Austin Mobility: East Fifth St. Transit Oriented Development Underway

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:

E. Fifth St. transit oriented development underway

Projects near Plaza Saltillo are moving forward.

The 256-unit Corazon mixed-use project has begun construction, and will feature 9,400 square feet of retail, along with 6,400 square feet of restaurant space.

That project, the first to break ground at the Plaza Saltillo MetroRail station and transit oriented development east of IH-35, is expected to be completed by 2014.

The project is a step towards realizing the vision for Transit Oriented Development on Fifth Street.

Transit Oriented Development, or TOD, is a rapidly growing trend to create compact and walkable communities with high quality design centered around transit, and offering mobility choices.

The TOD vision was created by working with community members to address issues such as connectivity, open space, and design within the realities of economics.

The TODs have a complimentary regulation and zoning framework to facilitate compact and connected development, which is a key part of the Imagine Austin plan, passed by a unanimous City Council this month.

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.

ServicePlan2020: Striking a Balance

Earlier this month, I began a discussion online about ServicePlan2020. This coming Monday, Feb. 22, our board will be considering adopting this comprehensive plan that will guide our service changes over the next several years.

ServicePlan2020 attempts to strike a balance between a lot of key factors. At Capital Metro, we believe (and ServicePlan2020 supports the idea) that this community would benefit from an enhanced public transportation system with more coverage, frequency, route directness and hours of service. Yet we don’t have the means to deliver all of that within the available budget.

For example, the Bus Rider’s Union provided some very thoughtful input into the process early on, proposing a grid-like system of routes blanketing Central Austin with 24-hour service, and better yet with all routes operating once every 15 minutes! Cool idea that makes a lot of sense. However, when we ran the network through a preliminary cost analysis, we found that it would cost about 2.5 times more to operate than our current system. Capital Metro simply could not run such a system under our current funding structure.

The reality, then, is that some fundamental tradeoffs have to occur to balance things out, just as is the case at transit agencies across the country. Consider the following perspective, which is elaborated much more fully by transit planner Jarrett Walker on the Human Transit Blog:  transit is expected to fulfill not one, but two primary objectives. Continue reading “ServicePlan2020: Striking a Balance”