Peek into a SITES project: Richard Moya Eastside Bus Plaza

Published on
23 Jan 2023
Ilse Frank
Red brick walkway leads to low circular building, with trees and grasses throughout the area.

Feature image credit: Studio Balcones and Patrick Wong.

Once a flat, plain road median, the SITES Silver Richard Moya Eastside Bus Plaza—named for the first Mexican American person elected to public office in Austin—has been transformed. Now a vibrant, ecologically robust refuge for wildlife, the landscape echoes the historic Central Texas ecoregion of the Blackland Prairie, and offers renewed beauty and comfort to more than 600 riders each day.

This partnership between the major Austin-area transportation agencies and the Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS) has ensured the Richard Moya Bus Plaza remains an effective connection to outlying rural communities coming into central Austin.

"The opportunity to transform a long disused and barren piece of land into a natural and inviting setting through the magic of native sustainable plantings and innovative hydrology was a very satisfying part of this project for CARTS and a great addition to the Eastside Bus Plaza’s public value and utility," explains Dave Marsh, general manager of CARTS.

Situated around a central, circular passenger station, the site radiates out into a series of pedestrian and vehicular scale spaces. Travelers wait surrounded by densely layered plantings in a sunken courtyard on the east side of the station. A series of connected passive stormwater features throughout the site serve the dual purpose of detaining and moving water, while also acting as a buffer from the almost constant bus movement and noisy traffic.

Bicycle racks against a diverse landscape of wildflowers and grasses.

Image credit: Studio Balcones and Patrick Wong.

Transforming the plaza

In order to reshape this 1.8-acre site through the focused lens of the sustainable design standards laid out by both SITES and Austin Energy Green Building standards, the design team, Studio Balcones, collaborated closely with and solicited feedback from users and stakeholders to create a dynamic, sustainable system.

Highlights include

  • The capacity to retain all stormwater from a 100-year storm event through a series of functional and aesthetic passive stormwater management techniques, such as planted rain gardens and swales, vegetated detention ponds, and permeable paving. These features also offer the ability to reduce landscape irrigation water consumption and mitigate potential downstream flooding issues.
  • Increased biodiversity and addition of important natural habitat in the urban core through the planting of 265 caliper inches of trees and over 3,600 rooted plants—a predominantly native planting plan that emulates the historic Blackland Prairie ecoregion and also promotes seasonal variety, with varied bloom times to provide year-round color and interest.
  • A commitment to sustainable landscape maintenance practices and techniques that will change as the site evolves over time.
  • Soil restoration of over 30% of the site area, including, removing existing compacted and degraded top soil, the addition of locally sourced planting soil specified to meet the particular chemical characteristics of the native plant species to promote healthy and successful plant material; and post-construction tests for organic matter, infiltration, and soil biological function.

A bus stopped at a paved circle with a central area of trees and bushes.

Image credit: Studio Balcones and Patrick Wong.

Educating the community

Educational signage scattered throughout the site and station features some of the project's sustainable processes and accomplishments. In addition to the passenger station amenities, the site includes a variety of seating areas and open spaces that promote intimate connection and offer spaces for gatherings.

To educate users and visitors to the CARTS Eastside Bus Plaza about some of the sustainability practices used on-site, the design team created a series of interpretive elements that would guide users through the space. The design team also offers tours, by appointment, for those interested in learning more about the sustainable elements. These tours are led by the project architect, Jana McCann, and the project landscape architect, Ilse Frank.

With this project, CARTS, the Texas Department of Transportation, and Studio Balcones have transformed an often-overlooked space into one that promotes both human and environmental health.

Learn more about the Bus Plaza