Tomorrow, Capital Metro in Austin launches a Houston-style network restructure they call Cap Remap that streamlines routes and expands frequent service to more of the city.

29 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Cap Remap”

  1. Throwning this out to the horde: knowing what we know now about ST3: no First Hill station; Tunnel to the West Seattle junction quite possible/drawbridge over the Ballard ship canal also possible. Does STB still support ST3 if there was a revote?

    1. I can’t speak for STB, but I will give you 100 to 1 odds the answer is yes. They have made it clear, repeatedly, that they will support just about any transit proposal, no matter how poorly designed. I’m no purist (by any means) but when a proposal sinks below a certain level, I think it is time to start over, and reject it. It isn’t clear whether the STB board has the same attitude, and if they do, the level has to be so low as to be laughable. Given what is actually planned for ST3, it is difficult for me to imagine a realistic proposal that low. Seriously, I can’t imagine spending that much money and getting something that is significantly worse than what we will get. This depresses me, of course, but like Trump getting elected, and the handsome Prime Minister of Canada deciding to destroy the world*, I just have to move on, like everyone else.

      * In case you haven’t been following what is really important in the world lately —

  2. If you read the fine print of the Austin restructure, their proposed definition of “frequent” means every 15 minutes or better, weekday day hours only, every 20-30 minutes on evenings and weekends. For a city that big, this is a disappointment. At least the central area, between downtown and Univerity of Texas, has enough overlapping bus routes to generate a combined level of frequent service, even if 30 minutes is the level for each individual route.

    1. That’s Metro’s definition too. That’s why people have to use “RapidRide-level” to mean full-time frequent service. That’s how Metro calls the 11 frequent even though I find it frustrating to ride evenings and Sundays.

    2. I just saw Oran’s reply. But in any case, Jarrett Walker advises cities to make some definition of frequent transit even if it’s low, to start the process of creating transit-oriented corridors. (By which I don’t mean TOD, but higher ridership and mode share. Swift in Snohomish has practically no TOD along it, yet it changed the corridor from the highest-ridership route in the county to the two highest-ridership routes in the county.) I don’t know Austin but if its transit is like Spokane, then 15-minute daytime is a significant step. In contrast, Metro has several 15-minute daytime routes so rolling out a new brand with that is no more than the status quo and an insufficient step.

      1. “Jarrett Walker advises cities to make some definition of frequent transit even if it’s low, to start the process of creating transit-oriented corridors.”

        The risk of course, is that it creates the inevitably temptation to reduce evening and weekend service (which doesn’t count towards whether a route is considered “frequent” to fund more weekday daytime service, which does. To guard against this, the definition of “frequent” can’t just say nothing about evening and weekend service. Granted, the standard for those periods may be lower, but there at least needs to be a standard.

    3. >> For a city that big, this is a disappointment.

      Austin is big, but sprawling. Think of it like Phoenix, with very little in the way of density:

      That map is a few years out of date, and the city has grown rapidly recently. So I have no doubt that there are more densely populated areas. But I doubt it looks anywhere near what Seattle looked like at the turn of the decade ( It looks more like what Bellevue looked like. It is probably a lot like Bellevue, if you didn’t have Seattle, and it just sprawled for miles and miles every direction.

      Serving a city like that with good transit is a big challenge, and 15 minute service most of the day is probably a big step up.

      1. The whole Metro area is big, the the subset of the area where most of the transit demand lies is fairly small – basically, downtown and University of Texas – not really any bigger than the combined Seattle neighborhoods of downtown, Belltown, SLU, Capital Hill, and Lower Queen Anne.

      2. Yes, but my point is that the combined Seattle neighborhoods of downtown, Belltown, SLU, Capitol Hill, and Lower Queen Anne have way more people. Again, just look at the census maps. In that part of Seattle (throw in the C. D. as well) there are about 30 census blocks with over 25,000 people per square mile. One of them (in Belltown) has over 100,000. Many of them are well over 50,000. There are also dozens and dozens of blocks over 10,000 in Seattle — huge swaths that not only cover the region you mentioned, but much of the north end as well.

