Real-time bus data can improve effective frequencies

In February, Capital Metro expanded the reach of real-time bus data from the 801 and 803 routes to the entire fleet. There have been a few pieces about the promise of real-time data: the piece of mind of knowing your bus is actually on its way, the ability to save wait time by only heading out to your stop at the last minute, the promise of real-time data to evaluate system performance. I’d like to add one more: improving practical frequencies.

As long-time readers know, one of my pet peeves is buses that run in the same direction, but pick up at slightly different locations. Two bus routes that each run 2x / hour and run together for some length could become one combined route running 4x / hour along that length if they picked up at the same location. In Austin, this is the case for the central transit corridor from downtown to UT / West Campus along the 1/3/5/19/801/803 bus routes.

Downtown, the problem I complained about in the linked piece has been resolved; almost all north-south bus routes through downtown are now running on the Guadalupe / Lavaca transit priority lanes. However, during SXSW, as I stayed in a short-term rental in between South Congress and South 1st, I had a less extreme version of the same effect. My location was halfway between the South 1st corridor, where the #10 bus ran and the South Congress corridor, where the #1 and #801 buses ran. In the pre-real-time data days, this would have meant that I would have had to choose between waiting for the 10, waiting for the 1, or waiting for the 801, all of which pick up at different stops.

With real-time data, I could just look at my free Transit app and see which bus was approaching next:

Transit App Screenshot
Transit App Screenshot

During morning rush hour from my rental to downtown, there were five buses per hour on the 801, two buses per hour on the 10, and two buses per hour on the 1. Prior to real time data, that equals five buses per hour, as I would have had to choose which stop I was going to wait at and would’ve chosen the one with the most buses. With the advent of real-time data, that equaled 9 buses per hour, as I could choose which stop actually had the next arriving bus. Obviously, this only applies in some locations. But where it does, it’s a major improvement!

Council considering parking management districts for East Austin, Mueller

As Jennifer Curington reports in the Community Impact Newspaper, this Thursday Austin City Council will consider whether to create its first two parking/transportation management districts. PTMDs are arrangements in which the city installs parking meters in an area that needs them and splits the proceeds from operating the meters between the general fund and a fund that is specific to the area in which the meters are installed. They differ from parking benefit districts, another arrangement that the city can create, primarily in who can apply to create one.  (There are some folks who believe PTMDs are inferior to PBDs. For their arguments, read the comments section of this post a little while after I post it.)

The main feature of both these programs is that they control parking demand through the use of meters, a practice that first began in Oklahoma City in 1935. Of course, given the opportunity, most people would just as soon not pay for parking as pay for it, but as I discussed here, that can cause serious problems when there are more people who want to park than there are spaces.

The “revenue split” feature of PTMDs (and PBDs) are essentially political features. Just because it would benefit people on the whole to install parking meters doesn’t make it politically easy to create them. Opposition to meters can come from a number of corners, including merchants who believe their customers will no longer come to their store if they can’t park for free, to residents who dislike having parking spaces they have been using for long-term parking converted to short-term parking for those who live outside the neighborhood. By concentrating the benefits of the meters in the same area where these opponents live and work, theory goes that it will be easier politically to create and maintain support for them.

Indeed, in this case, theory appears to be matching up with reality. Two neighborhood associations–the East Cesar Chavez NA and the Guadalupe Association for an Improved Neighborhood–have joined the city in applying for the “East Austin” PTMD. This PTMD (council item here) would be bounded by I-35, Chicon Street, 4th St and 7th St, or roughly speaking, what many people call East 6th. The meters would run during the busy nightlife hours of 6PM-midnight Tuesday through Saturdays; any residents of single-family homes whose homes do not have off-street parking will be provided permits to use on-street spaces free of charge. Some ideas contemplated in the city documents for where the funds may be used include sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic signals, artwork, and ongoing street maintenance.

If these PTMDs turn out well, they may prove an improved template for managing high-demand parking near commercial areas of the city. The parking management solution most commonly in use, the Residential Permit Parking program, has been a failure. The idea behind it in the first place is essentially exclusionary–the entire purpose of the program is to ban people who don’t live very close to an area in which parking is in high-demand from parking there. This is, to put it lightly, a poor use of a city resource (on-street parking). When put in practice, this program has, not surprisingly, had poor results. Many of those streets in which non-locals have been excluded from parking now sit empty, while parkers just park even further from their destination.

