While certainly Austin has its problems (traffic, heat in the summer, and allergies would be my top 3) I find Austin is handling high growth far better than California did.
We do have older, homeowner NIMBYs here, including my local neighborhood association. The difference between here and California is that the NIMBYs don't have as much power here. They fought an apartment complex in my neighborhood and lost--now hundreds of new people are able to live closer in to downtown.
The current fight over zoning is allowing "granny flats", or back yard buildings. It does look like the NIMBYs are going to lose on that one as well.
There are also a lot of older houses being torn down, developers splitting the lot, and building 2 houses on the lot. These older houses aren't historic; they're 1950's-1960's suburban sprawl. I did not see California allowing these types of development as easily in the 10 years I lived there.
Overall, Austin has a compelling mix of factors that keep people moving here. The weather is great 9 months out of the year, and if you're in tech, it's not uncommon to work from somewhere else in the summer, or take some time off.
You're actually able to raise a family here without insane waits or crazy prices for daycare.
The community overall is more laid-back than SF because you don't feel the need to work 90 hours a week just to be able to afford a 1BR apartment.
Plus, we have breakfast tacos. :)
I've traveled through most of the US at this point, and lived in several different areas, and still think Austin has one of the best communities of people I've ever seen...which is why I continue to live here and advocate for smart tech folks to move here.
Actually, from google, Portland has 144 sunny days vs 205 national average vs 259 in San Francisco. And only 257 in San Jose (?).
I miss a lot of things about living in Austin, but that has to be right at the top of the list. Right next to that other giant of Texas breakfast cuisine, the brisket kolache.
A car (or truck) is a necessity here IMHO. I do ride my bicycle, but only because I have a shower at work.
Car culture is very strong here.
I suspect the meager public transportation offerings here are going to get worse, not better. Austin has a good climate for self-driving cars and I think when they hit the market, they are going to fuel sprawl like crazy. I know if I could buy a self-driving car, I'd move another 30 minutes out of the city to get more space.
this has far more to do with Dell computer/TI/IBM/etc. reinvesting locally into developing
UT grads into tech hub, UT as grid supercomputing facility, 'insourcing' SV devwork, and
insane local promotion by hollywood/sv/media/local investors into SXSW festival which brought more attention/tech growth to
the area. Most of this has happend from mid-90s onward, esp. post dotcom bubble- prior to this Austin was mostly a sleepy college town and local administrative center supporting a state economy more centered around oil/gas and agriculture in houston/dallas
I think it has to do with it having a lot in common with certain other places but lacking certain things that make those other places highly unattractive.
80% of the upsides and 10% of the downsides at a fraction of the price of the alternative is a going to be attractive to a lot of people who can't justify the other option.
My observation is that while there are plenty of startups - helped by Joshua Baer's Capital Factory and Techstars - it seems that most of the big tech companies are more taking advantage of the state's business-friendly tax laws and cheaper labor force than anything.
A lot of companies - Apple, Oracle, etc - are more using it as a customer service and sales team base than for engineering, R&D, etc.
Of course there will be plenty of counter-examples (HomeAway, Dell, BazaarVoice, RetailMeNot, Indeed), but that's just a macro observation to keep in mind.
Number one complaint, the city has feeble public offerings (no zoo, no aquarium, no subway or light rail, small museums).
Number two complaint, the schools are overrated (and Texas math is one grade year behind most other states).
Number three complaint, I encountered a lot of people with a remarkable lack of integrity. Sorry to say that as it was the most surprising and disappointing.
To elaborate on the integrity bit, ... over-promising to the point of creating an expectation that would not be met or acknowledged at any point in the future. Some people might refer to that behavior as being 'flaky'. And I should note that most people in Austin are not like that, but that I encountered a lot more flakiness there than in other cities.
I see here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/economy/2018/02/08/geog... -- that Texas ranks pretty low in math. But it's hard to say what that really means.
I've been under the impression that Texas's k-12 education is much better than California's and on par with New York and Illinois.
Texas has something crazy like 1/5th of all k-12 students in the country. That number has shot up faster than any other state, so I think it's reasonable if they're having some "growing pains" so to speak.
Your own source disagrees:
9. New York
==Texas has something crazy like 1/5th of all k-12 students in the country.==
It's more like 1/10th. Texas has 5.4 million in public k-12  and there are 50.7 million in the US public k-12 .
==That number has shot up faster than any other state, so I think it's reasonable if they're having some "growing pains" so to speak.==
A good way to get past those growing pains would be to invest in education. Again, from your source on Texas "Public school spending: $8,485 per pupil (4th lowest)".
