Getting From Here to There

At the moment, what is meant to become one of Austin's most pedestrian-friendly areas is virtually unreachable on foot. Transportwise, the Domain is a pair of conjoined twins, each with separate needs. Domain I, the retail area, is meant to be a regional destination, a shopping environment meant to drag in tax dollars from much of Central Texas. Domain II will be a heavily residential, mixed-use environment, planned to prioritize public transport, biking, and foot traffic. Domain I needs a lot of traditional road access for incoming customers; Domain II is about getting residents out of their cars.

Part of the initial appeal of the Domain for developer Endeavor was its easy road access. Not only is it right next to MoPac, with 13 points of road ingress along its entire border, but it benefits from the east-west road system that northern Travis and southern Williamson counties have and most of Austin lacks. It's also a short drive from the new $2.3 billion toll-road system. "If you look at these roads – 183-A, SH-45, SH-130, and the North MoPac toll-road – it sort of forms a goalpost," said Endeavor's Kirk Rudy, "and at the base is the Domain."

When Domain II really kicks in, Capital Metro expects its role will increase dramatically. Currently, two bus routes – the No. 3 Burnet/Manchaca, and the No. 174 Burnet Limited Service from Downtown – go past the Domain but not onto it. That could change with three big markers. First, when people start moving into Domain II; second, with the opening of routes on Cap Metro's planned high-speed MetroRapid "road train" high tech buses; and third, when a proposed nearby station on the MetroRail commuter line opens. Although Cap Metro is hoping to open the station in the Kramer Lane area, the exact location has yet to be confirmed, said Capital Metro spokesman Adam Shaivitz. As soon as the layouts for both Domain II and the rail are confirmed, Cap Metro will start to plan to meet future needs. "Our planners are keeping a close eye on that," said Shaivitz, "and will be making route changes as and when."

One concept being considered is a circulator shuttle-bus service that will pick up train passengers and distribute them through the area. It will mean less of an overall dependence on the ubiquitous Cap Metro big bus, but it's not exactly virgin territory for the city's public-transport system. "Our range is a little longer than people perceive, because not everyone sees our express buses or our smaller special-transit service shuttles," said Lucy Galbraith, TOD manager for Cap Metro.

This doesn't mean, by a long shot, no cars in the Domain. Having a drivable street network could take some pressure off major roads. The hope is that people will take short hops on the local streets, freeing highways up for long-distance trips. "That's what they're good at," said Galbraith. But there's also a hope the development will reduce the number of road journeys, as some people walk to work. That means fewer cars on the road and less need for car parks taking up development space. "Think of Downtown," said Galbraith. "It has 90,000 employees, and if 10 percent of them took transit or biked or walked, that saves building a 9,000-space parking garage. We don't need to get 51 percent of people to do this – 5 percent to 10 percent makes a significant difference."

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