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Voters in Austin, Texas, pass $7 billion mass transit plan

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bms

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Catching up on election news now that the big one is decided! Austin voters passed Proposition A, funding a large expansion to the local mass transit system including quite an ambitious light rail expansion. They're planning to add Orange, Blue, and Green lines to the existing Red Line. I don't know enough about the area's geography to say much more, but it is nice to see any city expanding its transit system!

Link to a map of the planned system
Information from the City on the plan
Local newspaper article reporting that the proposal passed
 

daybeers

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Catching up on election news now that the big one is decided! Austin voters passed Proposition A, funding a large expansion to the local mass transit system including quite an ambitious light rail expansion. They're planning to add Orange, Blue, and Green lines to the existing Red Line. I don't know enough about the area's geography to say much more, but it is nice to see any city expanding its transit system!

Link to a map of the planned system
Information from the City on the plan
Local newspaper article reporting that the proposal passed
Wow this is really awesome! Also includes all-electric buses, all-electric bike rentals, and $260m for bike lanes & sidewalks as well! Now that's multimodal. Congrats to Austin!
 

Rover

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Catching up on election news now that the big one is decided! Austin voters passed Proposition A, funding a large expansion to the local mass transit system including quite an ambitious light rail expansion. They're planning to add Orange, Blue, and Green lines to the existing Red Line. I don't know enough about the area's geography to say much more, but it is nice to see any city expanding its transit system!

Link to a map of the planned system
Information from the City on the plan
Local newspaper article reporting that the proposal passed
I hope they get it right. Dallas light rail that was built above ground... well now they want to route muc of that underground in downtown.
 

bms

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I hope they get it right. Dallas light rail that was built above ground... well now they want to route muc of that underground in downtown.
It looks like most of the Austin plan is above ground, but some tunnels will be built in the downtown. I couldn't tell if there will be underground stations or not. Of course it's early.
 

Ziv

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Here is hoping that a lot of the electric buses, preferably all, are built by Proterra or New Flyer. Developing a large scale electric bus manufacturer in North America would be an excellent long term advantage, and so far, both Proterra and NFI are fairly small scale vs. Yutong or BYD. Buying Chinese would be cheaper in the short term, so they will be tempting to a cash strapped municipality.

Wow this is really awesome! Also includes all-electric buses, all-electric bike rentals, and $260m for bike lanes & sidewalks as well! Now that's multimodal. Congrats to Austin!
 

neroden

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It looks like most of the Austin plan is above ground, but some tunnels will be built in the downtown. I couldn't tell if there will be underground stations or not. Of course it's early.
The plan actually specifies which bit goes underground, if you look carefully.

So most of it will be median-running light rail. The medians are big enough. The Guadalupe section of the Orange and Blue Lines -- from North Lamar Transit Center to Republic Square -- is expected to be the "workhorse" route with high ridership; it runs through the university and the state capitol district and the most transit-dependent neighborhoods.

The Orange and Blue Lines will dip underground just north of Republic Square, with an underground station at Republic Square. It's not clear to me how the Orange Line gets back to the surface in order to cross the river.

The Blue Line turns east and runs underground to an underground station at "Downtown", approximately underneath the existing surface station for the Red Line. This is along 4th St, which is not wide enough for median-running. Then it continues underground to the Mexican-American Cultural Center near Rainey St. -- there's no good surface route between those two -- before surfacing at MACC/Rainey station (I'm not sure whether MACC/Rainey will be underground or not).

Republic Square will be ripped up for a while; it's going to be cut-and-cover. I'm not sure about the rest of the tunnel from there to MACC/Rainey, whether it'll be bored or cut-and-cover. I'm guessing bored.
 

Ziv

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This is a perfect example of where the Boring Company shows so much promise. If the tunneled portions could be dug at a price half that, or less, (Musk claims less than 1/10 the cost is possible) than what conventional tunneling costs it would make this much easier to finance.
So far the Boring Company has pretty much been all hat and no cattle though. Plus the Boring Company seems to have opted to standardize their tunneling at a 12' diameter, which is smaller than most mass transit options in the West. The London Underground has the Victoria Line that has stock nearly that small at 9 1/2 feet, if memory serves, but those cars are pretty tight. If the new Snoop Dug boring machine is even slightly larger than Prufrock it will make it much easier to use existing Bombardier designs in a subway system.


