Leander City Council to consider withdrawing from Capital Metro

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Editor’s note July 16 at 12:26 p.m.: Due to incorrect information provided by Capital Metro, this story has been updated to reflect that MetroExpress service is available on Saturdays in Leander while construction takes place on the MetroRail. 

Leander City Council may begin the process of withdrawing from Capital Metro’s service area. If the withdrawal were approved by voters, bus and rail service would cease in the city.

An item on council’s July 18 agenda is to authorize the mayor and interim city manager to negotiate an agreement with Leonard B. Smith—an outside attorney—for legal services regarding the “possible withdrawal” from the transit authority.

Capital Metro, a public transportation provider in the Austin metro area, was established by a voter referendum in 1985. Leander is one of the original members of the authority. One percent sales tax levied by the city of Leander and other service members in the Austin area funds the agency.

In Leander, Capital Metro provides MetroExpress bus service and MetroRail service. MetroRail services are not available on weekends in Leander due to construction, according to Capital Metro spokesperson Mariette Hummel. Saturday service is available on MetroExpress in Leander while the MetroRail line is not running on Saturdays, according to Hummel. Construction on the rail is intended to upgrade the rail to allow trains to pass each other and run more frequently, according to Hummel.

Leander Mayor Troy Hill said he thinks the services the agency provides to Leander are substandard and not worth the amount the city contributes to the agency.

“The fact that we’ve been in it for this long, and they don’t have weekend service, which is the time the majority of residents would want to ride, that’s unacceptable,” Hill said. “I don’t see any reason to be paying a lot for something that isn’t very efficient.”

In order for the city to withdraw from Capital Metro, Leander voters would have to approve the withdrawal, Hummel said.

“If Leander were to vote to withdraw, Capital Metro must cease all Leander operations,” Hummel said. “That would happen right away.”

If an election took place and voters decided to stay in the transit authority, the city could not hold another election to withdraw for five years, Hummel said. However, a city can hold an election to rejoin Capital Metro without the 5-year limitation. Rejoining would require approval from the authority’s board.

Leander’s annual contribution to Capital Metro in fiscal year 2017-18 was about $5,133,277, according to Hummel.

Leander Station, where people can board the bus and rail in Leander, is located off US 183, north of Hero Way. In spring 2019, the station saw 472 average weekday boardings for MetroExpress buses and the MetroRail from Leander Station, according to data from Capital Metro.

Hill said he believes getting out of Capital Metro would leave the city with more money to pursue other projects, such as economic development.

“We could come up with things that a huge percentage of our public could use,” Hill said. “The major corporations that are going to our sister cities—we would be able to compete for those.”

According to the Texas Transportation Code, if a city withdraws from Capital Metro, it has to pay off a financial obligation over time. A calculation set by the code determines the obligation amount, according to Hummel, who said the amount would have been $9.8 million in 2018.

“That means that the city’s current annual sales tax contributions would help to pay off the obligation in two years,” Hummel said. “They’re not receiving service during that time. They’re paying it off, but they’re not getting anything in return, just the fact that they’ll be able to leave after that.”

Hill said leaving Capital Metro does not mean the city will have to be without it forever.

“I think as [Capital Metro] expands the system, it is going to make it more attractive to cities like Leander,” Hill said. “We’re a young city, and I think everybody needs to just realize that we can get back in at some point when they are better able to give us more options.”

Update: This story was updated July 15 at 5 p.m. to clarify the city would have to have an election to rejoin Capital Metro services.

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COMMENT
  1. Wow…sweet Brexit situation being set up here. Let’s vote to pay double what the metro cost us in a separation fee. So glad PACs were allowed to bankroll this clown into the mayor’s office.

    • I certainly will miss the bus. I use it weekdays
      to commute to Seton Medical Center for work. Traffic in Austin is so bad I wish more would use the public option.

    • That’s dumb! There is weekend service, it just doesn’t start until later in the afternoon.
      So what, we get out now still have to pay for two years to pay it off without being an to use the service and then, MAYBE, at some point down the line get back in? How much more is it going to cost then?!
      We have enough frickin growth in Leander, we don’t need to compete.
      I use the train and bus every so often to get to work and back. Traffic in Austin sucks as it is and you want to put MORE cars back on the road? Ugh!

