Terrence Henry

Senior Reporter, StateImpact Texas

Terrence Henry is a Senior Reporter at KUT and StateImpact Texas. He has worked as an editor, writer and web producer for The Washington Post and The Atlantic. He has a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Brigham Young University.

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Austin
9:51 am
Wed November 26, 2014

On Thanksgiving Eve, Everyone's Looking for...The Ham Shop?

Credit Google Trends

It's the day before Thanksgiving, and Austinites are either busy hitting the road or getting ready to stuff the turkey. This year, however, we have some new insight into how we're doing all of this holiday planning: Google has released the most searched-for terms on Google Maps around Thanksgiving last year. Among the top three searches for today, Thanksgiving Eve, are "pie shop" and "liquor store." 

It makes sense, since you need booze and pie to make it through the holiday. But also in that top three? "Ham Shop."

Ham shop?

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Transportation
6:00 am
Tue November 25, 2014

Google Looked at Thanksgiving Traffic and You'd Better Leave Town Now

Credit Google Maps

Millions of Texans are taking to the road and skies this year for Thanksgiving travel, and for the first time, Austinites will have some new data to help them decide when to head out on the highway. They'll need it, because Austin has the second biggest increase in traffic during Thanksgiving week in the entire country, according to Google.

After crunching the numbers from their mapping data from the last few years, Google Maps has some advice for you: Leave. Now. Before it's too late. 

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Transportation
12:16 pm
Fri November 14, 2014

Rail Failed, But It's Not the End of Transit Improvements in Austin

East Austin resident Michael Reust leaves the Pan American Center after casting his vote.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Earlier this year, Austinites got a warning from their mayor: Pass a proposed light rail line, or face certain doom. There was no "Plan B," voters were told. 

"Here's the basic equation," Mayor Lee Leffingwell said in his State of the City address, "Rail or fail." 

Austin voters chose the latter option this election, saying "No" to a billion-dollar light rail and road improvements proposal by a wide margin, 57 percent voting "No" and 43 percent voting "Yes." The proposal garnered a lot of interest, with 15,000 more Austinites voting on it than on the race for Mayor of Austin.

Contrary to what you might have heard, this was technically the first time a rail plan has been voted down within city limits. So what happened? How did a supposedly progressive, typically bond-approving city electorate shoot down something so strongly?

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Transportation
8:08 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Statewide Transportation Measure Passes

Update: The constitutional amendment to take some oil and gas tax revenues and direct them towards road project funding passed by a wide margin – 79.78 percent for to 20.21 percent against.

"Passing Proposition 1 was just the first step in addressing the transportation funding shortfall in Texas," said Scott Haywood, President of Move Texas Forward, which pushed for the measure. "We look forward to continue working with our coalition partners as we fight for the additional funding for transportation that will move Texas forward.”

Original Story (Nov. 4, 12:21 p.m.): So much digital ink and airtime has been spilled over Austin's rail and roads proposition (commonly known as Austin's Prop 1), which would add a billion dollars in city debt to build a starter light rail line and improve state roads. But that isn't the only transportation item on the ballot this year. There's also a statewide proposition (also commonly known as statewide Prop 1) that could have an impact on Texas roads. 

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Austin Transportation Vote
11:06 pm
Tue November 4, 2014

Austin's Rail and Roads Bond Defeated

Austin residents gather to vote at the Austin Public Library, George Washington Carver Branch on Angelina Street on Tuesday.
Jenna VonHofe/KUT

After years of false starts and changed plans for light rail in Austin, voters have decided against a billion-dollar plan that would have brought the city its first light rail line and hundreds of millions of dollars in road improvements. 

Rail hasn't been on the ballot in Austin for ten years (though it did come close), so there was a lot of anticipation about this vote. If it had been approved, a billion dollars in all would have be taken on in city debt, $600 million to partially pay for a starter 9.5 mile light rail line and $400 million for improvements to state roads aimed at easing congestion. (For a detailed explainer on the proposal, we've got you covered.)

