Transportation

Transportation
4:39 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

Listen: Forum on Austin's Transportation Past, Present & Future

Capital Metro's rail service may be expanded to weekends, if a funding agreement can be reached with the city.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Last night, KUT's Views & Brews partnered with the Austin Monitor at the Cactus Cafe to take a look at the past, present and future of transportation in Austin.

From roads, to buses, round-a-bouts to rail, guest host Michael Kanin of the Austin Monitor spoke with some of the historians, policy makers and analysts in town, including the Director of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas at Austin Dr. Chandra Bhat, political consultant Mark Littlefield, Greg Hartman of the Let’s Go Austin political action campaign supporting Proposition 1, Roger Cauvin of Austinites for Urban Rail Action, which opposes the plan.

You can listen to the entire discussion below.

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
5:15 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

Texas Voters Will Decide Fate of Transportation Funding Measure in November

At a Texas House Transportation Committee hearing on Oct. 8, 2014, lawmakers discussed Proposition 1, a constitutional amendment that would divert some funding to a state highway fund if voters approve it.
Liang Shi for KUT News

This November, Texas residents will vote on a state constitutional amendment known as Proposition 1. If they approve it, some money from oil and gas production taxes will go into a state transportation fund. Today, state lawmakers went over what’s at stake.

If voters approve Proposition 1, it would divert a portion of oil and gas tax money to the State Highway Fund, which would help the cash-strapped Texas Department of Transportation.

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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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Transportation
10:41 am
Mon September 29, 2014

These 11 Austin Roadways Are Among the Most Congested in Texas

Austin Monitor

From The Austin Monitor:

New figures released by the Texas Department of Transportation quantify what anyone who drives in the Austin area instinctively knows – traffic congestion on several local roads and highways is as bad as anywhere in the state and getting worse.

One stretch, Interstate 35 through downtown between the U.S. 290 intersection and Lady Bird Lake, ranks as the second-most congested roadway segment in the entire state, and ranks first in freight-related congestion. Ten other Austin-area roadways are among the worst 100 in the state.

TxDOT recently released the 2014 Most Congested Roadways in Texas, with numbers updated from 2013. The data comes from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, which uses roadway inventory and traffic volume information from TxDOT along with speed data from INRIX, a private-sector source of traffic data. The complete list is available on the TxDOT website.

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Transportation
4:01 pm
Thu September 25, 2014

Poll: Texans Don't See Public Transit as a Congestion Cure

While most Texans agree to use public funds to increase public transportation, only 38 percent said they believe it reduces congestion.

From The Texas Tribune:

Only six out of every 100 Texans rely on public transportation as their primary means of transportation, and less than half of Texans believe it reduces congestion, according to a new poll released Thursday.

The survey of more than 5,000 Texans was conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute in May to study how Texans get around and their views on transportation funding. 

Ninety-one percent of Texans use a personal automobile as their primary means of transportation, followed by 6 percent who rely on public transportation, according to the poll. Ninety percent of respondents said they own or lease a personal vehicle. Minorities and those with an annual household income of less than $25,000 rely most heavily on public transportation, researchers found.

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Texas Standard
12:29 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Uber, Lyft and the Wild West of Texas Ridesharing

A Lyft driver in San Francisco. Lyft vehicles are emblazoned with a bright pink mustache across the car's front.
flickr.com/raidokaldma

Last month, the Houston City Council voted to open the heavily regulated vehicle-for-hire market to Uber and Lyft.

These start-ups develop and utilize smartphone apps to connect drivers with interested riders, using the driver’s personal car. Dallas, Austin and San Antonio are considering similar overhauls, but taxi and limousine drivers across the state are upset that their competitors could be playing by a different rulebook.

Aaron Sankin covers Uber and Lyft for The Daily Dot. He recently sat down with The Texas Standard's David Brown to talk about the future of ridesharing,

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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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High-Speed Rail
1:34 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

The Bullet Train That Could Change Everything

The Japanese Shinkansen is a high-speed trail used by JR Central in Japan. A private company is planning to build a rail line between Dallas and Houston using the same trains.
Norihiro Kataoka

For years, the Japanese company behind the world’s first and busiest high-speed rail system has been itching to enter the U.S. high-speed rail market, hoping to sell one of the world’s ripest passenger rail markets on its breathtakingly fast Shinkansen bullet trains.

But with Central Japan Railway’s efforts to sell high-speed trains on the U.S. coasts going nowhere, Texas has emerged as the company’s best hope for introducing its wildly successful technology to the American market.

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Transportation
7:13 am
Fri August 8, 2014

Urban Rail and Road Improvement Plan Will Go to Austin Voters in November

Supporters of urban rail hope it will relieve traffic congestion, but some transit advocates aren't convinced it will work.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrlaugh/6705429685

A major transportation plan took a significant step forward Thursday when the Austin City Council voted unanimously to put it on the November ballot.

It’s a billion-dollar proposition. Voters would agree to a $600 million bond for a 9.5-mile urban rail line, contingent upon two conditions: matching funds from the Federal Transit Administration or another federal or state source, and a future city council securing $400 million dollars for road projects. The ordinance does not specify a source for the additional $400 million.

