Capital Metro President and CEO Randy Clarke spoke today to the Travis County Commissioners Court about an upcoming study of the MetroRail Green Line, a proposed commuter rail service between Austin and Manor.
The study will be funded by a $600,000 grant provided by a grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) won by the agency in December 2018. It will examine the potential for transit-oriented development (TOD) along the Green Line, which is one of several corridors identified as potential Project Connect services, the long-term vision for a regional public transportation system.
The Green Line would operate on 15 miles of track owned by Capital Metro. It would travel east from Downtown Station toward Johnny Morris Road and the Colony Park area of eastern Travis County before reaching Manor.
Austin’s growth is a tough one. We all know its double-edged nature.
New people and new growth are great. They make for lots of fun and cool things to do and see. But they also make it super expensive to live here and hard to get around. Dealing with that growth requires deliberate thinking and planning. The temptation is just to build quickly and to do so thinking of today’s problems while leaving tomorrow’s for later.
Capital Metro’s Transit Design Guide brings together standards and best practices for how to build a place designed for the people who live here now and for the ones to come. So often, our answer has been simply to build more and build more and build more.
More houses further out.
More and bigger roads to get there.
More offices and shopping centers and apartment complexes wherever we can fit them.
The Transit Design Guide helps guide our thinking, to make sure that the region grows thoughtfully and efficiently. Topics addressed include:
Transit-Supportive Street Design
Bus Stop Design
Transit Lane Configuration
Rail Station Design
Park & Ride Design
Transit-Oriented Development & Place-making
It’s about integrating people and place in planning. It’s about thinking — as we’ve been saying all along with Project Connect — of how to get people from here to there rather than how to fit more cars on that road. This sort of inclusive design builds a region that people want to live in, can afford to live in and that is safer to live in. (Cars are dangerous, y’all.)
As we continue to expand our transit system and look for ways to accommodate this growth, things like the Transit Design Guide and our TOD Tool provide a framework for facilitating consistent high-quality transit service and supportive land use. The guide is available with our Service Guidelines.
This was a big week for Capital Metro, a week decades in the making. With our partners Endeavor Real Estate and Columbus Realty alongside members of the community, we celebrated the groundbreaking of the Plaza Saltillo District on Wednesday.
Braving the warm, muggy weather, a couple hundred people joined us at Plaza Saltillo, right next to our MetroRail station and directly adjacent to a 10-acre tract of land that’s laid empty since the mid-1990s.
It won’t be empty for much longer, though. When construction is through, the development will feature 800 residential apartment units (almost 20 percent of which will be reserved as affordable housing), more than 110,000 square feet of retail space, 140,000 square feet of office space, an acre-and-a-half of open space with public art and access to a range of transportation options. In addition to our own MetroRail and MetroBus services, the Plaza Saltillo District will be located right along an extended Lance Armstrong Bikeway and two historical walking paths (the Tejano Music Legends Trail and the Tejano Healthy Walking Trail); it will also have access to Austin B-cycle stations and Car2Go vehicles.
Rather than your typical event with a big pile of imported dirt and shiny new shovels, the Plaza Saltillo groundbreaking featured a flag-planting ceremony. Representatives of Capital Metro, the city of Austin, Endeavor Real Estate and the neighboring community staked flags symbolizing the three organizing partners: Cap Metro, Endeavor and the city. We included the Texas state flag too.
Cap Metro President/CEO Linda Watson spoke enthusiastically about the trajectory of the project, and the agency’s efforts to guide the development in a way that served the needs of Capital Metro, as well as the neighborhood and the entire region.
Pio Renteria is a member of both our board of directors and the Austin City Council, representing East Austin. He and East Side resident Johnny Limon talked with passion about the history and the people of East Austin. In his dual roles, Renteria was instrumental in getting the project through the final steps of the approval process. Limon, too, worked for years leading a community group dedicated to finding a solution for the abandoned railyard that will be home to the development.
In addition to the flags and the great speeches, the crowd was able to enjoy tamales and agua frescas from the Tamale House (located just down the street from the station), conjunto music by Los Pinkys and paletas from Mom and Pops Frozen Pops.
Remediation work on the former brownfield site has already started and construction of the underground parking structure will begin shortly. In all, the project is expected to take about 30 months.
Wednesday was a fun way to acknowledge the road we’ve taken so far and to look to the days ahead when the development be finished. Once done, the resulting Plaza Saltillo District will be a great addition to Austin and Central Texas.
Growth happens. You can’t change that. What we need to do is to manage how Central Texas grows, direct where that growth takes place and ensure that everyone benefits from our growing region.
The city of Austin is attempting to do just that with CodeNext, its rewrite of the city’s development code. It’s a massive undertaking and you’ve probably read much about it since the draft version was released in January and maps were put out last month showing how the proposed code would affect different parts of the city.
Austin Mobility featured an article in their newsletter yesterday, describing the ongoing development in the east 5th area — around our MetroRail Plaza Saltillo Station. Check out the Austin Mobility to learn more about local Transit Oriented Development at: http://ow.ly/ealZv or read on:
In addition to the private development, Capital Metro is making progress on about 10 acres it hopes to develop under future private-public relationships.
An environmental assessment of the land is close to being completed.
An upcoming report, by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and Environmental Protection Agency, will give planners an understanding of what remediation would need to occur to develop the land.
In addition, Capital Metro expects to begin design and engineering later this year to relocate rail along Fourth Street, which will free up land for mixed-use development.
That $5.4 million track project is funded 80 percent by federal funds, with a 20 percent match from Capital Metro.