Perhaps in the future, the city will decide that rather than playing whack-a-mole with people who desire parking, they should simply charge for it, and use the proceeds to improve sidewalks, crosswalks, and the like.

The Upside Down(town) Parking World

I often refer to the housing market as a game of musical chairs. We don’t have as much housing (chairs) as there are people who want it and however you arrange people in those houses (chairs), somebody loses out. The solution is abundant housing. In the downtown parking market, though; we suffer from a very different kind of failure. At the same time that people are circling the streets in search of that ever-elusive open on-street parking space, tons of spaces go empty in parking garages. We don’t need more parking; we need better use of the parking we’ve got.

So what’s going on? The issue stems from the underpricing of on-street parking during peak hours. Although on-street spaces are the most convenient spaces, they are also the cheapest. This means that there is a ton of competition for those spaces. On weekend evenings, the winners of this competition are largely the service workers who arrive for their shift before their patrons.  (My instinct on this is partly confirmed by data from ATX Safer Streets, which surveyed downtown service workers and found about half park on-street.)  The result is an upside down world of parking: the spaces most suitable to high-turnover applications, such as quick visits, dropoff or pickup, etc. are being used for long-term applications, such as employee parking. Meanwhile, visitors scour the streets for nonexistent open spaces before parking in a garage or going home. If we charged more for on-street parking, we would likely see a more effective utilization of both on-street and off-street parking. Service workers would find that making monthly contracts with garages is now the better deal for them, freeing up on-street spaces for downtown visitors. The knock-on effects of more available parking would be less time wasted and traffic created by visitors–especially short-term visitors like dinner or dry cleaning pick-ups–“cruising” for parking.

Not convinced that raising prices could make a more efficient market? Let’s imagine an analogy. Suppose that, instead of providing below-market rates on parking to encourage visitors to shop at downtown businesses, the city instead decided to provide below-market rates on publicly-provisioned hotels to encourage the same. These hotels were the nicest ones in the city, with ever-fresh towels, and gorgeous downtown views. On top of that, the city charges a measly $1/hour. The only catch is that the city won’t take reservations for these hotels; visitors could just show up at rooms and if they are unoccupied, they would be allowed to claim them. If they failed to find a room, they could instead park themselves for the night at a market-rate hotel.

What you would find is that many visitors would arrive in Austin without a plan for where they would stay, just hoping to find a spot in the cheap hotels. On arrival, they would visit each cheap hotel hoping to score a deal. They would search for people taking elevators luggage in hand, in hopes as a sign they were going to check out. Traffic would soar as visitors circled the streets from hotel to hotel. Meanwhile, most of the rooms themselves would be scored not by visitors from afar, but by locals who know the rhythms of check-in and check-out. Downtown businesses would get complaints from tourists that finding a hotel room was too hard and complain in turn to the city that there aren’t enough hotel rooms. Is that a crazy way to run a tourism industry? Yes and also a crazy way to run downtown parking.

Parking is a Drag, but the Drag isn’t Parking Many People

The city of Austin has initiated a corridor study of the Guadalupe Street Corridor from 18th to 29th, more commonly known as “The Drag.” I encourage you to fill out their survey. One of the questions I wanted answered about how we allocate space on the Drag is: how much mobility does the Guadalupe parking lane provide?  So I dragged my ever-patient friend Marcus to, well, the Drag, and we counted parking spaces. The short answer is to the question is: not much.

By our count, there are 70 parking spaces on the Drag.  To put this in context, there are 128 parking spaces on San Antonio St. between MLK and 26th St, and 26 parking spaces in a single McDonald’s parking lot. There are 70 parking spaces on the small surface parking lot on the southwest corner of 25th and Guadalupe and 218 parking spaces in the St. Austin’s parking lot at San Antonio and Guadalupe, which also houses 3 storefronts.  Let’s put that in table form:

Area Spaces
McDonald’s at MLK 26
The Drag 70
Surface Lot 70
San Antonio from 18th to 26th 128
St. Austin’s garage 218

The spots on this table–and most especially the on-street Drag parking–represent a tiny fraction of the parking in West Campus, or even the parking within a single block of the Drag. The University Coop owns a large garage on San Antonio and there is another commercial parking garage on San Antonio which dwarfs the St. Austin’s lot.  If every single on-street parking space on the Drag were eliminated but the St. Austin’s parking garage were cloned at 25th and Guadalupe, we would have a net 148 more parking spaces and 3 more storefronts, as well as a lot more room on the road to dedicate to travelers.