Parents that can afford to move into the city send their children to private schools, so if you are looking at moving there and your children don't play football then I would recommend considering private school as an option.
Cloudflare have an office in Austin, and it is majority engineering and mostly the R&D new experiment teams and some core security at that (first class engineering teams)
That may be how it was, but recently (especially in the last year), I've heard tons of anecdotes, in addition to my own experience, that engineering teams are slowly being moved (or started) out here.
Still think Austin needs more homegrown startups to be in the same sentence as Silicon Valley.
I lived downtown proper and had no interest in moving out in the suburb areas where these bigger tech opportunities were. The appeal of Austin is downtown to me. The areas in which these larger companies and opportunities are in Austin (or Round Rock actually?) is a rather time consuming commute. I also didn't want to have a car and the transit system is... there isn't one. There are some smaller well established and known startups closer in downtown. I applied to a few, but I guess I'm just not what they were looking for because I didn't get offers. I guess I'm not the super rockstar they want.
I really can't understand this common trope of "Austin traffic is bad" (much less the worst you've ever seen, wow!). If you've lived anywhere like LA or NYC, that's bad traffic. Traffic during rush hour is expected. I've never seen a midnight traffic jam in Austin in my 6 years of living here. That was a daily occurrence in LA.
> is geographically lame (you don't get to claim the hill country, and no, barton springs doesn't count either)
Why does the Hill Country not count as amazing geography? It's gorgeous, by any definition.
> It's hot as hell
As for the heat, I grew up in Miami. Austin has nothing on Miami summers. Even NYC, for that matter, is less comfortable in the summer than Austin is.
The people in charge of it seem to be kind of checked out and ineffectual. They don't always even try to solve problems, and when they do, they do stuff that doesn't seem to be thought out very well.
A well-known example is I-35. It is a huge pain point and has been for decades. A few years back, they started talking about doing something to solve that, and rather than trying to improve I-35 itself, the idea of building a parallel toll road really far outside of town was pitched as the solution. The toll road (SH 130) was built, but surprise, nobody wants to drive on a road in the middle of nowhere. The toll road was used so little it went through bankruptcy, but more importantly, all this didn't help fix I-35.
Austin traffic is just amazingly severe for short periods - you'll see trips go to 2-4x the time regularly, and a trivial event in downtown is enough to cause a 2-3x increase in traffic. Even on the worst day, you're usually not looking at more than 45 mins in absolute time, but it's nearly mandatory to check Google Maps before you go anywhere, because there's a 40% chance it's going to take 45 mins to get somewhere you can usually get to in 5-10 mins.
Miami is 90 degrees. And Austin is humid too.
And there's no comparison to NYC, which isn't even usually above 90 degrees.
Degrees don't tell the whole story. Austin is nowhere near as humid as NYC or Miami. No question. Ask anyone who's lived in both places and they'll tell you the same: Austin is more comfortable in the summer.
I loved living in Manhattan. Especially Harlem. But summers there were horrible when it got really hot out.
Average humidity during the summer:
It's not even close.
Maybe its because people are outside more in NYC and don't have a car readily available with AC torqued to full blast? Or less buildings have AC / the subway is oppressive?
On top of that you can wear shorts most workplaces in Austin and not have a problem. Shorts in NYC is frowned upon in the cosmopolitan set and professional industries.
Humidity does not equal heat. I grew up in SE Louisiana and agree with you. I'll take a drier heat of 113F in ATX over 95 and 100% humidity any day. It's oppressive.
That said, ATX is the only place I lived where I had to walk my dogs very early or late at night b/c the heat on the roads would melt their paw pads.
A few years ago, I was out from NYC visiting some family. I forgot to pack socks, and I had to drive 45mns to the nearest shopping center to buy some. After driving, parking, busy mall, the entire Saturday afternoon trip took me almost 2.5 hours just to get socks! In any other American city, I'd expect this to take 1 hour max (most parts of NYC would take 20-30mns).
Yes, there are many variables I'm not accounting for in my anecdotal example, time of day, distance from major conduits, etc. But I've talked to other people who live in Austin and this seems like the norm.
Wow, that's totally wild. I've literally never experienced anything like this, or heard of anyone ever experiencing this in Austin.
Thing is, going end to end of Austin "proper" will never take more than an hour and a half on the worst of traffic days. I can't even imagine how far you were going for a trip to be 1.25 hours to the nearest shopping center. Maybe there was a really bad accident? Or major road work? In any case, I don't think this is a common occurrence.
