transportation

Urban Rail
2:38 pm
Tue May 22, 2012

Feds May Cover Half of $550 Million Urban Rail Line

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, speaking at a rail event in 2010.
Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

What’s the estimated cost of Austin’s first urban rail investment? $550 million.

That was the price tag the Austin City Council heard in a work session this morning. Assistant City Manager Robert Goode said some $550 million was required to build the first proposed phase of urban rail, from the convention center through the UT-Austin campus and on the Mueller neighborhood.

And while the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts funding program could cover roughly half of that, rail consultants said the city would need to cover the other $275 million, likely in large part through a bond election – should council place it on the ballot, and voters approve it.

Read more
Urban Rail
5:00 pm
Mon May 21, 2012

City Council Considers Urban Rail (and How to Fund It) Tuesday

The City of Austin invited Oregon Ironworks to show their urban rail vehicle in 2010.
Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

Austin’s urban rail plans will take a major step tomorrow when a preliminary funding and phasing plan will be outlined during an Austin City Council work session.

The Austin Transportation Department sent out a memo last Thursday outlining initial phases of investment for urban rail. 

The first proposed phase would serve Downtown, the Capitol Complex, UT, Hancock Center and Mueller. Phase Two would cross the river and head down Riverside Drive to Pleasant Valley.

Read more
Transportation
1:22 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

Early Report: U.S. Highway Deaths Fall to Lowest Number Since 1949

Skid marks left by a van are visible on a highway after a van plunged over both the concrete and iron railing, killing three generations of a Bronx family, in New York.
Louis Lanzano AP

Originally published on Mon May 7, 2012 11:59 am

If a preliminary report holds true, the number of road deaths fell again in 2011. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that 32,310 people died on highways last year, down almost 2 percent from the 32,885 people who died in 2010.

The Detroit News reports:

Read more
Texas
8:48 am
Mon May 7, 2012

New Driver's License Requirements in Effect

The new requirements are focused on proving residency.
Image courtesy Department of Public Safety.

Starting today, new applicants for Texas driver’s licenses and IDs will have to meet stricter residency requirements.

First-time applicants have to meet all of the previous requirements, as well as present two additional documents that prove they live in Texas — like a current mortgage or lease agreement and a vehicle registration or title. You can view a complete list of acceptable documents to prove residency here

Read more
Austin
1:19 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Is Austin's Texting Ban Making a Difference?

Austin drivers may not be paying much attention to the ban on texting while driving.
Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

In Austin, it’s illegal to use your cell phone for anything other than phone calls while driving. That includes texting and surfing the internet. The ban went into effect January 1, 2010.

But is the ban making a difference?

The Austin Police Department told KUT that officers have written just 26 citations for texting while driving since the city’s ban took effect.

Read more
Capital Metro
2:09 pm
Fri April 20, 2012

Cap Metro Staff Makes Contractor Recommendations

Cap Metro staff has proposed separate contractors for regualr bus routes and its paratransit services, pictured above.
Photo courtesy Flickr user i-Ride Capital Metro

Today, Capital Metro staff met with the agency Board of Directors to make recommendations on new contractor bids. Monday, the board will make a final decision.

These are the last few steps towards a new labor structure for Capital Metro. The changes are required to comply with a new state law that requires transit employees to either become employees of the state or to become employees of a private contractor. The union that represents most of the employees chose the latter option so they could retain collective bargaining rights.

The board will need to choose one contractor for employees of fixed-route bus services and another for employees of paratransit services (door-to-door services for people with disabilities). The board could also choose to have one contractor employ workers of both services.

Read more
Capital Metro
11:48 am
Thu April 19, 2012

Countdown to New Contractor for Cap Metro

A looming labor switchover means Capital Metro will only have about 200 direct employees.
Photo by Emily Donahue for KUT News

This summer, some 850 workers will no longer be directly employed by transit authority Capital Metro, or its non-profit contractor StarTran — instead, they’ll be contracted out to a soon-to-be named private company.

It’s a change that has to be made because of a state law passed last year, requiring transit employees to either become state employees or employees of a private contractor. The union that represents most of the workers chose the contractor option, as to maintain collective bargaining rights.

Tomorrow, staff will recommend to the Capital Metro Board of Directors which of the contractor bids it believes is best. They may recommend one contractor for fixed route services (regular bus lines), and another for paratransit services (door-to-door service for people with disabilities). Staff may also recommend a single contractor for both.

Read more
Transportation
8:14 am
Mon April 16, 2012

Do Americans Need to Walk More?

