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Transportation

Leander voters choose to keep Capital Metro service

A Capital Metro train on the Red Line
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
Leander is voting on whether to stay in Capital Metro's service ara.

Lee esta historia en español.

Voters in Leander have elected to stay in Capital Metro's service area, affirming for the fourth time since 1985 the city's partnership with the regional transit agency.

With all votes counted in Williamson and Travis Counties, the partnership with CapMetro was supported with 59% of the vote. Leander is mostly in Williamson County but part of the city stretches into Travis County.

The election results mean Leander will keep a commuter rail link into Austin, a commuter bus route and an on-demand minibus called Pickup. The city will also continue paying a 1% sales tax to Capital Metro.

The sales tax generated almost $10 million in 2021. Collections this year are up by 28% compared to the same time last year.

That stream of sales tax revenue became the center of a political debate that prompted Leander City Council to call the election.

Opponents of Proposition A argued not enough people were riding the bus and train to justify the expense. But critics of CapMetro membership differed on what should be done with the sales tax revenue.

A second ballot measure, Proposition B, asked voters if the 1% sales tax should be redirected to Leander's municipal government if the city opted to leave CapMetro. The proposition appeared headed for defeat, but the question was made moot by the election result to stay with the transit agency.

Supporters of CapMetro service celebrated the election results Saturday night and breathed a sigh of relief that their access to rail and bus service would not come to a swift end.

"We want to express our gratitude to those who believe in the future of Leander," said James Larsen with Keep Leander Connected, a group organized to support Proposition A. "I think those [transit] investments have really helped enhance our quality of life."

The decision to stay in CapMetro means Leander will access millions of dollars in new transit-focused infrastructure upgrades like sidewalk and road improvements. The CapMetro board voted earlier this year to sweeten its deal with Leander in an attempt to convince the city to stay in the system.

Under the plan, Leander would get access to almost $2 million in infrastructure funding this year and receive the lion's share of a new $10 million infrastructure fund created by the CapMetro board in January.

"I think that was the game changer," Larsen said Saturday night after it became clear how the election would turn out. "That represented Capital Metro and Leander coming together to find solutions."

This is the fourth time Leander voters have affirmed the city's partnership with CapMetro. After the city voted to join the transit agency in 1985, an attempt to cut ties with CapMetro failed in 2000. Leander voters went on to approve rail service in 2004.

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