Transportation

2015 Legislative Session
12:24 pm
Tue November 11, 2014

Bill Filings Begin: Four Things to Look for in the 2015 Texas Legislature

The Texas Legislature convenes on Jan. 13, but what will lawmakers be considering?
Liang Shi for KUT

It's that time of the biennium.

The 84th Texas Legislature is just a few short months away, and state lawmakers are already filing their bills for the first Rick Perry-less session this side of the millennium. So far, the bills include legislative pet projects like texting and driving bans, open carry initiatives and tax cuts. Other proposals target tougher statewide issues like transportation funding and state budgeting.

You can find a roundup of issues that state lawmakers are considering below.

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Transportation
8:08 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Statewide Transportation Measure Passes

Update: The constitutional amendment to take some oil and gas tax revenues and direct them towards road project funding passed by a wide margin – 79.78 percent for to 20.21 percent against.

"Passing Proposition 1 was just the first step in addressing the transportation funding shortfall in Texas," said Scott Haywood, President of Move Texas Forward, which pushed for the measure. "We look forward to continue working with our coalition partners as we fight for the additional funding for transportation that will move Texas forward.”

Original Story (Nov. 4, 12:21 p.m.): So much digital ink and airtime has been spilled over Austin's rail and roads proposition (commonly known as Austin's Prop 1), which would add a billion dollars in city debt to build a starter light rail line and improve state roads. But that isn't the only transportation item on the ballot this year. There's also a statewide proposition (also commonly known as statewide Prop 1) that could have an impact on Texas roads. 

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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
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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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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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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Transportation
4:39 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Federal Highway Program Could Run Out Of Money Next Month

The White House has warned that without more money for the federal Highway Trust Fund, which helps states pay for road and infrastructure projects, construction delays will put thousands out of work.
Seth Perlman AP

Originally published on Thu July 3, 2014 2:35 pm

Congress has yet another problem it can't solve.

For years, the main federal transportation program has been spending more money than it takes in. This year, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the Transportation Department will disburse $45 billion while collecting only $33 billion for its Highway Trust Fund.

As a result, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx warned states on Tuesday that they will start seeing cuts of 28 percent in federal funding for roads and bridges next month unless Congress comes up with some extra money.

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Urban Rail
10:48 am
Thu June 26, 2014

Council Holds Key Vote on Austin Urban Rail: A Look at What's at Stake

A rendering of urban rail on Lakeshore Boulevard, one stop along a proposed E. Riverside Drive route.
Project Connect

A proposal to build a $1.4 billion urban rail line in Austin faces a key vote today in the city council. The 9.5 mile urban rail line would run from Riverside Drive and Grove, through downtown to Highland Mall.

Supporters of the plan say that route is going to see a lot of growth over the next few years. Opponents wonder why it’s not going in where things are already happening. Like, along Lamar or Guadalupe.

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Transportation
6:34 am
Thu June 12, 2014

Uber's Rapid Growth Pits Innovation Against Existing Laws

Taxi drivers gather in Berlin before joining an anti-Uber protest through the city. It coincided with similar protests in cities across Europe.
Sean Gallup Getty Images

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 10:53 am

To see the speed of technological innovation, look no further than a street corner. Hailing a cab from the street is less common in cities with Uber, a service that lets you request a ride with the simple tap of a mobile phone app.

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Transportation
2:37 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

Why is Project Connect Handing Out This Inaccurate Urban Rail Map?

Project Connect handed out about 200 of these flyers over the weekend. But they didn't show what they claimed.
Credit Project Connect

Disclosure: Project Connect is a sponsor of KUT. 

Update: Project Connect has issued a new flyer. Scroll to the bottom of this post to read it. 

Original story: If you were out and about in Austin this weekend, you may have met someone from the outreach team of Project Connect, a multi-agency group working on mass transit options for the region. In an effort to promote a series of meetings regarding an urban rail proposal that will likely end up before voters this fall, the outreach team was passing out flyers showing the proposed first rail line in Hyde Park. But those flyers don’t accurately show what that proposed line is, and now one neighborhood advocate is accusing Project Connect of misleading the public.

A few hundred Austinites got a flyer (above) from a Project Connect outreach team this weekend showing its overall long-term transit vision for the city. At the bottom right corner of the flyer, a big orange bubble screams, “Let’s Get Moving!” The flyer shows rail to the airport, rail along the major corridors of Lamar and Congress, and along the MoPac freeway. In essence, rail lines that have the potential to replace lots of cars on the road. The map is titled "Proposed First Line of Urban Rail." There is no legend indicating what the various routes depicted are. 

But if you were to actually pass out an accurate map of the proposed first line that voters may decide on this fall – which in its latest iteration would run along East Riverside, through downtown and tunneling under and then paralleling a portion of the existing MetroRail line up to Highland Mall – it would actually look very different.

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Interstate 35
4:20 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

TxDOT Backs Plans to Bury I-35 – Just Don’t Hold Your Breath Waiting

A TxDOT rendering of a sunk and capped I-35 in downtown Austin. TxDOT is currently focused on less ambitious I-35 fixes, like improving ramps.
TxDOT/Mobility35

Sorry, Austin – there's no money to improve the Interstate 35 corridor. At least not enough for a full face-lift, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

But as money becomes available, TxDOT says it will continue working on portions of the highway. At a media workshop today, the state agency said that by the end of the year it should move from the planning stages of I-35 improvements and into studying their environmental impact. That should take about two years. And then – if funding is available – it will be time to start implementing changes.