The final tally of votes had the proposal losing by a wide margin, with 57 percent of voters saying "No" and 43 percent voting "Yes." That's a 14-point loss for the light rail and roads proposal. (By comparison, in 2000, a light rail proposal in Austin was defeated by a margin of less than a point.) Overall, more people voted on the rail and roads proposition than did in the race for mayor (nearly 15,000 move votes in all). Voters in the urban core voted to pass the measure (map below), but they were outnumbered by voters outside of the urban core that voted against. (You can view an interactive map and see how your precinct voted here.)

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Transportation
7:56 am
Tue November 4, 2014

Austin's Rail and Roads Bond: An Explainer to End All Explainers

A map of the proposed starter light rail from East Riverside to Highland.
Credit Project Connect

Update, Nov. 5: Austin voters decided against the light rail and road improvements proposal, commonly known as Austin's 'Prop 1.' The final tally of votes had the proposal losing by a wide margin, with 57 percent of voters saying "No" and 43 percent voting "Yes." That's a 14-point loss for the light rail and roads proposal. 

Original story, Nov. 4: It's the biggest debt proposal in Austin history, and it comes to a billion dollars in all: $600 million of it for a starter light rail line, with $400 million for improvements to state roads.

There's a lot to unpack here, and plenty of debate on the merits of this transportation proposal. So here it is, the (hopefully) last explainer you'll need this election for Austin's rail and roads proposition, featuring our reporting over the many months (and years) leading up to today's decision. 

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Austin
12:09 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

District 4 Council Candidate Laura Pressley's Views Include 9/11 Conspiracy

"Something was planted in the buildings," Pressley said in June 2012.
Credit pressleyforaustin.com

Austin City Council District 4 Candidate Laura Pressley has come under scrutiny for some of her views, including a 'Fluoride Free' campaign for the city's drinking water and claims that electricity smart meters cause her legs to twitch.

These and several other views of Pressley's were cataloged this week by the Austin Chronicle. And there's another wrinkle to the candidate's perspectives: A newly-discovered recording shows that Pressley also claims that the attacks of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were actually a controlled demolition. 

Pressley made her views known at an event two years ago at the alternative bookstore Brave New Books titled '9/11 Debate: How Strong is the Evidence of a Larger Conspiracy?' Pressley jumped in during a question and answer session after the panel had concluded and attacked panelist Daniel Krawisz for not knowing about a "study" that linked traces of explosives found at the site of the destruction to explosives used by the U.S. military.

You can listen to the full exchange here:


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Business
5:17 pm
Wed October 29, 2014

What We Talk About When We Talk About Economic Impact: COTA Edition

A Petronas race car at the Formula 1 race last year.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon for KUT News

You might have read or seen one of the many news reports this week on the economic impact of Austin's Circuit of the Americas track.

A report commissioned by the track found that it had a nearly $1 billion impact on the local economy over the last year. That's a big number, nearly three times as much as the estimated economic impact of South By Southwest.

But what does it mean, really? What are we talking about when we talk about economic impact?

I put that question and more to Ben Lofstgaarden of Greyhill Advisors, the firm commissioned by Circuit of the Americas (COTA) to do the report (and the same firm that does annual reports on SXSW's economic impact).

"What's unique about the impact [report] that we did for COTA is that it wasn't just for one single event," he says. "It was for the whole suite of activities that they do over the course of the year." 

So it's not just Formula One, it's also all the other races, concerts and events like the X Games held at COTA throughout the year. (COTA is a separate entity from Formula One – F1 is the race, COTA is the venue.) The actual direct economic impact of all of that – dollars that can be traced directly from the track into the economy? It's $515 million. So how do you go from that to nearly a billion dollars of economic impact? There's some nuance to the numbers.

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Transportation
5:00 am
Tue October 28, 2014

Austin's Light Rail Proposal Has Some Asking: Why Not Rapid Bus Instead?

What if, instead of a light rail line, we opted for a Rapid Bus line instead?
Spencer Selvidge/KUT News

Disclosure: Project Connect and Capital Metro have been supporters of KUT.

Fifteen years from now, someone in Austin is going to get to say, "I told you so."

If voters approve a starter light rail proposal next week and it's built, by 2030 it's supposed to reach full steam, with some 16,000-18,000 trips per day (or roughly eight to nine thousand passengers a day). 

There has been a lot of debate about this proposal, even by Austin standards. A lot of that has been about the route of the line. The plan is to borrow $1 billion. $400 million would pay for some road improvement projects around Austin. The rest would partially pay for a 9.5 mile line that would run from East Riverside, through downtown and the UT campus, and terminate in the area around Highland Mall.

