulting firm in San Francisco. He's studied the 2000 vote closely. "You had this huge election, and George Bush was on the ballot, and it lost by less than 2,000 votes."

    While a slight majority of voters within city limits cast ballots in favor of the plan, the vote was in all of Capital Metro's service area at the time. Suburban voters were seen as pivotal in defeating the measure. That failure has informed the proposal Austinites are considering today.

    How? To start with, just take a look at the name.


    Back in 2000, voters were deciding on a "light rail" line. Now planners are calling the new proposal an "urban rail" line, even though they're the same thing. "Urban rail is our terminology for light rail in this region," Robert Spillar, Austin's Director of Transportation, told a group of realtors at a recent forum on the rail proposal.

    A Route Revised

    The 2000 plan was a shoo-in for federal funding, with a promise it could even jump ahead of other projects already in the works. That's because the line was projected to have over 37 thousand trips a day. The current plan is expected to have less than half that, and will have to compete with dozens of other projects in other cities for federal funding. And a proposal for federal funding for roughly half of the current proposed line's $1.4 billion capital costs won't be submitted for several years. (If federal or state matching dollars don't come through, according to the ballot language, the line won't be built.)

    The failure of the 2000 plan has also meant a different route this time around. It takes away fewer existing car lanes and serves a less dense area of the city – not the more heavily-traveled Guadalupe-Lamar corridor.

    "There were a lot of people that thought, they were scared of that alignment, of bringing it back, because it had such a defeat," Wood says. "The loss in 2000, I think, really hit a lot of people hard. A lot of people that had pushed for that alignment."

    One of those people is Lyndon Henry (no relation), who's been advocating for transit and rail in Austin for decades. He was (and is) a big proponent of the 2000 plan. And he thinks the failure of that plan had a negative impact on the rail proposal we have today.

    "Well, it spooked them about community attitudes, mainly," Henry says. Some neighborhood groups and South Congress businesses were actively against the 2000 light rail plan and subsequently fought to keep it from coming back. "And, boy, has that stayed in people's minds," Henry says. "Unfortunately, it's kinda warped thinking in terms of what we could do here."

    While Henry has long supported rail on the Guadalupe-Lamar corridor, he's taking a different approach to the current plan's route (which would go from Grove and East Riverside through downtown on Trinity, through campus on San Jacinto, and up Red River and Airport to where the Highland Mall and ACC Highland are today). Henry says this route is too expensive and will suffer from low ridership and high operational costs, hurting existing bus service which is funded out of the same pot.

    Henry is part of a vocal group of pro-transit Austinites opposing this rail plan, particularly it's proposed route north of Lady Bird Lake, and that opposition has surprised the people planning the project.

    "I think it's a remnant of the 2000 vote," says Kyle Keahey, the urban rail project lead for Project Connect (a partnership of regional transit agencies), which came up with today's plan. "It is a little surprising, because I think we've acknowledged there is a need for a system," Keahey says. "Lamar, Mueller, South Congress – all of those need to be served. So I worry as a community that we may make zero progress if that position is taken."

    . . . .

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    Who here uses the currently-existing Red Line?


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    I only pedal the fun stuff... greenblur's Avatar
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    Vote no. Trying to pitch this as a combined rails and road plan is a flat lie. This is just a sneaky way to get enough consensus from fiscal conservatives to make it pass. The vast majority of the funds go to rail and no new paved lanes actually get built.

    The current rail was projected to cost about $300M and ended up costing well over double that. It also ran years behind schedule. So when Politicians are asking for $1B, it's likely to come in way higher and not get done in time. People have been voting against the light rail for years by opting to drive vs take the train. Why is the city trying to double down on an idea that was proven to be shitty the first go- round? Even at their best estimates, it only gets 8000 cars off the road. There are probably at least 200,000 cars on the road at rush hour. So they're saying at max capacity, they can reduce traffic by 4% for a billion+? That's a very crappy ROI.

