transportation

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. 

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.

Jeff Heimsath/KUT News

Plans to expand Capital Metro’s rail service haven’t enjoyed a smooth roll-out.

The transit authority told KXAN yesterday its plans on launching weekend service on its MetroRail commuter line during this spring’s South by Southwest festival.

However, a report from Austin American-Statesman‘s Ben Wear notes there’s still no agreement between Cap Metro and the City of Austin, which is expected to fund the extra rail service. He quotes Austin City Council member and Cap Metro board chair Mike Martinez as saying, “The bottom line is, there’s no deal.”

The soonest any formal action could occur on the proposal is next week. At their Feb. 9 meeting, city council is slated to take up an item providing for the extra funding. The cost of expanding Friday rail service into the evening and running the service on Saturday is tallied at $2.2 million annually, with two optional year-long contract extensions.

Photo by KUT News

School Board to Withdraw Financial Exigency

The Austin ISD board is expected to withdraw the district's declaration of financial exigency at a board meeting tonight. AISD declared itself to be in a state of fiscal emergency last February, which allowed the district to cut more than 1,000 positions. The district says they now have enough money in reserve to cover an anticipated deficit year. 

flickr.com/bionicteaching

Here’s another reason not to over-imbibe: If you get sick in a taxi on the way back from Sixth Street, you could get hit with a $100 dollar fine.

That measure is one of two proposals coming to the Austin City Council tomorrow. Item 42 creates the clean-up fee. If passed, it directs City Manager Marc Ott to draft “recommendations for implementation and enforcement strategies for a $100 taxicab clean-up fee” – i.e., how and when the fee will be collected. It will also implement the new rule quickly, by Feb. 9.

There’s a second cab-related measure up too: Item 43, which would implement a “peak hour surcharge” on fares. Between the hours of 9p.m. and 4:30p.m., fares would be charged a flat $2.50 surcharge.

The new fees are an outgrowth of complaints council regularly hears every time a taxi-related measure comes up: that it's difficulty to make a living as a cab driver.

Photo by Wells Dunbar, KUT News

New signs are in place at Capital Metro bus stops around town. But instead of a list of times, they feature an identification number for that specific stop, and information on how to learn more about the next bus arrival. The signs include a quick response (QR) code , which people can scan with their smartphones to open a mobile website containing upcoming arrival times for that individual spot.

It’s a technological step forward for Capital Metro, which is in the process of installing site-specific signs at each of its 2,700 bus stops around Austin.

However, the times Capital Metro displays are the set, static times the transportation agency displays in their schedule books. Real-time information on bus arrivals and departures are still some two years away, the agency says.

Photo by Jessie Wang for KUT News

The City of Austin has launched a redesigned website that contains an interactive project map where users can see progress on projects.

Last year, Austin voters passed a $90 million transportation bond to pay for more bike paths, sidewalks, streets and trails with hopes of reducing commuters' reliance on cars. Visitors of the site can view status reports, photos of projects and project updates.

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