LEANDER, Texas — On May 7, Central Texas voters will weigh in on two proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution, as well as a number of local contests. For voters in Leander, that includes a major decision related to public transit in the city.
In May 2021, the Leander City Council approved putting the issue of whether the City should cut ties with the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CapMetro) on the local ballot. At that time, the council still needed to call an election.
In January 2022, the council was set to review draft ballot language that would ask voters if the City should end the partnership. The continued discussion came after a December 2021 study conducted by a contractor highlighted low ridership numbers and limitations to the current service offered by CapMetro.
Later in January, the council members voted to hold a special election in May 2022 to place the matter in the voters' hands.
Now, on their May 7 ballots, Leander voters will see the following question under Proposition A: "Shall the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority be continued in the City of Leander?" They will have the option to vote "yes" or "no."
Let's break things down further.
Leander's current CapMetro agreement
The City of Leander currently pays CapMetro for bus and rail services with 1% of the sales tax revenue collected in the city. But some residents argue the costs aren't worth it. In 2021, Leander's sales tax revenue generated $9.8 million for CapMetro.
Leander has paid 1 cent out of the 2 cents collected in local sales tax since 1985 when the City joined CapMetro. Based on current population and business growth projections, Leander’s December 2021 study found that the City could pay CapMetro double what it paid in 2021 – $18.4 million – by 2032.
Proposition A: What happens if it passes? If it fails?
According to the City, if the majority of voters vote "yes" on Proposition A during the May 7 election, existing CapMetro services would continue and CapMetro would continue to be funded in part by a 1% sales tax in the city.
If the majority of voters vote "no," CapMetro services in Leander would stop on the day after the election results are canvassed, and "the financial obligations of Capital Metro attributable to the City of Leander would cease to accrue."
Additionally, under state law, CapMetro would continue to be funded in part by a 1% sales tax until the City's net financial obligation to CapMetro is collected. As of Dec. 31, 2021, CapMetro reported that amount to be $42.3 million.
Can Leander renegotiate its partnership with CapMetro?
The City says that the binding nature of its relationship with CapMetro is by election, not by contract. CapMetro was established by voter referendum in 1985, and the City held another election in 2000 in which voters chose to continue CapMetro service.
In order for Leander to withdraw as a member city and seek separate services, the City must hold an election and a majority of voters must choose not to continue CapMetro service.
Member cities can, however, enter into separate interlocal agreements with CapMetro.
In March 2022, the City of Leander and CapMetro finalized an interlocal agreement to allow for Leander sales tax revenue allocated to CapMetro, as well as one-time CapMetro funds, to be used for certain transportation projects in the community as part of CapMetro’s "Build Central Texas" program. Funds made available through the interlocal agreement are contingent upon Leander remaining a member city of CapMetro, according to the City.
If Leander cuts ties with CapMetro, what would happen to the train tracks? The rail station?
The City says the Capital Metro Red Line currently operates on existing freight tracks, and it is not aware of any changes to rail infrastructure that would remove or reduce freight usage if CapMetro services in Leander were to end.
Meanwhile, CapMetro owns and operates the Leander Station Park and Ride. The City said CapMetro will not discuss future or alternative facility plans with the City until after the May 7 election.
If the CapMetro service ends, how long before Leander could get service again?
The City says that if Proposition A passes, Leander can't hold a similar ballot measure for at least five years. If the proposition fails, there is not a similar restriction defined in the Texas Transportation Code regarding a ballot measure to join CapMetro.
If Proposition A fails, how will traffic be managed without CapMetro services?
The City says that it recently completed a Transportation Master Plan intended to be a guidebook for what Leander's future roadway network looks like and what future infrastructure investments should be made.
The City also said that if CapMetro services were to end as a result of the May 7 election, it would work to reestablish some level of local transit service.
At the April 21 council meeting, members approved an agenda item related to what happens next if Proposition A fails and the City cuts ties with CapMetro. The council approved awarding a $520,520, six to eight-month contract to Star Shuttle Inc. for interim shuttle services if CapMetro services cease following the election.
In a statement sent to KVUE, CapMetro said:
"CapMetro is committed to serving the residents of Leander who depend on and benefit from its services, and we know how important the agency’s services are to so many people in Leander. The agency has been engaged with Leander and feels that recent CapMetro board actions demonstrate the value and importance of Leander’s membership in CapMetro and that CapMetro services positively impact the mobility and economic development goals of the city."
For more information on the impacts of Proposition A, read the City's full FAQ.
Are Leander voters weighing in on anything else this election?
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