        Now look at Austin. There are only four census blocks over 25,000. There is more than that in the U-District (of Seattle). Meanwhile, there aren’t even that many that are over 10,000. In the region you mentioned, we likely had more than twice as many people before both cities started to grow.

        Again, things have changed in both cities. Both have grown by leaps and bounds. But growth in Seattle has basically been in areas that are already fairly dense. The one exception is South Lake Union, which has gone from being a low density area, to competing with Belltown. I have no idea the exact pattern of growth for Austin, but I doubt it came close. My guess is most of the growth was in the outskirts, where growth is cheap. Say what you will about Seattle’s (and the state’s) growth policies, but it has concentrated growth into the center of Seattle. Texas, on the other hand, sprawls heavily, and that includes Austin.

        I wish I had updated census maps, but there is no way it looks anything close to what Seattle looks like now, and probably doesn’t even look like Seattle did 8 years ago.

      3. Oh, and before we pat ourselves on the back too much, consider the 27, which runs through a corridor that would be a major one in Austin. It only runs every half hour during the day, and every hour in the evening, quitting before 11:00. That means a road that contains Yesler Terrace, and areas like this gets less service than a road that contains areas like this: and this A little cherry picking on my part, maybe, but follow that road, and you can see there really isn’t that much there, by Seattle’s standards. But in Austin, it is somehow getting 15 minutes service during the day. This is a big deal, for a city that is very difficult to serve well with transit.

  3. Is it me or are these maps awful? There’s not enough differentiation of color and style between their MetroRapid and MetroLocal lines to tell them apart, and the hot pink chosen to represent these two systems dominates the color palate. I didn’t even realize there was rail in their network until I looked at the legend and found the tiny dashed red line for MetroRail (also overcome by hot pink) and went looking for it on the map.

    Sorry Austin, but your baby is ugly.

    1. The hot pink represents the High Frequency routes, which should be the dominant feature on the map.

      The presentation of the rail line is appropriate to its level of service. MetroRail is commuter rail. It runs hourly midday and has no Sunday service.

    2. There’s no real functional difference between the MetroRapids and the locals other than stop spacing and mildly roomier buses. I’ll take the lack of differentiation on the map as another positive sign of CapMetro’s very protracted embrace of reality. As far as MetroRail, the less said of it, the better.

  4. Suggestion, mdnative. Take a walk up Madision Street from First Avenue to Eighth and start paying attention. Every arterial is a linear parking lot, with buses stuck in it behind everything else on wheels. Anybody who thinks either “BRT” or “Rapid Ride” on Madison will work at all, see if you don’t agree about how much car-space we’re going to have to confiscate, and how may signals pre-empt. Nothing against doing that, but real tight fit.

    Walk south on Broadway ’til you see a streetcar and note which is faster, its speed or the rusting of its wheels to the track. Then walk down, say, Cherrry, past Swedish Hospital, and then south on Boren to intersection with James. Take an image and send it viral. And down to Harborview Hospital. Check your stopwatch on the ride between Boren and next street down. Then back up to the motionless parade south on Ninth.

    Under trolley wire last used during DSTT construction before 1990. Which, however, still connects Harborview with Virginia Mason Hospital, and the Route 2 wire down Seneca. Only halfway easy fast improvement.Past three major hospitals only reachable from the rest of the region by helicopter. If Ninth could be closed to traffic through rush hour, to take Routes 3 and 4.

    Maybe wire Boren between Pine Street and across Madison, alsoo long overdue.

    First thing your walk will show you is that 8th and Madison is a leafy neighborhood intersection with no station room whatsoever. Only usable choice is Madison and Boren. Second choice, Broadway. So along with the panicked Sound Transit Board and the terrified City Council, face it that we’re looking at rabid girl dog of a job that there’s no choice about.