      • That is ridiculous people depend on that here … That is why i live here this station helps people that need it for anybody to take it away would be taking from the citizens of leander and myself

      • Taking away rail and bus service would be awful for those of us that commute downtown! The train and buses are packed daily with commuters who depend upon the public transit system. It also reduces commuter traffic on the roads. I truly hope the vote to leave CapMetro doesn’t go through.

      • Alan J Rivaldo

        This has nothing to do with toll roads. Just because you don’t use something doesn’t mean it should be made unavailable to others. Do you live in a bubble?

        • Public transportation in Austin and surrounding communities leaves much to be desired compared to other major cities. At least Leander had something going for it. However the minimal service should be expanded and NOT withdrawn. Other comments are right on…invest more and you will get more. It’s common sense ( clearly lacking in some of Leanders politicians) that one big resolution to the horrific traffic in the Austin area is to invest in public transportation.
          Don’t take this away from people who need it most.

      • @Bryan, second least informed (ignorant) comment here. Apparently he has absolutely no idea how much that toll road cost. 5 million, 10 million makes no dent in the cost of those toll roads. There’s a reason they’re tolled. In addition, all the development that is planned in that area is because of the train station and the 183a toll road.

      • Incredibly short-sighted. We need to be using our cars less, both for traffic and environmental reasons. We should be encouraging public transit use, not increasing investment in toll roads.

    • Capital metros board has brought us a product that cost way too much, takes people almost nowhere they need to go, and runs on a schedule few can use. My business is less than half a mile from the train station and I have a front row seat to the empty trains that come in time and time again. The mayor is simply putting the issue to the vote of the citizens of Leander. If they vote to withdraw, the blame rest squarely on the shoulders of the capital metro board and the exceedingly poor job they have done.

  2. For clarification there is weekend service from Leander starting at 1530. As previously mentioned we pay $9M+ to get out, how much will the tax payers have to cough up to re-join? I am sure they will “create/claim” there is a penalty fee, burden for the tax payers to worry about right…? Just so the “mayor” (volunteer position btw…similar to a high school class president) can have a bullet point. Speaking for myself, I love the Metro Transit system, saving $15.50-22.50/day in tolls to downtown + $7/day parkIng + gas + maintenance + stress + time lost sitting in traffic…I am sure there are others have similar stories…trust me there is more than enough development (too much to be honest) in Leander at the moment, pump the brakes “mayor to be” find another way to make an impression…besides showing up at ribbon cuttings and fireworks. -my 2¢

    • It’s the same reason we moved here. The mayor is so short sighted that he doesn’t understand that as the corporate campuses grow near Howard Station, Leander could grow from its place on the rail. People could live here and work just minutes away at the corporate campuses. Without the rail, Leander is just another exurb. We would definitely move out.

    • Same here. Bus/train is the #1 reason we chose to move to Leander so we could commute to work downtown Austin

  3. Troy Hill and several city council members were ushered into Leander city politics by a far-right PAC run by a man named Andy Pitts. These corrupt officials are backwards-thinking and short-sighted.

    • Hill didn’t even get a majority of the vote in his election. I think we should start looking into a recall vote or some other way to remove him from office before he sets this town back.

  4. I began taking the bus to work this year when toll 183A jumped to over $160 per month just to go from Leander to Lakeline. They fill bus 985 to Austin 3 times before 7am every work day. It is either intentional ignorance or fake news that the buses are not being used. Go ahead and give away some corporate welfare instead.

  5. We chose Leander because of MetroRail access. We have been excited about the new Northline Leander development that will create a downtown area for the city near a MetroRail stop (transit-oriented development) and bring in a ton of money to the city. Why spend so much money to pull out of Cap Metro when it’s helping spur so much development in the town and giving people options for commuting to work in Austin?

  6. Does the city not realize that the development around the station is being driven by having the station? That’s why ACC built a campus so close. Business developing in the area are counting on it to drive growth. Those wanting to get out of Cap Metro are being very short sighted. If Cap Metro should divest their station property, they wont get it back. So many other factors are not being considered.

