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Cap Metro makes progress with equitable transit-oriented development project

Thursday, June 16, 2022 by Samuel Stark

Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority updated the Urban Transportation Commission last Wednesday on the progress it has made on the equitable transit-oriented development project. The eTOD project uses $1.65 million in federally awarded grant money to study ways to reduce gentrification and encourage new economic opportunities for traditionally underserved communities along the new Project Connect transit corridors.

Transit-oriented development is a planning approach to create dense communities with commercial and residential uses around new or existing public transportation systems. While there are many benefits to this form of design, it may lead to the displacement of lower-income communities and residents of color.

Equitable versions attempt to avoid gentrification by including more opportunities in the planning process for communities that have been historically neglected.

Austin’s eTOD project, which began in the fall of 2021, started by studying which communities were at a heightened risk of displacement along the future transit corridors that will span North Lamar, Guadalupe and Riverside. In an attempt to learn from other cities’ successes and failures, the study team looked at nine different metropolitan systems across the country. The team is now in its community engagement stage, which involves going into at-risk areas to find out community members’ priorities and key levels of concern.

The eTOD team acknowledged that outreach can sometimes be ineffective in reaching some people. To mitigate this, they offered financial compensation to draw in people who might otherwise be overlooked.

“So far, that has brought spectacular feedback,” said Anna Lan, Capital Metro’s principal planner.

The team hired 12 Austinites from varying backgrounds and paid them $25 an hour to engage with their communities about the transit corridors.

“In the span of just three months, we have logged over 26 events with over 40 hours of active engagement. Also, 104 folks engaged from the connectors alone,” Lan said.

The policy goals of the plan thus far include ensuring all residents benefit from accessible transportation, helping to close racial and wealth gaps, and preserving and increasing affordable housing opportunities.

Curious about the risk of displacement in your neighborhood? The eTOD team has developed an interactive map of communities along the new transit corridors. Users may choose a neighborhood on the dashboard and explore the current and future risks of displacement, or find out how much the rents have increased in the area or how many housing units have been added in the last decade.

The eTOD team hopes to complete their policy framework research by August so the city can start adopting policies by September.

Photo by Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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