But let's step aside from the route for a moment, and think about the tool. What if, instead of a light rail line, we opted for a Rapid Bus line instead?

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Transportation
4:58 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

Behind the Numbers: Austin's Billion-Dollar Rail and Roads Bond

A $1 billion bond on the ballot this fall in Austin will go toward a starter rail line and state road improvements.
flickr.com/dborman2

This fall, Austinites will vote on a $1 billion bond package for a light rail line and state road improvements. Austin's bond proposal is a long one, clocking in at 220 words, and it's an expensive one.

What's behind those numbers? Let's take a look:

How does the price tag of this bond stack up to previous bond elections?

It's the biggest ever. While only $600 million of the bond election is technically voter-approved for a starter light rail line, the other $400 million in improvements for state-managed roads is still debt that will be taken on by the city.

So what does that billion dollars pay for?

$600 million will go the capital costs (studies, engineering, and construction) for one 9.5-mile light rail line, with a total estimated capital cost of $1.38 billion. That line would go along East Riverside, through downtown and the UT campus on San Jacinto, then go over or under (and parallel) a portion of the existing MetroRail line up to Highland Mall. The project would be contingent on getting federal matching funds for the city's $600 million investment.

$400 million would go to road improvements for state roads.

A billion dollars sounds like a lot of money. How much debt does Austin have currently?

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Transportation
9:06 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Why Austin's ‘Rail Fail’ in 2000 Still Resonates Today

If things had gone differently 14 years ago, instead of the bus service you see here on Guadalupe there'd be a light rail line today.
Spencer Selvidge/KUT News

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. 

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Energy & Environment
11:53 am
Fri September 19, 2014

It Will Take an Insane Amount of Rain Before the Highland Lakes Recover

Lake Travis is heading towards its lowest levels in history if we have a dry fall
Courtesy of the Lower Colorado River Authority

From StateImpact Texas:

Central Texas is having a pretty decent year, rain-wise. We’re sitting just below normal. And it’s been a good week, too: early Thursday, one part of Austin got over seven inches of rain.

So much rain fell over downtown Austin that the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan along Lady Bird Lake looked like he was walking on water. It brought back memories of the Halloween floods last fall — back then Stevie was standing in water waist-deep. But these big rain events all have something in common: They really haven’t fallen where we need them most.

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Transportation
2:03 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

CapMetro Plans Improvements to Shorten Wait Times, Attract More Riders

Capital Metro will offer online bus-tracking to allow riders, in addition to increased bike rack space.
Spencer Selvidge for KUT News

Claudia Teran is late for class. She's waiting at the corner of 45th and Guadalupe streets for her bus. She's studying media at UT and the bus is her main way of getting around.

Her bus – the 1, a local route – is running a little late today, so she's late. But what if she could've known her bus was late? What if she could look up on her phone where her bus is right now? What if

Online, real-time bus tracking is one of a few improvements coming to Cap Metro buses that aim to keep drivers out of their cars and on public transit.

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Transportation
9:12 am
Thu September 4, 2014

Is a Light Rail Line Going to Solve Austin's Traffic Problems?

Austinites will vote on a proposition to approve $1 billion in transportation funding this Election Day, which could support building a light rail line through downtown.
Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

This Election Day, Austin voters will decide on the largest single bond proposal in the city’s history. A little more than half of the $1 billion bond package would go towards a light rail line, the other half for road improvements.

Supporters say the package provides a solution to Austin’s traffic, but some wonder if building out more mass transit and expanding roads is really going to make a dent.

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Transportation
1:18 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

After Ridership Drops, Cap Metro Looking to Tweak Rapid Bus System

The launch of a new rapid bus line has caused ridership to go down. Capital Metro says they're looking to fix that.
Spencer Selvidge/KUT News

Austin's "MetroRapid" buses are larger and, let's be honest, nicer than your typical bus. They've got more doors, for one, which makes for faster loading and unloading. You can look up when the next one's going to arrive on your smartphone. They have Wi-Fi, too. In January, the first line debuted, the 801, running up and down North Lamar and Congress. This week, the second one started up, the 803, going from the Domain down Burnet, through downtown and down South Lamar. 