The plan actually specifies which bit goes underground, if you look carefully.

So most of it will be median-running light rail. The medians are big enough. The Guadalupe section of the Orange and Blue Lines -- from North Lamar Transit Center to Republic Square -- is expected to be the "workhorse" route with high ridership; it runs through the university and the state capitol district and the most transit-dependent neighborhoods.

The Orange and Blue Lines will dip underground just north of Republic Square, with an underground station at Republic Square. It's not clear to me how the Orange Line gets back to the surface in order to cross the river.

The Blue Line turns east and runs underground to an underground station at "Downtown", approximately underneath the existing surface station for the Red Line. This is along 4th St, which is not wide enough for median-running. Then it continues underground to the Mexican-American Cultural Center near Rainey St. -- there's no good surface route between those two -- before surfacing at MACC/Rainey station (I'm not sure whether MACC/Rainey will be underground or not).

Republic Square will be ripped up for a while; it's going to be cut-and-cover. I'm not sure about the rest of the tunnel from there to MACC/Rainey, whether it'll be bored or cut-and-cover. I'm guessing bored.
 

joelkfla

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So far the Boring Company has pretty much been all hat and no cattle though. Plus the Boring Company seems to have opted to standardize their tunneling at a 12' diameter, which is smaller than most mass transit options in the West. The London Underground has the Victoria Line that has stock nearly that small at 9 1/2 feet, if memory serves, but those cars are pretty tight. If the new Snoop Dug boring machine is even slightly larger than Prufrock it will make it much easier to use existing Bombardier designs in a subway system.
You say 9 1/2' is "nearly as small" as 12'. :confused: Seems to me that 9 1/2' is smaller than 12'.
 

Ziv

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Joel, sorry I didn't make it clear. Railiner is right, 9.5' is how tall the Vic cars are (8.7' wide) and 12' is the bore diameter of TBC tunnels. Since the tracks aren't flush on the absolute bottom of the bore the cars can't be as tall as the bore diameter. I enclosed a picture of 3 different tunnel bores in the London Underground. The big one is Crossrail, which has a 6m diameter vs. the 3.81m/12.5' diameter of the Victoria Line. If you have ever taken a ride on a Victoria Line car, you will be impressed by how compact they are or horrified by how claustrophobic they are. ;-) I like them, but I know people who don't.
My entry that "... the Victoria Line that has rolling stock nearly that small at 9 1/2 feet ..." was intended to indicate that the 9.5' Victoria rolling stock would not quite fit into a TBC tunnel with their 12' diameter bore since the Vic's rolling stock were designed to just barely fit into a 12.5' bore tunnel. Sorry for the unclear post!


You say 9 1/2' is "nearly as small" as 12'. :confused: Seems to me that 9 1/2' is smaller than 12'.
 

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John Bredin

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So far the Boring Company has pretty much been all hat and no cattle though. Plus the Boring Company seems to have opted to standardize their tunneling at a 12' diameter, which is smaller than most mass transit options in the West. The London Underground has the Victoria Line that has stock nearly that small at 9 1/2 feet, if memory serves, but those cars are pretty tight. If the new Snoop Dug boring machine is even slightly larger than Prufrock it will make it much easier to use existing Bombardier designs in a subway system.
That reminds me of the odd gauges of some streetcar systems, intended by city governments to prevent the franchisee from allowing "steam" or mainline railroads to use its tracks. Cite. If I was cynical, I would keep in mind Musk's (1) trash-talking of HSR in promoting claustrophobic-capsule Hyperloop and (2) plan for private cars on roller skates sleds instead of transit-sized cars in his urban tunnel schemes, and conclude that tunnels too small for transit cars is a feature for Musk rather than a bug.
 
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sttom

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I was listening to a podcast about engineering disasters that went over the Las Vegas Loop. It pretty much covers all the issues with it and its history. Just don't give it a listen if you don't like jokes with your engineering podcasts.

I just don't see Elon going along with digging for transit projects given his whole schtick is saving the world by electrifying traffic jams and the ever dubious "automation" which was supposed to bend time by now.

