TOD Progress at Leander Station

Capital Metro has been working with a number of public and private entities to develop the land surrounding the Leander Station, which will be the “end of the line” for the first phase of the MetroRail Red Line when it opens in March. But don’t think “sprawling suburban shopping center” development. Think “walkable community,” a “live, work, and play” development, a transit oriented development (TOD).


TOD is a smart choice because it’s denser, more efficient, and gentler on the environment than traditional developments. It creates a sense of place, a community where people can reduce their dependency on cars. It promotes healthier neighborhoods, too, where people walk and bicycle and get to know their neighbors.

In this kind of economy, it can also be a boon to communities, as national studies have concluded that for every $1 investment in a transit project, the community will yield about $6 in local economic activity.

Here’s some major mileposts in the Leander Station TOD:

* In 2005, the Leander City Council approved the Leander SMART Code, which is the blueprint for TOD development for more than 2,000 acres in northeast Leander.

* Capital Metro’s Leander Park & Ride opened in 2007, giving commuters ample time to “get friendly” with the station site, and with public transportation in general. Ridership on the Express bus routes that serve Leander have experienced sustained growth.

October 2008 photo of the Leander Station.

* Capital Metro has a working agreement with the development group that owns the 80 acres immediately adjacent to the Leander Station. Their land actually surrounds the station on three sides and is planned for a mixed-use TOD. Capital Metro and the developer are working on joint plans for eventual development of the Leander Park & Ride, in concert with the 80-acre TOD. A common land planner will ensure that both projects move forward with a unified approach.

* Road infrastructure surrounding the Leander Station and TOD site are well underway. Delays due to the discovery of an historic ranch house slowed the process of approvals and funding for CR 274, but the concerns have been resolved, and design has begun. CR 273 is under design, and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization recently issued a $4 million grant for its construction. CR 269 to continue west from 183A to CR 2243 at its intersection with US 183 (at the H-E-B) is now under design.

* A pedestrian/bicycle connection will be under construction soon, from the northwest corner of CR 2243 across US 183 by crosswalk to a sidewalk extending from the northeast corner of the intersection north to the southern end of the MetroRail boarding platform. The connection will be complete before the rail service begins.

26 thoughts on “TOD Progress at Leander Station

  1. M1EK

    Under no circumstance ought you declare this a TOD – not a single spade of dirt has been turned. A lesson which should have been learned from Tri-Rail, which declared a dozen or more TODs that never materialized.

    The Leander plans are rather underwhelming, too. A development that requires that its residents cross at an unprotected crosswalk across a busy highway to get to the transit service is NOT “oriented towards transit”.

  2. M1EK

    http://www.vtpi.org/tdm/tdm45.htm

    “What’s the difference between a true transit-oriented development, which will deliver promised social and economic benefits, and a transit-adjacent development? A true TOD will include most of the following:

    • The transit-oriented development lies within a five-minute walk of the transit stop, or about a quarter-mile from stop to edge. For major stations offering access to frequent high-speed service this catchment area may be extended to the measure of a 10-minute walk.

    • A balanced mix of uses generates 24-hour ridership. There are places to work, to live, to learn, to relax and to shop for daily needs.

    […]

    • Transit service is fast, frequent, reliable, and comfortable, with a headway of 15 minutes or less.

    • Roadway space is allocated and traffic signals timed primarily for the convenience of walkers and cyclists.”

    As for the Boca Raton TOD, they may still be planning something additional to the strip mall which was originally misidentified as TOD, but there’s insufficient room to build anything extremely close to the train station of non-trivial size; it’s already taken up by a combination of the newish strip malls and the old IBM buildings.

  3. Erica McKewen

    m1ek, regarding your statement “A development that requires that its residents cross at an unprotected crosswalk across a busy highway to get to the transit service is NOT “oriented towards transit”,” did you look at the map included in the post? The proposed development is on the same side of the street as the transit station.

    Also, the busiest intersection closest to the station is getting signalized.

  4. M1EK

    Erica, I was referring to:

    “* A pedestrian/bicycle connection will be under construction soon, from the northwest corner of CR 2243 across US 183 by crosswalk to a sidewalk extending from the northeast corner of the intersection north to the southern end of the MetroRail boarding platform. The connection will be complete before the rail service begins.”

    I assumed this was mentioned by you folks because it was a way for people in this development to get to the train station. Is that not true?

  5. M1EK

    Never mind, the map’s a bit hard to figure (did you mean FM 2243? Old FM 2243?) but I guess you meant from the red hatched area west of 183, not the green tract (red hatched being “zoned for TOD” but not this particular project?)

