Transportation

Transportation
11:58 am
Fri June 1, 2012

Leffingwell: 2012 'Not the Right Time' for Urban Rail

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

Citing timing and financial constraints, Mayor Lee Leffingwell is arguing funding for Urban Rail shouldn't be put to voters this November.

In a post on his website, Mayor Leffingwell writes "we do not yet have a sufficient level of certainty regarding a plan to fund and manage operations and maintenance of an urban rail system. We also do not yet have the degree of certainty that I would like to see as it relates to a prospective federal funding match for construction costs, which is a fundamental need."

He also notes that in addition to potential rail funding on the ballot this November, "we are also poised to ask [voters] to approve a host of other critically needed bond investments." 

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Transportation
10:42 am
Fri June 1, 2012

Red-Light Cameras Reducing Accidents While Revenue Shrinks

Police credit Austin's red light program with reducing accidents - but many violators have skirted paying their fines.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/rutlo

The city of Austin has cut the number of car crashes at ten of its most dangerous intersections in half. But how?

Red-light cameras that electronically photograph cars running red lights have been set up all over Austin. Over the past three years, these cameras have provided means to give almost 35,000 citations to those dangerous drivers.

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Transportation
4:03 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

iPhone App Might Make It Easier To Find Parking

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

On some days, you might have more success finding buried pirate treasure than a parking spot in downtown Austin. Enter: iPhones.

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Transportation
11:25 am
Mon May 28, 2012

Get Onboard: It's Time To Stop Hating The Bus

In a piece for Salon.com, Will Doig argues that it's time for Americans to reconsider the bus.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon May 28, 2012 3:07 pm

This interview was originally broadcast on March 29, 2012.

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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.

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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.

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Transportation
1:36 pm
Mon May 21, 2012

'Click It or Ticket' Starts Today

For the next two weeks, law enforcement will watch closely for seat belt scofflaws.
Photo by By Daniel Reese for KUT News

Today marks the beginning of another "Click it or Ticket" campaign, a two-week undertaking by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to enforce seat belt usage. 

In Texas and across the country, law enforcement will be on the lookout for drivers and passengers shirking seatbelt laws, or whose children are improperly restrained. (Children under eight years must be in a child safety seat, unless they are taller than 4'9".) Citations run up to $250.

The NHTSA writes on its website that in the annual “Click It or Ticket” initiative, over three million tickets have been written over the last five years – a ticket every other second.

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Transportation
3:27 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

How Much Can You Save by Biking to Work?

You can calculate your commuter savings by switching to two wheels.
Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Today is National Bike to Work Day – and with Austin’s infamous gridlock, more and more commuters are increasingly pedal-powered.

In celebration of Bike to Work Day, Kiplinger.com offers Americans a way to see exactly how much money they would save by riding their bikes to work every day. 

From the heart of residential Tarrytown, at Windsor Road and Exposition Boulevard, to Austin City Hall, Kiplinger estimates a savings of $13.19 a day for a seven-mile round trip and $10 a day for parking for about $3,500 in yearly savings.

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Transportation
4:52 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

City Unveils Recommended Urban Rail Routes

The first proposed phase would serve Downtown, the Capitol Complex, UT, Hancock Center and Mueller. Phase 2 would cross the river and head down Riverside to Pleasant Valley.
Image courtesy Austin Transportation Department.

The City of Austin Transportation Department says the first phase of a new urban rail system should run from the convention center downtown, through the UT-Austin campus, and on to the Mueller neighborhood.

In a memo released today, the department also laid out a path for a second phase going south of the river. That route would head south from the convention center, across Lady Bird Lake and then run along East Riverside Drive to Pleasant Valley road.

The memo doesn’t have cost estimates for either route. The Austin City Council will take up the recommendations and cost estimates during two upcoming work sessions. On May 22, it will hear a conceptual funding plan, then on May 29, the council will hear a Transportation staff-recommended “next investment.” 

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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:

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Transportation
4:49 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Another I-35 Accident Closed Lanes Earlier Today

I-35 was subject to two separate closures today.
Photo by KUT News

Authorities shut down the north and southbound lanes on Interstate 35 earlier this afternoon, after a pickup truck hit a small propane tank trunk just south of Slaughter Lane.

“The pick up truck caught on fire and there was a small leak from the propane tank,” said Veneza Aguinaga, a senior police officer at the Austin Police Department.  “It is typical protocol to shut down a road if we feel there is a threat to citizens.”

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Transportation
4:20 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

'Click It or Ticket' Photo Op Leaves Onlookers Hanging

Raising awareness for auto safety, seatbelts were used to hoist a truck in Downtown Austin.
Photo by Jillian Schantz Patrick

In recent years, cranes have become an integral part of the Austin skyline. But it's not very often you see one suspend a pickup truck by seatbelts. 

This morning, the Texas Department of Transportation did just that as part of a demonstration to show the strength and power of seatbelts. 

The Click it Or Ticket campaign will stretch from May 21 to June 3 as an attempt to bring awareness and enforcement to the state seatbelt laws. Current law requires that every person in the vehicle must be secured by a seatbelt whether in the front or back seat.

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Capital Metro
10:39 am
Mon April 30, 2012

Fatality in Cap Metro Train Collision

An image of the collision this morning.
Photo courtesy Twitter user JenelleS_KVUE, http://yfrog.com/mnhspfwj

Update 1 p.m.: Capital Metro says complete rail service should be back on regular schedule by 1:15 p.m.

Update 10:30 a.m.: A 32 year-old man was killed in a Capital Metro rail collision this morning. Two children were also in the car with the unnamed man, and were taken to Dell Children’s Hospital. Capital Metro spokesperson Misty Whited tells KUT she’s learned the children are in stable condition.

127 passengers were aboard the train at the time of the collision, plus one train operator.

The collision occurred at a private drive crossing the Cap Metro rail line; out of 74 total crossings along the rail line, 13 are on private drives. Only two have crossing gates; the crossing at Oak Hill Drive (mapped below) did not have a gate, only a stop sign.

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Capital Metro
2:37 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Cap Metro Workers Should Keep Jobs Under Contractors

Contractors will take over employee management duties for Capital Metro in a few months.
Photo courtesy Van Sutherland via Flickr

This morning, Capital Metro bus drivers and mechanics met their soon-to-be employers. Representatives from the companies that Cap Metro is contracting out services with were at the bus garages at 4 a.m. for a quick meet and greet.

Yesterday, the Capital Metro Board of Directors voted to outsource hundreds of employees. Those include regular bus drivers and mechanics along with people who provide door-to-door services for the disabled.

A new law required Cap Metro either to outsource their workers or bring them in as state employees.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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Gas Prices
4:04 pm
Fri April 13, 2012

Gas Prices Down, Ever So Slightly

Texas gas prices have fell (very) slightly over the past week.
Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News

Gas prices in Texas actually dropped over the last week – but not by much.

Prices in the state dropped by only about two cents, according to the AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

Texans are paying an average of $3.82 a gallon. Austinites are still paying about 4 cents less than the state average, with rates of $3.78 a gallon. Gas locally is 10 cents more expensive now than it was a year ago.

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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. 

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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.”

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