    A billion dollars buys a lot of other useful stuff. Raises for teachers, free wifi through town, or you know, MORE ROADS. Austin is not Europe or Boston or Chicago that have good rail. We are not dense enough. Oh you took the train downtown? Enjoy your 14 block walk to work. . .in July.

    Normally I want the hippies to win. They are dead wrong on this one. That money has to come from somewhere and everyone already knows where its coming from. Our pockets. Vote no on prop 1.

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    cmc
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    Quote Originally Posted by greenblur View Post
    Vote no. . . .

    Normally I want the hippies to win. They are dead wrong on this one. That money has to come from somewhere and everyone already knows where its coming from. Our pockets. Vote no on prop 1.
    Hah. We are agreeing, but for different reasons.

    A lot of the "hippies" are against it.

    Lloyd Doggett ? Dupe, or accomplice in rail bonds campaign?s ?Tea-baiting?? | _______________Austin Rail Now

    This is going directly towards tearing down old/cheap apartments in the East Riverside/Lakeshore area and replacing them with expensive condos.

    For example:
    Austin Looking To Transform East Riverside Area

    Askins Online Real Estate Blog
    Austin Looking To Transform East Riverside Area

    With the help of new city zoning regualtions, and the prospect of future light rail connecting the downtown area with the main airport, developers are moving forward with plans to revitlize Austin's East Riverside corridor.

    Cypress Real Estate Advisors is working on the western 26 acres of Lakeshore, a planned unit development (PUD), building a 30 million apartment project with 230 luxury units along South Lakeshore Blvd., east of Riverside Dr. The units in the three-story building are expected to range from $900 for a one-bedroom to $1,600 for a three-bedroom unit.

    Nearby, Houston-based Grayco Partners is building 250 apartments in a four-story building with street-level retail. CDK Riverside has also working on a 300-unit, four-building complex on the lakefront site of a failed condominium project dubbed CityView. Expected to be completed in 2013, the apartments sit at the northeastern corner of Riverside and I-35.

    Although plans for Cypress’ and Grayco’s projects were announced in 2006 and 2007, respectively, the recession and lack of financing delayed work on the projects.

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    MoJo Priest Fatbiker's Avatar
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    I live in Houston (yes I'm a flatlander) and my house is two blocks from our Metro lightrail line that runs from the south side of Houston, thru downtown, then ends a few miles north of downtown. I've lived in Houston most of my life and I've been a hotshot courier for the last 15 years so I know what impact both buses and lightrail have on a city. Before lightrail I really hated our METRO buses as the driver were rude and were always blocking two lanes of traffic every chance they got. Since lightrail came to town I wish it was gone and I only had to deal with the buses. The City of Houston promised that once lightrail was installed that buses would no longer run on the same routes. That was a lie. The lightrail has reduced our Main Street to two lanes in many areas (one each direction) and still the buses run their same routes and when they stop there is no passing lane to go around them. Another problem is that of left hand turns. If you are driving down Main Street in downtown Houston you can no longer turn left, anywhere! The city is so afraid that you will run into a train that they have banned left turns on Main Street altogether. In order to go left you must make three consecutive right hand turns. In other areas of town where left turns are allowed the left turn lane is actually on top of the tracks. My wife freaks out every time I'm in a left turn lane and one of the 60 ton trains pulls up to a stop behind us waiting for us to turn. You may think I'm whining too much and that a little inconvienence is ok for the greater good of the people. Let me tell you that the trains have done nothing that a bus couldn't do. At least a bus can turn or alter its route. Ridership is the same as for the bus but the cost is much higher with the exception of Houston Texan football games. That's the one time that everyone parks downtown and rides the train. Our city said that the total cost to install the original line would be around $580 million. Final cost was over $1 billion and most of it was paid with city tax dollars with the rest being Federal dollars which are tax dollars as well. The only people who are happy about the new train are the people who were paid to build it and the politicians who receive campaign money from those builders. I read a report a few years ago that the city could have bought 200,000 buses and run/maintained them including gas for 20 years for the same cost as the original METRORAIL line. Whatever your City planners are telling you is a lie. You will have worse traffic, the cost will be way more than it's worth, ridership will be the same as it was for the bus, and they will bulldoze thru nice residential parts of your city just so they can keep funneling money to builders. Ask the people who live on Richmond Street in our town. It's happening to them.


