Leander, CapMetro officials will meet to discuss transit options, future relationship

Capital Metro MetroRail line

LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — A public back-and-forth about Leander’s involvement in the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority led to a discussion between the two sides about the future.

The City Council met with Capital Metro officials Thursday evening for a work session to talk about bus and rail service improvements.

This comes after Mayor Troy Hill proposed in July that the city look at possibly withdrawing from the Capital Metro service area. He particularly took issue with the fact that half of the city’s annual sales tax revenue currently goes to the transportation authority.

According to figures provided by Capital Metro, the City of Leander contributed $5,173,542 during fiscal year 2018. The cost of service on the agency’s side totaled $7,345,416.

The City Council ultimately postponed a vote on ending that agreement.

A Capital Metro spokesperson said the Thursday meeting will focus on “current services, financial obligation and future expansion.” The agency will highlight that Saturday rail service on the Red Line will return to Leander in January 2020, once a federally-mandated safety project is completed.

Capital Metro also plans to expand midday and evening rail service during the weekdays by having more trips starting in November.

A new app-based pick-up service will also begin in Leander in November. Capital Metro told KXAN that it will do extensive outreach and education to the community about this service, which will allow people to get rides within a specified area.

City Council Member Christine Sederquist wrote in a text message, “I’m extremely excited about the on demand bus service. That’s going to be a tremendous asset to our residents! It’s freedom for teenagers, independence for seniors and a plan b for anyone whose vehicle has trouble.”

Ahead of the meeting Thursday, Mayor Hill told KXAN that he is “encouraged” by the additional services that have been promised. However, he said he had “two major goals” moving forward:

  • Increase ridership.
  • Receive investments from CapMetro using the city’s contributions.

Capital Metro is open to discussing partnerships with the city, like on the Northline mixed-use development planned north of the Leander station. Nothing, however, is definite at this point.

Hill said he would also like to lower the rate that Leander pays to Capital Metro each year. At present, all member communities within the Capital Metro service area are required to contribute 1% of their sales tax. The Texas Transportation Code specifies that all member communities have to pay the same rate by law for equity purposes, according to Capital Metro.

If Leander city leaders ultimately wanted to move forward with withdrawing from the Capital Metro service area, it would require a public vote. The city would also have to pay a hefty exit fee, which is estimated to be about $9.8 million.

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