Austin’s affordability problem is our region’s biggest issue, and we need to throw everything we have at it if we want to get anywhere.

Project Connect will do a lot to transform how we all move around Austin, and CapMetro and the City of Austin are committed to taking advantage of this once-in-a-generation chance to also make a real difference in how we live and who gets to live here.

A huge part of that is creating new residential development located along transit routes and adjacent to transit stations. CapMetro’s equitable transit-oriented development (ETOD) program is working on doing just that.

The goal of the program is to encourage the development of housing, office and retail space along the transit corridors that stand to benefit from Project Connect’s services. It’s not that CapMetro is getting into real estate development, but the program is designed to align transit planning and land-use decisions made by both the public and private sectors. There are many benefits from increased activity — both residential and commercial — around transit stations:

  • More housing reduces the cost of housing.
  • Simple proximity creates more natural transit customers.
  • Access to transit decreases the need for costly private automotive transportation.
  • Rising rents: The pace of rent increase — both commercial and residential — feels out of control.
  • Small businesses uprooted: New retail formats do not fit needs of the existing community​.
  • Lack of transit options: Current transit service is inconvenient and hard to access.
  • Lack of government support amid the affordability crisis: Frustration that interventions are too little, too late.

Of course, those are reasons to invest in transit-oriented development. CapMetro’s ETOD program will ensure that those transit services and that development benefits our whole community, not just the well off.

The first phase of the ETOD program has largely been focused on community engagement. Again, the point of ETOD is to ensure our disadvantaged communities aren’t left out of the advances brought about by our region’s continued success. It only makes sense to go to the community itself to find out what they want and where they have seen earlier efforts fall short.

The process returned repeated concerns around:

Though separate from the City’s and the Austin Transit Partnership’s anti-displacement efforts, CapMetro’s ETOD team is coordinating with the two to ensure alignment of process and goals.

The first ETOD study will go before the CapMetro board in January. The team will also talk about their next steps, which will include station area studies for the full range of nearly 100 stations (existing and future rail and bus stations).

Ultimately, these programs are designed to change how government thinks about infrastructure and public services. These decisions have often been made with only dollars and cents in mind in the past. But with the ETOD program, we're using a more people-first framework to figure out what the community needs.

Related Categories: Transportation