Researching Austin

I need to research Austin, Texas. Can anyone recommend specific and reliable websites?

I am interested in the information residents just know -

what neighborhoods are safe, and which are reasonably priced,
where the public transportation is the best,
which grocery chains are the best,

and, unfortunately, which suburbs are the least deadly dull.

I may have to move to Austin or the surrounding area within the next five years, and I would like to prepare for this.

Thank you for your assistance.

Poor Austin was chewed up and excreted by the consuming classes years ago. The traffic is so bad one more person might not be able to get inside. The worst neighborhoods are the upper middle class ones west of town, they’re full of environmental criminals. Maybe you can go to a black capped vireo BBQ.

Thank you for your personal feed-back.

Would you have any recommendations for more general information?

Lived here for like 20 years or something. The Austin economy is booming. New buildings are going up everywhere. The downtown has been gentrifying for at least the last ten years or so. There are any number of luxury skyscrapers there now. East Austin is traditionally the “bad” part of town, but gentrification is moving quickly in that direction too.

You’re probably going to have to look at moving away from downtown, because the closer in, the more expensive it is. Even the “bad” neighborhoods.

Austin doesn’t have suburbs, exactly, or at least not what I think of as suburbs. The city boundaries are big. There are some nearby cities that some people commute from - Georgetown, San Marcos, and Manor, for example. But they’re cities (or at least towns) in their own right.

Public transit sucks. All we’ve got is buses.

HEB is the “best” grocery store, if you care about selection and prices, but is always mobbed. If you like paying top dollar for organic then there’s Whole Foods and Central Market (HEB’s answer to Whole Foods).

I kinda think everywhere in Austin is safe, in the sense I feel safe walking around. There are plenty of places you might not want to send your kid to school, though.

You might try this website for more info: http://www.city-data.com/forum/

LinusK, thank you, especially for a link.

I’ve live in east coast inner city most of my life, and I don’t know how to interpret others’ evaluation of neighborhoods.

My current plan is to rent the most centrally located studio in the city for six months while I find m feet, but I still want to avoid the truly dangerous areas.

Since the OP is looking for advice, let’s move this to IMHO.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

Compared to DC or Baltimore, Austin has no bad neighborhoods. Just stay away from sixth street on the weekends.

6th St is the entertainment district. It’s perfectly safe, unless you’re drunk and/or looking to pick fights with drunk people. It’s a good place to get arrested, though. There’s tons of cops there every weekend.

Aren’t you guys getting light rail? I mean, I see the station everytime I go to Black Star. But yeah, public transit isn’t the best. Especially if you’re used to the North East U.S. Do they still run the 'Dillo trolley buses around down town?

There’s Wheatsville (get the popcorn tofu). And Fiesta. The Whole Foods on Lamar is absolutely amazing though. But yeah, it’s an HEB town. State, really.

I wouldn’t walk too much around East Riverside or South Austin, east of 35. Though Darth Nader’s observation about D.C. compared to Austin is correct. North Austin east of 35 has gentrified in a staggering way. I remember when there were only a few pocket neighborhoods east of 35 that you’d even consider buying a house in. Now, it’s gone incredibly Yuppie and DINK-y. (As well as having the best BBQ on the planet.)

OP, try this website for crime rates and other info. I really don’t think it’s dangerous. And hey, if you’re that worried, go get your CHL. …

Yeah, they do have light rail. Which I guess is great if you’re going from wherever it starts to wherever it ends. I don’t personally know anybody like that. A lot more peole take the bus, but usually only if they have to. I haven’t seen a Dillo in years. I’m pretty sure they’re gone. I disagree about Riverside. I used to spend some time there. I didn’t think it was a particularly bad neighborhood, much less dangerous.

The worst things about Austin are the summers. 100 degree plus, for weeks on end. And the Cedar fever will kill you in the winter. The best thing is it’s still a Democratic stronghold, in a state that’s otherwise a sea of red. And it’s cheap, compared to the Northeast or CA, though expensive compared to everywhere else in Texas.

Big, big change from when I lived there in the 60s and 70s. Back then, you stayed away from 6th St. because you wanted to live. I’m glad to see the changes.

