Cap Metro is trying to keep Leander in the transit system by offering infrastructure funding

Photo by Gabriel C. Perez/KUT

Tuesday, January 25, 2022 by Nathan Bernier, KUT

In a bid to prevent Leander from holding an election on whether to cut ties with the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the regional transportation agency’s board voted unanimously on Monday to sweeten his case with the suburban community.

Under the new proposal, Leander would have access to nearly $2 million in infrastructure funding this year and would receive the lion’s share of a new $10 million infrastructure fund created by the board of directors. administration of Capital Metro two weeks ago.

The city of Leander would also be able to tap into the expertise of Capital Metro to apply for lucrative federal grants. The transit agency expects to raise more than $43 million this year in federal aid.

The Capital Metro board is trying to up the ante for Leander as city council members consider calling a general election over membership in the transit system.

Leander’s mayor and council were due to vote on an election last week, but decided to put off the decision until Monday’s Capital Metro board meeting.

City officials openly question whether the sales tax revenue that pays for public transit would be better spent on other needs, like a water treatment system pushed to its limits by a booming population. boom.

Leander pays for Capital Metro services by charging a 1% sales tax. Last year, the tax generated $9.8 million. This was 25% more than the previous year.

Meanwhile, ridership on all three Capital Metro services in Leander — MetroRail, a MetroExpress commuter bus to Austin and the on-demand Pickup service — has fallen from around 635 average daily boardings in 2019 to around 130 at the moment. fall of 2021, according to a consultant. report commissioned by Leander City Council.

“Part of the optics from Leander’s point of view is that we inconvenience more people with arms coming down on the six train stops than we actually have people on the train,” Becki Ross said. , a member of Leander City Council who sits on the board of directors of Capital Metro.

The Capital Metro board’s offer, backed by Ross, appears intended to allay some of Leander’s concerns by returning millions of dollars to the city each year for streets, sidewalks, traffic lights and amenities. other infrastructure – as long as spending favors public transit.

The amount would largely be calculated by subtracting the cost of providing Capital Metro services to Leander from the amount the city pays the transit agency in sales tax. In fiscal year 2022, the amount available to Leander for transit-related infrastructure would exceed $1.9 million.

Manor, Lago Vista, Jonestown, Point Venture and San Leanna already have similar deals with Capital Metro through an agency program called Build Central Texas. The council’s proposal would add Leander to the program.

Leander would also be eligible for $7.4 million from a new $10 million transit infrastructure fund created by Capital Metro’s board of directors earlier this month. The fund would pay for similar transit support projects, as the Build Central Texas program does.

Whether this is enough to prevent Leander City Council from calling a May election over Capital Metro membership should soon become clear. Leander City Council is due to meet and discuss the deal tonight at 6pm.

This story was produced as part of the austin monitorreporting partnership with KUT.

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