More importantly, the number of parking spaces is tiny compared to the potential alternative uses for this lane. The Drag is home to most of Austin’s most popular bus routes (1/3/5/640/801/803), and some less popular ones as well (19).  A single 803 bus can carry 78 passengers and a single 801 bus can carry 101 passengers. In an hour of traffic, many many multiples more people take the bus along the Drag (in either direction) than have their cars parked there.  There is so much more we could be doing with this space than provide one long surface parking lot.

Next regulatory steps for TNCs and ridesharing

City Council has passed a regulatory framework for Transportation Networking Companies like Uber / Lyft. (The “TNC” name comes from the idea that they are creating networks of drivers and passengers to match.)  A lot of the regulatons are nitty, gritty details of whose insurance applies in what situations, who conducts what background checks, etc.  But the basic framework is pretty straightforward: TNCs are mostly allowed to operate, as long as they follow some rules. In some ways, the rules that they have to operate with are far more liberal than the rules under which taxicabs operate.  This is true in small ways, such as slightly different insurance requirements, and in large ways, like the fact that taxi drivers and companies do not have the right to set their own prices.  (Taxis, of course, retain a right that TNCs don’t: picking up street hails.)  Now that the political hubbub of getting an initial ordinance has passed, I’m sure that reconciling these two frameworks and harmonizing the requirements will be some of the next regulatory discussions, especially the approach toward generating access for the mobility impaired.

However, I’m more interested in talking about what big changes could come next.  First up,


Both Lyft and Uber have begun to operate true ride-sharing services. Uber’s is known as Uberpool and Lyft’s is known as Lyft Line.  With these services, you request a ride (giving you starting and ending destinations) and opt-in to the service. They attempt to match other riders who are taking similar trips, then pick you up in turn and drop you off in turn. If they cna’t match, they will simply dispatch a driver to take you alone. Because of the efficiencies of taking multiple passengers in the same vehicle, the passengers get a discount, the drivers and the TNC make extra money (2 passengers fares with 20% discounts still add up to much more than 1 fare at full price), and everybody else benefits by having fewer cars on the road.To my mind, this is pretty much exactly what we want to encourage. Although I argued that TNCs may reduce congestion by acting as an emergency outlet allowing households to remain car-free, this service has a much more direct effect on reducing congestion, by combining two or more rides into a single ride.

True to their Silicon Valley ethic, both launched these services with questionable legality in California and have since received letters from California regulators telling them they were violating the law. If we in Austin could get out in front of California and legalize carpooling in this form, we could become innovators in not only using TNCs to reduce drunk driving and help car-free households, but also in attempting to use them to lower transportation costs and reduce congestion.


Commute Carpooling

My understanding of the Uber/Lyft platform today is that it’s built on the idea of a driver making themselves available and then picking up requests that are sent to them. They are free to reject requests, but rejecting too many may disqualify them from future work.  An obvious expansion of their services would be for a driver to log in, say where they are going, and then match them with drivers. At this point, the carsharing service moves from being a nifty, well-run vehicle-for-hire service to being an ad-hoc carpool service. A driver who needs to drive into downtown from Northwest can advertise his services and pick up 4 others making a similar trip. The advantage this would have over traditional carpooling is merely convenience and ease of access.  You don’t have to set up a standing carpool, communicate with all your regulars about whether they’ll be late, etc.  Instead, you rely on the network to match those who are driving with those who are riding. I don’t believe that any new regulations are needed for this, but there might need to be changes in the TNC’s model.

Van Service

Eventually, Lyft and Uber may begin butting up against new private, data-driven transit services like Bridj, and at that point, there will be many regulatory changes needed.  Currently, for example, there are limits on the number of passengers in a given cab.  But for commutes such as the weekly, weekend back-and-forth between West Campus and downtown, a private provider might be able to provide a better, more specialized service for these passengers by bridging the gap between cabs and buses.


TNCs are not some solve-all that will single-handedly answer “the transportation question” for the city of Austin, but I have high hopes that they will go on to be far more than just taxis by another name. Indeed, in the process, I hope that taxis will see a huge improvement too.