  6. M1EK

    I mean this part:

    “from the northwest corner of CR 2243 across US 183”

    I can’t find a CR 2243 on the map, so I would assume you meant FM 2243, but there’s a road labelled as ‘old 2243 west’ west of there, and a road labelled ‘FM 2243’ east of there, not in the same place – so ‘the northwest corner’ could be in several different places.

  7. Adam Shaivitz

    Not sure of the TOD status in South Florida, but since Tri-Rail came up in the conversation I’ll give it a plug. Having lived in Palm Beach County for many years and returning often, I love the option of skipping the airport in West Palm Beach and taking Tri-Rail to/from Ft. Lauderdale where there are direct flights to Austin. You have to catch a shuttle bus since the station’s not on the airport grounds, but it sure beats flying out of PBI and having to connect in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston or wherever.

  8. M1EK

    Adam, that’s kind of a weird reason to take Tri-Rail; PBI has a bus connection to Tri-Rail too, and if you were going to drive to PBI anyways, why not just drive to FLL? You’d save one iteration of loading/unloading luggage at least, and it’d be much much faster (and more time-certain given how awful Tri-Rail shuttles are).

    I’m obviously a transit fan (still trying to make the airport shuttle here work for me even with the requirement of a transfer or a mile walk on the front-end), but there has to be some sense to it at some level.

  9. Adam Shaivitz

    I guess it’s a personal preference. If it’s a trip where I don’t otherwise need to rent a car then I’m happy to take the train rather than have a friend or relative drive, especially during rush hour. But on occasions when I am in a car, at least the Turnpike provides a faster option than 95. All of this would be moot for me if someone would offer direct flights between Austin and West Palm.

  10. martin

    I’m looking forward to it and all of the stops along the rail. I’ve been watching the crestview station area go up and its quite impressive. Mike, its not the best option, I think many of us know that. But, I think we can take a moment and be joyful, excited and pleased that we are seeing some progress towards rail-based transit and walkable spaces outside of the few that we have in Austin. Again- superb and ideal- probably not. Better than before, for sure.
    Its too bad voters turned down a better plan in 2000 but constantly attacking the current plan ain’t gonna make that come back. Let’s look to the future.
    Congrats to CapMetro, I’m looking forward to riding.

  11. M1EK

    Martin, until people understand that the Red Line can never become anything like the light rail successes seen in other cities, no matter how often we run the trains or what they transfer to on the other end, my job is not done.

    Crestview Station will be significantly less dense than the Triangle, which has no rail transit. Attributing that density to rail is tempting, but not accurate.

    You cannot start a trip to New York by driving to El Paso and say you’ve made progress.

  12. martin

    Mike,
    Ok, well, I hope you accomplish your goal soon because I’m tired of reading your constant whining about something which is already come to pass- here and on other blogs.
    Sometimes your ideas are constructive, mainly at those times when you’re focusing on the future.
    So, if we’ve made a wrong turn and ended up in El Paso why are you still whining about the Austin-El Paso trip. Why don’t we talk about getting to NY?
    I think the street car, more commuter rail, TOD and other avenues are available to improve on what we have.
    The triangle is also close to the heart of Austin and UT. If you look around the N. Lamar/Airport corridors there is nothing even remotely as dense or as walkable and that combines uses like crestview station. I know, I ride this corridor everyday on the bus. The rest of that area is sprawlville. There is nothing between 183 and 45th st. like it. Is it all attributed to rail. I’m not sure, but living in the neighborhood I’ve been in many of the meetings about the development and it (the fact the rail was coming) was always a factor and always mentioned as a unique characteristic of the area.

  13. M1EK

    Martin, the analogy is that in order to “turn the car around and head for New York”, we first need to tear up commuter rail and admit it was a stupid idea (like Tri-Rail in South Florida appears increasingly willing to do, with talk about shifting to the FEC corridor).

    Why? Quite simply: we can’t politically justify taking a traffic lane away from cars on streets like Guadalupe without both urban AND suburban ridership. And you can’t get the suburban ridership without running the 2000 light rail route – i.e., up Guadalupe and Lamar, and then on the right-of-way currently being used by the Red Line (and, no, transfers can’t accomplish this, and, no, the vehicles can’t run together).

    The CAMPO TWG plan is a next-best approach – demonstrating good light rail ridership on a corridor close enough in on streets which can better afford to give up lanes (or on some which don’t even need to do so). But it’s nothing compared to what the 2000 route would bring us. In no circumstance whatsoever can a good solution rest on the Red Line to bring passengers ‘almost’ all the way into the urban area. You have to already have a mature urban rail network (not ‘urban rail’ like the Red Line, but like true LRT) to even have a hope of getting large numbers of passengers to transfer, and even then it’s dodgy (consider how much NYC is paying to move the LIRR terminal farther into the city).

