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.

Austin's Rapid Bus Struggles After a Slow Start

Jun 3, 2014
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

From StateImpact Texas:

Standing on Guadalupe Street in Austin facing the tower at the University of Texas, 26-year-old Emily Mandell waits at the bus stop with a scowl on her face. She’s not looking forward to this ride.

“It’s the same as sitting in traffic, but now you’re sitting in traffic stopping at a lot of places with a lot of other people,” Mandell says.

Along Guadalupe and Lavaca, two major north-south arteries through downtown Austin, long, bendy buses labeled “MetroRapid” have recently joined the chaos that is Austin traffic. The city of Austin’s transportation agency, Capital Metro, rolled out this new line in January* in an effort to get more people out of cars and using public transportation. But the rollout hasn't gone as expected, calling into question how the agency will handle expanding transportation to meet the fast-growing city's needs.

Project Connect

Some die-hard public transit supporters say Austin’s 9.5 mile, $1.38 billion urban rail proposal is misguided, too expensive, and follows a poorly traveled route

"Why would a city our size put in something that is so pricey on a very weak route?" former Capital Metro board vice president Lyndon Henry says. "This is insane."

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.

KUT News

Everything's bigger in Texas – or so the saying goes. But after years of population growth, many are worried the Lone Star State is experiencing the hidden costs of its prosperity.

The Texas Standard's David Brown recently sat down with Wall Street Journal reporter Nathan Koppel to discuss strains on state infrastructure.

"It's great for the state, and you'd certainly rather be Texas than other parts of the country that are losing population, but it is a challenge for Texas," Koppel explains. "Just the sheer pace of the population increase has been difficult to manage, particularly for cities which are just booming. "

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.

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.

Bicyclists heading to campus this morning as part of Bike to UT Day received breakfast and the chance to win raffle prizes.

But 47 bicyclists also received something else: a ticket.

This morning, multiple Austin Police officers were seen pulling over bicyclists heading toward campus on Speedway Avenue, just south of the intersection at San Jacinto. The ticketing occurred just blocks north of Speedway Plaza, where a Bike to UT Day party was scheduled to begin at noon.  

Ashley Park for KUT

Nationwide, drunk driving is on the decline – but you wouldn't know it living in Austin. This spring, the city has seen several high-profile deaths attributable to drunk driving.

This weekend, Kelly Noel – a well-known music fan who ran the popular ATXHispsters Twitter account – was killed by a drunk driver downtown. (The account continues to auto-tweet the latest stories from Austin news outlets, including KUT.) And in March, Rashad Owens allegedly killed and injured South by Southwest attendees when he accelerated into SXSW crowds while trying to evade police.

The morning after the SXSW killings, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said “tragedy brings opportunity. It’s an opportunity for a gut check … it's a gut check for the people involved, it’s a gut check for this community.”


Larry D. Moore,

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.

Update: Some lanes remain closed on 2222 Thursday morning after a water main break Wednesday caused part of the roadway to collapse.

Eastbound 2222 is closed between Parkcrest Drive and Balcones. The westbound lanes are open – and traffic on Balcones is open.

Update (April 9, 12:13 p.m.): Austin Water crews are still working to determine the cause and location of the break. Once that is done they can determine some sort of timeline for when repairs will take place, says Austin Water's Jason Hill.

"We brought the water pressure down, so there are a number of customers with low pressure or without water – not a lot at this particular point," Hill says. "Once we get to where the break is we’ll have a better idea of what needs to happen and how many people will actually be shut out during the repair."

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.

Wikimedia Commons user Bull-Doser

South By Southwest brings a lot of things to Austin: film premieres, start-ups, newsmakers, bands, traffic and tech savvy out-of-towners.

It's that last group that might take umbrage with the city's ride-sharing policy, which outlaws apps like UberLyftSideCar and since-shuttered Austin-based Hey Ride. 

The city contends these services have unregulated – and potentially unsafe – drivers.

Update: Starting today, it’s going to get even tougher to get around downtown. That’s because the music portion of South by Southwest is now underway.

The City of Austin is closing off several exits from I-35 to downtown. Starting at 10 a.m. on Wednesday:

  • The I-35 NB and SB exits at  Cesar Chavez will be closed.
  • The I-35 SB exit at 8th Street will be closed.
  • The I-35 NB exit at 6th Street will be closed.

Original Story (March 6, 2014): SXSW provides a great opportunity for people to see bands, films and hobnob with bigwigs in the tech industry.

But road closures in downtown Austin may pose a problem for some travelers.

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Disclosure: Carma is a sponsor of KUT. 

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority cut the ribbon today on a new project that could reduce traffic congestion while saving drivers money.

The project is a public-private partnership between the city and state transportation officials, the CTRMA, Texas A&M and a ride-sharing app: Carma.

Carma is based on the concept of "casual carpooling." Paul Steinberg, vice president of business operations for Carma, calls it a mutually beneficial model that affords people rides and grants drivers access to cheaper toll roads and high occupancy vehicle lanes.

With more than 5,000 flights into or out of the nation canceled today and hundreds more delayed because of the snow and ice storm moving up the East Coast, it's time once again to point to's "Misery Map."

Reddit user KidOmni

Disclaimer: Capital Metro is a sponsor of KUT.

Capital Metro's new MetroRapid bus service launched on Sunday. And with the new route came additional service changes some say give short-shrift to existing riders on Cap Metro's most popular lines.

MetroRapid line 801 travels from Southpark Meadows to the Tech Ridge area in North Austin. Its route through the urban core – along South Congress Avenue and Guadalupe Street – parallels Cap Metro's 1L and 1M bus lines, the routes with the highest ridership in Austin. And another route – the 101 Express – traveled largely along the same line. (Read more about service changes.)

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The city and the state cooperated to make icy roads safer for drivers today, sending out a combined 135 trucks to treat some of the 2,000 miles of roads and bridges in Austin. But when it comes to choosing how to treat the ice, Austin Public Works and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) take very different approaches. 

The city employs a reusable sand called dolomite, according to Public Works spokesperson Carolyn Perez.  She says it's better for the environment than some chemical de-icing agents.

Spencer Selvidge for KUT News

The Austin City Council is considering an ordinance that would set rules for the city’s new transit lanes.

Bus-only lanes for Capital Metro’s new MetroRapid service are on Guadalupe and Lavaca streets between Martin Luther King Boulevard and Cesar Chavez Street. Other vehicles are only allowed to use the lanes to make right turns.

The new ordinance would make it against the law to stop or park in the lanes. Currently that could be punished with a $25 dollar parking ticket – but the city wants to up that fine to as much as $500 dollars.

Reynaldo Leal for the Texas Tribune

A high-speed rail line connecting San Antonio and Monterrey, Mexico, could be less than a decade away from welcoming its first passengers, according to federal and Texas officials who met with Mexican officials in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to discuss the project.

UT Shuttle
Image courtesy Cap Metro

Tight budgets could leave some UT Austin commuters without a bus line in the upcoming semester, according to Cap Metro. 

The Wickersham Lane (Route WL) shuttle will be eliminated this semester and the Cameron Road route (Route CR) will be shortened this semester, renamed Route Camino La Costa (Route CLC) and then eliminated after the spring semester.  

The transit authority attributes the cutbacks to a persistent lack of funds from UT's Student Services Budget Committee.