Transportation

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.)

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.

Four decades ago, Austin, Texas, had a population of 250,000 and a reputation as a laid-back oasis of liberal politics and live music. Today, the Austin metro area is home to 1.8 million people and has some of the nation's worst traffic congestion.

For years, the city has done little to address the growing problem. But most in the Texas capital now agree something has to change if Austin is to save what's left of its quirky character.

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Disclaimer: Project Connect is a KUT sponsor.

Update: The Austin City Council unanimously endorsed two locations for urban rail last night: the Highland Mall region and East Riverside. You can watch citizen testimony and council action on the recommendation.

As KUT reported, investment in those corridors was proposed by Project Connect – a working group of City of Austin, Capital Metro, and other regional transportation officials.

Project Connect named Highland and East Riverside after what it said was a robust, data-driven public input process – but many rail advocates present at the vote last night questioned the process and the decision.

Original story (Dec. 12): To hear Project Connect tell it, they’re practically drowning in data. Project lead Kyle Keahey cited some 45 different measures of information and 11 indices when the group announced its recommendation. (You can look at lots of that data here.)

Daniel Reese for KUT News

This article is written by KUT’s reporting partner the Austin Monitor (formerly In Fact Daily). Below, listen to an interview with author Mark Richardson. 

Current long-term plans – such as the 2035 CAMPO Transportation Plan – will do little more than maintain the current level of traffic bottlenecks on Interstate 35 and won’t take enough vehicles off the road to significantly cut commute times, according to a report on traffic congestion on the I-35 corridor through Austin.

The report, Long-Term Central Texas IH 35 Improvement Scenarios, was done by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute as part of a study ordered by the 83rd Texas Legislature. It is a comprehensive look at long-term strategies to alleviate traffic congestion on I-35 between Buda and Round Rock.

TexPIRG

Austinites are driving less and using public transportation more.

That’s a finding in a new report [PDF] by the Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG), a nonprofit research organization.

According to census data, the proportion of Austin workers that commute by private vehicle fell by 4.5 percent from 2000 to 2011. That’s the third largest decline in the country for an urban area.

Update at 6:50 p.m. ET. Speeding Into Curve; A Mile Or More To Safely Stop:

A commuter train headed into New York City was traveling at 82 mph Sunday morning when it entered a curve where the speed limit was supposed to be 30 mph and derailed, National Transportation Safety Board investigators have concluded. Four people on the train were killed and at least 60 others were injured.

Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson

In 2015, an 11-mile stretch of Austin’s MoPac Boulevard will expand to eight lanes from six. The two new lanes will be tolled, giving drivers the chance to pay a premium to avoid the road’s frequent congestion. 

While the toll lanes will help ease traffic on the free lanes, neither the Texas Department of Transportation nor any of the local entities involved in the $200 million project are predicting it will transform MoPac into a free-flowing thoroughfare. With robust population growth projected for the region, MoPac traffic is expected to continue periodically slowing to a crawl for decades. When it does, local officials are optimistic that frustrated commuters will notice that it is not only personal vehicles zipping past them on the toll lanes. 

flickr.com/dsebourn

Even if you’re staying off the highway this Thanksgiving, your plans might still be affected by holiday schedules and street closures.

Chief among them: the 23rd Annual ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot takes place downtown Thursday morning, with many roads  blocked off until noon. The course, which begins at Auditorium Shores, features a five-mile run, a one-mile walk, and a Stepping Stone School Kids’ K. (See a map of related street closures below.)

Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Getting out of town this weekend to join relatives for Thanksgiving?

Plan wisely – it’s one of the busiest travel days of the year. According to a report by AAA Texas, 3.4 million other Texans will also be traveling for the holidays.

Most travelers will leave for their trip on Wednesday, Nov. 27 and return on Sunday, Dec. 1. For those going out of town, 3.1 million plan to travel by car.

Project Connect

The group advising the city on urban rail has come out with initial recommendations: a transportation investment that runs from the East Riverside Corridor, through Downtown and out to the Highland Mall region.

As KUT previously reported, the recommendations began by dividing Central Austin into 10 subcorridors – similar to compass points pointing out from a center, including Downtown and the UT campus.

In the end, they chose two subcorridors for investment: Highland and East Riverside.

Project Connect

Now’s your chance to name the parts of Austin that should be served by urban rail.

This week, the City of Austin and its transportation partners are inviting the public to name the subcorridor that would benefit the most from urban rail.

Planners at Project Connect, the team coordinating the city’s rail and regional transportation efforts, have identified 10 subcorridors within central Austin. Not counting downtown’s core, they are (in clockwise order): Lamar, Highland, Mueller, MLK, East Austin, the East Riverside Corridor, South Congress, South Lamar, West Austin, and Mopac. 

Sebastian Herrera for KUT News

Update: While it was being used as soon as the concrete dried, today marks the official opening of the city’s latest “cycle track” – a protected stretch of bike lane on Guadalupe Street from MLK Jr. Boulevard to 24th Street.

“Street ambassadors” including representatives from Capital Metro and the police department will be present along the track to educate the public. They are located in front of the University Co-op today, and will reappear there on Monday. Oct. 21.

Non-profit Bike Austin has also launched an awareness campaign about the track. You can learn more about it here, and see a diagram of the cycle track below.

KUT News

Chances are if you drive to work, you spend time in traffic every day.  Over the past five to ten years, Austin's traffic issues have just continued to worsen. And with real estate experts estimating more than 100 people move to Austin every day, it’s a problem that needs a solution.

A group of researchers at the University of Texas is hoping to change that. They’ve been awarded a $1.4 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to study traffic and transportation in Austin.

