Tonight, I will be putting out the text that I will use to address the City Council to argue for the ideas in AURA’s resolution.  One argument I will not be making, but that has been made by people whom I agree with most of the time and who I consider my friends, is that Highland is the same as Mueller.

I don’t understand the argument completely, but here are my reasons for not using it:

  1. It isn’t true.  At the most basic, simplistic level, Highland is a route that goes one place; Mueller is a route that goes someplace nearby, but different.  They share part of the same route, but not the whole thing.  AURA has emphasized that we should use actual, true facts in this process.  This isn’t an actual, true fact.
  2. It’s not clear why it matters.  There’s been a similar argument regarding the Red Line that Lakeline == Cedar Park.  In that case, the argument is that most of the passengers who take the Red Line from Lakeline station come from Cedar Park.  This matters because Cedar Park is not in the Cap Metro service area, so they are not paying taxes.  But Mueller is a part of Austin.  It’s not a priori obvious why having a route go to Mueller is bad.  My analysis says that Mueller is a less advantageous first route than Lamar or Riverside.  But then again, my analysis says the same about Highland, so bringing up Mueller just seems to confuse the issue.
  3. It makes Mueller sound evil, without explaining why.  I know a lot of people in the urbanist community are disappointed that Mueller didn’t become more urban, but most people in Austin don’t have some gut-level hatred for Mueller.  It’s a nice, growing neighborhood.  If you are implying that Highland is a stalking horse for Mueller, you either need to explain why that’s a bad thing or you sound like you just have an irrational hatred for one neighborhood.  Certainly, you can’t expect any politician to share in your concern.

Perhaps I’m missing something obvious.  But if so, maybe the argument needs to be fleshed out a bit better.  From my perspective, the fact that 2 years ago staff’s analysis chose Mueller and today’s staff analysis picks Highland, tells me that either: a) it’s a really good thing the public doesn’t just take staff’s word for granted because different staffs might come up with different answers, or b) projections can change rapidly, even in the span of just 2 years.

8 thoughts on “HighlandMueller

  1. I’m not sure that it isn’t true. This is just one side affect of analyzing corridors rather than actual routes. I’m convinced the route will end up being virtually the same.

    At the same time, we can’t ‘prove’ it’s the same, because again, corridors not routes.

    I do think you’re right about Mueller. We have to be careful about vilifying Mueller, which most Austinites see as a ‘nice place.’ Which I guess it is, at least in some respects.

  2. The Highland subcorridor contains Hancock Center, and Kyle Keahy was basically winking and nudging about Mueller at the CCAG meeting I spoke at.

    I understand some others believe Highland Mall is a serious endpoint, but that’s a different kind of bad – the route would be horrible; requiring a lot of shared lane running at low speeds to get from Red River / 38th to Airport / 45th; then it’d run presumably in the median on Airport which is just all kinds of stupid as only one side of Airport can have buildings on it.

    Dan, I love your work on this, but please don’t be naive – it’s quite likely “Highland” was created just to make the same route to Hancock Center (phase 1A with 1B being Mueller) look ‘new’. That should be insulting to you, too; I’m mystified at your desire to continue to take their statements at face value given the tremendous evidence of mendaciousness we’ve observed so far.

  3. Dan, you’re correct that it doesn’t matter if we’re arguing the merits of a particular alignment. Nor does it matter to a member of the general public who hasn’t followed this process throughout.

    It’s highly relevant, though, to assessing the good faith of the Project Connect team. That’s not something the average citizen cares about, and I think it’s a mistake to make a bunch of personal attacks or accusations of bad faith in public, at least to a general audience. Most people don’t have the background knowledge needed to assess such claims, which will likely lead them to write off the accuser as irrational. I.e., if they don’t start off sharing my anger, displaying my anger will turn them off. To the extent I’ve done this in the past, it was because I didn’t restrain myself, not because I think it’s a good tactic.

    Still, there are places/fora where the good faith and intentions of the PC team ought to be critically examined, and the Highland/Mueller substitution is highly relevant to those issues.

    1. Tactically, you would be correct if the public had any inclination to dive into this issue at all beyond the typical “rail good / rail bad” dichotomy; but they didn’t in 2000, didn’t in 2004, and I doubt they will in 2014 either.

      As far as I go, the anger I’m displaying towards Project Connect should signify to decision-makers that the Project Connect people were operating in bad faith. I believe that if similar anger were expressed by more people, it would be harder to write it off as “there he goes again”, but some people seem intent on making the same mistake as in 2004, i.e. “give us what we want or we’ll probably vote for you anyways”.

  4. I’m signed up to speak at the Council meeting tonight and was thinking I might cover some of the things you’ve posted about in your past few blog posts (basically how small, sensible changes to Project Connect’s methodology are enough to give Lamar the edge over Highland.)

    I’d hate to step on your toes; I don’t suppose you’ll have a chance to post your planned remarks this afternoon?

    1. Kory–I will not have time to post my public remarks, mostly because I will not even have time to prepare them. I would be quite happy if went ahead with your remarks with absolutely no worry about stepping on my toes.

  5. Another reason to believe Highlandmueller, on fine display last night, is the fact that not a single person who wanted rail to Mueller is coming out against the Highland subcorridor being chosen. None. Why? Because they suspect the Highland corridor will result in a line that goes to or through Hancock Center, just like phase 1A of the pre-Project-Connect plan did, which makes them phase 1B as before. In other words, they’re 0% worse off than they were before PC claimed to be wiping the slate clean.

    1. They made a very effective case last night that the Highland plan was a good step for going to Mueller. I remain happy that it was them making that case and not us.

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