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How can you tell it's not going to be a real TOD?

Possibly in response to publicity about last week's cancellation of a project which tried to catch some of its buzz, the Leander TOD guys have gone on the offensive. But one particular comment is very telling, and shows why, well, it's not really a TOD:

Angela Hood, co-founder of Artefacts, says the development will also incorporate some mode of transportation that will get residents and pedestrians to and from the commuter rail line at the heart of the TOD.

Here's a hint: If it were truly a transit-oriented development, you wouldn't be even thinking about how the passengers would be getting to/from the rail line - they'd ALL be walking, because it would be so dang close. A project which requires shuttle-buses to distribute passengers from a rail hub is NOT A TRANSIT-ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT. It's just a higher-than-standard-suburban-density mixed-use project.

Read up more on transit-oriented development here, from VTPI, including these requirements (I've picked several critical ones which the Leander project will not satisfy):

  1. The transit-oriented development lies within a five-minute walk of the transit stop, or about a quarter-mile from stop to edge. For major stations offering access to frequent high-speed service this catchment area may be extended to the measure of a 10-minute walk.
  2. A balanced mix of uses generates 24-hour ridership. There are places to work, to live, to learn, to relax and to shop for daily needs.
  3. Parking costs are “unbundled,” and full market rates are charged for all parking spaces. The exception may be validated parking for shoppers.
  4. Transit service is fast, frequent, reliable, and comfortable, with a headway of 15 minutes or less.
  5. Automobile level-of-service standards are met through congestion pricing measures, or disregarded entirely.

Remember: this train service is going to run once every 30 minutes during rush hour, and when it gets to the Austin end, passengers must transfer to a shuttle-bus to get to their final destination, be it UT, the Capitol, or even most of downtown. It will not run at all the rest of the day, except for one mid-day trip. No night-time service; no mid-afternoon service. Thus, you can't apply the more generous "high-quality frequently running rail service" metrics of the 10-minute walk.

So, if you want to call this Leander thing "new urbanist", go ahead. It looks pretty nice on that metric. If you want to call it "mixed-use", go ahead. I'm right there with you. But stop the charade that this is a transit-oriented development, because it's not remotely so.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , I Told You So , Urban Design


I got a good laugh this morning when I read about the new Xtreme park they're building up in Leander. (http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/08/23/0823xpark.html)

The lede: "Here's how Matt Tolbert sees his investment in a mega sports facility planned in Leander: Kids in Austin will hop on a rail line and, within 20 minutes, be at a park where they can ride BMX bikes, wakeboard, see a concert and grab dinner."

Uh, yeah. As long as they take a morning train or the mid-day train. Then BMX/wakeboard, grab "dinner", and see the concert before the last train home during the evening rush hour. Somehow, I don't think that's what Mr. Tolbert is envinsioning.

On the other hand, if this gets more folks screaming for real rail then it's all good.

Don't forget the bus ride to the train station (no parking lots on the close-in ones), the bus ride from the Leander train station to the X-park, the bus ride back to the Leander train station, and the bus ride back home from the Austin station.

4, count 'em, 4 bus rides.

In reality there will be several hundred housing units within 1/2 mile of the Leander station, and several thousand within a mile of the train station.

All the land adjacent to the station on the east side of 183 is going to be high density, mixed use, 'real TOD'.


What you're talking about is a "transit-adjacent" development, unless most of the housing finds it actually more convenient to use the transit option than to drive. And the fact that the PR people had to talk about how people would get to the train station is the big hint here: it's NOT going to be a TOD, period.

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