Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Capital Metro: All Systems Reverse!

Capital Metro, our not-so-venerable public transit system, seems determined to make everything it does into a public relations nightmare. This may be because almost every decision made in recent years by Cap Metro has worked out worse for riders.

For example:

1. The Commuter Rail boondoggle - I don't even want to start with how bad an idea this was. And I don't have to...Mike Dahmus has explained it so much better than I could anyway. (Though I will take exception to his thoughts that light rail would work better...if memory serves, it did nothing for south Austin except what Cap Metro is doing now anyway: rapid bus service. That way commuters can get nowhere faster.)

2. Losing riders? Let's raise fares! - Per the American-Statesman, 44% of people polled think raising fares is a good idea. I'd be willing to bet that 100% of those 44% are not regular riders. (There is no confirmation that they are the same people as responded to this poll, however.) Anyone who rides knows that now is not the time to raise fares, especially since they are not worried about not meeting their budget until 2011.

Here are some ideas of how to expand services first and maybe even make it worthwhile for people to ride before raising fares:

a. Try actually covering all of Austin - hey, we're paying for this thing, why not expand some routes to cover the whole city! As it presently stands, Capital Metro seems to think the city magically ends at Slaughter Lane going south, unless you're west of Mopac...then it ends further north, at Convict Hill.

b. More routes, more often - Anyone wishing to take the 338 (West Gate) south and transfer to the 333 (Wm Cannon) westbound during the 5:00 hour should probably bring a book, since you will be waiting over 30 minutes for your bus. When it's 100 degrees outside, that's not fun. And that's just one example. Perhaps Cap Metro might consider running more buses along those routes to reduce waiting times, so that 15-minute commutes don't become 90-minute ones, courtesy Capital Metro.

3. Pure indifference to riders' concerns/needs - The Manchaca and South 1st "flyer" routes have now been changed such that afternoon riders are not allowed to board south of Lady Bird Lake, presumably to reduce stops. It was related anecdotally to me (but corroborated by several others) that kids wishing to board the 103 (Manchaca Flyer) at Crockett HS were yelled at by the driver, who then shut the door in their faces. The bus was already stopped to let someone off at this location. One student told the driver that this was the only route to use to get home (as the 103 does not exactly parallel the 3, which also travels on Manchaca Rd), but the driver showed no concern whatsoever.

(It should be noted that Capital Metro's website trip planner still shows that it is permissible to board the flyers south of the river. Just be prepared for a cranky driver.)

I could go on about the tendency of some of Cap Metro's drivers to mash whichever pedal they are using to the floor, resulting in bumpy, jerky rides and uncomfortable riders, but I won't.

If you listen to Capital Metro, you won't hear any of these concerns addressed anywhere. Per their "All Systems Go!" webpage, they say the following:
Could it be a dream? You go to work, but you’re not stuck in traffic. You don’t check your watch, wondering if you’ll be late. Instead, you read the sports section or choose a song on your iPod. You arrive early for a change and are remarkably stress free.
Could it be a dream? Absolutely, unless you like getting to your bus stop a good hour before you would have left your home normally. If you think you can leave your home at the same time you did when you drove, expect a nightmare.

Soon, sleek new trains and buses will make this dream a reality.
Unless, of course, you live anywhere in south Austin. If you do, get used to the same old traffic, 'cos Cap Metro won't help you.
Thanks to the All Systems Go plan that you helped create, you might make Capital Metro your second car.

It would have to be my second car, as Capital Metro certainly hasn't proven itself a worthy replacement for my daily commute.

Austin Traffic Enforcement, Part II

I'm sure it's a coincidence that right after I posted this, the Austin Police Department stopped supplying the media with locations where the police will be actively monitoring for speeders.

So, with that vital piece of information gone, I supply this as a public service. The following is true on almost any weekday morning from now until the end of time.

The Austin Police Department will be watching for speeders in one of the following locations:
1. 7400 block, Manchaca Rd (Strickland Christian School zone)
2. 5600-6000 block, Manchaca Rd. (Crockett HS zone)
3. 3800-4000 block, Manchaca Rd. (Ann Richards School zone)

Basically, don't speed on Manchaca in school zones. Ever.

Got smog? Sue someone!

Per Reuters (through Drudge), California tried to sue six automakers for damaging the state with greenhouse gases. Thankfully, the suit was thrown out, with the statement that this should be decided by the legislature rather than the courts. Of course, the Ninth Circuit will reinstate the suit, so this is obviously not over. With that assumption, I have some questions:

1. Why sue the automakers? Why not sue the drivers? This isn't like the cigarette lawsuits of the 90s, in which the manufacturers were shown to recognize the addictive effects of their own product. Unless there's been a new study, I've not seen anything proving that driving is addictive, thereby making drivers complicit in this damage as well.

1½. And how about the people who fly private jets? They're definitely doing more damage than the average driver. Then, perhaps, we might see some of these environmental activists having to explain why they can't be bothered with flying commercial like the rest of us.

2. Really, if California is so concerned about the environmental damage, why hasn't the legislature done anything about it? Suing the vehicle manufacturers seems like either a cop-out or a show. Neither option is terribly helpful.