Traffic, public transit, congestion, road construction and closures, I-35, MoPac, US 290, US 183, Ben White Blvd, and policy and planning issues related to transportation and mobility in Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson.

Photo courtesy Twitter user JenelleS_KVUE,

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.

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.

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.

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.

"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."

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.

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

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

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.”

Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

The City of Austin may soon install additional parking meters in the West Campus area.

University Area Partners, a West Campus coalition of businesses, property owners and neighbors, has requested that meters be installed to relieve traffic congestion in the area. Property owners say students and UT employees who park there causing a parking shortage. 

Brian Donovan, who chairs the association’s parking committee, says the meters will allow access for more drivers.

Photo by KUT News

There will soon be some changes at Capital Metro. Riders probably won’t notice but many drivers and mechanics will.

Capital Metro is required to change its labor structure after the Texas legislature passed a law, Senate Bill 650, last May that basically requires transit workers to either become state employees or become employees of a competitively-bid private contractor. 

To receive federal transit funding, Capital Metro employees initially needed to retain their right to collective bargaining, but the requirement was at odds with state law prohibiting collective bargaining and the right to strike for public employees. A third-party, StarTran, was installed to resolve the impasse – but SB 650 did away with that arrangement.

Photo courtesy of OTI America

You know when you want to park somewhere but you don’t know how much money to put in the meter? You’re like, “Geez, I should err on the safe side and buy an hour’s worth of time.” But then you’re back in 30 minutes. Frustrating! 

This new device should help with that. It’s a pre-paid in-vehicle parking meter by OTI America called EasyPark. You buy one online and then plug it into your computer and add money to it.

Then, when you want to park, you put it in your window and it charges you in 15 minutes increments until you get back and turn it off. You don’t need to fiddle with those new parking pay stations or put that sticker in your window or anything like that. The device beeps every minute so you don’t forget to turn it off when you get back. Because if you forget, it will keep charging you.

Shoup photo courtesy; 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.

Erik Reyna/KUT News

Gas prices are on the rise nationally, and Austin is no exception.

The price of gas in Texas has gone up another six cents this week, to $3.82 a gallon, according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report. That's up 25 cents over the last 4 weeks.

The price spike mirrors one hitting the entire country. But gas here is still a dime cheaper than the national average. Austin customers pay $3.75 at the pump, up from $3.58 a month ago.

View Speed Limit Raised to 80 MPH on SH-130, SH 45 S in a larger map

Today, the Texas Transportation Commission approved 80 mph speed limits on two Central Texas highways.

The limit has been raised on the nine mile stretch of State Highway 45 South, from Interstate Highway 35 to US Highway 183. Heading west, SH 45 turns into SH 130, and the 80 MPH designation continues for 45 more miles, all the way to IH-35 in Williamson County.

Photo courtesy

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.

Photo courtesy

In an effort to improve pedestrian safety and calm traffic, the city’s putting the squeeze on South Congress.

Construction starts today on an eight to 12-month project to “bulb-out,” or extend curbs on streets intersecting South Congress, shortening the crossing distance for pedestrians from 90 feet to 57 feet. The bulbs will take the form of concrete islands providing "pedestrian refuges," according to the city.

Of course, construction means traffic delays. The city states “One lane of traffic will be closed on S. Congress in the area where the contractor is working and one lane of traffic will be closed on the cross-streets with detours for the cross-streets.” Does that mean the bulbs are calming traffic already?

Photo by Emily Donahue, KUT News

With a string of recent auto-pedestrian fatalities, the Austin Police Department announced it's enhancing its Pedestrian Enforcement Safety Team initiative by targeting drivers at crosswalks – and using officers as decoys.

There have been eight pedestrians and bicyclists killed in crashes so far this year. Police Chief Art Acevedo said drunk drivers and drunken pedestrians contribute to Austin’s number of pedestrian deaths, but drivers that fail to yield to pedestrians are responsible for more deaths than drunk drivers.

Photo by I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

How should the city decide how many taxi permits to issue?

Believe it or not, Austin actually has a formula. And it’s not terribly arcane either, like the number of UT home games multiplied by number of South by Southwest venues divided by new Eastside dive bars.

Instead, there’s a longstanding equation, last revisited nearly a decade ago, that the city uses to assess how many cabs it should have on the streets. But that equation may change beginning this week.

As laid out in the city charter, the Ground Transportation Department sets the number of permits by multiplying the previous year’s number “by the average of the percent of annual change in: (1) the population of the City; and (2) the number of taxicab departures from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.”

Photo by KUT News

The Austin-American Statesman writes about the City of Austin’s continuing efforts to improve highway traffic through its I-35 Corridor Development Program.

City of Austin voters approved funds in November 2010 for studying high traffic corridors in the city. Those studies would address short- and medium-term transportation improvements, including several intersections with I-35.