    One of those trapped streetcars will show you what an insult that is for the present replacement of what could be LINK’s most important station. That district is owed a whole ST- of their own. And like for the rest of this idiotically subarea-ridden railroad, remember how glad that passengers on all the other lines will be to have the Boren and Eighth option to single seat from Ballard, and easy transfer for so many others.

    And while you’re at it- take everybody else reading this along for a long posting with a big pic to show me where I’m wrong.

    Mark Dublin

    1. >> Anybody who thinks either “BRT” or “Rapid Ride” on Madison will work at all, see if you don’t agree about how much car-space we’re going to have to confiscate,

      Haven’t they already done that? I mean the planning has been in the works for quite some time now. They may not have actually done the work (painted the street, etc.) but they certainly have agreed to. This isn’t like, say, RapidRide for the 44, where they don’t have any funding, and it is anyone’s guess as to how much parking and general purpose lanes will become bus lanes.

    2. Mark may not be aware how far along RapidRide G is. The open houses were a year and two years ago. I attended them and there was not much if any outcry about taking parking spaces or GP lanes. Maybe because this part of Madison doesn’t have single-family houses a block away like 45th. Most of the discussion was about details, like whether the transit lanes should be in the center or on the side, whether the downtown part should be on Madison or Seneca, whether it should end at 1st or at the waterfront, and whether the other end should be at 23rd, MLK, or Madison Park (although the part east of MLK wouldn’t have RapidRide features).

      In the link above, the Jan 2018 “Presentation for First Hill Improvement Association” on page 6 shows the kinds of lanes it’s getting. 1st Ave to 6th Ave: side BAT lanes. 6th Ave to 15th Ave: center transit lanes. 15th Ave to 17th Ave: side BAT lanes. 17th Ave to MLK: GP lanes. (That document has several errors, such as an inconsistency re the 6th-8th Avenue lanes, the year on the front page, and no file title.) The August 2016 “Full Route” has close-up pictures of the lanes. In February 2018 the city issued an EIS “Determination of Non-Significance”. The last step is final design and then construction.

      It really is better than any bus service Seattle has ever had. Even the BAT lanes are largely bus only, except for certain half-blocks, and they’re red at least in the pictures. If all of Seattle’s future RapidRide lines are like that we’d be doing really well. Except they won’t be, because Roosevelt and 23rd have already been watered down and Move Seattle is running out of money. But Madison at least will be more like what bus service should be.

      As for the GP lanes east of 17th, the ironic roadblock on transit lanes was not angry residents but SDOT. Several of us asked the SDOT reps to extend the transit lanes to the end. One rep told me they couldn’t justify the expense because their traffic studies said there’s not enough congestion there to warrant them. “Taxpayers would say why are you spending money on transit lanes where they’re not necessary.” That’s SDOT’s position and they’re sticking to it. I said, “Well, can you add transit lanes later if it turns out there is congestion?” He said they could. But it would obviously require separate funding.

      1. Thanks Mike, that is what I remembered.

        >> It really is better than any bus service Seattle has ever had.

        I agree. It should not only be a great line, but be a great model for other bus routes. I am a little concerned about some of the specifics, like changing lanes and the decision to do nothing east of 17th. I understand their decision, and hope they did the correct analysis, but SDOT does not have a great record under the previous head (and he has now flown the coop). I do think that whatever problems come up should be able to be easily fixed, and require only a little bit of money. Unfortunately, we have such a messed up system, and quite likely won’t have money to make this better, nor will we have money to make similar improvements in other corridors. It is a shame, really considering how much we are spending on rail. I get it — I know that there are things that should only be done with light rail. But when you look at what it would actually cost to build these lines, it is amazingly cheap. If you were really looking at the money, you would probably start with all of these projects, then start spending money on big light rail tunnels.

  5. And sorry for this omission but just so your visit isn’t wasted, time it for four or five any Friday afternoon rush hour. Some of you drive your car. Also, try to time it so you need any of the three pertinent emergency rooms. And wear ear-protection. Situation speaks for itself at the top of its lungs.

