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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Travis County Commissioner's Court

This November’s election will be here before we know it, and while there aren’t many high-profile races or hot-button issues in the off-year election, there is one big-ticket item on the ballot: a nearly $300 million bond to build a new Travis County Civil and Family courthouse.

While nearly everyone seems to agree that Travis County needs a new courthouse – the existing Civil and Family Courthouse on Guadalupe Street was built in 1931, when Travis County had just 77,000 residents – some are concerned about the price tag for building a new one.

Some changes are coming to a few of the city’s bus routes this week. In an attempt to increase ridership, four Capital Metro bus routes will be running more often.

“We’re going to be upgrading five of the busiest routes in our whole system. And four of those will run every 15 minutes or better across the weekday,” says Todd Hemingson of Cap Metro.

Of the four routes that will run more often, the longest is Number 7, which runs from Heritage Hills to Dove Springs. Hemingson says the goal of the added frequency is to begin creating a network of buses in town that run regularly enough that you can conveniently get around town without having to wait for a bus or transfer for more than seven minutes.

Sarah Jasmine Montgomery/KUT News

Today is 'Bike to Work Day' in Austin (and across the country), with more than two dozen “fueling stations” offering free snacks and drinks to Austinites on two wheels. While the percentage of Austinites who commute by bike is growing, it still remains low relative to peer cities outside of Texas. On average, only two percent of people in Austin regularly use a bike to get to work, though that percentage can be much higher in parts of the urban core. 

Austin ranks 91st on a list of 154 cities nationwide for bikeability according to Walk Score, while the state of Texas is in the bottom half of states for bike-friendliness, according to the League of American Bicyclists. The state ranks 30th, up a few places from last year. While Texas has made some incremental improvements in cycling-friendliness, like a 'share the road' campaign and other safety improvements, there’s a long way for the Lone Star State to go.

Courtesy HNTB Corporation

Austin can sometimes feel like one giant construction zone these days.

Road projects have been adding to the noise and delays, but there’s a hidden benefit to all that new pavement — many of the new road projects and highway dollars in town also mean improvements for Austinites getting around on bikes and on foot.


Austin suffers from plenty of traffic congestion, but the city is hardly alone there. Across the country, cities are having to confront the question of how to move more and more people around in a limited amount of space. On Friday, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx came to Austin to discuss transportation issues and what the city can learn from others. 

His visit brought him to the University of Texas at Austin's Center for Transportation Research, where he got to see research in traffic modeling and connected vehicle technology. The U.S. Department of Transportation recently released 'Beyond Traffic,' a 30-year plan on the future of transportation in the country. "It looks at long-term trends and begins to shape the types of choices we have ahead of us," Foxx says. "And I came here today to see what kind of work is being done on research and innovation in transportation that's consistent with our plan." 

We spoke for a few minutes on Austin's traffic issues, transportation innovation, and difficulties consistently funding infrastructure and maintenance of the roads we already have. 

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT News

KUT and our city hall reporting partner the Austin Monitor are looking at needs that have typically been paid for by the state, but have become local responsibilities. Some call them unfunded mandates. KUT News and the Austin Monitor will look at key examples of that interaction in our series, “The Buck Starts Here.”  Today, we take on Austin’s highways. You can read Tyler Whitson's companion piece over at the Austin Monitor.

We hear it all the time: Austin’s growing too fast, and we don’t have enough housing or roads for the people already here, not to mention the million more people that will be in the region in a little over a decade. To better accommodate an influx of people and cars, new additions are being planned for several of the region’s major highways. 

But there’s no such thing as a free ride on most of these new lanes, and to understand why, it helps to do a little time traveling.

Raido Kalma/flickr

It's been almost a year since new ride services like Lyft and Uber have been up and running in Austin. At first Lyft and Uber were operating illegally, but under a temporary ordinance approved by City Council in October, those companies are now legal in town. Hailing a Lyft or Uber as a passenger has never been easier in Austin. But some of the information these companies are providing to the city as part of their interim agreement is proving harder to flag down. 

Lyft and Uber collect information on where all riders are being picked up and dropped, how much trips cost, how long trips are, and when they're seeing peak demand. They provide that data (stripped of user identification) to the city on a quarterly basis, "in order to help the City evaluate the role of TNCs [Transportation Network Companies] to address transportation issues, such as drunk driving and underserved community needs," according to the interim ordinance.

But the city is fighting on Uber and Lyft's behalf after KUT submitted an open records request to obtain the quarterly reports.

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT

We've all felt Austin's growing pains: traffic, high rents, rapidly rising home values, and the higher property taxes that come with them. And we tend to drown these pains in queso and beer, so we're probably putting on some weight, too. But what if there were an easy way out of all of this?

Some Austinites, like Mike Melanson, have found one. "A congestion-free way of getting around, a way that doesn't cost me money, a way that helps my health," he says. For much of the last ten years, he's relied on a 19th century technology to move about Austin: the bicycle. 

Spencer Selvidge/KUT News

Austin's bus system got two new lines last year, called MetroRapid. They're generally larger, run more frequently, have fewer stops (to run faster) and offer some amenities not found on the city's local buses, like WiFi. More than a million trips have been taken on the new rapid bus lines. They also have a higher price: A ride on one of Capital Metro's MetroRapid buses costs $1.75, as opposed to $1.25 for a ride on their local alternatives. 

