ATXplained

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Every day at KUT, we try to think about what you want to know. That’s what drives the decisions we make about the stories we tell. But we wanted to try an experiment to bring you, the audience, closer to the news and storytelling we do at KUT.

So we started our ATXplained project – a crowdsourced reporting project where we ask you what we should investigate and what stories you'd like us to tell. 

It's simple. You ask a question, we put it to a vote and, if your question gets chosen, a KUT reporter, with your help, will set out to try and answer that question.

We also have an ATXplained Facebook group for fans of the project!

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Austin History Center

The Austin City Limits Music Festival, which kicks off tomorrow at Zilker Park, has long drawn comparisons to Austin’s first big festival: Aqua Fest.

What ever happened to Aqua Fest? And why did it stop?

When we started our ATXplained project more than two years ago, we wanted to get our audience more involved with the journalism we do at KUT.

Since then, we’ve done more than 40 stories based on your questions about Austin’s people, places and history. You’ve asked questions about our city that we would never have thought to ask — and the resulting stories have taught us that there are so many more amazing stories to tell.

Now we want to bring you even closer to the work that we do. 

How Does This Aquarium Fish Thrive In Waller Creek?

Jun 28, 2018
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Austin is the unique home to a thriving wild population of one of the most common pet fish in the world: the variable platy fish (on sale for $1.59 at Petco).

The platy is colorful, cheap and now the most abundant fish in Waller Creek, which runs about seven miles from North Austin down to Lady Bird Lake. There is no other known established wild population in the U.S.

Julia Reihs / KUT

When it's hot in Austin, you just want to go somewhere to cool off, somewhere you can take a swim and forget the oppressive heat that lingers for six months of the year.

There are lots of great spots.

But there's one place you definitely cannot go swimming: Lady Bird Lake (Town Lake, if you're OG).

Julia Reihs / KUT

Bee Cave or Bee Caves? Whether discussing the city or the road, it seems the names have vexed Austin-area residents for years.

Even more vexing? They may have been misnamed the whole time.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

At the end of Colorado Street on the north bank of Lady Bird Lake stands a six-story brick tower.

What's Up With The Odd-Looking Tower On 51st Street?

May 14, 2018
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Anyone looking down while flying in or out of Austin has likely seen the odd tower with a bowl-shaped top and uneven paint job rising above the Mueller neighborhood.

The landmark puzzled KUT listener Ryan Ellerd Jones, so he asked about it for our ATXplained series.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Farm-to-market and ranch-to-market roads have helped rural Texans get around since the 1940s. But what happens when these roads become completely surrounded by the city, with fewer ranches and farms on route? The seemingly odd road names caught one listener's curiosity.

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

In the median of Highway 183 near the Austin airport, there’s a scraggly patch of mesquite trees. The grass around it is overgrown. In the shade of those trees is the final resting place of at least six people — buried more than a 100 years ago. The historical marker at the little graveyard says it’s the Davidson-Littlepage Cemetery.

Now, as the cars zoom by within feet of the graves, a massive construction project looms nearby.

Julia Reihs / KUT

You can't not notice the trees that line the paths on Austin's many hike and bike trails. But have you ever noticed a fair amount of them are numbered? They're on small metal tags nailed to the trunks.

Writer Will Neely noticed them while he was running along the Butler Hike and Bike Trail, so he asked about it for our ATXplained project, a series where KUT answers questions about life in Austin.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Ben Hamill was confused. Down the street from his house in Brentwood, a building was going up, and he and his wife couldn’t quite place what it was. It looked like an apartment or a condo, as far as they could tell, with floor-to-ceiling windows, some cubist-looking eaves and all the trappings of a typical condo. Then they put up a sign: STORAGE.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The MoPac express lanes opened in 2017, years behind schedule, to offer a faster option for drivers willing to pay a toll. But what if you pay and the lane is no faster – or even slower – than the main lanes? 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

On the floor of Austin airport, right by the baggage claim, there is a cryptic map made of terrazzo tile. It represents downtown Austin, but not quite as it is today. The story of how it came about reveals much about Austin’s past – and maybe its present.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

If you’ve crossed the street at a handful of intersections in Austin recently, you may have noticed a new voice beckoning you to walk. It doesn’t sound like the typical robotic voiceover you may hear on a bus or at older crosswalks.

