Why I’m leaving Austin: An 8th Generation Austinite’s observations
Background: This post is aimed at single 20-30 somethings who make a decent living. I have spent at least 26 of the past 30 years in Austin. I loved growing up here and love things about this city. I spent 2 years in Raleigh and 2 years in San Diego. UT grad (Both undergrad BS and MBA). I have a good job for someone my age that requires a bit of travel, amazing fiancee. I dress professionally and like nice, polished, quality things, yet I have a subtle weird side to me. This is why I am moving from Austin (pardon the punctuation/grammar).
Traffic: It is horrendous. Yes, I have spent drive time in LA, Houston, Jersey (even in Spain and interior Mexico plus Peru). It doesn’t compare. First, The IH-35 corridor is one of the most congested arteries in the U.S. Second, Austin has no “loop” that circles the city. Loop 1 (wait…you mean MoPac), it is terrible from 645-930am and 200pm to 630pm (ON GOOD DAYS)…Both north and south. 360 (wait…Capitol of Texas) even worse. 2222 (wait Northland, woops, Allandale, Shoot, Koening, FML, Bull Creek Rd…) is our official east-west road..HAHAHA… It has even started to get congested on weekends. Traffic generally doesn’t bother me because I work remote, but I still loathe to drive if needed. It’s sad because I honestly loved driving 360 in high school and undergrad. It really is a scenic road. Which brings me to…
Infrastructure: Way back in pre-historic times,Austin was built with the rivers in mind. Congress Avenue ran North and south from the Capitol to Town Lake (No, I will not call it Lady Bird Lake). The streets and avenues were numbered differently. AND, Austin was actually one of the first cities in Texas to have a trolley system (you can still see the faint outlines of tracks). Of course, wonderful little Austin grew-up big and strong, but with it the city-planners became worse and worse. CapMetro is a flat joke. Horribly managed and wasteful. We still have no loop, and the toll roads are good for those outside of Austin. The bus system is decent but has had a string of problems the past 10 years. I’ve sat in on numerous city meetings for undergrad, then out of curiousity, I attended some in my free time. In my opinion, no one knows what the hell they are doing at City Hall. A majority (if not all) of city council are people from “other” cities who think that their degrees and experience from these places will just work in Austin…Well, it doesn’t. The train to nowhere is an utter failure. It was a 2025 plan for some sort of lightrail, now, it is a 2050 plan for some sort of train/rail mix. I am sorry for you that will have to face this construction. Kind of sad really. There are many reasons for the terrible infrastructure, but a weak city council should be the tip of the spear; it is but a dull knife. The taxis have a duopoly of sorts on this city. I won’t name company names, but try and start your own cab service and see how it turns out. Not that the pedi-cabs are any better. They congest the roads further. Don’t even get me started on the cyclists that neither use nor care about rules of the road. Very rarely do I see even an arm signal.
Culture: Dear Lord, I remember when being different was cool. Now, it is cliche. I have absolutely no problem getting a little weird and doing my own thing. I actually embrace the freedom. HOWEVER, people are getting snobby about it. It is becoming a very small Los Angeles (no offense, I like Los Angeles). For instance, I went to a bar on the east side of I35 just to check it out. I have never been afraid to go into any bar wearing my typical jeans, button down combo. Should’ve dressed grungier…I get in there and some hipster wanna-be walks up to me, points, and claims that this “isn’t my type of bar.” I’m thinking, *Thanks hipbropotamos. It doesn’t take a PhD to figure that out* I keep drinking my beer quietly and the guys comes up again lauging Moderator cut: profanity I shrug it off hoping this guy isn’t from Austin…oh wait…he isn’t from Austin. That’s the problem. Austin has become such a transient city that there is nothing to hold it together. The glue is coming apart. Ya’ll just don’t see it yet. Speaking of transients…I am growing concerned about the homeless/vagrant culture in Austin. I worked at a church off of the drag for community service. The amount of needles and filth that I found was appalling. I do not understand why this city tolerates such mess. Why doesn’t Austin move these schnorrers out? (I understand some people are vagrants because they have mental disabilities etc. This comment is not aimed at those that cannot provide for themselves but those that can and choose not to..I’m not that much of an Moderator cut: profanity) Finally, fix Barton Springs. Please fix it. It is so grimy and smells like dirty feet and onion rings.
Costs: It’s expensive for people 20-35 and single (I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT RR/CEDAR PARK/ANY SURROUNDING AREA). Because so many people want to move to Austin, apartment costs are God awful. Compare Gaslamp in SD or Venice Beach or Lincoln Park or parts of Manhattan and San Fran to downtown Austin…It’s similar. Do it. Go to Aparment Finder and really do some research. You’ll be surprised at what you find. $1300-1500 and up for a 1 bedroom in downtown Austin is a minimum at a decent place. Housing is a different monster, but this post isn’t aimed at family housing. The gas prices are high as well. I just drove from Dallas this past week and found gas at 3.03/gal for reg. unleaded. Austin is ~$3.17 on average. Google it. Also, don’t shop at Whole Foods if you want to save money. Don’t do it. Central Market/Sprouts has similar quality yet at lower costs (not trying to hate, just cost-comparing).