  7. Cap Metro has been mediocre at best, particular with respect to service to and from Leander. The City of Leander got into a bad deal from the start. The time is finally right for justification of the both the rail and bus service with the ACC campus, Northline, and the St. David’s hospital. That in mind, getting out of Cap Metro at this point is just another of Mayor Troy Hill’s pet projects where he has failed to really look at the big picture. He is a weak and two-dimensional Mayor, who was a totally ineffective Council Member with ZERO accomplishments, who is funded by the Leander Uncensored Reich Marshal HeisthePitts. The new members of Leander’s City Council are all Troy Hill sycophants who lack any courage or acumen. Hill and his band of noobs have fired City Manager Cagle because Cagle saw right through Hill’s incompetence and poor judgment. Hill and his minions will require a ballot initiative to get out of the Cap Metro obligation. You can bet it will cause another rise in PACs for and against and, like the debacle caused by Hill’s lack of intelligence, situational awareness, and judgment regarding the “Drag Queen Storytime” circus, will only continue to damage the reputation of the citizens of Leander. Leander elected Hill because he beat his chest and promised the moon. Reality is showing that he just doesn’t have what it takes to lead a growing city. The Hill legacy will be the alienation of both sides of the Drag Queen circus and his continued immaturity, toxic personality, and poor judgment. Leander needs to take a close look at the underwhelming and ineffective Troy Hill “administration”.

  8. The capmetro service is the only reason I considered Leander as a place to buy a home. It made the city competitive with cedar Park and north Austin as far as commuting (work is downtown Austin 5 blocks from the train station)
    If there is a fee to get out of the service and a likely even larger fee to get back in, why waste the tax payers dollars? When the train and bus are regularly full during peak hours, you are going to upset a lot of higher income tax payers who have the option of leaving the city for friendlier cities.

  9. I thought I covered all my angles when I decided to purchase a home in Leander vs its neighboring municipalities. The CapMetro station was the main criteria for me and my family moving to Leander. Wish I would have known that this public servant’s agenda would disrupt my family’s decision in such a short period of time. I really hope Mayor Hill reconsiders not completely withdrawing and leverages Leander’s position to re-negotiate more services for his constituents.

  10. Brian Bruggeman

    * So our Mayor fires the Leander director not too long ago citing a lack of economic development.
    * Next, Mayor decides to pull out of one of the few things that makes Leander viable as an economic development center. Did anyone read the history of Leander? It became a ghost town when they said no to the railway a couple hundred years go. Leander probably isn’t going anywhere today… but the reality is that this is really the exact opposite of a long term economic vision…because:
    * Finally, and I think this is the real kicker… leaving the CAPMetro contract means we as tax-payers actually pay _more_ in taxes. Additionally, I suspect we’ll also see an increase in people paying tollway (which has been under water for a while now). What do you want to bet someone driving this change made a bad bet and bought into the tollway?

    This is not an pro-economic choice here.

    • Michael Siever

      And how much money from the fossil fuel lobby is Mayor Hill getting paid to spout this nonsense? Having more cars on the road every day is going to increase congestion and traffic, resulting in more cars idling on N. Bell Blvd, which means more profits from people filling up at the pump. Mass transit is an amenity that many people rely on. As some people have already said on this thread, that was one of the deciding factor, if not *the* deciding factor, for moving to Leander. Cutting off your nose to spite your face is a rather short-sighted thing to do, Troy…

  11. I wanted to like the train. I rode it for several months a few years back. However, my stop was by the Domain which meant I had to either walk 15 minutes in the Texas weather, or take the 466 bus, which goes the opposite way and takes 25 minutes and would mean I would still have to walk.

    I know that the train and the bus are attractive and even make some of us feel better about public transportation. But the cost to ride is simply way to high and the City is just too small. He’s absolutely right that we get sub par for what we pay. If the training is running one stop South, than it should run here. Leander was not ready to enter this deal 10+ years ago and I feel would get a better deal and be better served if we negotiated a contract with solid service for a fraction of the price.

    Many have also said, that the train brought ACC and St. David. That may be true, but again, ACC is a ghost town and is most likely costing ACC money. St. David is not in it’s location due to the train, not many people go to the ER on a train.