1) Amazon Prime Now with 2-hour delivery
2) I can drive to Walmart (5 minutes) or Target (10 minutes)
3) I own an electric scooter (the same ones Bird uses) so I can scoot over to Walmart (10 minutes on scooter)
In any city, if you live 45 minutes outside of civilization, you're going to run into the situation you described. Lots of people here live in the hill country or out in rural areas because it's quiet and they can get lots of land cheap. To me, that's a benefit of living in this area--that that type of real estate is available--but personally, I prefer to live closer in.
Like anywhere, depends where you live. Downtown Austin is incredibly walkable, and the bus system is great. Scooters have completely taken over here as well.
> In my one visit to Austin it seemed like rush hour consisted of everyone cramming on to a couple highways and sitting. Are there good ways to avoid that?
It depends when you visited, since there was a fair amount of highway construction going on within the last 3-4 years on Mopac. Most of it's done now and I think the traffic has really gotten better since then.
Unlike NYC or LA, if you don't drive between 8-9:30am, you'll avoid pretty much the majority of rush hour.
Please get in touch if you end up coming down! Email is in profile.
The hill country is amazing geography, but Austin (as a city and not as the surrounding area) is on the fringes and doesn't get the hills. I lived there for a year, after having grown up in hill country, and it always felt like the hill country was an hour away.
San Diego is another city with significantly mountainous terrain. I remember in the late 1980s that property developers would use massive quantities of explosives to create flat areas they could build on in north county.
Its a chicken and egg problem, but modern America was built for the car. To retrofit cities away from the car is resisted on both ends, from the monetary expenditure to do so and how deeply ingrained in the design of everywhere the personal car is. But cars are worse the more you push people into the same urban cores but even if you were able to build for density you can't ever allocate the space for all those damn cars to make it actually beneficial but you also can't get funding for good infrastructure because so few can take advantage of it when they are so low density.
But yes, it's frickin' hot. But I'm a homebody anyways :)
Sure Seattle has much better public transportation but Austin has reasonable options for some specific locations.
Edit: also found this: https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?cou... .
step away from things built post 2008 mortgages and still leveraged to the hilt and the real picture becomes more clear
Well I was wrong. I left IBM in 2012 and have had no problems finding jobs since them. In fact I was laid off at the end of last year. I wasn't even really looking as I wanted to take some timeoff, when a recruiter called me for my current position.
Overall I like Austin. It is more expensive that other Texas cities, but not ridiculously so. The winters are a bit warmer than Dallas so I like that, and the summers are about the same. Lots of stuff to do in the cites. Lots of smaller bands play here and you can get into those shows for not much. However we are also big enough to draw some of the larger acts to.
We have a minor league Hockey, Basketball, and Baseball team. Which is nice because the tickets are still affordable. UT College football is a bit of a religion here, if you like football.
A couple of the things I don't like. Our public transportation is terrible. The population is growing faster than the infrastructure can handle. Any new roads that get built or expanded are toll roads, because the state refuses to raise taxes so it doesn't have money to pay for them. Lastly people in this town drink a lot, and I mean a lot. It is pretty much a sport. DUI is a big problem here. Thankfully Uber and Lyft came back after the city ran them off.
Uber and Lyft voluntarily left after refusing to comply with new background check policies that the city passed, and the citizens confirmed. They spent $7M (a record on a local election in TX, btw) on a failed referendum campaign that the citizens of Austin voted on, and then they acted like children and left. In the meantime, new companies sprang up to fill the void.
I did try the new companies that popped up but never had much luck with them. Had problems with the apps or took too long to get a ride.
Why the city can't figure out public transport is still pretty baffling though.
I use the bus service (Capital Metro) occasionally and I have to defend them a bit: they try and they keep getting better. They have 1 rail service that runs from the NW parts of town to downtown, and it runs full during commute times, taking a few hundred drivers off the road in the process. They created dedicated commuter buses for remote neighborhoods (e.g. the 980 and 985 service) to enable office workers and students avoid the traffic; these also are quite full every day and help keep traffic saner - the park-and-ride that I use is full of hundreds of cars daily. In addition, the Metro Rapid service and the Every 15 initiatives have looked like improvements to me for the few occasions that I used them.
I haven't tried the public transportation in Dallas or Houston so I can't say they are better but Austin Capital Metro I think has tried to do a reasonable job.
The city is trying to improve transit, but it's a very chicken-and-egg problem. Critics of public transit spending point to the relatively low usage of certain aspects of the bus system as wasteful and would rather see continuous infrastructure improvements that help them because they drive. It's strange logic IMO because better public transit should theoretically reduce congestion on the roads.
