transportation

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The Capital Metro Board of Directors is meeting this afternoon to adopt the transit company’s budget for the 2013 fiscal year.

The proposed budget won’t increase fares and doesn’t include any service additions or reductions.

Cap Metro says 2013 will be a “lean” year as the company focuses on maintenance and updating its fleet of buses.

"While our revenues from sales tax and other sources are healthy for next year, it is sort of a lean year for us in that we have a number of maintenance and state of good repair type of investments that need to be made. So we'll be buying new buses, making some technology upgrades, ultimately it means better service out on the streets of Austin and on the railroad of Austin but nothing super exciting this year," Capital Metro Spokesperson Erica Macioge says.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

It's back to work and school today but with cooler temperatures highs in the mid-90s. Here's a look at some of the big stories developing today:

AISD Looks at Single-Sex Education Options

The Austin  School Board is taking another look at single-sex middle schools this evening.

AISD Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen had wanted to create single-sex schools at Pearce and Garcia Middle Schools as soon as next school year. But the idea met resistance from some school board members and parents. If the board decides to go forward with the plan, it won’t go into effect until at least 2014-2015.

A new toll road is opening soon in Central Texas, stretching from Austin to the town of Seguin, outside of San Antonio.

State Highway 130 was built to relieve traffic along neighboring Interstate 35, one of the most congested roadways in Texas. But this stretch of toll road has a draw of its own: It recently had its speed limit approved at 85 mph, the fastest in the nation.

The dream of barreling down an open road at 85 mph is undoubtedly appealing to gridlock-prone Texas motorists. (Portions of SH 130 are already open - with a slightly lower speed - but have seen relatively scant traffic.)

Hoping that dream doesn’t turn into a nightmare is Russ Rader, spokesperson for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a non-profit highway research group funded by the auto insurance industry. He notes that speed limits have been on the increase for some time.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) names several Austin roads in its list of the "100 Most Congested Roadway Segments in Texas" today. One of the local offenders, clocking in at 68th worst, is State Loop 343.

Now who can tell us where SL 343 is?

Once you learn, you won’t be surprised by the loop's inclusion on this gridlocked list: SL 343 is the whole of South Lamar Boulevard. Starting at its southern limit at SH 71 and US 290, SL 343 travels north, turning east at First Street/Cesar Chavez, until it ends at I-35.   

Photo courtesy Twitter user JenelleS_KVUE, http://yfrog.com/mnhspfwj

This spring, Austinite Jeremy Barta was killed when a MetroRail commuter train collided with his car while it was stuck on the tracks at a private rail crossing. Barta’s two children also suffered in the accident. The train engineer was cleared in an internal Cap Metro investigation, despite a malfunction of the train’s camera system.

In a report today, the Austin American-Statesman raises new questions about the crash. 

According to police reports, the engineer didn’t immediately apply the brakes as soon as he saw the car on the tracks:

The engineer, Kazi Adnan Jahangir, 43, applied the train's emergency brakes and sounded the horn and bells only after realizing that the white Ford Taurus, driven by Jeremy Barta, might not move off the tracks, the documents said.

Caleb Miller for KUT News

Have any issues with you fellow Austin drivers? You’re not alone. Austin rests on the cusp of the lowest quartile in Allstate Insurance Company’s eight annual report on “America’s Best Drivers.”

Austin comes in 149th out of 200 cities polled in the report, which looks at car collision frequency in order to tally its rankings. Austin clocks in a hair better than its 2011 stranding of 150th out of 200.

By Allstate’s  metrics, Austinites are predicted to go 8.1 years on average between accidents. That may not sound bad until you hear about Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which topped the time between accidents at 13.8 years. On average, Austin drivers are almost 24 percent more likely to get into an accident than the national average.

Starting this weekend, you should expect some lane closures on southbound I-35 around Stassney Lane.

Last month, a truck hauling an oversized load ran into the underside of the bridge, damaging it.

Though the Texas Department of Transportation says the crash didn’t make the bridge unsafe, it needs to be repaired – and that’s expected to take more than two weeks.

Starting this Sunday, Capital Metro and UT shuttle bus routes are changing with the seasons. Cap Metro says the changes are an attempt to improve the system and make it more efficient.

Major route adjustments will include changes to 30 Barton Creek, which will no longer serve the Barton Hills/Hollow Creek neighborhood, and the 323 Anderson lines, which changes alignment from Ed Bluestein Boulevard to Springdale Road and Tuscany Way.

Minor schedule adjustments will made to the following routes to improve reliability: 4 Montopolis, 7 Duval/Dove Springs, 19 Bull Creek, 30 Barton Creek, 101 N. Lamar/S. Congress, 151 Allandale, 243 Wells Branch, 323 Anderson, 338 Westgate/45th and 383 Research. Several Night Owl routes will also be realigned.