Americans walk less than the citizens of any other industrialized nation, says Tom Vanderbilt. In this file photo from last summer, pedestrians and a cyclist cross the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Mon April 16, 2012 2:18 am

"Americans now walk the least of any industrialized nation in the world," says writer Tom Vanderbilt. To find out why that is, Vanderbilt has been exploring how towns are built, how Americans view walking — and what might be done to get them moving around on their own two feet.

Talking with Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep about what is wrong with Americans' relationship with walking, Vanderbilt says, "The main thing is, we're just not doing enough of it."

Read more
Transportation
3:57 pm
Thu April 12, 2012

Pedicab Permits Capped, For Now

Pedicab rules regarding insurance, fares and more passed at a City Council meeting today.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/atmtx

While the city regulates and considers improvements to pedicab services, no new permits will be issued for six months. 

Read more
Capital Metro
2:34 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

Cap Metro Receives $38 Million From Feds for MetroRapid

Officials announced the investment along a bus similar to what MetroRapid will offer.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Capital Metro announced today that it has received $38 million from the Federal Transit Administration to help cover the cost of the MetroRapid program.

The funds come from the administration’s "Very Small Start" program and will cover about 80 percent of the program’s $48 million cost, said Linda Watson, the president and CEO of Capital Metro.

“That’s tax money that Texans pay coming back to Texas,” Watson said. “So it’s a great day not only for Capital Metro and our customers, but for Central Texas and taxpayers in the whole state of Texas.”

Read more
Transportation
11:29 am
Mon April 2, 2012

Learn About 'The High Cost of Free Parking' Tonight

Professor Donald Shoup (left) argues parking should be priced to reflect its true cost.
Shoup photo courtesy shoup.bol.ucla.edu; parking photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

There’s no such thing as a free lunch – and no such thing as free parking, according to an influential author speaking in Austin today.

The Urban Transportation Commission and City Council Member Chris Riley are hosting a conversation this evening with Donald Shoup. Shoup’s 2005 book, The High Cost of Free Parking, argues that on-street parking is a valuable commodity in cities, and should be priced accordingly to cut down on traffic congestion and pollution.

KUT News spoke with Shoup this morning. He noted the University  of Texas campus was a perfect example of some of the arguments he’s made.

Read more
Transportation
11:27 am
Thu March 29, 2012

Could a Congressional Showdown Crash Texas Transportation Projects?

Photo courtesy flickr.com/nffcnnr

A dispute over federal transportation funding has some state and local governments worried. But the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDot) says if funding dries up, Texas can float construction costs for up to three months.

The U.S. Senate passed a $109 billion transportation bill nearly two weeks ago. But since then, the measure has garnered little traction in the House, as Republican legislators have rallied behind an alternate budget with deeper spending cuts, according to Washington DC journal The Hill.

As of this writing, the House just passed a 90-day extension of transportation funding. Should the Senate approve the same measure, it will prevent federal funds from hitting the skids this Saturday.

Read more
Austin
9:54 am
Thu March 1, 2012

City Council Preview: Bag Ban, Energy Rates, Weekend Rail and More – You Name It, It’s On the Agenda

It's an embarrassment of riches at City Hall today.
Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

We’re not sure what’s up with today’s Austin City Council meeting, filled with action on several long-simmering items. The council holds another meeting next week before heading into spring break, so it’s not like council has to cram everything into this meeting. But they pretty much did. Here's a rundown:

… And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Lights: Item 15 on the agenda inks an agreement with the RunTex Foundation to sponsor the Trail of Lights, that holiday event at Zilker Park that went dark due to budget cuts. As we wrote earlier this week, many see the proposal as a win-win, while others decry the privatization of a publicly-run event.

Taxi Drivers: Items 30 and 31 award new permits to Austin taxi franchises: 30 more for Lone Star Cab, and 15 more for Austin Cab. The item is up on second reading, meaning should it be successful today, a third and final vote is still required. And the meter’s still running: If and when these 45 are awarded, council is expected to offer an additional 35 new permits this summer.

Read more
Austin
12:05 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

What Are the City's Plans for Airport Boulevard?

This design proposal for Airport Blvd. shows a divided median, bikeways, improved sidewalks and more.
Image courtesy airportboulevard.com

Airport Boulevard – or at least the bustling but non-scenic stretch of it from the Mueller development to its terminus at North Lamar – may look and function a whole lot differently in the future.

For the past several months, the City of Austin, designers and planners have worked on a plan to beautify the urban thoroughfare, making it more multimodal and pedestrian friendly. Tonight, at a meeting of the city’s Design Commission, we’ll see the result of that work, as the commission discusses and may take action on recommendations in the Airport Boulevard Corridor Study Report.

