Mueller’s Urban Rail Debate
Back on March 6, one of the original design consultants of the Mueller community in Austin came to give a lecture at Texas A&M University. Jim Adams of McCann Adams Studio spoke about the history of the mixed-use redevelopment of the old airport, providing insight on how it has evolved over time and how it is both meeting and exceeding some of the original goals of the project. For those who don’t know, Mueller is a 700-acre community northeast of downtown Austin being built on city-owned land by Denver-based Catellus Development. Construction started back in 2007.
During the lecture I had the opportunity to ask his opinion about the city’s push for urban rail that terminates in the Mueller development. Specifically, I wanted to know how he would respond to the ongoing criticism that essentially claims Mueller’s density doesn’t support fixed rail transit.
Adams framed the question from critics this way: “Why are you, City, doing an alignment that goes to Mueller when we have more potential riders–or more existing riders–along the Guadalupe line that goes up by the university?”
His response was basically that rail is not just a way of capturing existing riders but is also a tool that encourages new ridership and facilitates new land use that supports it. The City of Austin believes that the eastern alignment (from downtown to Mueller) opens more opportunity for future development, while the western alignment–though it has more students–is already built out; thus, creating greater density in that area is less likely.
He also brought up an interesting point that the city received federal grant money to develop bus rapid transit (BRT) along the Guadalupe Street corridor, so rail can’t be built there with that money anyway.
Do you agree with Adams’ perspective?