The other major problem with public transit adoption is ridesharing. Wealthier people who seek out better public transit often choose to rideshare instead because its easier, leaving the poor to remain the biggest users of public transit. Transportation professionals have started sounding the alarm on ridesharing undermining mass transit development.
Cannot agree with that. It has one of the cheapest public transportation fees in the country. And one of the most diverse, on par only with NYC, where everybody commutes by train and subway.
Of course it's crowded because everybody takes the bus, compared to cities where nobody but the poorest takes the bus.
I honestly wish Vegas became the tech dream that the Zappos founder had tried to build like 10 years ago. I would move there in a second.
You'll find some weird one-offs - Louisville KY was a $700 round trip last time I checked, for some reason, and there's no way to get to Vancouver that doesn't take like... 8 hours, but in general, I haven't had serious problems.
You also have the advantage of it being a smaller airport, so you can pretty reliably get to the airport with only an hour or so before your flight, since the gate is at most 5 mins from security.
Austin became a tech hub over decades due to anchors like UT, National Instruments, Dell, Intel, IBM, etc.
https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/bijlmer-city-future-p... -- ended up as slums outside of Amsterdam
https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/soul-city -- a city for and by blacks
https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/fordlandia/ -- ford's company town to build tires
There's also Brasilia that was supposed to be full of monumental grand plazas, but they learned people don't want to walk 3/4 of mile through a grass field outside their apartment tower just to get to the local market bodega.
Today I think Google is making one outside of Toronto, and I heard of someone doing something around Boulder. Economic Opportunity Zones (ie regional tax breaks for development) are kinda in this realm.
Personally I'm waiting for Elon's planned city where he will MVP all his social and organizational concepts before blasting off for mars.
As if people ever walk there :) It's only walkable if you are going from one apartment complex to another.
But the major problem is that there isn't much room for expansion. There is space, but it would mess up the planning. So they push people to 'satellite' cities.
I've been there once, I can confirm that it's not pedestrian-friendly.
IIRC the cities discussed are St. Petersburg, Mumbai, Shanghai, and Dubai.
The biggest takeaway is that this is a lot easier if you're an autocrat with an army.
I'd believe it. I've often heard that a lot of the most recognizable features of Paris came from Napoleon's renovations.
This is more what I'm thinking of. Most planned cities I'm aware of are more like planned suburbs. I'd be more interested a Manhattan without cars.
The kind of geography suitable for city building hasn't really changed that much since the dawn of civilization, and while the specific spots with that Geographic do change over time somewhat, the best places (and everything pretty far down the list) are taken. Starting from scratch most likely means starting with a big location disadvantage, unless you are exploiting some recent change that has created newly-suitable land.
You're gonna build stuff that doesn't make sense for a small city with money you don't have and pray that it becomes a big city.
China has housing shortages and also gobs of vacant planned cities because no one wants to live in an empty city.
Cities with great transportation, layout, etc. are not pre-planned; they are hundreds of years old.
~17 years ago I wrote a novel set in the future, in the imaginary city that I hoped I could build one day.
More recently, I founded a company with the idea to eventually build it; we ended up building a software platform to digitize real estate, had some friendly disagreements with the other founders, and left ~3 months ago.
I still have that dream.
I'm not alone either: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2019/02/27/how-to-create-real...
The general gist is that there are many benefits from the ways that cities have come to be, which careful planning and control doesn't consider.
> "Apple’s presence in Austin is the biggest after its headquarters in Cupertino, California, and the company said it would invest $1 billion in Austin to build an office park capable of holding 15,000 additional employees, roughly double the current workforce there. Juul Labs Inc., the San Francisco-based maker of a popular e-cigarette, said it will open an office in Austin for some four-dozen employees to start."
Also, they get hot in the summer at times—think 90s...so you'll end up getting a box air conditioner unit at the very least.
Given the nature of real-estate in Texas in general, and the way that Austin has an enormous amount of room to free-sprawl (ala other TX cities), I'm very skeptical Austin can ever end up with a comparable housing situation to SF or Seattle.
As a plus, in the next 20 years Austin will be connected via high-speed rail to Dallas, San Antonio and Houston (HSR triangle). You can still do infrastructure in Texas cost-effectively.
What SF considers affordable, is way overpriced.
That's worthless info without also understanding operating cost (taxes) and earning power.
According to https://smartasset.com/taxes/texas-property-tax-calculator it's roughly 2% in travis county, vs 1% in CA.
Earning power appears to be about half in Austin compared to SFBA.
So you can afford 1/4 the house, in terms of dollars. $3mm -> $750k. To the extent that your operating cost includes mortgage service, the Austin number would go up. Let's just call it 2x, so $1.5mm. Not bad.
