Transportation

Transportation
3:26 pm
Thu March 29, 2012

Two Highways You’ll Soon Be Able to Drive 80 mph On

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.

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Transportation
11:27 am
Thu March 29, 2012

Could a Congressional Showdown Crash Texas Transportation Projects?

Photo courtesy flickr.com/nffcnnr

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.

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Transportation
11:48 am
Mon March 26, 2012

‘Bulb-Outs’ Coming to South Congress

Pedestrians crossing South Congress will soon have less unprotected space to navigate.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/atmtx

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?

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Transportation
4:39 pm
Wed March 21, 2012

Does Ticketing Drivers Make Pedestrians Safer?

A new police program is ticketing drivers who don't yield to pedestrians.
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.

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Transportation
12:18 pm
Mon March 19, 2012

Time to Change How Austin Allocates Taxi Permits?

The cab queue at Austin Bergstrom International Airport.
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.”

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Transportation
4:39 pm
Fri March 16, 2012

City Continues to Seek Input on I-35 Traffic

I-35 as seen from the MLK overpass.
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.

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Transportation
3:45 pm
Tue March 6, 2012

Let A Stranger Drive Your Car? More Owners Say Yes

Stanford graduate student Katie Hagey rents her 2002 BMW to strangers through the peer-to-peer car sharing service Wheelz.
Charla Bear for NPR

Originally published on Tue March 6, 2012 11:13 am

It would be difficult for some people to let a stranger drive off with one of their most valuable possessions. But not for Stanford graduate student Katie Hagey.

Hagey is one of a growing number of individual car owners who have started renting their wheels to people they don't know through car-sharing startup companies resembling the better-known Zipcar.

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Public Transit
7:47 pm
Thu March 1, 2012

Green Light For Red Line Service on Friday and Saturday Nights

A commuter train parked at Crestview Station
Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News

Capital Metro’s Red Line will start running late into the evening on Fridays and Saturdays. Austin City Council voted 6-1 this evening on this resolution directing city staff to finalize the deal with Cap Metro. Kathie Tovo was the only council member to vote against the proposal. 

The new schedule will see commuter trains run hourly from 7 p.m. until midnight on Fridays. On Saturdays, they'll run every 35 minutes 4 p.m. until midnight. That schedule takes effect Friday, March 23.

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Transportation
4:37 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

What's Behind The Recent Hike In Gas Prices?

A gas station in Berlin, Vt., sold gas for $3.72 on Feb. 16. On average, regular gas is going for $3.60 a gallon nationwide.
Toby Talbot AP

Originally published on Wed February 22, 2012 6:29 pm

Oil prices have jumped sharply in the past two weeks, and the price of gasoline is also moving up. Across the country, a gallon of regular costs nearly $3.60 on average, with some areas facing $4 gas. That's causing sticker shock at the pump, and concern that rising prices could derail the economic recovery.

According to Daniel Yergin of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, gas prices are up because of the West's current confrontation with Iran and sanctions over that country's nuclear program.

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Transportation
1:06 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

What's Driving The Backlash Against Traffic Cameras

Across the country, fed up drivers are fighting back against traffic cameras that target motorists who speed or run red lights. In Los Angeles, technician Charles Riggings services a traffic camera in 2010.
Damian Dovarganes AP

Originally published on Wed February 22, 2012 12:48 pm

Have you ever opened your mail and found a traffic ticket sticking you with a not-so-small fine? If so, your reaction might well have been, "What the [expletive]?"

Then maybe you looked carefully at the enclosed photo and realized the vehicle shown (allegedly) running a red light or speeding was, in fact, yours.

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traffic
9:54 am
Tue February 21, 2012

Street Closures, ‘No Refusal’ Blood Draws for Fat Tuesday

The Sixth Street entertainment district is closed to traffic, and portions of the I-35 access road will be closed as well this Fat Tuesday.
Image courtesy austintexas.gov

Downtown revelers will need to take extra precautions this Fat Tuesday. Several street closures are in effect this evening, while Austin Police have announced the holiday means another “No Refusal” action where police can subpoena and draw suspected drunk drivers’ blood.

As seen in the map detail above, full closures are in effect on all the side streets off of Sixth, between the southbound I-35 access road and Brazos, starting at 9 p.m. Neches, from Sixth to Seventh street, will also be closed starting at 5:30 p.m.  You can view a full map of the closures on the city website.

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Transportation
2:44 pm
Mon February 20, 2012

Relax and Leave the Driving to Your Car

Peter Stone sits shotgun as his automated car does the driving.
Photo by Wyatt McSpadden, courtesy University of Texas

Could rush hour gridlock turn into relaxation time for Texas drivers?

University of Texas researcher Peter Stone and his fellow project members at UT’s Autonomous Intersection Management (AIM) project have been receiving attention with a provocative concept: creating “smart” intersections linked to intelligent autos that will enable cars to drive themselves. Stone’s research was recently presented at a meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Science.

Stone is no stranger to automotive technology; five years ago, he was part of a team that responded to a development challenge from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to create a vehicle that could pilot itself. “Since then, in 2007, we’ve had a car which can drive itself,” Stone says.

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traffic
1:43 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

Mapping Street Closures for the LiveStrong Marathon

As seen in this map, numerous street closures accompany the LiveStrong Austin Marathon this weekend.

The LiveStrong Austin Marathon gets underway this Sunday, and the race means several street closures in the urban core. 

The earliest of the closures -- the red lines marked in the map above, which you can also view and download online -- affect Congress Avenue and several side-streets between 11th and 5th street. Those closures begin Saturday, Feb. 18, at 4 a.m, and will extend until  6.p.m on Sunday.

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Transportation
3:23 pm
Mon February 13, 2012

Austin Makes Another Top Ten List: Most Speed Traps

A screenshot from Trapster, a mobile application that maps speed traps.
Image courtesy trapster.com

Here in Austin, we’re used to appearing in a ton of Top 10 lists.

But here’s one honor we might not be too excited about: Austin has been named one of ten American cities with the most speed traps.

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Transportation
1:59 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Will 45 New Taxi Permits Make a Difference To Passengers? Or Drivers?

Even with additional permits, Austin Cab and Lone Star Cab permits are greatly outnumbered by Yellow Cab.
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. 

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Transportation
11:18 am
Mon February 6, 2012

What Can Austin Learn About Rail From Other Cities?

An Oregon Ironworks rail car, photographed in Austin in 2010. The city brought the car here to build excitement for an urban rail system.
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.

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Transportation
1:53 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

The $2.2 Million Question: Expand Cap Metro Rail Service?

Capital Metro's rail service may be expanded to weekends, if a funding agreement can be reached with the city.
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.

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Transportation
5:31 pm
Wed January 25, 2012

New Cab Fees Coming to Council

A taxi driver stretches his legs in Downtown Austin.
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.

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Transportation
4:02 pm
Wed January 25, 2012

Cap Metro Goes Mobile, But Not In Real Time

Capital Metro is rolling out new signage with QR codes. But real time bus information won't be ready until 2014.
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.

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Transportation
12:04 pm
Wed December 28, 2011

Need A Winter Car?

If you're planning on driving into weather like this, there's a list of cars you might want to contemplate before hitting the frosty trail.
Image courtesy flickr.com/shareski

Ah, the plethora of year-end lists, the Top-Ten this and that for 2011. Top stories, top trends, top celebrities, you know the lot.

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