As the city continues to grapple with where all these people can live affordably and how to move them around effectively, Capital Metro has connected what many consider to be Austin’s two top issues by creating its Transit-Oriented Development Priority Tool. The free, online resource helps city officials, land developers, neighborhoods and others better understand the potential land-use options that surrounds its MetroRail and MetroRapid stations.
“We’ve presented the TOD Priority Tool during the CodeNEXT development process, and we’re seeing a number of organizations cite the Tool in their own analysis,” said Jolinda Marshall, Capital Metro’s TOD planner and project lead for the tool. “The City of Austin is using the Tool in its effort to prioritize its capital improvements, and we’re using it as part of our own planning, whether it’s Connections 2025, Project Connect or our own land-use policies.”
The TOD Priority Tool is a comprehensive resource of the residential, commercial and public spaces, as well as walking/bicycling access, within a half mile of Capital Metro’s 50 high-capacity transit stations. The agency’s goal is to encourage more thoughtful land use and greater density, which would lead to increased ridership for Capital Metro.
“Better land-planning decisions are made with transit and mobility choices in mind,” added Marshall. “We’re always looking for ways to make our region a better place to live. The more the community enables people to live and work within reach of frequent transit, the less time they spend sitting in traffic, and the better their lives can be.”
Over an 18-month period, Capital Metro collected, summarized and analyzed census and other demographic data, GIS mapping, market trend reporting and capital investment research and then conducted field analysis for each station. The team then assigned a readiness score using 17 factors for the land development around each station. Capital Metro also looked at the local context of each station and defined benchmarks for realizing context-sensitive transit-oriented development:
- Urban Core (examples: downtown Austin or the University of Texas campus)
- Regional Hub (examples: The Domain, Tech Ridge or Lakeline Mall)
- TOD Village (examples: The Triangle, Rundberg, Westgate or Plaza Saltillo)
- Neighborhood TOD (examples: South Congress near St. Edward’s University or Hyde Park)
- Special Destination (examples: the North Lamar and South Congress Transit Centers)
“It’s extraordinary the amount of data that’s available. Capital Metro put it all in one place to make it easier and more accessible in a way that’s truly useful,” said Marshall. She added that Capital Metro planners use the tool, and intend for it to be used by public officials and their staff, the development and business communities, neighborhood groups and individual residents to make more informed decisions.
Capital Metro plans to update the TOD Priority Tool every few years as additional high-capacity transit corridors are established under the Project Connect initiative. While other communities, such as Seattle, Denver and Atlanta, have developed similar tools, Capital Metro is one of the first agencies in the country to incorporate rapid bus stations into the tool, in addition to the rail stations. Capital Metro developed the TOD Priority Tool with guidance from the Imagine Austin and CAMPO 2040 plans and in consultation from a steering committee of city of Austin and CAMPO staffs.
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