The city’s website is here.

Some demographic info here.

Keep in mind that there is a reason why the rest of the state now refers to it as The People’s Republic of Austin.

While I am sure the thread will do very well here, I am not looking for advice. I am looking for links, for general research and to get a sense of the city. I want to read every I can to prepare myself.

Thanks to everyone for the links, and the additional advice…

I’m from the Northeast.

But it’s a dry heat! (At least compared to Houston.) Yeah, OP, the summer is going to take some getting used to. But that’s what Lake Travis is for… Or kayaking on Town Lake. I used to live on E. Riverside past Montopolis. I wouldn’t walk around after dark, and it’s one of the only two places where I’ve ever had my car broken into. Reasonable people can differ. East 12th was a *%#$-hole too when I lived in Austin in the late 90’s-early oughts—which made going to Sam’s an experience. I guess it’s a lot different now. Certainly the real estate’s a lot more expensive. Bummer about the 'Dillos. I used to take them into work Downtown.

Weirdly, as allergic as I was growing up to pretty much everything growing in coastal California, I never got cedar fever. Never knew it was a thing. Tons of people evidently suffer from it though. The particle counts in winter are absolutely amazing to read.

Austin is a great airlock to acclimatize you from the North East US or coastal CA, to the rest of Texas. Zillow should have some pretty up to date stats on housing prices.

I know you don’t want anecdotes… but as a native Austinite (moved here as a kid in the '80s), I can tell you that you aren’t going to find objective data on Austin.

For instance, you can find out about crime rates here: http://www.austintexas.gov/GIS/CrimeViewer/

But that doesn’t tell the story. Austin’s MSA is about 1.2 million, but it’s without question the safest city I’ve ever lived in (Houston, Atlanta, San Luis Obispo, Boston). Austin is great on PR - just go to the Austin Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (http://www.austintexas.org/) for propaganda. But beneath the veneer of a hipster mecca, we’ve got some issues here.

  1. There’s a ton of racist and classist history that seeps into the present day. Austin has neighborhoods that are all White and wealthy, and that’s not by accident. Restrictive covenants endured in this city well after many “Deep South” cities abandoned them. See here: http://www.academia.edu/1888949/Austin_Restricted_Progressivism_Zoning_Private_Racial_Covenants_and_the_Making_of_a_Segregated_City

So communities like Tarrytown are lily White and rich, and that’s not by accident. Moreover, until now, the city council was elected at large (except for a “gentlemen’s agreement” that reserves a seat for a Black and Latino member). So city council wannabes raise their money in central and West Austin, and therefore are beholden to those interests. Communities like Dove Springs (where I grew up) have like a 2% voting rate for city council elections, and it shows (infrastructure, schools, services, etc. are lacking). Case in point: there was flooding around Halloween in this area, and there’s been a slow response from the city in helping residents with claims (and cleaning up the area). Shoal Creek floods on a regular basis, and there’s no delay in responses when that happens.

  1. City infrastructure (highways, buses, and rail) are absolutely the worst in any city I’ve lived in. We have the fourth-worst traffic congestion in the country, which is insane considering the size of the city. (See here: http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/In-ranking-of-worst-U-S-traffic-Austin-is-up-4515197.php)

The reason why is that the city council was anti-growth in the 1970s and 1980s. All the hippies wanted to keep Austin weird and tiny, figuring if they invested in saving salamanders rather than building roads or transportation people would stay away. Now they’re trying to play catch up, and we have light rail in Northwest Austin to downtown, it’s nothing like a real rail system (operates Mon-Fri, limited service on Saturday; starts at 5:30 am and last train leaves downtown around 6 pm; doesn’t operate in many of the major neighborhoods and communities - it doesn’t even cross the river). They’re building toll lanes on Mopac (West side N-S artery) and it’s creating havoc on the roads as they’re doing it.

Something like 150 people are moving to Austin a day, and most of them are bringing their cars (or two). I-35 is a dilapidated dinosaur of an interstate; it’s also the major NAFTA highway from Laredo to Duluth, MN. Hence it is congested with 18 wheelers 24 hours a day. My commute from the north boundary of Austin to UT (14 miles) is 35 minutes on a good day, 45 minutes on most.

