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First of many "TOD"'s collapses

(TOD = "transit-oriented development", which some people think can provide additional passengers for our commuter rail line).

Update: The author of the ABJ piece assures me in comments that this wasn't "the" TOD project (not within the city limits) and claims that it had more to do with the housing market in general. This will teach me to link to articles for which I can't read the full text. However, commenters and other media have indicated that this was being characterized as "a TOD" (I actually finally posted this after receiving 3 different tips from readers), and my language, while imprecise, was referring to "the first failure among the group of self-proclaimed TODs", not "the first project declared to be a TOD has now failed". Keep this one as a "maybe". Certainly many people defending the commuter rail line have promised that it will provide stimulus for denser mixed-use development in that part of town - so the "weakening housing market" is in and of itself no defense here.

Original post follows:

Repeating the experience in South Florida with another stupid commuter rail line that requires shuttle-bus transfers, the first proposed TOD (really, not, just a slightly more dense suburban tract housing project) has collapsed in Leander. Expect more of these, although I expect Crestview Station and the Chestnut project will go ahead, since sufficient demand with or without rail already exists in those areas to fill the units allowed by the slight loosening of the way-too-strict zoning there. As Christof said, the most attractive place to add more density is where density already exists - don't forget, too, that true TOD requires high-quality transit, not just anything slapped on a rail that runs to a station out in the middle of nowhere.

Does TOD ever work in cities without Manhattan-like density? YES!. It works great on light rail lines which have demonstrated good ridership among choice commuters. That requires rail lines which deliver most people directly to their destination (within a moderate walking distance). Like what Dallas did; what Portland did; what Minneapolis, Salt Lake, Denver, and even Houston did. Like what we almost did in 2000; and could have fought for in 2004 instead of rolling over for Mike Krusee. But it's never, ever, happened on a commuter rail line with performance as poor as ours. Not even once.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Don't Hurt Us Mr. Krusee, We'll Do Whatever You Want , I Told You So , Transit in Austin , Transportation , Tri-Rail , Urban Design


Mike - Please correct this posting! The project in Leander that came to a halt is NOT the TOD. This was a totally different project, being proposed by an Orlando developer. The land they would have done the development on isn't even in the city limits - the TOD is. Totally, totally different project. And Avalon's decision to pull out is not related to the TOD or transportation in general, it was more a decision based on the housing market.

Just to confirm what Kate said, the canceled project was to be located near the intersection of Highway 1431 and Lakeline Drive, which is not anywhere close to the train station.

Because I own property near the train station I asked around about this project.

The rumor is that one reason for the cancellation was that it is clear that the center of gravity for retail and housing north of Austin is moving away from Lakeline Mall and towards Downtown Leander where the train station is.

I guess everyone has their own definition of "near", but was this thing really going to be near that intersection? I would've considered pretty much everything "near" 1431 & Lakeline to be firmly in Cedar Park, not Leander. Did the ABJ just screw up?

From the Statesman article:

"The development would have clustered more than 10,000 buildings with park and commercial developments between Crystal Falls Parkway and Lakeline Boulevard. It was similar to the city's transit-oriented development, a 2,300-acre residential and commercial development that centers around a rail line that will run from Austin to Leander."

OK, that makes more sense.
Nowhere near 1431 and Lakeline.
Though not really any closer to "downtown" Leander. Pretty much halfway between.

The northern end of the project is pretty close to the P&R - close enough that they were obviously using proximity to justify getting Leander to give them zoning which allowed for denser-than-usual development.

Yes, not close enough to walk. That's kind of the point - very little of the city's official TOD will be close enough to walk either. You need much higher densities than what they're talking about building to get a lot of people within walking distance of the station, since the station is surrounded by a huge parking lot.

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