Gas Prices Up Again

Aug 16, 2012

Gas prices around Austin are up five cents from last week and more than 20 cents from last month.

AAA Texas says Austinites are paying an average of $3.54 for a gallon of regular. That’s one cent higher than the state average.

Political tension in Iran and increased demand from the summer travel season are blamed for the increase.

Doug Shupe is a spokesman for AAA Texas. He says analysts believe prices will probably continue to go up – but there could be some relief soon.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

Capital Metro is upgrading rail warning systems at some private MetroRail crossings.

Jeremy Barta, 32, of Austin was killed and his two children were injured when their car was hit by train at a private crossing in April.

Cap Metro now plans to install flashing warning lights at six crossings. The company will install the lights at one crossing per year for the next six years – at a cost of about $200,000 per crossing.

Texas Transportation Institute

The Texas Transportation Institute wants Austinites to fill out a survey about their use of toll roads and freeways. The Texas Legislature mandated TxDOT to have the survey done to evaluate the flow of traffic in the city.

The survey asks about when, where and how much time you spend on area highways.

TTI hopes to gather data that will help them find ways to encourage Central Texans to take toll roads.

flickr.com/m-i-k-e

Gas prices continue to inch back up. AAA Texas reports they are now at an average price of $3.36 a gallon in Texas.

The average in Austin is also $3.36, a 10 cent increase over last week. Prices are still about 20 cents cheaper than this week last year.

A man who stripped naked to protest security screenings at the Portland International Airport was exercising his right to free speech, a court ruled Wednesday.

John Brennan was charged with indecent exposure after the incident, but Brennan said he stripped only after he refused to walk through a scanner and security agents found traces of nitrates on his clothes.

Here's how he described the incident to KVAL:

Imagine going into bankruptcy with billions of dollars in cash still in your bank account. That's what American Airlines did last November. The thinking was that management would gut the company's pensions and union contracts and emerge from bankruptcy ready to compete.

But then US Airways said it could take over American and be profitable, and it wouldn't have to hurt American's employees nearly as bad in the process. American's pilots, mechanics and flight attendants loved that idea.

Wikimedia

When Texas A&M left the Big 12, many assumed the rivalry between the Aggies and the Longhorns left with it.

Now the two Texas colleges are facing off again, but this time there’s a chance both schools – and the public –  could win. Yesterday, UT-Austin and Texas A&M were awarded grant money from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop cheaper natural gas vehicles.

UT’s Center for Electromechanics received more than $4 million to engineer new ways to refuel natural gas cars at home.

Allen photo Capital Metro; Bus photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Effective immediately, Capital Metro vice-president and chief development officer Doug Allen has resigned.

“Doug resigned on Tuesday,” Cap Metro spokesperson Misty Whited tells KUT News. “It’s been something that he and [Cap Metro president and CEO] Linda Watson had been talking about for some time.”

Allen came aboard Cap Metro in 2008, and served as interim president a year later, before a national search installed Watson as the transit authority’s leader. In a blog from the time, the Austin Chronicle wrote that Allen was “the point man on recent efforts to get MetroRail up and running.”

flickr.com/bump

At a meeting tonight, the Urban Transportation Commission will hear a presentation on potential changes to Austin’s valet parking ordinance.

Currently, a valet business can lease the use of a public parking spot for $250 a year. And approximately 180 parking spots are used for valet parking downtown. But as the city grows and parking becomes more scarce, calls have emerged to reconsider the fee, which hasn’t been modified since 1999.

Talks between the city and valet operators have been going on since August of last year. Both the city and the valet operators favor a change to an hourly rate. 

STAAR Retesting Begins Today

Students across Texas who didn’t pass subjects of the STAAR exam will begin retaking the tests today.

Last year’s ninth-graders were the only students who had to pass the tests to graduate on time as seniors. Next year, the passing requirement will affect both ninth and tenth-graders. The STAAR test will continue to phase-in to each grade, eventually completely replacing the TAKS test.

Also starting next year, the STAAR exam will make up 15 percent of a high school student’s final grade in a subject.

City of Austin

The Austin Airport Advisory Commission signed off on construction of a $5 million temporary terminal at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to expedite expected flights for this November’s Formula 1 race.

The commission voted yesterday to recommend a contract with Siemens Industry Inc. to construct “a temporary customs and immigration processing facility” at ABIA.

Although the terminal is billed as temporary, the contract with Siemens includes three year-long extensions for maintenance. In a presentation, Siemens bills the terminal as good for five years of operation.

TxDOT

The Texas Department of Transportation has just launched a new website designed to give you all the information you need before you hit the road.

DriveTexas.org features an interactive map that shows you traffic and weather conditions, construction projects and other information.

But before you use the mobile version of the website, you have to certify that you understand you shouldn’t use the website while driving.

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