    Just realize that our tax money pays over $40 for each one of the people that ride each day, while they only pay $4-7 dollars.. depending on bus or train. I just can’t see how that’s a good deal.. We should not be afraid to get a better deal.

  12. That is ridiculous people depend on that here … That is why i live here this station helps people that need it for anybody to take it away would be taking from the citizens of leander and myself

  13. Michael Siever

    Gee, Troy Hill sure seems antsy to get mass transit *and* apartments out of Leander. Now, what demographics tend to use mass transit instead of driving cars and live in apartments instead of houses? Ethnic minorities. Could it be that Troy Hill wants to make Leander a whites-only city?

  14. It wouldn’t be that hard to recall Hill. The city charter provides for a recall and it would take just about 900 signatures to put him on the ballot. Even fewer signatures to recall the council members who side with him. Section 6 of the charter lays it all out.

  15. Linda Williams

    I have family members who are totally dependent on Leander’s CapMetro service for transportation to and from work downtown on a daily basis. This service was a driving factor in the purchase of their home and then the subsequent of my purchasing a home here so I could help transport to and from home and station. Not having this service would be a huge hardship for our family…HUGE!!! I would get out and certainly plead my case for voting against stopping these services and beg others to join me! This service is an asset to many families! Please don’t take it away!

    • Brian Winkelmann

      We chose Leander BECAUSE of the train. It’s a huge benefit, saves us money, and weekend service is already on the agenda for the future based on everything I’ve ever heard from capmetro. All but guaranteed as Leander grows. Price will only go up, bailing now and still paying for another 2 years for nothing is a bad idea. I had been ignoring politics….apparently it’s time to pay attention.

  16. Not only do I utilize the metro every weekday for the last 10 years…I also used the convenient location of the commuter station as a perk when I sold my home. Imagine trying to sell a home near said abandoned station. What will it become a 9 million dollar skate park? If this is the leadership we have it’s time to rethink Leander.

  17. I use the bus every day to go to downtown Austin. I have been doing this for the past 2 years! Having the rail and bus system was one of the reasons I bought my house early 2017. There have been consistently more and more people riding over the last 2 years. CapMetro is doing upgrades to the rail line and building a new downtown station for the rail and they are building fast. Once all these upgrades are complet more people will start riding the rail again, and it’ll make it easier to have weekend service.

    I also don’t know where the Mayor got the idea that majority of the people wanted weekend service. Commuting on the weekday by bus/rail is much better than one ride on the weekend.

    And right now there is Saturday service by bus. It’s the 985. #knowyourfacts

    Since the vote is set for the 18th of July, where can we go to voice our opinion?

  18. I’ve been using CapMetro services for over 4 years now, mostly to commute to work. I’ve used the services for 2 years now since we bought a house in Leander. Like many others have said in the comments, a big reason why we bought our house here in Leander was because of the access to the rail and commuter bus station.

    I’m mostly disappointed by this news because I don’t believe we’ve heard a clear plan for how the money saved by not continuing service will bring value to the city. If the mayor and council want my vote for withdrawing from Capital Metro they’ll need to show me the benefits. They thus far have not shown me enough to where I trust them to make our city better by withdrawing from CM services. They also sound ignorant and shortsighted, we do have weekend service: https://www.capmetro.org/schedmap/?svc=0&f1=985&s=0&d=N Also CM has talked about running the rail service more frequently and increasing the operating time post adding additional rail and cars. They seem to be getting closer to making this a reality for the rail service.

    Adding additional cars to the tollway is not the solution. There is no silver bullet for solving traffic congestion. Just look at 130 during rush hour now versus how it was a few years ago.

    After the this, the firing of the city manager, and the Library’s “Drag Queen Story Time” debacle there is no way that I’d vote for Mr. Hill. It’s clear that our city needs new leadership.