    Finally, it’s important to keep pointing this stuff out because otherwise, five years from now, people will be able to point at the Red Line and say “See? Everybody thought it would work, and it doesn’t; so rail will never work in Austin”.

  14. EasyRider

    mike: so are you suggesting that 2 months before the trains roll that capmetro just say nevermind and cancel the service? Then what happens next? Should they try to sell the trains on ebay to recoup some of the funds? Then I suppose they’d have to tear down the stations and lay off all the staff involved in the project. Egad, man!

  15. M1EK

    EasyRider,

    I don’t expect them to do that, no. But that’s what it would take. Hence my support of the “next-best” option, which could EVENTUALLY get trains on Guadalupe (the place they really need to be), if we can get our city council members to once again put the kibosh on the useless-to-dangerous Rapid Bus plan.

    One of the best features of the CAMPO TWG plan is that it only pays lip service to the Red Line; instead relying on E Riverside and Mueller residents for most ridership. A smart move, since the Red Line projects 1500/day (compared to 20-40,000/day for recent light rail starts).

    And, no, the Red Line can never become a 20-40,000 hauler – it will never and can never go directly to anywhere worth going, except for 4th/Brazos, which still only gets it one of the three major central destinations.

  16. martin

    So mike, if you are in support of the ‘next best’ thing I just suggest lets focus on that. Yes, we can let everyone know that we don’t think the red line is THE solution. I don’t remember anyone ever suggesting that it was the end all be all of Austin rail. And those folks who don’t want rail will whine whether its 5 or 5000 people riding.
    I understand your point but like easyrider suggested I just think its counter productive and a waste of your and everybody else’s time to harp on what a bad option we had/have with the red line.
    We ain’t gonna tear it up and we’ll have to run the LRT somewhere else- say up N Lamar further to N Travis Co or just make it connect at Crestview. I say lets talk about those options. It seems like something new is being proposed every day (did you see the Williamson Co proposals the other day in the paper), so I seriously doubt anyone out there thinks the red line is the end or the singular solution.

  17. M1EK

    “Yes, we can let everyone know that we don’t think the red line is THE solution”

    You say you’re tired of hearing me, but it’s clear you haven’t even listened.

    The Red Line can’t even be PART of a good solution. The best we can come up with while it still exists is a half-assed sort-of-OK-for-the-meantime solution.

    People in cities where parking isn’t incredibly difficult (much more than ours) aren’t willing to “just transfer at Crestview”, so the ridership for a stub LRT line starting there and heading south along the 2000 route would be nowhere near large enough to justify taking lanes away on Guadalupe, particularly. The only way the 2000 plan could justify that was the 46,000 combined riders from BOTH the urban areas from Crestview south and the suburban areas now reserved for the Red Line. Again, choice commuters will not accept transfers as part of their daily commute. Doesn’t happen.

    And, no, you can’t just run LRT farther up Lamar. For one thing, the Feds won’t kick in for a project with such low prospective ridership. The 2000 route is pretty much it, unless we get a lot more dense in some areas that have shown no inclination or market for it so far.

    So it’s clear my job is far from done. Expect to keep hearing from me either way – the record needs to be clear: some people warned that commuter rail wasn’t going to work AND was going to preclude better rail from being developed.

  18. martin

    I don’t agree that the red line can’t even be part of a successful multi-modal network. You do, so I have to go back to easyrider’s question- are you suggesting we tear it up? Not only is the likelihood of that happening about as close to zero as you can get I think that, if it did, that would be spelling the end to any rail in Austin in the near or long-term future.
    As we know 2000 was a referendum. I voted for the LRT as I imagine you and others did, but more people voted against it unfortunately. What is Cap Metro to do in the face of electorate shortsightedness? I think the red line is what they could do considering financial and physical resources, political realities and needs.
    I think your contention that it will never be a part of a successful network is presumptuous considering it hasn’t even opened yet! Sure, there are projections and numbers, but there are also changing realities on the ground and, as I pointed out, a new interest in rail transit or a potential plan announced almost monthly it seems.
    It also seems that you’re focused mainly on people traveling to downtown. I understand that this probably will constitute the bulk of the trips, but I, for instance will likely be using the rail to travel between Highland Mall and Kramer stations. So, I can see the rail opening up new possibilities for new riders between the typical commuter trips that are regularly thought of.
    I think your assumption about taking a lane off of guad or lamar being solely based on ridership is a stretch as well. I don’t think there is a set formula for taking a lane. Like, over 40000/day you can take a lane and under 40000 you can’t. I think the streetscape and lane assignments are more closely related with political will and community preferences. Even if LRT cannot capture the suburban commuters already on the CR, it can still take lanes. It would just need political champions and community support. I bet you can find some LRT with pretty low ridership that operate in pedestrianized streets or that occupy space previously used for cars.
    I see political realities and physical realities evolving very quickly. A place that doesn’t have density today or something that seems politically risky today (taking a lane for instance) may not seem so tomorrow. I live near Highland Mall and I’m looking for it to ‘turn’ and become a place that is more useful to a wider variety of people. I guess I’m just more apt to reserve judgment as well, especially until after this thing is running. I also hope CM sees some of its legislative agenda fulfilled, I think that will help.
    I don’t agree we’ve driven to El Paso. We may have driven to Marshall when our first stop was supposed to be Baltimore on our way to NY and I agree we’ve made some unwise decisions (the electorate, not solely CM), but I’m more interested in focusing on improving in the future than dwelling on the mistakes.

