Leander considers CapMetro exit despite expansion promise

The bus service into Leander, as well as Metro Rail trips, are geared toward the work week commuter.

On Tuesday CapMetro executive VP Todd Hemingson announced that Saturday rail service to Leander will begin in January.

“There will be some weekend service to Leander, we still have to determine the final details on how, when and all that,” said Hemingson.

Expanding the hours of operation for Metro Rail comes as city officials in Leander explore the idea of pulling out of the transit agency. An agenda item for Thursday’s Council meeting involves hiring an attorney to look into a CapMetro exit. 

Mayor Troy Hill Tuesday said the item is far from a done deal.

“It’s kind a premature, talking about getting out,” Hill said.

Hill indicated the promise of the new Saturday Metro Rail Service will not address his concerns.

“You know I don’t think it does, I think it’s a funding issue right now, but certainly would help, it would’ve been nice if it did happen 6 or 7 years ago,” said Hill.

Leander provides about $5 million to the agency’s budget by being part of CapMetro’s taxing district. Hill thinks that amount should buy more service. Officials at CapMetro offered a different opinion on that.

“We hear what the mayor is saying but if you look at the numbers in terms of how much sales tax is paid in versus the amount of service they receive we believe they are getting a good deal today,” said Hemingson.

Cap Metro has also offered to expand a new ride hailing service to Leander. A pilot program was tested in east central Austin in 2017 and recently launched in Manor.

It will be up to voters to decide whether or not to leave CapMetro. If they do, the last bus and train out will leave pretty fast.

“The day the vote is verified, we discontinue service again that’s under state law, there will be no rail service if Leander chose to vote out,” said Hemingson.

There would also be the matter of a multi-million dollar exit fee that Leander would also have to pay.

“It’s state law actually but it’s basically because we’ve made investments, capital in the case of the transit station itself, the rail line bus facility, all that, if they abandon, if they left, essentially they have to pay us back for that piece.” said Hemingson.

If Leander leaves, the mayor says the city may try to start its own bus service, or will try to negotiate a smaller amount paid to CapMetro.