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.

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

22 thoughts on “Parking is a Drag, but the Drag isn’t Parking Many People

    1. Novacek says:

      Face it, the prop 1 vote was the death knell for any light rail in the city for a generation. G/L rail could have been a cheap extension of an existing system, but now it would have to go up against the same anti-rail propaganda that this vote did (raises taxes, doesn’t reduce congestion, doesn’t serve the entire city). You see this with Martinez’s follow up proposal (all bus, no rail). Might as well make the BRT (or BRT-light) the best it can be.


      1. G/L could not have been an extension of an existing system, because H/ER rail would have bled Capital Metro dry, and there’s no other possible source of capital locally for rail construction other than them and the city (who wouldn’t be willing to go again).

        You have known for a very long time that this is the argument of the pro-GL people. You ignore it and instead try to purposefully mislead people. You’re a bad actor, and I hope everybody sees it.


      2. Novacek says:

        “because H/ER rail would have bled Capital Metro dry”

        No, it wouldn’t have. Stop making things up. The difference in fare revenue of a rail line that is completely empty (which Prop 1 certainly wouldn’t have been) and a rail line full of riders is a couple million $ /year. That doesn’t “bleed capital metro dry”.

        Showing work: 18k riders /day X ~300 days /year X ~$0.5 /rider (accounting for free riders and passes) = ~2.7 M $ /year.

        That’s the shortfall if absolutely _no one_ rides the train (not even the 7k or so that currently ride buses over that route).

        You made your bed (anti-prop 1), now you have to sleep in it. Martinez (or Adler, he’s certainly not going to propose rail) will put in more BRT, and it will never go away.


      3. I know your arguments and have never misrepresented them. You know ours and continue to misrepresent them.

        I’m sorry that whatever personal or professional connection you had with Project Connect has motivated you to be such a pain in the ass this whole time. It must be frustrated to have wasted all that time.


      4. Novacek says:

        In other words, “when faced with actual facts and math that disprove me, I go into attack mode and make the same false accusations that you’re being paid off.”

        You’re so very predictable.

        Address the actual facts, please. What “bleeding dry” of CapMetro was going to occur? A couple of million a year (at most, at a never-going-to-occur hypothetical) makes 0 difference on capital expenditures on the order of a couple hundred million.


      5. rcauvin says:

        One way to look at the possible “drag” on the system is the projected operating expenses of proposed rail line.

        It was projected to cost about $22 million per year to operate in 2022 dollars (see

        System-wide operating expenses in FY 2015 are projected to be $222,821,826 (see These expenses include back-office operations in addition to actual vehicle operations.

        To understand the impact of the rail operating expenses on the system as a whole, the FY 2015 dollars need to be adjusted to 2022 dollars. And the farebox recovery would need to be factored in.


  1. Great post Dan; I put in a very similar answer on the survey itself. I also added that the action of pulling into/out of spaces disrupts traffic and bus flow on this corridor. Would also be worth noting that the garage next to McDonald’s adds significantly more capacity (though this is a few blocks from the Drag). It is open to the public and costs $1/hour, last time I checked.


    1. Also, that’s a great point about pulling into/out of spaces disrupting traffic. On-street parking also disrupts traffic because many people circle around looking for spaces, driving at slow and unpredictable speeds. When people know where their destination is, they drive much more predictably.


  2. Great post. Parking is so inconvenient, difficult and unreliable on the Drag. I doubt anybody heads in that direction and thinks, ‘oh, I’ll just find some on-street parking and whip in to the Co-op.’ But who are the people that take most of the spaces? Do they arrive pre-rush hour and keep the spot most of the day?

    I would love to see no on-street parking on the Drag, in conjunction with rail, plus taking bus stops out of a moving traffic lane.


  3. rcauvin says:

    Dan, how do you think we can determine the number of transit passengers affected by eliminating a on-street parking and adding a transit lane? It would also be helpful to determine how much faster they’d move through the corridor with a dedicated transit lane, and if Capital Metro could increase frequency slightly at no cost, thereby moving a greater number of passengers through the corridor per hour.

    It would be powerful to attend the first Guadalupe Street Corridor Study public meeting December 3rd with a statement of the form:

    “By eliminating on-street parking and dedicating a lane to transit, we would lose 70 parking spaces but improve mobility for X passengers per hour.”

    or, perhaps more powerfully:

    “By eliminating on-street parking and dedicating a lane to transit, we would lose 70 parking spaces but increase throughput by Y passengers per hour.”



    1. Trick would be measuring the speed a bus takes to get through northbound PM rush versus northbound in free-flow conditions. In an ideal world, one could use Capital Metro’s own schedules for this purpose, but I have found in the past that they (probably purposefully) have a far more idealistic view of how long the bus takes during peak congestion than is the truth.


    2. Don’t need to use the scheduling data; they have a real-time tracking API. It won’t be simple, but I have some downloaded data from pinging the API every minute or so for a while to find where the buses are at that minute. It will take some analysis though, as this clearly wasn’t the original purpose of the data. That, of course, would only affect the speed, not the number of passengers. It sounds like Jace has some #’s on the number of passengers.

      The other thing to do would be to combine this with the data Brady asks about: what is the turnover of these parking spaces, and how many passengers are there for car? That could answer how many people use the spaces per hour vs. the transit users.


    3. Novacek says:

      “and if Capital Metro could increase frequency slightly at no cost”

      Not possible. CapMetro could increase the speed of an individual trip, but an increase in frequency implies more runs. That costs $ in drivers, gas, and possibly additional buses.


      1. A bus going a 20 mile route at 1mph more per hour finishes it in less time, and starts the next run earlier. Over the course of an entire day, this could result in one more bus trip (easily). Yes, you pay more in gas, but you do not pay more for drivers or for additional buses.


      2. Novacek says:

        Okay, if that’s the frequency increase you’re talking about, additional expenses are probably limited to gas/increased maintenance/slightly increased replacement schedule. Still not “no cost”.

        Of course, I’m not sure that even counts as a slight increase in frequency. It means going from 12 minute intervals to 11:30 minute intervals, so not noticeable and unlikely to result an any additional ridership). For any actual increase in frequency, you’ll need to run more buses through at peak.


      3. Novacek says:

        Note, I’m in favor of expanding the transit priority lane (unlike you, apparently). It would result in a quality improvement for riders. It would be that improvement which has the potential to increase ridership, however. Not any frequency increase which is unnoticeable on the schedule.
        An actual frequency increase (with its associated costs) may/probably be a good idea as well.


  4. austinrailnow says:

    Let’s consider available street space (width) on the Drag — 120 ft MLK – W 24 St; 80 ft W 24 St-W 28 St; 60-70 ft W 28 St – W 29 St. That would easily allow 2 dedicated light rail tracks and 2 traffic lanes, plus sidewalks and bike lanes through that segment of the Guadalupe corridor. Running peak 3-car trains would yield person-movement capacity of 4500/hour each way, roughly 5 to 7 times the current lane capacity of general motor vehicle traffic.

    That potential mobility benefit more than justifies the restructuring of the Drag to eliminate on-street parking and re-allocate 2 traffic lanes to light rail. Some Drag merchants may resist the loss of on-street parking, but this would be more than compensated by the new transit and pedestrian traffic that would replace it.

    L. Henry


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s