Confederacy of Dunces

16 03 2010

In the wake of the City Council passing the East Riverside Corridor Master Plan and the impending opening of commuter rail, we here at The Placemaking Institute have been ebullient about the prospects for Austin’s future. Upon arriving to work this past Thursday, however, we found Our Most Senior Fellow slumped over listlessly disconsolate. We asked, “Is there something wrong?” He did not reply. So again, “What’s the matter?” we asked. He tried but could not reply.

And when he is struck speechless we know that something’s gone really wrong.

So very much concerned we endeavored to find out by cajoling, by prying, and finally by imploring – all to no avail; for several days he could only wince at the ceiling before again hanging his head, which he would sometimes pound. We grew quite alarmed, especially when he began shaking all over as if palsied with anger before tossing a wadded up newspaper ball at us: a Statesman article from March 10th headlined “Mayor, council reverse stance on November rail election.

In outright disbelief we proceeded to read that “Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who during his 2009 campaign pledged to push for a bond election this year on an urban rail system, said Wednesday he no longer supports a November 2010 rail vote because too many important questions remain unanswered” including “the question of where a train would cross the lake — on South First Street or Congress Avenue or on a new bridge nearby,” who the rail operator might be, the impact of construction, and the questions remaining about possible funding sources. “The City Council’s six other members quickly took the same position, effectively ending the chance that voters this year will be asked to approve an electric light rail or streetcar system. Leffingwell and other council members, however, said they support the idea of urban passenger rail and left open the possibility that a rail bond election could occur in 2011.”

By now stalking back and forth at an alarming rate, “Bosh!” Our Most Senior Fellow exclaims, “Bosh I say! As Leffingwell himself once said we must stop thinking small! Because immediate action is needed! Such dire congestion straits as Austin’s make these concerns of theirs for all intents and purposes niggling! Much like the ERCMP the initial stage of any Urban Rail system should be construed as a vision of what must occur if Austin is to truly further itself along the path to Progress! Delays cost MONEY! And lead to production time issues! There comes a point at which you throw your hands up in exasperation and despair and ask are all the dunces in confederacy against Austin?”

We second his emotion. (On a more positive note, politicians usually break their campaign pledges well before this, no?)

The Ramones: “Third verse same as the first/But a whole lot louder and worse”

[source] “Steel railroad ties are generally unpopular with U.S. railroad operators and transit agencies because, among other problems, they contribute to signal failures. And they’re significantly more expensive than standard wooden ties. That didn’t deter Capital Metro from buying 65,000 steel ties for $4.5 million and installing 46,000 of them in recent years. Though that process started before the agency decided to build a passenger rail system that would rely on electronic signal equipment, installation of steel ties continued even afterward. The agency has removed some of the steel ties along its Llano-to-Giddings freight line, 32 miles of which will be shared by passenger rail, and sold others at a loss…Capital Metro said further removal of steel ties probably will be necessary, especially if the agency someday expands commuter rail east to Manor and Elgin.”



2 responses

16 03 2010
Larry S

A reading of “Design by Deception: The Politics of Megaproject Approval by Bent Flyvbjerg in Urban Planning Today (Harvard Design Magazine Reader 2006) might make sense at this time. Are we thinking small or are we being prudent? I am all for a good project but please lets know the cost.

17 03 2010

Yes, there may be wisdom in waiting a year for this election:

•With the national political climate being what it is, a large percentage of the folks who may turn out in an election this November are likely to include a lot of people who are road warriors rather than rail advocates.
•With CapMet’s continuing foibles even stalwart supporters of them are having second thoughts; we all know that the City is going to have to have some entity besides the City managing whatever the city builds and it would be best for that to be CapMet unless another entity can be formed, which could not be done by this November.
•It is probably prudent to get the CapMet system up and running, work out kinks, build some ridership and rebuild some confidence before having an rail election.

(Each $1 billion spent on infrastructure creates on average 25,000 new jobs.)

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