WAIT! We are neglecting income tax. 0% vs 13.1%. But because TX doesn't have the stupid prop 13, let's just call this a wash. per TFA: "The median home price in Austin jumped 40 percent over the last five years".
I thought Austin was one of the primary targets, not a "probably as well over time" target!
My impression is that if you're living in a desirable metro area, your drive to work will be on congested roads, and there's no real way to avoid this. Your choice of location within a metro area (e.g. living close to work, on the same side of the city as your office) matters more than your choice between different metros. Some metro areas make these choices more desirable/affordable than others.
Four years later, Descartes Laba is almost 100 people strong, $38M investes, and thriving in the Land of Enchantment.
The reality is that if you have a strong mission, a viable company, and a great place to live, you can build a company. Sure, we can't hire anyone from Silicon Valley, but that's ok. Our recruiting team looks in all of the places FANG isn't looking - and we've found some incredible talent.
I hope that it's not just major cities that see this Renaissance of tech, but cities across America and the world. This is how we transform society with technology - by bringing a wider audience into the conversation.
> I lived in Austin, Texas, in the mid-1980s when it was a comfortable town with a population under 300,000. During that same time, however, a college student named Michael Dell was building computers in his dorm room at the University of Texas. The success of Dell Computers — which now has its headquarters in nearby Round Rock, Texas — utterly changed the character of Austin. Austin’s population today is around 1 million, big tech companies are everywhere, traffic is unbearable, and entire neighborhoods have been razed to make way for high-rise office buildings. People who live in Austin bemoan what’s happened to their city.
It's going to be a lot less appealing for high income people to pile into a few coastal areas when they can no longer deduct away most of their Federal tax liabilities by borrowing a $700K house.
Certainly there are more meaningful metrics to consider. Like... number of tech jobs.
Go figure one word missing changes the whole context of the sentence.
It's a common complaint, but I find it's really not as bad as everyone says. Though, the key to beating traffic is to reside as close to work as possible, and avoid 35 at all costs. Alternatively, live off MoPac or 183. I worked for a few years in downtown Austin, and lived up near Apple's campus. Getting to work was not bad at all (~20 min, given no accidents). My advice, stay North West to give yourself the option of traveling 183 or MoPac. Worst case, hit MoPac's Express Lane and you'll fly past the traffic. Outside of rush hour, the roadways are generally clear.
Being a native, I actually enjoy hot summers, and hate winter. All of the waterways between Austin and San Antonio are fantastic. My typical summer weekend is spent on the river with a beer in hand. If you want to beat the heat, you have to get near the water. Go-tos: Lake Travis, Canyon Lake, the Guadalupe River, Barton Springs, etc. Summer nights are warm, so camping is do-able without all the cold gear.
It's not "cheap" to live in Austin, but far more affordable than the Bay Area. Typical apartment rent per square foot hovers around $1.00-$1.50 (1br, $1,200/mo is typical). Typical home rentals closer to $1.00. To buy a home, you'll be hard pressed to find anything decent under $250k. There's a ton of new developments in the far suburbs, where prices are more reasonable.
There are plenty of meetups, conferences, and coworking spaces to enjoy. Most of my neighbors are in the tech industry. Nearly every Silicon Valley company has a presence in Austin. The job market is very hot.
I do miss this, having lived in SF for a few years. I live right near the Metro Rail line, and I've used it once. It takes forever to get downtown. I'd rather pay for a ride share and get there in 1/2 the time. As much as everyone complains about the lack of public transit, Texas is huge so having a car allows you to visit all of the towns between and around the major cities. We have Lyft/Uber, which is available even in far out areas like Cedar Park/Georgetown/Round Rock, and between Austin and San Antonio. Considering the cost of living, and your take home pay, you can easily afford a car.
There was a mention of Austin not being a hub, however, there are many direct flights from Austin to great destinations (including international destinations). I've never had a problem here.
This is lacking. You won't find beautiful mountains or redwood forests here. We have lakes and rolling hills.
It's manageable. Daily allergy pill and you'll survive.
I don't understand this. Are you upset that communities of retirees are being displaced by...moms? Not criticizing at all, just no idea what this sentence means or why "mommy-vans" are bad.
I've driven across country a few times and most of my genuine fear moments on the road came in Texas. In LA you get the sense that some asshole is late for a meeting or took too many uppers that morning. On Texas interstates it feels more like you're in a remake of Duel
Time is money, the average American has little of either.
Some talent will want to move there but where is the ocean and where is the lake tahoe / skiing?