  19. This is a terrible idea. All up and down the 183 corridor north of cedar park to Liberty Hill are new developments going in because of how easy it is to commute to downtown. Having the train/bus system available is a huge upsell that increases all of our property values and makes the area more attractive as a bedroom community. I take the train in and out of downtown everyday and I have friends who live in the surrounding areas all the way from Georgetown to roundrock to liberty hill, who drive to the Leander station to commute into town on the train or bus. Maybe instead of throwing a tantrum that makes zero financial sense, instead work with cap metro to increase the amount of weekend train service.

    • The mayor is so shortsighted not seeing that cap metro is what cause Leander to grow, the city of Manor is begging cap metro for a rail line from there to downtown. Because it would help the city of Manor attract development and investment. I take the train to work at downtown and it save me about $300 a month in avoid the traffic high gas price, toll and maintenance, plus I can get work done on my train ride which would not be possible in traffic on 183 and mopak.

    • I know, I might have to move to Round Rock. Not too long ago they added a bus line (#980) that also goes downtown in Austin.

  20. Why is Troy Hill working to decrease apartments in Leander and keep certain types of people out? He is a total elitist — what does he have against working class people?

  21. I chose to move to Leander because of the Train and CapMetro. My wife uses it daily to get to work downtown, as driving is an absolute nightmare; it was an absolute godsend when she was unable to drive after knee surgery.

    We use it together occasionally to go downtown on weekends, so we don’t have to worry about parking or driving after sampling 6th Street’s best.

    The presence of CapMetro is a big part of why ACC now has a campus here, a great asset to the community which my youngest will be attending next year. It is why the new downtown is being developed in the TOD (“Transit Oriented Development”), why a YMCA is (was?) planned for there too. It is likely as least part of the reason the hospital is being build right next to it.

    As the CapMetro system improves its coverage and hours, both generally and when the Leander repair depot is up and running, even more happy Leanderthals will find it useful to get to work in Austin or eventually the airport. This will likely prove even more useful as traffic continues its inexorable descent into even more gridlock, even closer to home.

    Leander’s access to an major transportation asset such as CapMetro makes it unique among the other suburbs in the area, and I think will prove to be a major asset in attracting high-quality businesses. CapMetro helps make Leander a great and forward-looking, attractive place to live.

    Getting out now strikes me a mistake of historic proportions.

  22. Why is there no metro rail service on the weekend? The lack of service to & from the Leander station on the weekends is absurd. Cap Metro fixes this by providing better service.

    • Weekend rail service is coming in January, after they finish the downtown station. For now they have weekend bus service.

  23. matthew smedley

    I use the busses and train to commute to work at UT. The city previously told us that the station is vital for future growth, which at the time meant ACC, The Standard at Leander Station apartments, and St. David’s ER. Now that they are built, we have St. David’s clinic, Holiday Inn Express, and the Northline development coming, which has now been expanded to 115 acres adjacent to the station. It doesn’t make sense to bail out now, only to pay again to rejoin in a few years due to guaranteed growth. What’s next, drag queens at the library? What? We had a drag queen at our little library?

  24. Victoria McLemore

    We just bought a house in this area specifically BECAUSE of its proximity to Leander station. Withdrawing from Capital Metro services is incredibly short-sighted when there are so many new people moving to the area—most of whom still commute downtown to work. People should be being incentivized and encouraged to use public transit more often, not less.

  25. Wow! Seems to me the only people riding the train and bus are commenting on this…every time I have to wait at a RR crossing I never see no more than 10 people on the train including rush hour times.

    The concept of making Austin and surrounding cities a Washington DC is a joke. CapMetro execs and political friends want to rip cities off, just ask the City of Cedar Park 4 (a)(b) agreement circa 2003.

    Sorry Leander council and mayor you have adopted bad decisions by former city leaders which will be costly to get out of. CapMetro has you by the neck…good luck getting out of it.

  26. I’ve already contacted the City of Leander about this. I depend on public transportation from Cap Metro to make my (grueling) daily commute to downtown Austin for work. I also lease my car, so I have to keep the miles down. Sad thing is, I won’t be able to vote on this since I’m technically not a Leander resident (I live JUST outside the city limits), yet I’m impacted. I’d have to drive all the way to Lakeline Station I guess, but it would still be better than driving all the way into downtown with all that traffic and putting excessive miles on the car.

