Manor and Elgin prepare for commuter rail expansion

Not far from Manor's old town district there is a small CapMetro shuttle bus park and ride.

It’s located along train tracks which are also owned by CapMetro. The rails are only used for hauling freights, but people may also start riding them.

When that happens, officials in Manor, like Assistant Development Director Scott Dunlop, expect big changes. "The city is excited for it our Mayor she serves on CapMetro's Board and she is a big advocate for it, the city and the rail," said Dunlop. 

The route through Manor is part of what's called the Green Line.

It stretches from downtown Austin, east, and eventually stops in Elgin.

The Green Line is part of a larger mobility plan called Project Connect. In December, CapMetro's board of directors voted to start pushing the overall plan forward.  

A project manager is now focusing on routes through downtown Austin and to the airport.  

After that, CapMetro will turn its attention to the Green Line.

There is no official start date but potential station sites in Manor have been proposed. Dunlop says they're just east and west of town. How those stations could change growth patterns, which are mostly single family residential, is the big question.  

"It probably will be more of a blending, with the Grant CapMetro has received from the government, they are going to be doing station area planning, and zoning, preliminary zoning around those areas so we will be able to get a better idea about what the residents want. It will be a collaborative process between the city, CapMetro and everyone involved in what they want to see,” said Dunlop.

For those living east of the SH 130 tollway, commuter rail would provide a much needed alternative to Hwy 290. Traffic typically grinds into gridlock during the morning and afternoon rush hours.

It’s much too soon to say when the proposed Green Line could roll into Elgin. Part of the problem is that the town is not part of CapMetro's taxing district. But steps are being made that could change that.

"We understand we will have to pay our fair share, and we are more than willing to join the taxing district, under the right conditions,” said Elgin City Manager Tom Mattis.

Those conditions, according Mattis, will be discussed with CapMetro in the coming weeks. "To this point it’s been a lot of talk about plans but not tangible which is a problem for us,” said Mattis.

Mattis believes the residential growth that’s coming to Elgin will provide CapMetro more than enough incentive to extend rail service. He doesn't envision the growth that will follow to be exactly like what’s in Austin. "But I think the opportunity to have your classic residential right next to the commuter line is still here, there's a lot of undeveloped land where that could occur,” said Mattis.

A major investment, however, in infrastructure by both cities remains on hold until a firm commitment from CapMetro arrives. Elgin is getting a new transit station that’s being built near its old train depot. By March of next year, the carts inter-urban buses will operate from it as well as the CapMetro bus route 990 and Greyhound buses.