The Rapid bus system is the first major transit project in Austin since the troubled rollout of the MetroRail red line several years ago.* That project was late, over budget and struggled to attract riders.

The rapid buses, however, started on time and under budget. But six months after the launch of the first rapid line, ridership in its corridor is down 16 percent from two years ago during the same period. (You can view the ridership numbers obtained by KUT below.)

"We certainly didn't want that to happen. We hoped that wouldn’t happen. But it did happen," says Todd Hemingson, Vice President of strategic planning and development with Capital Metro.

So why, after premiering shiny new buses with plenty of features, did ridership go down in the corridor?

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Perry Indictment
4:13 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

What Exactly is Governor Rick Perry Charged With?

During a press conference at the State Capitol Texas Gov. Rick Perry calls the indictment against him a farce and an "abuse of power."
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT Austin

Scandals involving governors usually have a bit more meat to them than the one going down in Texas right now.

In Illinois in 2010, former Governor Rod Blagojevich was caught on wiretaps trying to use a vacant U.S. Senate seat for personal gain. He’s now serving a 14-year sentence in federal prison. Right now in Virginia, former Governor Bob McDonnell is facing federal charges of corruption for allegedly taking illegal gifts and loans from the CEO of a dietary supplements company. But with the felony charges against Texas Governor Rick Perry, there’s very little the public knows yet, and that’s led to some confusion.

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Politics
8:31 pm
Fri August 15, 2014

TIMELINE: Governor Rick Perry's Felony Indictment

Gov. Rick Perry holds his Texas driver's license and his wallet as he heads to a west Austin early voting site on October 30, 2013.
Credit Bob Daemmrich via Texas Tribune

For the first time in nearly a century, the Texas governor is facing felony charges.

Rick Perry has been indicted by a Travis County grand jury for abuse of office and coercion. The charges mean the sitting governor will be booked and arraigned (with fingerprints and a mugshot); they carry possible jail sentences up to 109 years.

At the heart of the charges is whether or not Perry abused his power by threatening to veto $7.5 million in state funding for the Travis County District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit.

How did we get here? We've collected KUT's coverage of this story up until this point to bring you up to date. It begins with the arrest of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg last year.

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Energy & Environment
3:26 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

4 Ways Texas Could Win Big Under New Climate Change Rules

Under the proposed regulations, coal power plants like this one will become a thing of the past.
Jonathan Warner/Flickr

Earlier this year, the earth hit a frightening milestone: carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached its highest level since humans have inhabited the earth. The last time there was this much carbon on the planet was nearly a million years ago.

As the heat-trapping gas proliferates, the world warms, and the climate effects domino: droughts intensify, floods increase, ice melts and seas rise. The question now isn't whether human activity is changing the global climate; the question is what to do about it.

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Energy & Environment
1:40 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

How One Austin Home Produces More Energy Than It Uses

Steve Bijansky climbs down from the attic of his "Net Zero" home in Allandale.
Mengwen Cao for KUT News

From StateImpact Texas:

As the mercury rises in Texas, so does our energy use. Air conditioners will work overtime to keep your house cool. And when that happens, the Texas grid can become stretched thin.

One solution is to build more power plants to meet growing demand. Another is to simply get Texans to use less energy.

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Energy & Environment
12:30 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Proposals to Prevent Another Fertilizer Explosion Immediately Meet Resistance

A helmet is carried in remembrance of a firefighter from the Abbott Volunteer Fire Department killed in a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas last year.
PHOTO BY JORGE SANHUEZA-LYON/KUT

From StateImpact Texas: 

The explosion at a fertilizer plant in the small town of West, Texas last year took much more than fifteen lives. At least 262 people were injured; twenty percent of those were brain injuries. Homes and schools were destroyed. But judging from the response of some state lawmakers charged with stopping it from happening again, disasters like the one in West are just something Texans are going to have to live with from time to time.

There’s been no new regulations for fertilizer plants since the disaster until this month, but there’s been a consensus for some time about how to prevent another tragedy like the one in West: require fertilizer plants to store ammonium nitrate in non-combustible facilities or to use sprinklers; conduct inspections of facilities; and train first responders so they know how to deal with fires that may break out at sites with ammonium nitrate. 

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