  19. M1EK

    Martin, my suggestion is that we ignore it and build as good of a light rail start as we can right now. This means we pay lip service to connecting to it, but make sure we hit enough residential and activity centers so that it can stand on its own.

    Big surprise – that’s exactly what the CAMPO TWG plan does.

    As for Highland Mall, once again, you obviously aren’t reading, or understanding, the point about how light and urban rail generate TOD.

    You DON’T get it by running rail from park-and-rides to shuttle-buses. You DO get it by running rail from park-and-rides directly to major activity centers (hopefully picking up a few urban residential areas along the way).

    Nobody is going to want to pay a premium to live in or work in a redeveloped Highland Mall with such bad rail service going to it. This is why none of the dozens (by now) of TODs planned on Tri-Rail have ever come to fruition.

    You get TOD when a bunch of people ride the train directly to work and start to think “what if I lived within walking distance of the train?”. You DON’T get TOD when a few people ride a train to shuttle-buses. Get it?

    The eventual political reality for taking a lane on Guadalupe rests on the TWG light-rail plan being ultra-successful. There is no way to get to the point where we can take lanes on Guadalupe with the 1500-2000 per day that the Red Line can deliver. Get it?

  20. martin

    You’re doing the opposite of ignoring of it, you’re harping on it. I agree with you, lets support twg rail plan, I’m behind that 100%. Whining about past mistakes doesn’t do much in that direction in my opinion. That is my point.
    I never said H Mall is to become a great TOD. I simply said I’m looking for it to ‘flip’. When it does it becomes a destination and it also could be an attractive place to live and work for people in general, not just those taking transit, but car drivers as well, retirees, etc. When things like that happen and it is along the rail line this is a good thing. It generates other trips than the ‘burbs to center’ model that you also seem to be fixated on. So, for instance H Mall flips, is an attractive place (not purely based on the rail, but helped by that probably), then you have Crestview (again, you say this isn’t pure TOD, that’s ok), you have other centers and businesses along the line. For instance my firm is located near the Kramer station- absolutely no relation btw its positioning and the CR. What I’m saying is that now more opportunities are being created, more different travel patterns than the one you’re fixated on (burb to center) that yes, does unfortunately include a shuttle bus for SOME of those trips (not all).

  21. M1EK

    Martin, nothing at all will ‘flip’ along the rail line until the other end is located within walking distance of a very large number of peoples’ offices.

    Choice commuters in a city with less than Manhattan-like traffic conditions will not accept transfers. Period.

    You can sometimes get choice commuters to give up vehicles if your transit service is so wonderful, and then they might be willing to accept transfers, but you can’t get somebody who currently owns a car to take transit to work when it’s a pain in the butt to do so – and transfers are always, universally, every single time, going to be enough of a pain in the butt to get them to go back to their cars.

  22. M1EK

    And ‘multimodal’ and ‘intermodal’, by the way, is spin for “you’re going to have to transfer if you want to go anywhere worth going”. In smarter cities, people are trying to reduce the number of trips that require transfers (LIRR moving closer to more jobs, for instance).

  23. martin

    Mike, things ‘flip’ everyday that aren’t even remotely close to transit lines.
    If you run a transit line next to some greyfield waiting to be utilized, like H mall, I think that’s a good strategy in general. Again, not arguing here that red line is end all or be all, just saying, to me, at least in that location there’s potential. Not potential for a bunch of people moving in there cause they’re all gonna ride rail to downtown. Potential because of the property’s location and possibility even w/out rail.
    Yes, I do think some people use multi-modal for code for crappy transit. When I use it I’m using it in a classic sense- recognizing that most trips, whether primarily by car or by transit- but especially transit- are inherently multi-modal trips. I.E. you’re going to walk, maybe take a bike and yes, perhaps transfer. I’m with you that there’s no such thing as a positive 3 seat ride, and for choice transit riders just no such thing period.

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