Posts Tagged ‘transportation’

Opera obstacle course

Austin Lyric OperaIt’s tough to get there these days, according to the local daily (“Weekend events overwhelm Palmer Events Center parking,” byline Jeanne Claire van Ryzin, April 22), tougher than it used to be to reach the Bass Concert Hall on campus, even though this location is closer for many. We used to eat downtown, ride the bus up the hill part of the way and walk part of the way, and then take the bus home. The only bad thing that could happen would be that a performance would run long, so that buses were off the streets, but then it was easy to walk to a downtown cab stand and catch a ride the rest of the way.

Last week, charter buses and vehicles of all sorts were delayed in reaching the new Long Center or could find no nearby parking and were very late to the Sunday matinee performance of Carmen.

ALO’s general manager fired off an e-mail blast today, declaring to ticketholders that this weekend it will be different:

I would like to assure our Thursday and Saturday night Carmen ticket holders that they will not encounter such parking difficulties. On Thursday evening there is a performance at Rollins Theater which holds 250. On Saturday there is a City Wide Garage Sale from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. and the University of Phoenix Graduation Ceremony from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the Palmer Events Center but both will be finished well before our 7:30 curtains.

I confess, though, that I’m suspicious, since in that same e-mail people are advised to arrive an hour early. If gridlock occurs, cabs won’t help, and it’s frightening crossing the streets around there on foot. It’s so near, and yet so far. We’re still considering the logistics.

Carmen is one of the operas most often suggested for beginners (La Traviata, Tosca, and The Elixir of Love are some others; people will argue for hours over this question). The last performance of Carmen that I attended was the wonderful event staged in the Austin Coliseum, now demolished. Even sitting on bleachers didn’t diminish the pleasure. Last-minute tickets are often available at the box office. Like it or not, the melodies from Carmen are unforgettable and you will hear people humming them as they leave the show.

‘Dillos to disappear?

I certainly hope not. All that would remain would be two routes: one running around the Capitol grounds, going no farther north than 17th Street and no farther south than Barton just off South Congress; the other, circulating constantly west on Sixth and east on Fifth, running only so far as Bowie to the west and Red River to the east. So much for students, southies, and those living and working east of IH-35. What’s obviously a PowerPoint (or equivalent) presentation bills these proposed changes as “improvements.”

There have been rumors about this proposal for months; the April 14 article in the local daily (byline Ben Wear) employs “aims for free ride every five minutes” as part of the print headline (as is usual, the on-line version bears a completely different headline). What good is frequency that’s little better than what already exists if the routes remaining aren’t helpful to Austinites in their daily lives, but exist only to serve tourists?

There’s an on-line map of the existing ‘Dillo routes, serviceable enough, but I love the printed pocket ‘Dillo map and schedule that will work until August 28. There’s a graphic showing each route individually, together with the frequency for each period of the day, and another that makes it clear which route will take a rider to which major destinations. I always carry it with me.

It’s not that the ‘Dillo vehicles themselves are wonderful: they’re tough for older people to navigate, the seats are lacking in comfort and sensible configuration, and the high center of gravity makes them seem precarious. But the imperiled routes are very useful indeed. For example, more than one runs up to the Drag, and often; the Silver route covers an important part of Pleasant Valley and circulates through East Austin, running through downtown, past BookPeople and Whole Foods, on beyond MoPac, and all the way back over east, with very helpful frequencies; and the Orange ‘Dillo runs down South Congress to the precinct offices (and really should go all the way down to Oltorf / Twin Oaks / H-E-B)., and during lunchtime carries people out to the fine dining establishments springing up along Manor. Of these, I think that the Silver route is the most important.

There are to be opportunities for the public to comment (at “informational public forums” scheduled for Tuesday, April 27; 323 Congress; 11:30 am and 5 pm; and on campus at Belmont Hall, room 328, 2100 San Jacinto, at 5:30 pm, on Thursday, April 24; and at a public hearing before the Capital Metro board of directors on Monday, April 28; 2910 East Fifth Street; 5 pm). Capital Metro has announced that those wishing to comment may call 474-1200 or e-mail ‘Dillos are now free, but they needn’t be; if it would save the endangered routes, I believe that most riders would gladly pay the going fare.

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