So why this stretch of asphalt? Its location has several things going for it: The ongoing infill development at the former Mueller airport speaks to the area’s redevelopment potential; so does ailing Highland Mall, the largely-vacant retail destination center that Austin Community College has a large stake in. Then there’s the new Midtown Commons development at North Lamar, located on the Capital Metro Red Line.

Read more
Austin
9:40 am
Thu February 23, 2012

AM Update: Perry's Security Costs Soar, Car Crashes Down, F1 Neighbors' Noise Complaints

Ben Philpott, KUT News

Perry’s Security Costs Soar

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has been releasing travel-related security costs incurred by Gov. Rick Perry during his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination. However, the totals haven’t included overtime pay. The Texas Tribune requested the overtime amounts:

“In the six months in which Perry was an active presidential candidate, DPS spent $1.1 million on overtime pay for the Executive Protection Bureau – more than the total overtime pay for the security detail in all of 2010, records show. ”

In December, during Perry’s tour of Iowa, DPS spending costs came close to $300,000.

Read more
Texas
12:23 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

KUT News Roundup: LCRA Water Plan Woes, Erroneous Energy Bills, Pumping Oil With Pollution

Let's take a midweek look at the top Austin and Central Texas stories from KUT.org and StateImpact Texas, KUT's reporting partnership with NPR.

LCRA About to Finalize Water Plan Through 2020

A vote is imminent on a plan that would regulate water use from the Highland Lakes to the Gulf Coast until 2020. The Lower Colorado River Authority heard public comment Tuesday from a wide range of people on its water management plan.

“It’s really hard for me to be speaking here today, because we are staring down the devastation of the drought of 2011,” said Janet Caylor, representing businesses on Lake Travis. “And as y’all are aware, there have already been multiple bankruptcies, loss of jobs, many are struggling to stay in business.”

Read more
Transportation
2:44 pm
Mon February 20, 2012

Relax and Leave the Driving to Your Car

Peter Stone sits shotgun as his automated car does the driving.
Photo by Wyatt McSpadden, courtesy University of Texas

Could rush hour gridlock turn into relaxation time for Texas drivers?

University of Texas researcher Peter Stone and his fellow project members at UT’s Autonomous Intersection Management (AIM) project have been receiving attention with a provocative concept: creating “smart” intersections linked to intelligent autos that will enable cars to drive themselves. Stone’s research was recently presented at a meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Science.

Stone is no stranger to automotive technology; five years ago, he was part of a team that responded to a development challenge from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to create a vehicle that could pilot itself. “Since then, in 2007, we’ve had a car which can drive itself,” Stone says.

Read more
Austin
11:21 am
Wed February 15, 2012

KUT News Roundup: City Website Reloading, Cattle Ranchers Fight Drought, and Fact Checking Gingrich

If you've missed any of our reporting this week, we've compiled this report.
Photo by KUT News

It's Wednesday, which can only mean one thing: A mid-week round-up of news in Austin and Central Texas from KUT.org, our reporting partner StateImpact Texas, and our friends at KUHF Houston:

New Austin City Website Still Ironing Out Kinks (KUT News)

Read more
Transportation
1:59 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Will 45 New Taxi Permits Make a Difference To Passengers? Or Drivers?

Even with additional permits, Austin Cab and Lone Star Cab permits are greatly outnumbered by Yellow Cab.
Graphic by KUT News

More taxicabs may be hitting Austin's streets, but not anytime soon.

Last night, the City Council approved additional permits for cab companies: 30 for Lone Star Cab (which would bring its total to 88), and 15 for Austin Cab (bringing it to 177).

However, the approvals were on first reading only; council must approve the change on three readings, which may occur concurrently. And even then, it takes 60 days for the permits to take effect.

As shown above, should Lone Star and Austin Cab receive the additional permits, their numbers will still be  eclipsed by Yellow Cab, which controls 455 permits: so many, in fact, it's technically prohibited by city  ordinance, which states a company may not possess more than 60 percent of the city's permits. 

Read more
Transportation
11:18 am
Mon February 6, 2012

What Can Austin Learn About Rail From Other Cities?

An Oregon Ironworks rail car, photographed in Austin in 2010. The city brought the car here to build excitement for an urban rail system.
Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

As Austin has grown in size and prominence, so have cries for a more robust transportation system.  Our mayor has repeatedly called for a vote on an urban rail system to serve the city's core, and the city has received tantalizing glimpses of what rail cars could like in Austin.

What Austin hasn’t had in earnest is a close examination of how other cities have implemented rail systems.

That may change somewhat this week, with a delegation of a transit authority leaders from six western cities – Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City and San Diego – assembling in Austin for discussions at two events.

Read more

Pages