It got one of our listeners, Jenny Stirrat, curious.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

When Eric Howard drives by the building at 4400 Shoal Creek Boulevard, he can’t help but think of Indiana Jones.

Specifically, the final shot of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the U.S. government loads the Ark of the Covenant into a crate and then carts it off into a vast warehouse, presumably filled with similarly sequestered treasures.

Austin Price for KUT

Colter Sonneville had a hunch that it might be legal to walk down the street with an open beer in most of Austin’s residential neighborhoods. It started when he noticed some big signs around Chicon and East Cesar Chavez streets.

“The sign says, 'No alcohol consumption on public streets/sidewalks and pedestrian way designated area,’” he says. “‘Open glass containers prohibited.’”

Dan Brooks is moving to Austin from Philadelphia next week. But before he got here, he wanted some reading material.

“I like to know as much as possible about where I am, what community I’m a part of, where I’m living," he said. "It’s important for me to have an idea of the space that I’m occupying, and books are generally one good way to learn about a place.”

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

About seven years ago, Lynn Meredith and her husband moved into a high-rise downtown. They can see the state Capitol from the building, and over the years, Meredith has watched as new skyscrapers have sprung up around the Capitol, while other construction plans have fallen through.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. /KUT

In our ATXplained project, we answer your questions about Austin.

Now it's your turn to answer a question. 

Listener Dan Brooks is looking for the best books about Austin (or Texas) for newcomers to the city. So we're asking you for your recommendations. 

Gabriel C. Pérez

Once a week, KUT listeners hear an ominous recording.

“This is a test of the capital area warning system,” says a male voice, followed by a sequence of blaring tones. It’s not quite as unnerving as getting a smartphone alert that a ballistic missile is headed for your state, but it can still be jarring.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Interstate Highway 35 is many things to many people. It is a vital thoroughfare for commerce and shipping. It is also an economic and social barrier through much of Austin. And nearly from its construction, it has been a source of frustration for drivers stuck in its traffic. I-35 has inspired a number of questions and even legends about its design and those who made it.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Every year before Christmas, Loop 360 becomes the site of a uniquely Austin holiday tradition: The junipers along the highway are transformed into colorful Christmas trees.

People have strong opinions about the custom. Some say it’s a heartwarming expression of holiday spirit; others consider it a flagrant violation of Texas' anti-littering laws. But one thing no one really knows is how the tradition got started.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez

Visitors to the new Austin Central Library checked out 6,028 items on opening day alone in October. But more than its literary offerings, the library, which was a decade in the making, has garnered a lot of attention for its design: crisscrossing staircases, a large red grackle sculpture and a roof garden.

Oh, and "death-doors."

We started our crowdsourced reporting project, ATXplained, two years ago to find out what stories you wanted us to cover.

The premise is simple: You ask the questions, we collect them and put them up for a public vote to determine which ones get investigated.    

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

At the corner of Airport Boulevard and Schieffer Avenue, there’s something that sticks out. Next to the community garden and skate park in Patterson Park, there’s a giant metal flower, surrounded by a colorful concrete mosaic. On a pole nearby, there’s a plaque shaped like a leaf that explains — kind of.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Voters added seven amendments to the Texas Constitution yesterday. Adding amendments is standard operating procedure for the Texas Legislature: The document, which was ratified in 1876, now has almost 500 amendments.

But why?

Austin Price for KUT

It has been more than eight years since the City of Austin bought a 20-acre property near the intersection of I-35 and St. Johns Avenue. The space used to house a Home Depot store. Today, the building sits vacant. 

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

They're all over town: printed or painted signs in a yard, telling drivers not to park in front of a house. They're not official signs from the city, threatening legitimate towing or expressing hours you can't park; they're more DIY. 

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

The City of West Lake Hills started with a drunken plot of revenge.

A decade before Emmett Shelton founded the city in 1953, his brother, Polk, had political aspirations. But when he failed to win the 1937 Democratic primary for a seat in Congress – losing to Lyndon B. Johnson – the brothers and their friends hatched a different plan: build a city to keep their political enemies out.

At least that's how the legend goes.

For newcomers expecting a First Street where Cesar Chavez Street is located, technically, Cesar Chavez is First Street.
Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

If you live in Austin, you know we like to do things our own way. That includes how we name our streets. But it can sometimes be confusing. For example, shouldn’t First Street be in the place of Cesar Chavez, parallel with all the other numbered streets downtown? 

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