 

daybeers

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I was listening to a podcast about engineering disasters that went over the Las Vegas Loop. It pretty much covers all the issues with it and its history. Just don't give it a listen if you don't like jokes with your engineering podcasts.

I just don't see Elon going along with digging for transit projects given his whole schtick is saving the world by electrifying traffic jams and the ever dubious "automation" which was supposed to bend time by now.

I agree. Elon has openly talked about his disgust with public transportation: “public transport is painful. It sucks. Why do you want to get on something with a lot of other people, that doesn’t leave where you want it to leave, doesn’t start where you want it to start, doesn’t end where you want it to end? It’s a pain in the a**. That’s why everyone doesn’t like it. And there’s like a bunch of random strangers, one of who might be a serial killer, OK, great. And so that’s why people like individualized transport, that goes where you want, when you want.”

While Tesla, SpaceX, and the Boring Company are very interesting and changing their respective industries overall for the better, some with massive change, in general he's still another classist billionaire. The Hyperloop is a joke.

Electric cars are absolutely, unequivocally not the answer to climate change. They are a small part of the solution, but driving still involves mass amounts of consumption, space, and urban sprawl, not to mention the environmental harms of lithium-ion batteries and particulate matter from brakes and tires. Traffic does not magically go away with electric cars.

So, I hope he gets the stick out of his butt and does actually improve tunneling for mass transit projects, though I'm not very hopeful.
 
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Devil's Advocate

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While Tesla, SpaceX, and the Boring Company are very interesting and changing their respective industries overall for the better, some with massive change, in general he's still another classist billionaire. The Hyperloop is a joke.
Building a Hyperloop is probably less of a reach technologically than early aircraft designs. The majority of problems with the Hyperloop are related to land acquisition, developing practical fail-safe solutions, establishing appropriate insurance, promoting user acceptance, and balancing return on investment. The first few examples will likely end up slower than originally hoped and too expensive to break even, but my guess is that they'll figure it out eventually.

They are a small part of the solution, but driving still involves mass amounts of consumption, space, and urban sprawl, not to mention the environmental harms of lithium-ion batteries and particulate matter from brakes and tires.
The environmental harm that comes from lithium ion batteries is a genuine problem but it is also vastly overstated when the total chain of production to exhaustion is compared with more conventional solutions. Electric cars barely use their brake pads and low resistance tires last longer than conventional designs.

Traffic does not magically go away with electric cars.
Traffic doesn't go away when cars become electric, but it can be mitigated by removing the human element.

 
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MARC Rider

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The majority of problems with the Hyperloop are related to land acquisition, developing practical fail-safe solutions, establishing appropriate insurance, promoting user acceptance, and balancing return on investment. The first few examples will likely end up slower than originally hoped and too expensive to break even, but my guess is that they'll figure it out eventually.
Being a long-time end-user of computer hardware and software products, I do not think that anyone will develop "practical fail-safe solutions" to ensure safety while riding at 700 mph in a pod running in a vacuum. And even with well-developed technology, like airplanes, we still have some pretty spectacular crashes - Boeing 737 MAX, anyone? Well, at least with a major hyperloop crash, they'll be able to recover most of the bodies....

The environmental harm that comes from lithium ion batteries is a genuine problem but it is also vastly overstated when the total chain of production to exhaustion is compared with more conventional solutions. Electric cars barely use their brake pads and low resistance tires last longer than conventional designs.
Uh, oh, you're getting into something I know something about. The early versions of low rolling resistance tires did, in fact wear down more quickly than conventional tires. In fact, when we first started trying to encourage truckers to use them, they complained that the tires wore out so quickly that it negated the money from the fuel savings. The major tire companies soon came up with low rolling resistance models that didn't wear out as fast, but they're no better than conventional tires, so the particulates from tire wear are going to be more or less the same either way. Except that they companies that make low rolling resistance tires with good wear performance are the top tier companies (like Michelin, Goodyear, Bridgestone, etc.), and those good tires are more expensive than regular tires. So anyone on a tight budget is going to either be buying conventional tires or low cost knockoff off-brand low rolling resistance tires that will wear out faster. Thus particulates from tires in the electric world will either be the same or slightly more than from conventional tires.


