Matt Largey

Managing Editor

Matt has been a reporter at KUT off and on since 2006.  He came to Austin from Boston, then went back for a while--but couldn't stand to be away--so he came back to Austin.  Matt grew up in Maine (but hates lobster), and while it might sound hard to believe, he thinks Maine and Texas are remarkably similar.

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KUT News

The Austin City Council has approved a plan aimed at eliminating deaths and serious injuries on the city’s roads by the year 2025.

The plan, called Vision Zero, is based on a philosophy developed in Sweden in the 1990s. The idea is to treat traffic crashes like smoking – basically, as a public health problem that can be prevented. Last year, Austin had 102 traffic deaths – its highest number ever. There have been more than 20 deaths so far this year.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

Over the next few months, the Austin Police Department plans to step up enforcement of the city’s hands-free driving law, which prohibits talking or typing on a phone or other handheld electronic device while driving, without the use of a hands-free device.

To do this, police are using unexpected vehicles: Capital Metro buses.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

This story is part of our series, The Road to Zero, which explores traffic deaths and injuries in Austin and the city's plan to prevent them.

On January 13, 2015 at about 9:30 at night, 23 year old James Robison was driving his motorcycle on Riverside Drive toward downtown.

On the other side of the road, the driver of a Ford Focus had just gotten to Austin from Killeen. He and his passenger had come down to help a friend shoot a music video. They had put their friend’s address into a GPS app on his phone.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft were dealt a stunning blow Saturday, as Austin voters rejected Proposition 1 by a 12-percent margin.
 

The proposition, put on the ballot by a petition circulated by the political action committee backed by Uber and Lyft, would have repealed a city ordinance requiring fingerprint background checks for ride-hailing drivers.


Ride-hailing service Lyft notified drivers this afternoon that it would shut down operations in Austin at 5 a.m. Monday if voters reject Proposition 1.

If the measure fails, requirements for fingerprint-based background checks for ride-hailing drivers would be phased in over the next year. Both Uber and Lyft have said they will not operate under those requirements, insisting their own background checks and GPS tracking technology make the service safe. 

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

The political action committee that put Proposition 1 on the ballot and is campaigning for it received about $6 million from ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft in the past month.

According to documents filed Friday with the Austin City Clerk’s office, Ridesharing Works for Austin raised that sum between March 29 and April 28. The campaign has spent the bulk of that money over the past month, in staff salaries, television advertising, direct mail and consulting work.

It's time for another voting round in our ATXplained project!

On Thursday night, KUT and the Austin Monitor hosted a live debate at the North Door on the May 7 ballot question about regulations for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft. 

Update Tuesday 8:50 a.m. – The National Weather Service has canceled the flash flood watch for much of Central Texas, though DeWitt, Fayette and Lavaca counties still remain under watch.

Update 7:50 a.m.  Parts of Bastrop, Travis, Hays and Lee counties are under flash flood warnings this morning. The flash flood watch continues until tomorrow morning, as more rain is forecast for today and overnight tonight. 

As of right now, 178 low water crossings have been closed in Central Texas. You can find a map of closures at ATXfloods.com, and below you can see a full list of updated school delays and closures. 

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft have spent nearly $2.2 million so far this year to fund a campaign to collect petition signatures to get an initiative on the ballot in Austin and advocate for that measure.

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr/KUT

Join KUT and the Austin Monitor on Thursday, April 14th at 6:30pm at the North Door (502 Brushy St.) for a live debate on the ride-hailing regulations that will be on the ballot in Austin next month.

RSVP here.

Our next ATXplained voting round is here. This time, it's all about birds.

So far, we've collected nearly 150 questions about everything from Austin's allergens, its streets and highways, its iconic places and events, and even some simply answered questions, like what exactly our programming schedule is — for future reference, you can find it right here

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Austin's ridesharing vote will go ahead as planned, it seems.

The Texas Supreme Court denied a request to order a rewrite of ballot language that Austin voters will consider in May regarding regulations for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.

Austin resident Samantha Phelps filed a writ with the Supreme Court last week, arguing the language approved by the Austin City Council would mislead voters.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon for KUT News

You've probably seen this memorial if you've ever driven on Lamar Blvd in Austin. It's right there, on the pillar holding up the train bridge where Third Street crosses Lamar.

It says: "Fair Sailing Tall Boy. Ivan Garth Johnson. Not forgotten. 1971 - 1989. Don't Drink and Drive, You Might Kill Someone's Kid."  

Lynett Oliver doesn’t know Ivan Garth Johnson. She doesn’t know anything about him. But if you’re like her, you can’t help but wonder: What’s the story behind this memorial?

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon for KUT News

The state's top criminal appeals court has dismissed the felony abuse of power charges against former Texas Governor Rick Perry.

The charges stemmed from Perry's 2013 threat to veto funding for the Travis County District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit, which investigates and prosecutes state corruption cases. A grand jury indicted Perry on charges that he coerced a public official and abused his office when he threatened to veto the funds if Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg did not resign, following a drunk driving conviction.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. /KUT News

Austin voters will decide on a petition-driven ordinance drawn up by ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft. 

The Austin City Council rejected the ordinance on an 8-2 vote (Council Member Don Zimmerman abstained), which means the ordinance will go to a public referendum on May 7.

The election will cost the city an estimated $500,000 to $800,000.


UPDATE: After seven days of voting, we have a winner for the next round of ATXplained. We're already hard at work getting the answer to the winning question, so stay tuned!

flickr user mirsasha

Members of Austin’s Public Safety Commission are calling for changes to a city plan that aims to eliminate traffic deaths in the city. 

Commission member Mike Levy criticized the Vision Zero task force’s draft plan, which includes more than 100 recommendations aimed at making Austin’s roadways safer, calling it a "kitchen sink."

MIguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT News

The Austin City Council today passed a plan to further regulate ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft.

The language in the ordinance is not entirely clear – but it calls for the “preferred ability” of drivers who do get fingerprinted to pick up and drop off passengers in the downtown entertainment district and around major events such as South by Southwest. Drivers who don’t get fingerprinted would pay higher fees and be barred from some wait areas. They may also be restricted from operating during certain hours.

St. Edward's University

The 2016 Pritzker Prize, often called the Nobel Prize for architects, was awarded this week to Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena. Known for his “incremental" — partially unfinished — building designs, Aravena has only one creation standing in the U.S., and it happens to be in Austin.

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