    I just wish there was a way to get this item on the ballot for nearby Wilco residents who don’t happen to live in the Leander city limits but live close enough to use the station.

  27. David Mack Endres

    The rail and toll road add to your property values even if you don’t use them. I know of people who have moved to our neighborhood because of the proximity to these transportation options. Bribing corporations to move here is a dead end, just ask Wisconsin how Foxcon is working out. And, how much of an incentive would $5.1M per year really make?

    We live in the Leander ETJ and this sort of nonsense makes me almost wish to get annexed. Not really, just almost.

  28. While there may not be many riders, the riders that there are, are dependent upon this service to get to work and to earn a living. Everything is NOT about profit. Our government at any level is here to serve the needs of the people, and the constituents that use this service need to be served by our local government. I know of at least one daily rider who is deaf and virtually blind. He earns a living in downtown Austin, which is amazing in itself. He’s probably not alone in his need. If he can’t get to his job, he can’t support his family. This is NOT the place to balance the budget. It IS a service that should be rendered with pride. We have areas of government that can be streamlined and maybe even cut, without cutting here. This service is not about the almighty dollar, it IS about hard working people’s lives.

  29. David Longbine

    If Leander exits the Cap Metro, I won’t be buying the house that I am under contract for, and is now under construction. The metro is the only reason I decided to buy this far out of Austin. It is unfortunate that I will lose the earnest money, but better that than dealing with the Austin traffic every day.

  30. Seems like the Mayor is proposing another water park, at the current CapMetro location, per his public FB post – https://www.facebook.com/616876215310660/posts/965764557088489?s=504174740&sfns=mo

    This is a very short minded approach that he is taking. The reality is the Mayor was elected with only 1093 votes out of 27,800 registered voters that are in Leander as of 1/1/2019. That is less than 0.5% of our registered voters. For those of us that support keeping the train station, it’s imperative that we speak up now and at the ballot box.

  31. The metro is one of the reasons why my spouse and I decided on our home in Leander; to be a hop and a skip away from being able to take the train into Austin for work. Most definitely beats the traffic. We are extremely opposed to the Leander City Council withdrawing from Capital Metro’s service area. When is voting available? The article did not mention any information on where or when this will be held. What else can we do? The word needs to get out to more of our community, I worry many may not know this is happening.

  32. So this is fun. Look, Im not anti-rail or mass transit. I have a solution. Cap Metro needs to lower the costs for small towns to 1/4 cent. At this rate we could afford to stay in. They could also get many other cities our size in. Funny you guys are beating on me, but no one is asking why Georgetown, Round Rock, Cedar Park, Dripping Springs, Hutto, Kyle, and most other suburbs are not in. It kills your budget, that’s why. If it was set at .25 for cities under 100,000 probably 5-6 suburbs would join, which would most likely triple the $5.1m they get from Leander. Tomorrow we have a budget meeting before the council meeting where we have $1.7 m in funds and $8m of requests from the fire department , police, parks, Roads, Planning, and HR. So unless you have a solution to tell these depts that all have needs and we cannot meet them, please point your guns at Cap Metro. Their budget is huge. Ours isn’t.

  33. “Round Rock doubled down and bought even more transit service under a contract from us last year. Pflugerville is doing a transit study and they’re looking to try to have a partnership with us. The county, for the first time ever, has done a partnership with us in the Eastern Crescent. There are communities like Leander all over the country that are doing everything they can to get into public transportation networks because they understand express bus or train is an economic development tool and a quality of life.”

    https://www.kut.org/post/capital-metro-credits-cap-remap-operations-changes-ridership-increase

  34. This is ridiculous. I recently bought the house near capMetro area in Oak creek. I work in downtown and choosing Leander area was only because it has Leander station which I could ride every single day to work. If they close this down then I may end up withdrawing from the purchase. This just can’t happen. Rail is the biggest reason why people will buy new houses in Leander. If they close this down, trust me Leander city is screwed.

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Marisa Charpentier
Marisa Charpentier joined Community Impact in September 2018. After working as an intern, she became a reporter for the Cedar Park | Leander edition in October 2018. Charpentier graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with degrees in journalism and Plan II Honors.
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