    MD – who liked that side of the Potomac a lot better than the completely Confederate one. Baltimore also had just added some pretty good light rail in early 1970’s.

    1. MD: I take the 15X every day for work, and take the 12 to for a late afternoon Dr’s appointments often to Madison and Boren. Like Martin, I grew up in the MD suburbs of DC– so I know Metro better.

      I was agnostic on First Hill station (it seemed like a potential cluster—- to me) to build. However, STB writers are acting like they just learned that Santa Claus is fake with their recent postings.

      This is the same STB that used to laugh at the Ballard to UW supporters— Martin even called its supporters “dead enders” on a podcast. If you have read my postings, I was constantly asking STB to interview SDOT head Kubly on what he supported in ST3. Therefore, we might have gotten a sense of whether First Hill was dead, why North Seattle would have to wait 20 years while Amazon and Expedia were covered instead of the quicker service of Ballard to UW (which would cover more people for a cheaper price). Also we might have learned how the city felt about the tunnel on West Seattle.

      Instead, we got a SDOT proposal while not bad, but not subject to public comment. It does not seem to take into account whether the main industries (Amazon, Expedia) will still be in Seattle (or for that matter, in existence). I can see why it was chosen (Key Arena which would likely host a hockey team, etc).

      1. md, no argument you know Baltimore better than I do. Last saw the place when I worked for a quarry just across the freeway out River Road from Bethesda. Liked Maryland and its people I worked with a lot, so glad to have you here .Drove the dynamite truck to Dupont Circle. We had the storage contract.

        Pretty sure the station was also an air raid shelter – like Sweden and Finland have for subway stations.

        But am grateful how many of my fellow commenters I’ve seen change their minds as new facts and priorities develop. Agree with you that in this trade, Santa often delivers stocking containing a TBM path consisting of rocks suddenly becoming an underground river. Reason I want underground professionals on stage at meetings instead of professional meeting organizers.

        No windshield through the cutter. So I’m willing to face how many years and how much money this dig will take. Hate idea of rabies shots, so an not going the give Lassie my leg to chew on.
        Also why I’m looking for ways to improve street service meantime.

        Boren has long needed to be wired, and its service vastly increased. Easy trail-in from Pine Street trolleywire before and after replacement of CPS. And well remember relocation of 3 and 4 to the Route 2 wire. Ninth Avenue turn great for Virginia Mason and Harborview

        Rush hour, would like to see police now directing traffic at private buildings re-assigned to give transit some priority through James to Jefferson intersection and similar. Along with finally giving the streetcar some badly needed reversal of priority on Broadway between streetcars and the other kind.

        The worse motorists like the regime change, the more they’ll support some transit that, unlike their cars, actually moves. Reason I don’t make decisions based on what any current officials say is that I’m expecting that the project I envision will give competing cities some grateful new employees. Maybe Austin or someplace else flat.

        About to say I hope nobody puts a giant building with a lot of underground parking where we need to dig. But just remembered that DSTT went in so fast is that our procurement team got inside info that somebody was going to put a building right where it would put a stake through the project worse than Doctor Van Helsing.

        Recalling Dupont Circle, tempted to give Vladimir Putin a new suite in the Trump Towers, in return for his money laundry renting me one of those Bear bombers, the 1958 Cadillac of the skies. Once once again making air raid shelters work and. A plane able to put a missile-borne electromagnetic pulse that’ll let me enjoy my coffee someplace without a 72″ screen presenting catheters for my age group, and Fox news.

        ‘Tis an ill wind, but there’s a lot of public works going terminal. Not the streetcar kind. If I don’t use “MD,” less chance of duty in that ward,

      2. Amazon and Expedia are a whole lot more important that students busing to classes at UW. And if you’re really worried about them leaving you’d best provide great transportation for their extremely expensive workers.

