Our Share of "the Stim"

We recently heard from the feds that Capital Metro may receive about $26.1 million from the economic stimulus plan (or if you prefer the long name, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009).

Our initial proposed project list includes many possibilities, all of which would be key components of a regional transportation system that this area needs to remain economically competitive and to retain and attract businesses.

Here’s a quick summary of some those potential projects:

Bus and paratransit fleet replacement and expansion: More than half of Capital Metro’s fleet will require replacement over the next several years.

MetroRail Red Line Expansion: A likely first step would be to add some additional track siding which would allow increased service.

Construction of new park & ride facilities: Possible locations for new P&Rs include South IH-35 and the city of Manor.

Expansion of Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Technologies: Expanding the ITS system would allow us to provide real-time information for onboard audio and visual announcements to notify customers of upcoming stops. This would also result in more predictable service and improved operating efficiency.

Upgrade of bus stop signage: Improved bus stop signage would provide information more effectively.

Rail with trails: Over the years the community encouraged Capital Metro to plan for bike and pedestrian trails along our rail line.

Capital Metro is working diligently to determine the best use of this stimulus funding to provide maximum benefit for the community. We should have more detail in the coming weeks.

Stimulus draft released: $10 billion for transit

The Huffington Post reports that a draft economic stimulus bill totaling $825 billion has been floating around the halls in Washington, which includes $30 billion for highway construction and $10 billion for transit.

Here’s an excerpt:

MODERNIZE ROADS, BRIDGES, TRANSIT AND WATERWAYS

To build a 21st century economy, we must engage contractors across the nation to create jobs – rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing public buildings, and putting people to work cleaning our air, water, and land.
Highway Infrastructure: $30 billion for highway and bridge construction projects. It is estimated that states have over 5,100 projects totaling over $64 billion that could be awarded within 180 days. These projects create jobs in the short term while saving commuters time and money in the long term. In 2006, the Department of Transportation estimated $8.5 billion was needed to maintain current systems and $61.4 billion was needed to improve highways and bridges.

Transit: Public transportation saves Americans time and money, saving as much as 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline and reducing carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons each year.

· New Construction: $1 billion for Capital Investment Grants for new commuter rail or other light rail systems to increase public use of mass transit and to speed projects already in construction. The Federal Transit Administration has $2.4 billion in pre-approved projects.

· Upgrades and Repair: $2 billion to modernize existing transit systems, including renovations to stations, security systems, computers, equipment, structures, signals, and communications. Funds will be distributed through the existing formula. The repair backlog is nearly $50 billion.

· Transit Capital Assistance: $6 billion to purchase buses and equipment needed to increase public transportation and improve intermodal and transit facilities. The Department of Transportation estimates a $3.2 billion maintenance backlog and $9.2 billion in needed improvements. The American Public Transportation Association identified 787 ready-to-go transit projects totaling $15.5 billion. Funds will be distributed through the existing formulas.

Amtrak and Intercity Passenger Rail Construction Grants: $1.1 billion to improve the speed and capacity of intercity passenger rail service. The Department of Transportation’s Inspector General estimates the North East Corridor alone has a backlog of over $10 billion.

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.

‘Dillos and Dale, Downtown!


Come listen to Dale Watson during lunch this Thursday at Brush Square Park. Capital Metro is kicking off the holiday shopping season with the ‘Dillo Hop ‘n Shop Extravaganza and the launch of the ‘Dillo Hop ‘n Shop Program.

In addition to the free concert, merchant booths will line Brush Square, and visitors can find out how the ‘Dillo Hop ‘n Shop Program can save them money and earn them free gifts. Visitors can also step aboard the MetroRail train for the first time, which will be parked at the Downtown Station.

How does the Hop ‘n Shop program work? You get discounts and other perks at participating stores and restaurants along the `Dillo routes just by showing your valid `Dillo fare card. Some of our partners include REI, the Alamo Drafthouse, RunTex, Little City Espresso Bar, and many others.

The ‘Dillo Hop ‘n Shop Extravaganza is this Thursday, Dec. 11, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Brush Square Park (4th and Trinity).