Traffic doesn't go away when cars become electric, but it can be mitigated by removing the human element.
Again, being a long -term user of computer hardware and software, I have no confidence that full automated driving on public roads can be done safely and reliably.

Relying on individual transportation has many other problems besides traffic. Daybeers pointed out issues regarding land consumption,i.e., urban sprawl. Having everyone own a vehicle ties up a lot of metal and plastic that could be left in the ground. Urban sprawl has a lot of environmental issues aside from greenhouse gas generation, such as promoting flooding and interfering with ground-water recharge due to vastly increased paved surfaces and low density housing. It's also associated with other sorts of low-grade toxic runoff, and, of course, destroys ecosystems, many of which provide "services" to human communities. (Wetlands absorb floodwaters, and recycle fertilizers, etc.)

It's probably true that the most environmentally friendly way to have any kind of high-tech society is to minimize the "human habitat" with dense, walkable cities for the vast majority of the population, connected by high-capacity transportation modes, i.e., public transportation. If that means that poor ol' Elon Musk is going to have to live in an apartment or row house and have to walk a couple of blocks to a bus stop of subway station, and then have to wait a few minutes to ride with the riff-raff, well tough luck. If he's serious about helping the environment, that's what he, and everybody else, for the most part, is going to have to do. Maybe the really small percentage of people who really have to live in the sticks will be able to have cars, and perhaps it won't hurt to much to allow city dwellers to rent cars for road trips into the countryside for vacations and such, but if we're really serious about protecting the earth, most of us are going to have to put up with not having individualized instant mobility (except for walking) at our fingertips. In some ways, if we try it, we'll probably be happier people. We'll certainly be healthier from all the walking.[
 

Devil's Advocate

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Being a long-time end-user of computer hardware and software products, I do not think that anyone will develop "practical fail-safe solutions" to ensure safety while riding at 700 mph in a pod running in a vacuum.
If Hyperloops can approach commercial aircraft safety standards I'll be satisfied. So long as they're made less dangerous than driving they'll become a net positive safety wise. Hard to see that as a downside IMO.

The early versions of low rolling resistance tires did, in fact wear down more quickly than conventional tires. In fact, when we first started trying to encourage truckers to use them, they complained that the tires wore out so quickly that it negated the money from the fuel savings.
I've been using low resistance tires for decades without issue. If you go all the way back to the designs from the 1990's the traction was poor but the longevity was already suprisingly good. I had some early BFG's that refused to wear down and were replaced well beyond their anticipated lifespan with plenty of tread remaining.

So anyone on a tight budget is going to either be buying conventional tires or low cost knockoff off-brand low rolling resistance tires that will wear out faster. Thus particulates from tires in the electric world will either be the same or slightly more than from conventional tires.
Few people on tight budgets are buying electric cars but those who do can ride for years on the first set.

Again, being a long -term user of computer hardware and software, I have no confidence that full automated driving on public roads can be done safely and reliably.
It's literally happening right now in public beta. It's not perfect but it only needs to become safer than a human driver in most situations. Now that human drivers are glued to phones instead of the road it's getting easier to meet that goal.

Having everyone own a vehicle ties up a lot of metal and plastic that could be left in the ground. Urban sprawl has a lot of environmental issues aside from greenhouse gas generation, such as promoting flooding and interfering with ground-water recharge due to vastly increased paved surfaces and low density housing. It's also associated with other sorts of low-grade toxic runoff, and, of course, destroys ecosystems, many of which provide "services" to human communities. (Wetlands absorb floodwaters, and recycle fertilizers, etc.)
The long term plan is to replace personal electric cars that spend most of their lives sitting still with a fleet of antonymous vehicles that spend most of their lives carrying people back and forth between work, home, shopping etc.
 
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sttom

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If we're talking about environmental protection, we have individual transportation, we can walk or take a bike. That would require us to live in streetcar suburbs like people did 100 years ago and people seem to really love those types of neighborhoods seeing as they are generally the most expensive places to live in these days. It would also mean bringing the streetcars back.