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Travis County
2:43 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

With This App, Your Pics Could Get Handicapped Parking Violators Ticketed

Parking Mobility’s founder Mack Marsh says a previous test in Travis County generated 300 tickets, so the system will generate more revenue than the program costs.
flickr.com/neilconway

Advocates for the disabled are calling out drivers for parking illegally in handicapped spaces – and they now have both technology and government on their side.

A new app called Parking Mobility allows citizen volunteers to submit photos of handicapped parking violators directly to authorities. Today, the Travis County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to move forward with a six month pilot program allowing qualified volunteers to become deputies whose submissions can turn into citations. The current penalty for illegal parking in a handicapped space is a minimum fine of $500.

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Pedestrian Safety Study
2:14 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Report: Austin's One of the Country's Most Dangerous Areas for Pedestrians

Austin-Round Rock ranks 24th out of the 51 most dangerous metro areas in a new nationwide report released today.
flickr.com/keoni101

Austin is the country's 24th most dangerous metro area for pedestrians, according to a new report.

"Dangerous by Design 2014" [PDF], a study from the National Complete Streets Coalition and Smart Growth America, examines pedestrian deaths in the country's 51 biggest metro areas.

The study factors five years of data on pedestrian deaths (2008-2012) with the percentage of area commuters that walk to work to create a Pedestrian Danger Index. The Austin-Round Rock index is 78.6, well above the national average of 52.2. The area averages 1.44 pedestrian deaths for every 100,000 residents, which is actually somewhat below the national average of 1.56. Overall, the Austin-Round Rock area had 251 pedestrian deaths from 2003 to 2012.

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Transportation
4:08 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

This is Project Connect's $1.4 Billion Proposal for Austin Urban Rail

Credit Project Connect

Austin officials unveiled plans today for the city's first urban rail line.

The 9.5 mile long line would run along East Riverside Drive and turn north near the Austin-American Statesman building, cross Lady Bird Lake via bridge, continue through downtown and the University of Texas and end at Highland Mall. The plan also calls for four park & ride areas, two each toward opposite ends of the line.  

The project cost is estimated at $1.38 billion. Officials with Project Connect, the working group of city, Capital Metro, and other regional transportation officials that made today's recommendation, say they believe the federal government would pay for half of that estimated cost.

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Transportation
11:53 am
Fri May 2, 2014

As Austin Nears Urban Rail Decision, Proof Traffic's Always Been Awful

Yes, this qualified as problem traffic on I-35 back in the 1960s.
Texas Archive of the Moving Image

Austin is inching its way towards the creation of a possible new rail line.

Later today, Project Connect, a group of regional transportation officials including the City of Austin and Capital Metro, is widely expected to unveil a proposed route for urban rail.

The announcement is a further refinement of preliminary findings tapping the East Riverside and Highland Mall regions as prime corridors for investment – a finding many Austin transit advocates found fault with. Once set for the ballot by the Austin City Council, citizens will vote on whether to approve rail funding in an election this November. 

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Transportation
1:58 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Get Ready for This Red River Street Closure That Lasts Into 2015

The Frank Erwin Center sits in the center of the stretch of Red River Street that will remain closed until 2015.
Larry D. Moore, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Nv8200p

You may want to take a drive along Red River Street this weekend: it’s your last chance before the street is realigned to make way for UT-Austin's new Dell Medical School.

Starting Monday, Red River Street will be closed from Martin Luther King Boulevard to 15th Street – and it’s not scheduled to re-open until January.

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Energy & Environment
12:53 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Why It's So Damn Hard to Move the Taco Bell Tree

Michael Fossum with the Austin Heritage Tree Foundation stands in front of the heritage Live Oak known as the "Taco Bell Tree." Fossum and his group fought to save the tree from being cut down for a traffic project.
Terrence Henry, KUT News

From StateImpact Texas: 

Back in the 1970s and '80s, it probably looked like something out of Dazed and Confused. Teenagers pulling up in T-Birds, wind in their hair, to hang out in the parking lot of a Taco Bell. The sun would set in the Hill Country to the west, sending a glow through the branches of an old Live Oak tree. Today the Taco Bell and the teenagers are long gone, but the tree remains, affectionately known as the "Taco Bell Tree."

It's also now at an intersection best known for being a traffic nightmare – the Y at Oak Hill –  where two highways intersect and a third road feeds into the jumble. In order to improve that intersection, the state embarked on a temporary plan to expand it that would help for the next five years, while something longer term is put into place. The plan included cutting down the Taco Bell Tree, which has been here long before drive-thrus (or even combustion engines). All right, all right, all right.

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Transportation
8:59 am
Tue March 18, 2014

Why Austin Taxi Drivers Can't Refuse a Ride Based on Destination

Ever been refused a ride by an Austin cab? If it was due to trip length, they broke the law.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Have you ever been denied a cab ride in Austin?

After last week's deadly crash on Red River Street, there's been calls for more and better public transportation and taxi service.

But during special events like South by Southwest, it seems like more and more Austin taxis refuse to take riders for a variety of reasons. Carlton Thomas with the City of Austin’s Parking Enterprise says the most common reason is that "drivers are not interested in taking the short trips."  

He should know, because all complaints about cab drivers come to his department.

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SXSW 2014
7:07 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

SXSW Crash Raises Concerns About Barricade Safety

A car plowed through barricades like these early Thursday morning, killing two and injuring 23. Now, some are questioning whether the city of Austin should use stronger barriers to increase pedestrian safety.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

Every year during South by Southwest, police use barricades to create pedestrian-only streets. They’re meant to protect the large crowds that descend on the city.

But early Thursday morning, a driver plowed through one of those barricades, killing two people and injuring 23 others.

Now, some people, like pedestrian safety expert Rob Reiter, are questioning if the city should put more protective barriers in place. He says crashes like the one last night are preventable if the right types of barricades are used.

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