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Transportation
10:23 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Supporters Jam Hearing on SH45 SW Environmental Impact Statement

A conceptual rendering of SH 45 SW, stretching from Bear Creek to MoPac.
sh45sw.com

From The Austin Monitor:

Supporters of the State Highway 45 Southwest toll road project showed up in the hundreds Tuesday night at a Texas Department of Transportation public hearing on the project's draft environmental impact statement.

While vocal opponents of the project – including the City of Austin and Save Our Springs Alliance – denouncing the draft's conclusions and data during the hearing, the majority of comments were in favor of the roadway, receiving cheers and applause from the largely pro-45 crowd inside Bowie High School's cafeteria.

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Transportation
6:20 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Senate Approves $8 Billion Transportation Package

Traffic passes a construction zone at the interchange of U.S. Highway 65 and Interstate 80, in Altoona, Iowa
Charlie Neibergall AP

Originally published on Tue July 29, 2014 7:29 pm

The Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would keep transportation dollars flowing until December. But it has not yet solved the problem of how to avoid any disruption in highway spending.

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SH-45
10:10 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Austin Calls on TxDOT to Expand Public Comment, Revise Study on SH-45

A rendering of the State Highway 45 extension. Some say the route of a proposed extension to SH 45 could negatively impact the Edwards Aquifer.
Credit Texas Department of Transportation

Austin City Manager Marc Ott has asked the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to reconsider its environmental impact study on State Highway 45 Southwest.

The proposed extension would connect South MoPac and FM-1626 in northern Hays County.

In a letter to TxDOT, Ott also asked the department to expand the public comment period ahead of tonight's final public input meeting at Bowie High School.

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Air Algerie
6:00 am
Thu July 24, 2014

Wreckage Of Air Algerie Flight With 116 Aboard Found In Mali

Originally published on Thu July 24, 2014 9:21 pm

Updated at 10:05 p.m. ET.

The Air Algerie MD-83 en route from the capital of Burkina Faso to Algiers with 116 passengers and crew aboard has been found with no survivors.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, reporting for our Newscast team, that a presidential aide in neighboring Burkina Faso says the remains of the missing aircraft have been found just across the border in Mali, in an isolated area about 60 miles south of the town of Gao.

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Weather
7:59 am
Fri July 18, 2014

Austin Recovers From Overnight Rains

Joanne Nabors snapped this photo of a flooded Skyview Road drawbridge last night.
Joanne Nabors via Twitter

Half a foot of rain pelted the city of Austin and the surrounding area last night, with rainfall totals topping out at seven inches in the Walnut Creek area and Downtown Austin receiving a bit less than five inches of rain.

The National Weather Service’s flash flood warning for Travis and Williamson Counties expired before 5 a.m., but the city’s still tackling flooded roadways in Spicewood Springs. Additionally, Austin-Travis County EMS used a helicopter to evacuate 13 campers stranded on the Colorado River, dropping them safely near Webberville Road. Below, you can view the latest flood updates, and a list of downed trees, delayed public transportation and power outages in Austin.

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Texas Transportation Funding
3:28 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

An 11,000-Mile Trip, a 1949 Car, and One Big Point About U.S. Infrastructure

Author Dan McNichol's "Dire States" tour of the U.S is drawing attention to the country's aging infrastructure.
Reynaldo Leanos/KUT

Can you compare a 1949 Hudson car to America’s aging infrastructure?

Best-selling author and award-winning journalist Dan McNichol thinks so – and says it's time to rebuild.

McNichol is driving an antique Hudson across the United States for several months, traveling 11,000 miles with stops in cities including Boston, San Diego, Washington and Austin to raise awareness about the state of America’s infrastructure – and what can be done about it.

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Traffic
6:06 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Think Traffic is Bad Now? By 2035, It Could Take 3 Hours to Get From Austin to Round Rock

Researchers estimate it could take as much as three hours to get from Austin to Round Rock in 2035.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

These days Austin is known as much for traffic as it is for live music or five-hour-long barbecue lines. 

If you've been commuting in Austin for a while, you might have noticed the traffic isn't exactly getting better. Despite flirtations with building a six-lane highway, constructing a long overdue urban rail system and even "sequestering" I-35 under concrete, commute times are not only stagnant, they're getting worse. In 2011, the state commissioned a study on major roadways which found — despite all those improvements — it could take Austin commuters up to three hours to get to Round Rock by 2035. 

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Fourth Of July
12:02 pm
Fri July 4, 2014

Three Ways to Get Home Safely After Toasting Independence Day in Austin

The taps at Craft Pride on Rainey Street.
Jon Shapley for KUT News

The Austin Police Department will be monitoring the roads extra carefully this weekend, and enforcing a "no refusal" mandate; law enforcement will be able to quickly obtain a warrant to test the blood-alcohol level of any suspected drunk driver who objects to a Breathalyzer or blood test.

Fourth of July revelers who don’t think they’ll make fit drivers this weekend will have their pick of get-home-safe cards.

1. Capital Metro has some late-night options, including year-round Night Owl buses that run until 3 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Night Owl services travel five different routes between popular spots on 6th Street and city neighborhoods.

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