AUSTIN (KXAN) - In the two years since MetroRail has been operating, more than $90 million in new development has sprouted up in the areas around its train stops, Capital Metro said Friday.
"You don't have to look any further than activity at Midtown Commons at the Crestview Station, Chestnut Commons at the MLK Station, or the Lance Armstrong Foundation Headquarters and the Saltillo Lofts near Plaza Saltillo Station," the transit company said in an open letter.
"And with an eye toward the future, Austin Community College has plans for new facilities near Highland Mall, which is also along the MetroRail line."
Cap Metro President Linda Watson said the new development is no coincidence.
"People are seeing that living or working near a rail station is very valuable, very important," Watson said. "It's exciting to see so much development occur around our stations and that Capital Metro can help shape the growth of this community now and into the future."
"It's right near my house and right near where I work, so it's very convenient," said Chris Gowell who takes the train from the downtown area to Crestview Station in North Austin nearly every day.
"I don't think a lot of people get off and on," said Kayci Wheatley who owns Moxie, a boutique store in a mixed-use complex near Plaza Saltillo, one of the many rail stations.
Wheatley says that in the 6 months she's been at her newest location, there have been just two people that shopped in her store who said they came riding in from the Cap Metro Rail.
"Everybody hopes that more people will ride that rail and we'll get more customers from it," she said. The more retail, the better for us. A lot of people think, I don't want a store next to me because that's competition, no, gets more people in the area. So, more the merrier in my opinion."
The comments came the same day that MetroRail formally launched post-South By Southwest weekend service.
The trains will run every hour on Friday evenings between 7 p.m. and midnight. Saturdays, it's every 35 minutes from 4 p.m. to midnight.
Right now, the plan is to offer this service for the next 34 months.
The city of Austin is contributing $5.7 million to help with the service within city limits. That $5.7 million is coming from the tax CapMetro charges riders: one cent.
The funding is provided under the Interlocal Agreement with the city, where CapMetro directs one-quarter of that cent to the city for transportation projects. The new weekend MetroRail service is one of those projects.
In 2011, 29,738 boardings were reported. In 2012, there were 35,232 boardings.
Overall, ridership on the rail has tripled since the service first rolled out.
Meanwhile, ticket prices for the weekend will be the same as during the week.
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