The center hopes to collect data that can provide immediate solutions for transportation problems in Austin and other cities across the country. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Update: The final Sunday of ACL's second weekend has been canceled due to weather.

For more, including information on refunds see: Heavy Rains Soak Austin, Central Texas; ACL Festival Cancels Final Day  

Update (Oct. 11): Traffic could be a bigger problem in the Austin area for weekend two of the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Road closures around Zilker Park and Republic Square Park will be in place just like last weekend (see below). But the highways may also be packed.

notevenpast.org

It's no secret that traveling through Austin comes with a price: traffic.

However, the way Central Texans commute could change by the turn of the next decade as the region seeks a potential solution to traffic: urban rail.

Map Data @2013 Google

Traffic may be moving slower on SH 71 this morning around Southwest Parkway. And it’ll probably be that way for the next eight months or so.

SH 71 is reduced to one lane in each direction while crews work to widen the road.

The Texas Department of Transportation is adding turn lanes, an acceleration lane and paved shoulders to 71 at Southwest Parkway. TxDOT says the project will increase safety in the area.

TxDOT warns drivers should plan for possible delays in the area.

flickr.com/matt_hintsa

Officials in Austin and San Antonio are in talks with the U.S. Department of Transportation about receiving federal funding to facilitate connecting the two cities via high-speed rail, according to local and federal officials.

“I think that that concept has a lot of promise, and we just have to continue working with the local community to see how to get it in shape and see what we can do on the federal level,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Last week people packed into a room in downtown Austin. The Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees the Texas Department of Transportation, was having it’s monthly meeting. There it got some advice from State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso.

"I think it’s time for TxDOT to say we made a mistake," Rep. Pickett said.

Erik Reyna for KUT News

It may not be news to anyone trapped on Interstate 35, or suffering a meltdown on MoPac, but a new study confirms the obvious: Austin drivers are far less safe than the nationwide average, according to a study from insurance company Allstate.

Austin ranks among the bottom quarter of U.S. cities in Allstate’s “Americas Best Drivers” report – 155th out of 200 largest cities. The city actually fell six places from its ranking last year (149th), meaning Austin drivers have gotten less safe by Allstate's standards.

Roy Varney for KUT News

How do Austinites feel about the city’s bike lanes and bike traffic? The Neighborhood Street Study aims to answer this broad question by focusing on two Austin bicycling areas located around Bluebonnet Lane and Barton Springs Road.

Researchers from Portland State University and the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium have been commissioned by the Green Lane Project to conduct the Austin survey. 

Reconnect Austin

Austin traffic can be awful. And Austin drivers know that a great part of that congestion comes from stop-and-go traffic on Interstate 35.

Big problems demand big solutions – and the "cut and cap" proposal to bury I-35 is gaining momentum. The plan, developed by Austin architect Sinclair Black would “cut” I-35 from Cesar Chavez to 12th Street. Those lanes would then be built underground, and “capped” by something. The Austin City Council OK’d a closer look at the plan back in June.

Rachel Adams-Heard

It’s an exciting time for Capital Metro. The transportation authority is launching its MetroRapid bus service next year, and is looking to play a role in urban rail if and when rail launches.

But there’s one large constituency that’s dependent on Cap Metro right now: the disabled. For Austinites seeking independence while living with a disability, public transportation makes perfect sense. But some people are saying that Cap Metro is making it unfairly difficult for some disabled individuals to get around.

votebikeshareaustin.com

With a launch planned for the end of the year, a bike share system is finally coming to Austin. And the city is pushing for public input for when the program rolls out at the end of this year.

Today, the city launched an online tool for citizens to suggest the best possible locations for rental kiosks. The Public Works department is also reaching out to Austin cyclists and stakeholders in public meetings.

 

Preparations are underway for the Auditorium Shores concert and fireworks show Thursday.

The festivities start at 8:30 p.m., with a performance by the Austin Symphony. Fireworks are set to start at 9:30 p.m., and the event is expected to end at 10 p.m.

Above, you'll find a map of street closures for the event — streets marked red will be completely closed. Those in blue will be partially shut down.

Sinclair Black & Andrew Vernooy

Update (June 20): This morning Austin City Council members decided to go ahead and approve a resolution supporting a I-35 National Environmental Policy Act study for a plan to reconnect East & West Austin by submerging it from approximately River Street to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

Council also directed the City Manager to develop an economic impact study and look at associated financing options.

flickr.com/carlos

Paying for transportation infrastructure is big part of the special session underway now at the Texas Capitol. But, for some lawmakers, it's not a big enough part.

Senate Joint Resolution 2 would send some oil and gas tax money into a new fund, but everyone agrees that much more money is needed.

Liang Shi, KUT News

One of the matters Gov. Rick Perry is having lawmakers take another look at this month is money for transportation infrastructure.

Today the Senate Finance Committee took up a constitutional amendment that would divert part of the oil and gas taxes from the Rainy Day Fund into a state highway fund.

83rd Lege's Regular Session: What Happened, What Didn't

May 28, 2013
Bob Daemmrich/Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

It's been a whirlwind of an end to the 83rd Legislature's regular session, and with Monday's announcement of a special session, lawmakers aren't done. Here's a look at the deals reached and the measures that fell short during the 140 days of the regular session. 

BUDGET

Map Says Many Austinites Bike to Work, But Do They Feel Safe?

May 15, 2013
City of Austin

It’s no secret that Austin is a biking city. And while cities around the country are gearing up for National Bike to Work Day, riding to work is nothing new for Austinites: according to Census data, people here commute by bike four times more often than the national average. 

To prove it, the city released a map breaking down bike commuting by neighborhood. But while more people are pedaling to work, cyclists don't always feel safe on Austin roads.

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