Living car-free or car-lite in Austin has gotten a lot easier

I’ve lived in Austin for about 8 years, all of that time car-free. When I first moved moved here, I was frankly crazy to do so. I did all sorts of things without a car: dragging mattresses from one apartment to another in West Campus, walking miles because buses weren’t running–or just because. My whole life was planned around living without a car. One reason I lived in coops was so I could choose chores that didn’t require a car. Once I had to do my own grocery shopping, I would regularly take my jumbo grocery cart 50 minutes on the #3 bus up to Costco north, filled it up with groceries (stuffing the rest in my backpack), then take the bus back. I had at least 3 friends with whom I had mutual relationships of calling up and asking each other to use CapMetro’s trip planner for them.

It was actually a fun life for a 20-something, like playing a video game on hard mode. My friends and I spent a lot of time coming up with creative ways to move ourselves and our stuff. Other people had stories of getting drunk and winding up with the police; we had stories of police officers picking us up from walking along 2222, because he just didn’t think we looked very safe.  (He was probably right.) But it was hard. One time, picking up something from Craigslist, I got off the bus in a part of town I didn’t know well, headed the wrong way down the Ben White Blvd frontage road in the 100-degree heat, and got seriously desperate with cars whizzing by at 50MPH and no pedestrian-friendly businesses to pop into before a friend figured out where I was over the phone and set me on the right path. Under the best of conditions, getting any errands done in the summer was exhausting. Calling up a taxi company to get to the hospital and being told that nobody is available for an hour is the kind of experience that makes you question your choices in life.

In part because of recent political debates (legalization of Uber/Lyft,  lowering parking requirements for small apartments and ADUs), I’ve been reflecting on these experiences. Today, I still live car-free but it is considerably less crazy than it used to be. In part, this is because I’m no longer silly enough to think it’s a good idea for me to gather up some friends and carry a chaise lounge through West Campus at 10PM. But in part, it’s because the city and the world is just much more friendly to living without a car today than it was just a few years ago.  Here’s my list of ways my life is easier without a car now than it used to be, in no particular order:

  • Smartphones make it much, much harder to get lost.  My flirtation with heat stroke along Ben White would never happen today: if I were confused, I’d simply check the map on my phone.
  • Smartphones make trip planning much more flexible.  I used to have “last bus” times memorized for a wide variety of buses to make sure I could get home on time–and still got stranded occasionally when I would forget that it was Sunday. Today, I can easily just ask Google Maps or the CapMetro app to figure out the best way for me to take a bus home.
  • Sidewalks are getting more widespread and larger throughout the city, especially in the places I walk most.  Last month the city added a sidewalk in front of Vince Young grill, and a bike lane on 3rd Street.  Along my daily commute, at least a couple patches of missing sidewalk have been filled in that used to force me to cross a street or share a lane with cars–not very safe on foot!
  • Grocery delivery is a million times better.  Between Burpy, Instacart, and Amazon subscriptions, 90%+ of my groceries are delivered.  What would have taken me 3+ hours, heavy lifting, dangerous walking along pedestrian-hostile stroads with 80 lbs of grocery in tow is now done with a button click online.
  • Prepared food delivery is much easier.  Between GrubHub and Favor, pretty much anything can be delivered.
  • Density has brought more local food retail. In the two most recent neighborhoods I have lived in (West Campus and downtown), there has been a big jump in residential and commercial density. There’s a far broader quantity and variety of stores within walking distance of me, whether it’s convenience stores like Royal Blue or the dozen corner stores in West Campus, or tons of restaurants.
  • The food truck revolution. Not only is there more brick-and-mortar, but there are multiple food truck courts within walking distance of me, bringing even more variety of food. It used to be that buildingless parcels would be worse-than-useless to a pedestrian, filled in as surface parking lots. Now, many of those parking lots are being filled with very useful, tasty food.
  • Bcycle has only been in Austin for a few months, but you already see them everywhere. I’m not super confident enough on a bike to make this my main form of commuting, but they’re very convenient when I need them.
  • Uber / Lyft.  Uber and Lyft have been operating for the last few months. Most of my life doesn’t require a car, but since Uber and Lyft have started up, I am far more confident that if I suddenly needed a ride, I could find one.

Obviously, some items on this list are downtown- and campus-centric. People living in lower density places are unlikely to see a wide variety of stores within walking distance of them, for example.  I have the luck of a good job within a 1.5-mile walk of my home. For many people in Austin, it would be, well, crazy for them to live without a car. But these changes are real and more and more people will find that living car-free or car-lite is a good choice for them.

