In general, an easement is a legally agreed upon use of land between a property owner and a third party whereas a right of way is a designated publicly owned and maintained portion of land.
Easements are granted by one landowner by will, deed or contract; all of which can be terminated through specified expiration or by submitting easement release documents to the city. In cities such as Austin, easements are usually granted to utility providers to legally allow them to enter a private property to service their utilities that are on the site. There are two types of easements: gross and appurtenant. A gross easement gives a specific individual or utility provider the right to use a portion of your land without the benefits of owning it, whereas an appurtenant easement benefits adjoining lands and is passed on when the property is sold. A gross easement is held by an individual and is personally granted for a finite period of time, unless granted indefinitely by deed. An appurtenant easement involves adjoining parcels where one provides the easement and the other benefits from the easement. In general, easements do not grant ownership rights, only non-possessory rights which must be agreed upon by all parties.
Right of Way
As mentioned above, a right of way is publicly owned land that is dedicated to the public’s use. It provides transport infrastructure for pedestrians to legally pass through neighborhoods and city roads. For example, in sub-chapter E of the City of Austin Land Development Code, requires that there must be at least 15 feet of public sidewalk dedicated from the edge of a building specifically for trees, furniture and pedestrian walkways along CORE TRANSIT CORRIDORS. If the requirements can be contained within the right of way then an easement is not needed. Utilities found within a public right of way are maintained by the entity that owns the right of way.