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The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization oversees transportation planning for the greater Austin region. CAMPO’s jurisdiction includes Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties. Every urban area with a population of 50,000 or greater is federally-required to have a metropolitan planning organization. As part of its federal mandate, CAMPO works with all the local governments within its jurisdiction as well as the Texas Department of Transportation to produce a 25-year long range plan for transportation in the area. As part of its duties, CAMPO also approves federal and state fund use in the region.Beginning with the adoption of its 2035 plan in 2010, CAMPO focused planning out the region’s growth around the centers concept. Rather than allowing the city to spread out, the centers concepts plots specific areas for higher density development. Under the idea, the centers would all be connected by public transportation.

What Can Austin Learn About Rail From Other Cities?

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Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News
An Oregon Ironworks rail car, photographed in Austin in 2010. The city brought the car here to build excitement for an urban rail system.

As Austin has grown in size and prominence, so have cries for a more robust transportation system.  Our mayor has repeatedly called for a vote on an urban rail system to serve the city's core, and the city has received tantalizing glimpses of what rail cars could like in Austin.

What Austin hasn’t had in earnest is a close examination of how other cities have implemented rail systems.

That may change somewhat this week, with a delegation of a transit authority leaders from six western cities – Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City and San Diego – assembling in Austin for discussions at two events.

The cities represent rail a different stages: Dallas’ DART rail is coming off their busiest year yet for rail service, Salt Lake City’s TRAX service was launched in 1999, while Portland’s MAX service began approximately 25 years ago.

The delegation makes two stops. The first is tonight, before the rail-minded CAMPO Transit Working Group, 5 p.m. at City Hall. This meeting is open to the public. The second appearance is at an invite-only  “Best of the West Breakfast” at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 E. Eighth Street, tomorrow morning.

With a separate discussion of potential 2012 bond election projects tomorrow, discussion of rail – and how to pay for it – is picking up again. Will Austin build on the groundwork other cities have laid? 

You can read more about the events, including biographies of the six transportation CEOs, here.

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