Opinion: Don’t re-write the future of Leander based on a commuter train ridership study from the middle of a pandemic

Words, images, and music by Leander resident James Larsen

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My name is James Larsen. I currently live at 840 Hillrose Drive and am building a home at 2616 Pine Branch Road in the Deerbrooke master-planned community for my family of six and our dog, Harvey, who was born during the Hurricane of the same name in 2017.

I moved to Leander because I believe in its present and its future. A present that includes a peaceful commute to my job on the train while pushing e-mails over WiFi. A present that includes soccer games and special events with my kids at Q2 stadium. A future that includes date nights at the Domain and downtown. A future that includes friends, family, and visitors from around the world stepping off an airplane and onto a train that takes them to a beautiful Crystal Lagoon at Leander Springs.

Do you believe in Leander’s present and in its future? Do you want to believe? I think you do. Let yourself believe. Let yourself imagine. Let yourself dream. It’s all within our grasp!

We should not re-write the future of Leander based on a ridership study conducted in the middle of the pandemic when people are not going to the office. We have all seen growth. We know what Leander can become. Be patient! That growth will naturally bring in more than enough revenue to pay for itself.

To illustrate, my neighbors in Deerbrook will each be paying $20,000 to $40,000 for a special assessment as part of a Public Improvement District. That’s over $10 million dollars in our neighborhood alone that we new residents are paying for improvements that the city of Leander won’t have to worry about. The money is there.

We should stop worrying about sharing one percent sales tax with CapMetro. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to all the money and taxes that will be pouring in as more neighborhoods and commercial developments come online. Should we scrap the rail line we’ve invested in for years and pay an estimated $42 million exit fee primarily because of excessive costs per passenger during the midst of a pandemic, a time when people are staying home?

It is disappointing and irresponsible that the City Council chose to put this up for a public vote on such a rushed, biased survey centered on a single, narrow, metric. Wasn’t this voted on before? Why another vote now? What has changed? Low ridership during a global catastrophe?

Tell me, what other public services are held to similar scrutiny (cost of maintaining a “free” on-street parking space, cost per police call, cost per fire dept response, etc.)? Should we assess the costs these of services during the pandemic and put them up for a public vote?

We need the train and public transportation to sustain and accommodate Leander’s growth in the present and well into the future. If you get rid of the relationship with CapMetro and by extension, the train, don’t complain when traffic continues to pile up around San Gabriel and Hero Way. You know it will. And you won’t have a viable alternative.

I believe in Leander. In its past. In its present. In its future. Do you?