The best way to get a sense of Austin? The citydata website is suspect. A lot of the info there is from people who never venture outside of their own neighborhoods, and have fearmongering views of certain parts of town - as someone mentioned upthread, there are no really frightening areas of town (except for perhaps the St. John’s neighborhood, and I have no problem walking around there in the middle of the day - but if you’re looking for trouble you can easily find it). I would steer you to the Austin Chronicle: http://www.austinchronicle.com/

They regularly have stories about Austin politics and life. I’m a professor at UT, and as someone who studies inequity in education, Austin has a lot of than on hand. Historian Larry Cuban has written a good book, As Good As It Gets, about how reform has taken shape in Austin. I have a book I need to read called Weird City but some of the critiques on the book are exactly what I’ve mentioned - the ignoring of East (mostly historically minority) Austin. There’s a pretty unsettling history of freed Blacks being moved from Clarksville and Wheatsville (today two of the most affluent, Whitest communities) to East Austin. UT is greatly responsible for this and to this day, there are families who are angry about losing land to the University via eminent domain rules.

Despite this, I still love living here. I grew up here, met my wife here, and we’re raising kids here surrounded by family. (Austin is actually incredibly kid-friendly, with an insane number of parks.) But it’s often advertised as paradise on earth, and it’s a great city with big problems that a lot of people would like to ignore and just count the cash that rolls in during SXSW.

On the restrictive covenants that Hippy Hollow mentioned, when I bought my house in East Austin, it had a (red-lined out, but still visible) covenant that Negros weren’t allowed to live in the house, unless as domestic servants. Crazy. I’d not experienced anything like that, coming from CA. We’ve come a long way. It used to be, even as late as the late 90s when I moved to Austin, that the whites lived west of 35, and blacks lived east of 35 (for a few miles anyway; no one was expecting a large black enclave in say, Manor.) That’s changing.

Hippy, Louis: what do you think would be a good solution to the hideous traffic issues Austin suffers? Coming from living in Houston for the last 10 years or so, my impression is that you guys don’t have nearly enough roads. I’d love elevated passenger rail in Houston, 'cause we’ve built roads pretty much everywhere you can, but that’s not the case in Austin, due to recharge zones, salamanders, etc… It’s really surprising that a city as progressive as Austin hasn’t embraced light rail that much. Limited service on weekends? I would have thought weekends were exactly why you’d want light rail—funnel more people into the entertainment districts/football areas without them needing to park?

First, Gray Ghost, I gotta tell you, 12th and Chicon is as sketchy as ever. Gentrification hasn’t cleaned up a fairly open air drug market (I watched a few transactions when I was getting my son’s hair cut at Marshall’s Barbershop).

You’re right; not enough roads. This is Texas and car culture is huge, like it is in LA. In the 1960s-1970s there were plans to build freeways on Research Blvd, Riverside Drive, and a few other places. Those were shelved. But it’s why the R.O.W. on Riverside and Pleasant Valley is so huge - it was supposed to be a highway!

In my grossly uneducated opinion, there’s a few things that could be done to improve Austin traffic:

[ol]
[li]Make I-35 accessible to trucks delivering in Austin only; trailers driving through should be routed on Texas 130 (the toll road, thanks Rick Perry)[/li][li]HOV lanes on I-35. Like they have in Houston. People would carpool to save time on the commute. I know I would![/li][li]Expand the rail network. Have it cross the river. Have a east-west route that starts at ABIA, goes through Riverside, Auditorium Shores, to a park and ride near Mopac.[/li][/ol]

The rail system uses a mostly disused rail line but it is still in use; this is why the hours are restricted. I think many thought that the MetroRail would be a boondoggle; and indeed, the first few weeks, they were sparsely populated. But it’s standing room only at the second stop in the mornings.

Today the “accordion” bus debuted - the MetroRapid line, which travels from North Lamar and Braker to Slaugher and Congress. It has dedicated bus lanes and a controlled light system so it doesn’t have to stop at as many lights. I might ride it tomorrow…

Hah… my wife (Austin born & bred; her family has lived there since the 19th century, I think), and she bitches about the salamanders vs. road building as well.