Suburbs are also not financially sustainable since lower population densities means lower property values (which are usually tax protected, at least owner occupied homes in most states). Which means fewer people to split the cost of local services between. Which consequently is why HOAs are a mainstay in most developments built after the 70s. You need to make up the cost of things somehow and getting a pool is just the minimum they could do for harassing you over how far out your trash can in on trash day.

Also, no one seems to answer this, but who would give up their car for a $1 per mile Uber ride? And not just when you don't want a DUI, but when you need to do a grocery run or you need to go to Target right now? I don't think anyone would do that, I know I wouldn't and I'd take the bus to Target if it ran more frequently than every other hour.

So self driving cars are no more a panacea than a UBI would be. They still incentivize us to live in economically and economically lifestyle that people are starting to realize is more trouble than it's worth. Not to mention self driving cars are an all or nothing proposal. If one car isn't up to the same standard, then the whole system wouldn't work. And running trucks a few feet apart at 5 miles through a tunnel doesn't work well. I can't imagine what would happen if cars were running at 60 miles per hour, bumper to bumper and someone forgot to update Flash.
 

adamj023

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Austin, Texas has become way too leftist and this project will lead to much higher taxes. My own opinion is rail transportation should be privately owned and operated and there should be usage based fees for service where it has to generate profits.
 
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Rover

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If we lived in a “virtual world”, living, working, playing, learning, visiting, all from our homes, that would eliminate most traffic and pollution.
I certainly wouldn’t want to see that...😐
"Brainstorm"..... and ability to experience something as if you'd actually been there...
 

Bob Dylan

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Austin, Texas has become way too leftist and this project will lead to much higher taxes. My own opinion is rail transportation should be privately owned and operated and there should be usage based fees for service where it has to generate profits.
I live in Austin, sure wish it was Leftist, we' re owned by Giant Corporations and Real Estste Developers , hardly Leftists,and the State Government is one of the Most Conservative and Reactionary there is, with an Anti- Austin mindset.
 

daybeers

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If we're talking about environmental protection, we have individual transportation, we can walk or take a bike. That would require us to live in streetcar suburbs like people did 100 years ago and people seem to really love those types of neighborhoods seeing as they are generally the most expensive places to live in these days. It would also mean bringing the streetcars back.

Suburbs are also not financially sustainable since lower population densities means lower property values (which are usually tax protected, at least owner occupied homes in most states). Which means fewer people to split the cost of local services between. Which consequently is why HOAs are a mainstay in most developments built after the 70s. You need to make up the cost of things somehow and getting a pool is just the minimum they could do for harassing you over how far out your trash can in on trash day.

Also, no one seems to answer this, but who would give up their car for a $1 per mile Uber ride? And not just when you don't want a DUI, but when you need to do a grocery run or you need to go to Target right now? I don't think anyone would do that, I know I wouldn't and I'd take the bus to Target if it ran more frequently than every other hour.

So self driving cars are no more a panacea than a UBI would be. They still incentivize us to live in economically and economically lifestyle that people are starting to realize is more trouble than it's worth. Not to mention self driving cars are an all or nothing proposal. If one car isn't up to the same standard, then the whole system wouldn't work. And running trucks a few feet apart at 5 miles through a tunnel doesn't work well. I can't imagine what would happen if cars were running at 60 miles per hour, bumper to bumper and someone forgot to update Flash.
I like this response. The problem isn't if cars are electric or autonomous or not, it's cars in the first place. They are an incredibly inefficient use of space for transportation. There is no reason so many people need to own their own metal box that weighs several thousand pounds. Walking, biking, taking the bus, light rail, commuter rail, intercity rail, and high speed rail are all extremely viable, time-tested, reliable, safe, and efficient means of moving people. I don't see a world in which cars will go away, at least within the next century, but I do see a world in which its dependence on them is greatly reduced. I firmly believe reliable, efficient transportation is a fundamental human necessity. Even if cars transform into "pods" that spend their whole day essentially doing driverless rideshare rides, that doesn't solve the issues MARC Rider addressed like urban sprawl, runoff, ecosystem destruction, and extreme resource use. What's the problem with walking, biking, or using other forms of micro mobility transit to get the first/last mile connection to a comprehensive network of bus and rail?
 
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