Monday, January 12, 2009

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.