Seriously though, the City of Austin doesn’t make great decisions when it comes to infrastructure. The roads are already congested beyond belief, and then they put in how many new condo high-rises on S. Lamar by the Broken Spoke? That’s going to be a total mess when they’re fully occupied, unless there’s something done to relieve the already heavy traffic on Lamar.

That said, Austin’s a fun city, with a very young, vibrant vibe that no other city in Texas has- it seems like the city is like 60% people under about 35, and 40% everyone else. It is hot, but no more hot than anywhere else in Texas, and this Cedar Fever that people talk about must not affect me, because I never have trouble in Austin in the winter.

It doesn’t rain much- there’s a long-standing drought in that part of the state, and I think they’ve been under some kind of water restrictions for the past 5-6 years.

If you live in the burbs- say… off of William Cannon or Slaughter, it’s like anywhere else in the suburbs- plenty of grocery stores, etc… but if you live somewhere more central, things like grocery stores may be harder to come by. My in-laws have to drive a good distance to their local HEB- a distance that I think is rather absurd, based on where I’ve lived in the past. There are plenty of hippie groceries relatively close though, but you pay through the nose to buy there, and they frequently have only organic (and correspondingly overpriced) items.

I like Austin, but I wouldn’t live there because of the road infrastructure problems. Dallas and Houston traffic is bad enough, but at least in those cities, you can drive around at 2:30-3pm without being in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highways, which isn’t the case in Austin- both I-35 and MOPAC will have already packed up by that point. And going through town is no better.

I lived in Austin between 1986 and 1994. I loved it though I hear it’s changed a great deal since I lived there with so many more people living there. As mentioned above, Austin has always been “weird” and it’s losing that part of its character. That makes me sad but doesn’t detract that Austin is a really nice city.

On the plus side - Austin is very safe. I’ve never felt like I was in any danger anyplace I went in that city.

Austin is beautiful. This is a google map image taken from a restaurant called The Oasis https://www.google.com/maps?ll=30.405371,-97.876639&spn=0.007754,0.013111&t=m&z=16&layer=c&cbll=30.405371,-97.876639&cbp=12,0,0,0&photoid=po-34595308. Incidentally, just around that corner in the lake of the picture I posted is a park called Hippie Hollow where I suspect user Hippy Hollow got his name :-). I won’t spoil the fun but that park is somewhat unique in the area.

The politics in Austin are very left leaning. If you’re coming from the Northeast you will find many like minded individuals. Austin also has a very vibrant music scene and a number of Hollywood actors call Austin home.

Austin is very health conscious. It has a very active cycling community but is active with other sports. Town Lake in the downtown area has a nice jogging trail around it that hits some major parks and is a pleasure to run around.

The stores are very nice - my favorite being Central Market and Whole Foods. It’s also developing a very good restaurant scene.

The only real negative is the hot summers, but with enough water they’re tolerable.

Yeah, Austin is definitely one of the safer of the major cities. Bad neighborhoods in other cities give Austin’s “sketchy” areas a swirly and steal their lunch money. :smiley: It’s stuffed to the gills with college students (UT alone has close to a 50K student body and as visible as it is, it’s *still *not the only college) which is part of why 6th Street can turn into such a liver-pickling drunkfest.

But you’ve got a colony of about a million bats that fly out in a beloved evening ritual just a few blocks away from that. There’s Zilker Park and Mount Bonnell. Enchanted Rock is a relatively short distance away. The Hill Country with all its charms is nearby.

You could do WAAAAAAAYYYY worse. Most people who visit or live for a few years as students want to stay. Of course, when eighty zillion brand-new college grads all want to stay put, there aren’t enough entry-level jobs for them all. That’s the only reason I left, and I’d move back in a heartbeat if it worked out for me to do so.

Agree 100%. How could I forget the bats! I love the bats!
I really wanted to stay too but ended up moving to Dallas. Dallas has advantages too if you move here J666 but lacks Austin’s character and charm.