Entertainment/Nightlife: I’m going to get flamed for this and that’s okay. The nightlife and entertainment has changed significantly. Once upon a time, 6th street between congress and I35 (aka dirty 6th) was the place to go. It was the “live music capital of the world!” You could drink on the streets and there was live music galore. Then, in 2001, there was a riot during Mardis Gras. People threw newspaper stands through windows and tear gas was shot (I was there. It was an experience). After, the city cracked down they blocked off the street (which is a good idea), and far more attention is paid to the area. Not any longer. The area is ridden with college bars and bars that focus on lower income demographic (again just observations) Which is fine. It quarantines this market segment to it’s own little area. However, it is dangerous. Crime rates have gone up. Check it on APD website (look at non-indexed vs. indexed crime rates now compare that to the census count and increase by zipcode…starting to get it? good job). Now, go east of I35 and you’re going to find trendy hipster bars for the most part. These aren’t bad, but make sure to wear your keds, skinny jeans, plaid button-down, 70s jacket and you’re set (again, no hate, just observations). There is some amazing food on the eastside (ES showroom, Franklins, Justines, Blue Dahlia, Juan in a…That’s all suggestions you get from me : ) South Congress is the same hipstery feel. A couple of good food places, but more shopping than actual dining…Except for Food Trucks. These truly are hit-or-miss and some are pricey. Remember, you are paying for a novelty, and you can easily spend $10-12 on a single meal to sit outside on a bench and not be waited on. Fine for a nice day…which rarely comes (I’ll get into weather in a second). Anyway, It is not as if there are any nice clubs/bars in Austin…wait maybe 1 or 2 I can think of. Austin isn’t polished like Dallas/Chicago/Manhattan…which is unfortunate if you want a change. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that sometimes it can be pleasant to go to a nice place and have a drink. It just doesn’t happen in Austin. “Upscale” is not found here (Perry’s, Roaring Fork, Eddie V’s, Driskill, and a few others are about it…for the whole city…You could throw Uchi and few others in, but none are NYC-LA nice). Moving on, there are maybe 5 smaller musuems and the Long Center…plus UT have some decent performances for arts but nowhere near what you would think from the 13th largest city in the nation. I thought Austin is Artsy and Hip? ACL has some good performances, but the venue is a terrible music venue based on what they spent. The ACL festival and SXSW have become mainstream to the point of abandonment. I have gone to ACL fest every year…only went 1 day this year and was happy. HOWEVER, I could not believe they allow toddlers and children in to the fest still. I witnessed a kid getting kicked over by a drunken festival go’er. It made me sick to see the levels of stupidity (both parent and fest go’er were at fault. Disgusting). Moderator cut: profanity That’s not what ACL is about. Get kids out. What about SXSW you ask? SXSW is a ripoff. But wait, there is “free stuff.” Yes, there is “free stuff,” but if you have a real job where you can’t take vacation in the middle of March (awesome if you can), then you can’t wait hours in line for such “free stuff.” Again not what Austin is supposed to be. F1….Oh dear God….I love $12 BEERS! I really wouldn’t mind $12 beers at a air conditioned place where I was being waited on hand and foot…but wait…it’s Austin. Even F1 wasn’t truly “upscale.” Yes, they turned 1-3 venues into high roller clubs for F1 , and I’ll give them that…but I thought F1 was a little better than that. Austin is losing it’s “weird” it really is. I’m sad.
Weather, Allergies, etc.: It is freaking hot here. Austin has the same latitude as Cairo, Egypt. It is semi-arid and has been getting hotter over the past decade. I love the heat, so I’m down for some sun. However, don’t even think about getting your scarf out (we laugh at those people). It would be nice to get maybe a month of snow…just one. H*ll, it would be nice to get seasons. That is what I truly miss about the east coast. The seasons. You have hot or cold here. That is all. Furthermore, the allergens are terrible. Nearly everyone I meet who has recently moved here says, “Oh, don’t worry about me. I don’t have allergies .” HAHAHA…Then, they meet Mr. Elm and Mr. Ragwood. Mrs. Pollen and Juniper, or Aunt Mold and cousins Oak and Cedar. Their time will come…
Conclusion: Austin was great 5-10 years ago. Now, the public/media think it’s “great.” There will be an inevitable downslide in the next 1-3 years. Prices will get too high. The booming economy will slow. There will be another “cool” place to move. People will stop migrating here with great speed. Maybe then I will move back. Just maybe.
Author’s note: I am actively involved socially and professionally in this community. I have performed economic and social studies both professionally and personally. I intend to neither hamper nor increase the business of any party named in this post. I support all business whether local or foreign. I am making personal, subjective observations that will hopefully spur some intelligent/humorous responses. Heck, I may actually learn something. So, bring it on people who have moved here. I’m sure you love Austin like you claim to. Now prove me wrong. It’s a challenge.