But these rapid buses supposedly justify that higher price by getting you around faster. Capital Metro labels it a "premium" service, and one advantage they're supposed to have is they can hold green lights longer at intersections outside of downtown, extending the time before a light turns red and allowing the rapid bus to get through in time. "Special technology allows all MetroRapid vehicles to catch more green lights to stay on schedule," Capital Metro says on its website.

Terrence Henry/KUT News

SXSW Interactive has come to a close, and one big trend this year was connected car technology — that could be anything from your car knowing a light's about to turn red to a vehicle completely driving itself. 

Next week, a car will hit the road on a cross-country drive from San Francisco to New York. Except this car won’t have a driver. Let's take a look at where self-driving car technology is today, and the possible places it could take us. Listen to the story: 

Terrence Henry/KUT News

There are a lot more options for getting around Austin these days other than driving your own car, and even more apps and technology to help you navigate those options. But some of the big investors in this new technology may surprise you. They aren't just coming from Silicon Valley — Detroit and others in the auto industry are getting in on the action as well.

Take the Austin-based RideScout, for example. "RideScout is essentially the Kayak of ground transportation," says Joseph Kopser, RideScout CEO. Kopser is a veteran who came to SXSW a few years back with an idea: What if you could take something like transportation and mobility, and make it as easy as booking a flight or hotel room?

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

With just two days left, SXSW Interactive is in its home stretch, ahead of the start of the fest's music portion on Wednesday and the inevitable second surge of festival-goers.

Interactive may be the calm before the storm that is SXSW Music, but it's always delivered on promises of drawing tech luminaries to Austin — highlights this year include keynotes from Lyft CEO Logan Green today and a Tuesday keynote from Dr. Astro Teller, head of Google X's "moonshot" initiatives.

KUT spoke with festival director Hugh Forrest about what's new to Interactive and why he thinks, after years of consistent growth, the crowds may have finally plateaued.

Terrence Henry/KUT News

It’s one of the biggest bottlenecks in town, a place where cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians all squeeze into just four travel lanes, and where the University of Texas begins to merge with downtown – a street aptly named "The Drag."

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Starting today, there's a big change in Austin's transit system. It's not a big new train or shiny new buses, it's something much smaller, so small you can fit it in your phone. And this tiny new product could mean big improvements for Capital Metro riders.

It's called real-time info, and what it means is that riders will now know exactly where their bus is. If it's early, if it's late, or if it's on time – now you'll know.

Jeff Heimsath/KUT News

Capital Metro is planning some big improvements for MetroRail, the city’s only rail transit line. But one of the big-ticket items on that list of improvements – a plan for a permanent downtown station with a price tag of over $30 million – is being criticized by some as unnecessary and ill-suited to the city's transit needs.

MetroRail (also known as the Red Line) got off to a rough start when it launched in 2010, starting several years late and tens of millions of dollars over budget. Still, it's managed to attract more and more riders in the years since, and a typical weekday rush hour these days on the Red Line is standing room only.

But the service is hampered by several factors. 

UT Parking Strategies Committee Report

Parking around the UT campus when classes are in session is never easy, but it's also going to get more expensive soon. Parking rates are set to go up on the UT Austin campus, and it's an increase that will continue for several years. Outgoing President Bill Powers asked a committee of faculty and administrators to look into how to get more money for the university out of parking, and not surprisingly, the answer was higher fees.

The increases vary based on which permit you get, but it is an increase across the board. Let's say you have an "F Garage" permit, which currently costs $420 a year. Five years from now, that same permit will cost $588.  A "C" permit, for students parking in surface level lots, which is currently $120, will go up roughly $6 a year over the next five years, up to $150.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Mass transit is a very small slice of the Austin transportation pie. On average, only about four percent of people in the greater Austin area use transit to get to work. In Portland, it’s three times that. And Austin's transit use suffered a significant drop last year. So what can Capital Metro do to turn things around?

Let's start with the bulk of Capital Metro's system: the bus.

"I think we are on the cusp of making a significant step in the right direction," says Todd Hemingson, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Development at Capital Metro. The agency has laid out several goals for the years ahead, and one of them is adding frequency to some of the city's most popular bus routes.

Spencer Selvidge for KUT News

This is the first in a two-part series on transit use in Austin. Read Part Two: After Ridership Drops, Where Does Cap Metro Go From Here?

Austin is one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the country. Over the last five years, the population in the city limits has increased by nearly a 100,000 people, an 11 percent increase. In the larger region, the growth is even greater. But there’s one part of the city that isn’t growing: transit ridership. Let's take a look at what's behind that trend, in the first of a two-part series on transit use in Austin.

"Ridership has not increased as much as our city has grown," says Jace Deloney, chair of the Urban Transportation Commission, a city board that advises on transportation issues. "We haven't kept up in terms of providing transit service to the people that are moving here."

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

The new 10-1 Austin City Council will gavel in for its first regular meeting this week, and one of their ambitions is to be a more open, efficient council. To that end, they've indicated they want to move much of the nuts and bolts of policy-making to council committees, much in the way the state legislature works. The number of committees proposed is a big jump, from eight to at least 14 so far.

Here's what we know so far about the different committees:

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

As you might have heard, and most probably have felt, Austin is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. But how it should handle that growth is an ongoing debate. As a new city council steps forward, it might help to take a look at some of the people who are likely to be a vocal part of that debate: your neighbors.