Bus Odd-yssey to SoCo

Left for Guadalupe Mountains this morning, I'll try to autopost articles over the next few days, until I get back on Tuesday.

Anyways, a couple weeks ago I went on a bus odyssey, as I like to call them, with a friend; plans were to take the 983 express from Lakeline P&R in NW Austin downtown, and then transfer to the 1L/1M, which goes across the river, and get off on South Congress and wander around. But that didn't happen. We botched meeting up; she got on the northbound right as I arrived, and so had to get off at an unplanned stop, and we missed the southbound.

Our route:

View Trip to SoCo in a larger map

Still determined to take the bus, we drove down to Pavilion P&R to catch the 983 southbound there. It wasn't there yet when we arrived. So we hopped on the 392 eastbound to take all the way to N. Lamar, and there hop onto the 1L southbound all the way to South Congress. Which we did. And it took more than an hour just on the 1L, since it's an all-stops workhorse route, one of the reasons I love riding it. You can do some awesome people-watching on that bus. People from all walks of life ride it: homeless people, day-laborers, wage-earners, businesspeople working downtown, college students, teens...

(Photo by chix0rgirl on Flickr)

We got off near Guero's Taco Bar, which is more or less the northern end of what's truly the little Main Street that is South Congress. The storefronts look more like they belong in some small town in the Hill Country than a state capital. That is except for the crazy paint-jobs and signs.

South Congress Ave:

There's places like Uncommon Objects, a sort've hipster version of a thrift store/flea market with awesome vintage stuff (it really spans all definitions of "stuff", too!), Tesoro's Trading Co., a market-like store that sells goods from all over the world, mainly Latin America, Africa and Asia, and cool, hole-in-the wall record stores that only sell vinyl: Friends of Sound (all of which we went to, ate at Homeslice Pizza, across from Guero's). There's something to whet almost anyone's whistle! It's an amazing place, right next to the lucky kids at St. Ed's too. Didn't do much other than scratch the surface.

West Campus (UT):

We had to wait forever to board the 1L north at the south end of the strip, especially since we had chosen to try and board at a stop that the limited-stop 101 skipped. We took that up to West Campus (of UT), where my friend got off to meet family, and I boarded (wrongly) the 987 express north, wrong because it skipped Pavilion P&R on it's way north, where I had parked. So then I had to get off at Northwest P&R, and wait for the southbound 383; 30 minutes of doing nothing, as there's nothing around the P&R. Then another 30 minutes of wandering around the suburbs in a bus before we made it back to Pavilion. I was so tired, and glad to see my car.


Thoughts On Portland

What always seems to get lost in the discussion about Portland's streetcar system is that not all of it runs through dense, urban, massively successful redevelopment like South Waterfront or Pearl District, or already existing dense neighborhoods such as Downtown and Portland State; some of it runs through leafy, almost suburban neighborhoods (now note, these aren't Sunbelt-suburban, more like dense suburbs that developed around turn of the century transit lines).

View Larger Map

Like here, at NW Northrup & 21st Ave:

NW Northrup St. & 21st Ave.

Approaching Streetcar

It seems to fit in rather well with the streetscape, too. And whenever I rode it, the streetcar never had problems with car traffic, other than a lack of signal pre-emption, which could be fixed. Every time I rode, too, the cars were all 60-90% full, no matter whether it was 11AM or 9PM.

Now, noted, this was close to Nob hill, which is one of the trendier neighborhoods, so that could've accounted for some of the traffic, but ridership seemed a mix of young and old, tourist and natives.

I think neighborhoods like this could be something to aim for in Austin, which has lots more leafy suburbs with slightly built up commercial areas, than old industrial districts to totally renovate with art galleries and trendy lofts. In fact, the area reminds me most of Austin's Hyde Park, which was at one time a streetcar suburb, and it seems would benefit from reestablishment of a transit line.


Never Ridden the 3, Yet

I've heard of Light Rail Pub Crawls before (see Phoenix, AZ: here), but never bus pub crawls, especially not in Texas, and not Austin. Not a reason for me to ride the 3 (I'm more of a 1L guy), but if I see a lot of drunks on it whenever I do ride, I'll know why!

The No.3 Bus Pub Crawl - Austin Chronicle

(Photo by John Anderson)

Austin Urban Development Round-Up

Decided to actually rise from the blogging "grave" today, and post some things.

Browsing through the news-stand today, and there's several significant Austin development-related articles out there, especially for dense, more urban development.

Apparently a transit-oriented development of a kind is still in the works up in Cedar Park, one of the last segments of Avery Park to be built out. Gary Newman, the president of land development for Waterstone, the developer, says they're looking at making a development similar to the Mueller community in central Austin, with a mix of townhomes, condos, and varieties of single-family housing, with some retail incorporated, too, though they don't expand into specifics.

They're banking on the MetroRail Red Line to allow for this denser development. Plans are to break ground by as early as the 2nd Quarter of 2010. Seems like just the kind of development the northern suburbs need; something denser, much more of a proper place for this kind of development than Mueller.

Developer plans two subdivisions near Avery Ranch - Community Impact

(Community Impact)

As well, a planned development on East Riverside seems to be raising the ire of Town Lake NIMBYs but getting props from everyone else, including affordable housing advocates, with city council members not decided how they're going to vote on whether to grant the developer an exception to the height-limit rules on lands fronting Town Lake.

Doesn't seem like the Save Town Lake NIMBYs have much footing here in opposition, other than that granting Grayco, the developer, height exceptions to build 90ft. tall units in the core of the development, instead of the mandated 60ft. Of course, what they really need to understand is that the best way to preserve and keep up the Town Lake waterfront is not to keep it as an isolated park, but to integrate it into the fabric of an urban community. And that to do that, there's going to have to be density; 90ft. buildings are really not that tall. Especially when Grayco is providing for 60 affordable-housing units; the Statesman even quotes an affordable-housing advocate as saying they're all for the project. It's definitely better than the suburban-like sprawl that inhabits that part of E. Riverside.

(artist's rendering, Pat Lopez)

Currently, no city council member has come out and said how they'll vote Thursday, but we can hope that they'll understand that allowing this development to go as planned will be a big boon to Town Lake and to Austin.

Fight brewing over East Riverside development - Austin American Statesman