    Ask me questions as I have real life answers.

    Mike
    greenblur likes this.

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    Shop Owner/Frame Builder CBaron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmc View Post
    Who here uses the currently-existing Red Line?


    My old HH mechanic Adam said the train ran right by his apt on the east side of downtown. It was super accessible. But (I recall he said) it quit running very early in the afternoon (like 6pm?) so there was no time for him to get off work and then make it to the station in time. I thought that was ridiculous that it wouldn't even run to a moderately late part of the afternoon!

    -CJB


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    MoJo Mother Superior Tree magnet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fatbiker View Post
    Ask me questions as I have real life answers.
    How about this one. If not rail, what? Elevated roads? Subways? Hamster ball Jetson style people movers? I agree that rail is poorly executed in the US and never delivers on the promises. Problem is we have urban sprawl, non-centralized ANYTHING, and are addicted to cheap, instant transportation. I'm not pro Prop 1 but I can't throw anything else on the table.

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    Mojo Mutha unclemeat's Avatar
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    That Monorail system seems to have worked pretty well in Vegas. Utilizes the existing roads, only elevated above them.
    And downtown Vegas is crowded.

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    Shop Owner/Frame Builder CBaron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tree magnet View Post
    How about this one. If not rail, what? Elevated roads? Subways? Hamster ball Jetson style people movers? I agree that rail is poorly executed in the US and never delivers on the promises. Problem is we have urban sprawl, non-centralized ANYTHING, and are addicted to cheap, instant transportation. I'm not pro Prop 1 but I can't throw anything else on the table.
    More and more, my wife and I are coming to the conclusion that our best solution for this may be to get the flock outa dodge. Some of the problems Austin is currently (and forwardly) facing may not really be solvable. Not in any foreseeable future, for any modicum of financial responsibility. I add it all up and it means that some place like San Marco, or Bastrop, or Charlottesville, or Ashville start to become really attractive. We are very invested in our city, but about 3 mos ago we both came home (independently) and mentioned we though Austin has recently jumped the shark.

    Later,
    CJB


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    MoJo Mother Superior The Tip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CBaron View Post
    Some of the problems Austin is currently (and forwardly) facing may not really be solvable. Not in any foreseeable future, for any modicum of financial responsibility.
    Just like America.

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    MoJo Mother Superior fontarin's Avatar
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    I feel sorry for any of the elected officials, because there's absolutely nothing they can do that will impact the city in the next 10-20 years (or until people stop moving here). Traffic is going to suck, and nothing is really going to fix it because of the number of cars being added to the road every day as people move here.

    I can already almost ride to work on back streets faster than taking 183, and I've noticed there's more traffic on them recently too, which sucks for my safety.

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    Shop Owner/Frame Builder CBaron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Tip View Post
    Just like America.
    Tell me about it. With regard to this comment I TRULY don't know what to do about it…

    -CJB


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    Quote Originally Posted by CBaron View Post
    More and more, my wife and I are coming to the conclusion that our best solution for this may be to get the flock outa dodge. Some of the problems Austin is currently (and forwardly) facing may not really be solvable. Not in any foreseeable future, for any modicum of financial responsibility. I add it all up and it means that some place like San Marco, or Bastrop, or Charlottesville, or Ashville start to become really attractive. We are very invested in our city, but about 3 mos ago we both came home (independently) and mentioned we though Austin has recently jumped the shark.

    Later,
    CJB
    My wife and I had the same conversation, with very similar conclusions, the other day. I'm not sure I want to be around when the next generation of Austinites has done whatever they want to do. So sad to see a great town turn into a crappy city.

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