A bus line and commuter rail stop could be in store for Hutto as transportation agencies look to expand the Austin metro area’s public transit infrastructure.
Austin-based transportation provider Capital Metro is in the final stages of designing a transit development plan for Hutto. The plan is scheduled to be completed in October and will recommend public transportation options that address the city’s specific needs, Hutto Development Services Director Helen Ramirez said.
“They’re going to look at our population, our population growth and what are the needs that have been [expressed] by the residents,” Ramirez said. “This is [Hutto’s] first transit development plan, and that’s why we’re excited about it.”
The city also requested inclusion in Lone Star Rail District’s passenger rail system planning process. Lone Star Rail’s goal is to incorporate commuter trains into the rail network that runs through the Austin-San Antonio corridor, Rail Director Joe Black said.
Hutto and Taylor are being considered as part of Lone Star Rail’s transportation plan at this time and are not paying members of the rail district like the city of Georgetown, but Black said the proposed Hutto/Taylor extension looks promising.
“Hutto is growing at an amazing rate; Taylor is also growing, and with this [increase of] people it makes a lot of sense to look at putting stations in those two cities,” he said. “[A rail line] could potentially be a game-changer.”
Black said Lone Star Rail’s first passenger trains could be running by 2021. By that time, strategies from Hutto’s transit development plan could already be in place, said Michelle Meaux, Capital Metro’s regional coordination planner.
Meaux said Capital Metro plans to hold a public meeting Oct. 21 to seek community input on the plan and then present the plan to Hutto City Council for possible adoption. If adopted, Meaux said Capital Metro’s goal is to have recommendations from the transit development plan implemented within a year.
Although Meaux could not release transit plan details at press time, she said resident feedback suggested commuter and local bus services would be an asset to the community.
Ramirez said the Capital Metro and Lone Star Rail District studies are being conducted at an opportune time. Hutto is currently involved in several mixed-use projects that support transit-oriented development, such as the Co-Op District and the Hutto Crossing development, she said. The East Williamson County Higher Education Center and a potential Park & Ride site near SH 130 would also complement nearby public transit options, Ramirez said.
Jessica Romigh, founder of bicycling advocacy organization Bike Hutto, said an effective transit plan needs to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians.
Romigh said she has been in discussions with Capital Metro about how the transit development plan can include bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure considerations such as bike racks at Park & Ride locations, trail connections and bike transport options.
“Transit is an important step for Hutto. In order for it to be done effectively and to have people utilize the system, it needs to be accessible,” Romigh said in an email. “Connectivity to trails, sidewalks, and bike lanes is critical for the pedestrian and cycling populations to be able to use the transit options.”
Although it could take several years to implement all of Hutto’s public transit goals, Ramirez said the transit development plan sets the stage for improving mobility.
“We need to start somewhere, and I think this is where we’re starting,” she said. “This is the first step towards providing alternative transportation to our population.”