Playing around with a gridded transit system

Yesterday, I was exposed to a new tool that came out of Code For America: TransitMix.  It’s intended as a tool for allowing lay people (and eventually professionals) to draw up transit systems.   The map that I drew up (ideas you like are from Brad Absalom; ideas you dislike are from me)is a very preliminary interpretation of how ideas gleaned from reading posts on Jarrett Walker’s blog about a grid-based, transfer-happy system could work in Austin.  For this post, I will call the system I drew up Reimagined in the spirit of Houston’s System Reimagining (on which Walker consulted). For speed, I didn’t take on MetroExpress (i.e. 983, 985, 990), the Flyers (e.g. 103, 142, 171), or the UT Shuttles (e.g. FA, WC, LA).  I also ignored off-peak times for the same reason.

I constrained myself to reality in a few major ways: 1) using the same number of peak-hour buses that I calculated Cap Metro to use within MetroBus / MetroRapid (136 buses).  This gives a rough idea that the new system has similar total expected costs.  2) I attempted to keep coverage for as many locations currently served by a bus as I could, 3) I did my best to give average run speeds based on real Capital Metro runtimes along segments, including rest times for driver breaks.

I only drew this up for Devil’s Advocate purposes at this time–I’m intrigued by it enough to throw a Saturday afternoon into making it, but I’m sure there are issues I haven’t thought about.  It’s a very first cut, just an attempt to follow the principles and see where it leads.

Continue reading

Should we ban part-time taxi drivers?

Lyft and Uber have (re-)arrived in Austin, offering free rides for a couple of weeks, despite the City of Austin declaring they are operating against the law.  You can’t beat free, so I’ve been taking a lot of these rides.  All of my drivers have been part-timers, looking to supplement income.  This is in stark contrast to taxicab drivers, who are pretty much all working more-than-full-time hours.

The economic reasons why taxi drivers are full time make a lot of sense. Cabs are dedicated-purpose vehicles, going for the most part unused when they aren’t working.  Taxi licenses are an extremely scarce resource due to city regulations.   The taxi industry will find a structure to make sure these two expensive resources are working as often as possible.  Taxi licenses are issued to individuals, though; so this means that any structure that ensures that we have a lot of usage of our limited taxi licenses also ensures that our taxi drivers are working overtime.  The form this takes in Austin is high costs for either purchasing or leasing a taxi and high “terminal fees” for getting the right to use the taxi companies’ dispatch system.  Every month, each taxi driver starts deep in the hole and has to work a lot of hours just to break even, to pay for the fixed costs of their cab and their terminal fee.

So how do Uber and Lyft turn this dynamic around and allow for part-time drivers?  Uber and Lyft (whatever the legalities of their operations) are not limiting themselves to a city-capped pool of taxi licenses, nor are they limiting themselves to cars that are used exclusively as taxis. If a driver decides not to work Uber for an afternoon, a week, or a month, this doesn’t take the expensive fixed cost of a taxi out of their network, nor does it take the scarce resource of a taxi license out of their network.  Because of this, Uber and Lyft can do away with the terminal fee and instead just take a percentage of each ride as a dispatch fee.  Felix Salmon does the math and finds that, if the numbers are to be trusted, a full-time driver with Uber makes pretty good money compared to most taxi drivers, but a part-time driver does very well indeed.

There are many, many issues at play with Uber and Lyft, but from a very zoomed-out perspective, current city regulations make it uneconomical to have part-time drivers, and Uber and Lyft have come up with a model to change that.  Now, why we do we care?  Because taxis have very variable demand.  At peak hours, the number of licenses Austin hands out aren’t nearly enough to keep up with the demand.  But because drivers are starting off so far in the hole, they can’t just work peak hours; they have to work additional hours even if they’re very poorly paid for those hours, because they have to pay off the high fixed costs. So our current structure works for neither drivers nor riders: drivers have to scramble for every last ride in off-peak, but there still aren’t enough of them to give rides on-peak.  A structure (whether Uber/Lyft or something else) that allows drivers to come online during peak but doesn’t force them to work tons of off-peak hours could be beneficial to drivers and riders alike.  This presents a test of sort for any change in regulations.  Will it allow the economics to work for part-time drivers?  If not, then it really hasn’t accomplished much.

My email regarding Uber / Lyft / Sidecar, etc.

Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem, and Council Members–

I urge you to vote yes on resolutions 24, 25, and 26 regarding transportation networking companies. For people like me who do not drive, paid rides are an essential emergency backup. However, I have had so many bad experiences with taxi companies telling me they do not have enough capacity to give me a timely ride that I cannot consider them a reliable backup.

I use taxis when I am too tired, too sick, or carrying too much to walk or use public transportation. I have used taxis to take friends home from the hospital, to take pets to the vet (not allowed on Cap Metro buses), and to take myself to doctors’ appointments that weren’t on transit routes. I have been told that I will have a long wait because most drivers don’t want to work off-peak and that I will have a long wait because it was peak hours and most drivers were already occupied. Waiting for a long time for a ride to a hospital is the sort of defining experience that makes many people give up on living without a car.

Living in Austin without a car is difficult enough. Making it easier to sell rides will give more security to those of us who cannot drive to know that when we really need it, there will be a timely ride for us.

In light of Hancock tunnel, whole northern segment of rail needs rethink

I was appalled by the sticker price for a tunnel to get rail part of the way north from the Hancock Center to the Highland Mall.  This sticker price has come down: from a range of $230-290M to $220M.  But it is still truly appalling: the capital costs for that short tunnel alone would be about twice the capital cost of the entire MetroRail system which is forcing a tunnel in the first place and more than 4 times the capital cost of the entire MetroRapid bus improvements that led planners to rule out a route west of the University. It would cost more than going from Travis Heights all the way to 15th Street, including a brand new signature rail/bike/pedestrian bridge over Lady Bird Lake and tracks through dense downtown.

I wasn’t alone in being appalled. At a Transit Forum hosted by Austin Monitor and KUT, I asked a question of Council Member (and CapMetro board member) Mike Martinez on the Hancock tunnel via twitter, and he said that if we had to tunnel (as Project Connect says we must), the costs go up “exponentially.” Mayor Leffingwell has said in the press that he’d like to see the $1.4B price tag for the whole route be brought down to $1B. The Hancock tunnel is an obvious first place to cut. Many early supporters of Project Connect’s plans are now cautioning against including a Hancock tunnel on the ballot. And in project lead Kyle Keahey’s testimony, he sounded almost desperate to find a way to avoid the costs of a Hancock tunnel.  Even if decision makers hold their noses and vote to advance the entire $1.4B project, there’s little reason to believe that voters will do the same in November.

In light of this setback, we have to rethink more than just the tunnel, but rather the entire northern segment of the urban rail. Originally, Highland was sold as a low-cost segment with room for growth in the Highland Mall redevelopment, the old Concordia site, and along the newly re-zoned Airport Blvd Transit Corridor. Whatever you thought about the potential for these destinations to encourage ridership on a rail line (and I was skeptical), rail reaches none of them without the tunnel. Instead, it would merely run along a street not designated as a Transit corridor, through a neighborhood of mostly single-family homes that have largely struggled against becoming another University-adjacent density hotspot like West Campus, and then come to an ignominious end at a golf course and an auto-oriented strip mall.  Without the Hancock tunnel, the whole raison d’etre of this route goes away.

If that were all, that would be disappointing. A medium-cost, low-ridership train is not great.  But this low-ridership segment of the route threatens far worse: it could make future rail plans with higher opportunity impossible. This has happened to Austin twice already.  The low-ridership, low-cost MetroRail ended up badly hemming in this route, forcing a tunnel that cost twice as much as the system itself, something that few could’ve foreseen when MetroRail was being approved.  The low-cost MetroRapid gave planners reason to fear placing this rail route along the city’s most productive transit corridor.  A low-ridership segment from UT to Hancock could do immense damage to future flexibility in laying rail lines.  Funding a rail line that hits a hard stop before it reaches its density could end up preventing funding for parallel rail lines along more dense parts of Austin as “duplicative.”  And for what?  Unless city planners have a secret plan to get rid of MetroRail, we will face the same high tunneling costs next time we look into extending rail.  We will have essentially backed ourselves into a dead-end that will be very difficult and expensive to get out of.  Even for those who believe that rail should go to Mueller, this would remove routing flexibility from any planning efforts.

The best thing for CCAG and City Council to do is say that, in light of the new information they have on the costs of the Hancock tunnel, they will forego a vote on the more controversial, risky, poorer-thought-out northern segment of the route, advance the southern segment on its own, and come back to revisit the question of the northern route later.