      3. UW has over 50,000 students and staff. It’s one of the premier research universities in the country, especially in the field of medicine, and is a major reason why the tech and biotech companies are here in the first place. Also it’s an “essential state service”, which gives it high priority in a number of state laws. That’s part of the reason why ST and Metro give it such high priority.

        Amazon has 40,000 Seattle employees as of last count, most of them in SLU but some of them in downtown. I don’t know Expedia’s number but it’s much less.

    2. The SLU arc is about SLU as a whole. Paul Allen was developing it even before Amazon announced its headquarters there. SLU’s growth completely overwhelmed the existing transit, and developers were building a high parking ratio because there was no guarantee enough transit would be there. If that’s not the definition of “a high-capacity transit need”, I don’t know what is. So SDOT and ST fixed their earlier mistake by routing Link through there. It may not have gotten enough public hearing, but that’s mainly because the realization of the need came so late. It should have been an ST2 issue. Expedia is only getting a station because it’s along the least-expensive alignment. The SLU arc is not for one or two or three companies but for the large high-density district. If Amazon and Expedia went away, other companies would come to take their place, and they would need high-capacity transit too. If you don’t believe they will come, then you believe Seattle couldn’t recover from Amazon’s departure and would be depressed for decades. Where’s the evidence for that? It’s only if there’s a very big catastrophe, such as if the entire tech industry imploded or there was another world war or a major earthquake hit Seattle, but in those cases we’d have a lot bigger problems than whether SLU had empty buildings and unemployment was 20%.

  6. The Rock and Roll Marathon is next Sunday and in looking at the route course it will be interesting to see the reroutes for a number of routes as the course will affect a number of major streets among them both Westlake and Eastlake Avenues, Fairview Ave, Nickerson Street, 15th Ave W, Aurora Avenue though the Woodland Park Zoo and streets in and around the Seattle Center plus the Alaskan Way Viaduct. For the latter it will be the last time that can be used for any races.

    And before anybody complains about the inconvenience of the reroutes this event is early on a Sunday morning and brings in thousand of runners from outside the city spending money locally which includes paying taxes.

    Events like this also adds to the quality of life and that is part of living in a city like Seattle

    1. A couple years ago Marathon day was the day I took the 27 to the end to see how things are doing there. I saw a rather run-down park (I thought it was Coleman but the map says that’s further south, so maybe it was Frink), and the apartments on Lakeside Ave S, and no pedestrians around. I walked north, intending to catch the 3 at Cherry Street, but then I ended up in the marathon with runners around me. I didn’t know where the marathon route was, but it was along Lake Washington. So I continued walking north to Madrona Park, and I think I sat at the beach for a while and took the 2 back.

  7. 7:30PM on a Friday and two scheduled 62 buses going downtown failed to show up. I look at the app, and lo and behold there are somehow six buses running to Sand Point and no buses at all on the Downtown section!

    If KC Metro and the region want to encourage sustained transit ridership, running the buses they say they’re going to would be a start.

    1. That probably means there’s a traffic blockage or street closure somewhere. or there was in the previous rush hour and Metro is still recovering from it. Metro can’t do anything about that; you need transit lanes to make buses reliable on unreliable streets. Metro has some standy buses to substitute for blocked/broken buses, but if it’s as large as to block two 62s for 45 minutes then it probably affected several other route too and the standy buses are there.

      PS. The 62 has long been unreliable at rush hour. But it has gotten reliable in the late morning, where it used to be routinely 10-25 minutes late.

  8. Okay, Richard, let’s let pass whether you really want Jeff Bezos thinking he’s got the right to give orders in this town to anybody who isn’t working for him. Also, he’s smart enough to know the value of all those students, who are giving him a pool of talent that will last for generations.

    So anything we give those students, we’re also giving him. And People who get in their way will sometimes have a drone loaded with eggs past their sell-by date shattering their picture window and splattering into the wall. Word to the Wise. Guys.


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