Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fare-free transit, Houston beats Austin, better commuter transit, and more

Continuing to work through the backlog of smaller misc items...
"When speaking to detractors of the fare-free system, Litchfield likes to point out the measurable savings as well. The transit agency saves money that would be spent on fare collection, in terms of both staff and equipment (the system has 99 buses, and farebox devices sell in the area of $15,000 each). Advertising costs are down, since Chapel Hill Transit doesn't have to promote its pass programs, and the system also saves money that would have gone toward low-income ridership assistance. Last but not least, the buses save time because they no longer have to check passes or wait for fare swipes."
#1 Austin
"Drum roll, please, for this legend in its own mind, a mildly entertaining university town and state capital with fever dreams of greatness, a city whose entire purpose for breathing is to not be like everything else around it. When you're trying to set yourself apart from a place as large and as bold as Texas, you have to work really, really hard. Which could explain why everyone walks around here looking so stressed. Sprawling Austin is one of those unfortunate places that seems really smashing on paper. And then one ruins things by going. You have now been advised. 
Instead, try If your precious snowflake mind can tolerate a little diversity of thought, Houston -- our nation's fourth largest city, if you didn't know -- is currently the place to experience Texas at its most interesting. Sure, this is a city so ugly that sometimes you may be tempted to put a bag over its head, but Houston is also an impressively creative and very fun town, with good museums (the Menil Collection, the Contemporary Arts Museum), plenty of good food -- Austin's own golden boy, Tyson Cole, opened Uchi here recently -- good drink (start with Anvil and Hay Merchant), plenty of music and -- best of all -- fun-loving locals who are generally anything but uptight."
"While 24,000 people an hour is a lot compared with a single freeway lane carrying 2,000 cars an hour with a rush-hour average of 1.1 persons per car, there is no reason why freeway lanes have to be limited to cars. A freeway lane dedicated to buses is capable of moving 1,200 buses per hour safely spaced six bus lengths apart. If WMATA used 80-seat, double-decker buses such as those used in Las Vegas, that lane could move 96,000 people per hour, without even counting standees. 
On reaching downtown, the buses could disperse to various streets, any of which are capable of moving at least 160 buses an hour (40 buses per hour per stop with four designated stops every two blocks). That means directing buses down three or four north-south streets and four east-west streets, allowing most riders to find a stop close to their actual destination. 
The Washington DC region could spend tens of billions of dollars and many years building new subway lines that would provide a modest increase in the rail system’s capacity. Or it could spend a small fraction of that amount of money and time on new buses running on high-occupancy toll lanes that would more than double the system’s capacity. Unfortunately, the political momentum created when DC made the mistake of building rail in the first place will probably doom it to doing the former. The result will be a lot of money spent but little congestion relief."
Finally, in the dark humor department, I snapped this pic of a Rice University parking meter after you've given it your credit card to pay for parking upon exiting.  It doesn't actually tell you how many dollars it's charged you, it just gives you this graphic of the most evil looking smiley face I've ever seen, taunting you with "I've just charged your credit card an obscene amount, but let's keep it a secret until you open your credit card bill, shall we?"

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At 8:00 AM, May 15, 2013, Anonymous Kevin said...

Tory I'm surprised to see you endorse James Glassman's op-ed. The wrongheadedness starts right in the title - "The Astrodome must be saved at all costs"? At all costs?? That can't be right... it must just be something provocative in the title to get attention right? Wrong! In the discussion of Discovery Green Glassman asks rhetorically "Who cares what it cost?" Glassman writes with the awareness and sobriety of my 5-year-old.

And what justification does he offer to experience these limitless costs? Because Glassman thinks to tear it down would be a "slap in the face to Houston's preservation community". He is literally saying Houston should experience unlimited costs so that a small special interest group will not take offense, whether that offense is reasonably taken or not. Because Glassman thinks there should be a "monument to Houston’s innovators," as if there aren't already many such things, and as if any Houston innovators would need such a thing in the first place. Because Glassman thinks he and others need to "feel tiny underneath the massive structure and contemplate our own place in the universe". I do suspect Glassman could use a little/lot more humility, but his narcissism is no reason for everyone else to fund his unbounded boondoggle. And, of course, "because we can," a line right out of "In the Company of Men," and just as selfish and sociopathic here as there. That's it. No kidding. Those are the reasons Houstonians should do this "at all costs." What?

I'll sum up the op-ed in one sentence: "Houstonians should buy me a renovated Astrodome because they can afford it and people like me would like it - not pay for it, we'd just like it, and people who disagree are lazy." Maybe you meant to save this for 4/1/2014?

At 8:39 AM, May 15, 2013, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Fair comments, Kevin (and LOL on 4/1/14 ;-). I certainly don't endorse saving it "at any cost". I just liked that someone was making a passionate defense of saving the Astrodome, which definitely is Houston's defining icon. I most certainly do object - strongly - to any plan that would destroy the dome and then spend $350m+ to tear down and build a replacement Astroarena for the Rodeo, when arena functionality could be easily integrated into a rejuvenated Astrodome with that same budget.

At 5:30 PM, May 16, 2013, Anonymous awp said...

employment by occupation by MSA


At 11:54 AM, May 18, 2013, Anonymous hcpark said...

Congrats on your mention in the WSJ OpEd piece on Houston and Mayor Parker. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323744604578472873183655916.html

At 4:26 PM, May 18, 2013, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Thanks, Howard!


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