Transportation

Transportation
10:43 am
Mon June 29, 2015

More Rain Means More Potholes on Austin Streets

Cyclists and motorists beware: The amount of potholes on Austin's roads has nearly doubled, thanks to all the rain, and the traffic.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The drenching rains that have fallen on Austin this year have provided sizable benefits: Reservoirs are recovering, lawns are green, and this summer will be cooler as a result. (Maybe a little more humid, too.)

But there are, of course, downsides to the rain, most notably the serious damage to lives and property from flooding. Austin’s infrastructure is taking a hit, too, and you don’t have to go far to find it. It’s right underneath you. 

Yes, we’re talking about potholes. Those holes in the road form thanks to two things: water and traffic, both of which Austin has plenty of lately.

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Transportation
3:22 pm
Wed June 24, 2015

Austin's 'Dillo Shuttle Returns — Sort Of

Ridescout is bringing back a derivation of the 'Dillo, a downtown circulator that ran from the 1970s until 2009.
YouTube

Remember the ‘Dillo? No, not the legendary music venue The Armadillo. We’re talking about Austin’s free trolley system that shut down in 2009. There were several routes that took people around downtown for free, starting in the eighties, until they went away a few years ago. 

Now, the ‘Dillo is making a comeback.

Kind of.

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Transportation
3:43 pm
Mon June 15, 2015

I-35 Improvement Plan Would Add a Lane, Lower Portions of Highway

A rendering of the city's plan for I-35 at 15th St.
Mobility35

A new plan to improve Interstate 35 would add an additional lane on the upper decks of the highway between 15th and 51st Streets in Austin, according to a modified proposal announced today by state and city lawmakers

"The auxiliary lanes will give you a mile and a half to move into the main lanes of the upper deck and move those exiting to Airport [Blvd.] out of the main lanes," says Senator Kirk Watson, who laid out the new plan at a luncheon on Monday. 

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Transportation
7:00 am
Fri May 15, 2015

How to Make Texas a More Bike-Friendly State

A cyclist rides on a protected bikeway in downtown Austin.
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.

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Transportation
12:05 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

How New Toll Roads in Austin Also Mean Better Biking and Walking

A new hike-and-bike bridge will connect into a shared use path, allowing people on foot or on bikes to safely cross over a railroad track below.
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.

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Transportation
2:43 pm
Fri April 24, 2015

Austin's Transportation Future: A Conversation With Anthony Foxx

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.
Credit DOT

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. 

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Transportation
2:09 pm
Fri April 24, 2015

How You’re Paying (and Maybe Paying Again) for Austin’s Roads

Mike Heiligenstein is the Executive Director of the Central Texas Regional Authority. The agency was created in 2002 to design modern transportation systems for Central Texas.
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, Tyler Whitson and Terrence Henry take on transportation.

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Transportation
8:30 am
Thu April 23, 2015

More Lanes Are Coming to Austin's Highways, But They Won't Be Free

The MoPac Improvement Project will add one tolled lane in each direction to North MoPac. The lane will be free for transit.
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.

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Transportation
8:17 am
Tue April 21, 2015

Why Lyft and Uber Are Fighting to Keep Their Data Secret

A Lyft driver in the company's home base of San Francisco. The City of Austin is asking the state Attorney General to block the release of Lyft and Uber's trip data.
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.

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Transportation
2:40 pm
Mon April 13, 2015

Why More and More Austinites Are Choosing Bikes to Get Around

A cyclist gets ready for Austin's Thursday Night Social Ride.
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. 

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Transportation
11:59 am
Thu April 2, 2015

Austin's Award-Winning Rapid Bus Signal System Only Works 15-20% of the Time

A signal system is supposed to extend green lights for Capital Metro's "rapid" buses, but it's only working 15-20% of the time.
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.

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Transportation
2:26 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

One Dead After Partial Bridge Collapse, I-35 Shut Down Near Salado

I-35 was closed after a truck hit the beam of a bridge that was under construction. This image shows the traffic around the area at 2pm.
TxDOT

I-35 is closed in both directions just south of Salado, a town about 60 miles north of Austin, after an oversized tractor-trailer struck the FM 2484 overpass bridge under construction. The Texas Department of Transportation says the impact caused several beams to fall onto the highway. 

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Transportation
4:06 pm
Wed March 18, 2015

Will Self-Driving Cars End or Extend Our Auto Addiction?

Ryan Middleton of Delphi Labs in Silicon Valley.
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: 

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Transportation
10:46 am
Mon March 16, 2015

Why Big Auto is Buying Into Car-Free Mobility

Joseph Kopser, CEO of the mobility app RideScout.
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?

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Transportation
1:58 pm
Tue March 10, 2015

Lyft Secures First Ridesharing Deal with Austin Airport

A Lyft car, complete with trademark pink mustache. Many of the fuzzy ones have been replaced with smaller glowing indoor mustaches.
Daniel X O'Neill/Flickr

Just before the SXSW onslaught, Lyft has agreed to a deal making it the first ridesharing service allowed at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

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Transportation
8:32 am
Wed March 4, 2015

How Do You Solve a Problem Like The Drag?

At a recent open house on how to improve the Guadalupe corridor, known as 'The Drag,' attendees annotated large maps with their ideas and concerns.
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."

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Transportation
9:24 am
Wed February 25, 2015

Now You Can Find Out Where Your Bus is in Real Time

Starting today, real-time location information is available for every bus and train in Capital Metro's fleet through apps like Instabus.
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.

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Transportation
8:03 am
Fri February 20, 2015

Plans for New MetroRail Station Don't Have Everyone On Board

This station downtown will be made over into what the city is calling "a new landmark." The cost? Over $30 million.
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. 

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Transportation
7:25 am
Fri January 30, 2015

After Ridership Drops, Where Does Cap Metro Go From Here?

Ridership on the Capital Metro system last year fell significantly, to levels not seen since 2011.
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.

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Transportation
7:27 am
Thu January 29, 2015

Austin's Growing Fast, But Why Isn't Its Public Transit?

Ridership is down system-wide on the Capital Metro system, even though Austin is growing rapidly.
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."

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