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The Voice of University Oaks

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  1. They will be connected. The Uptown BRT line will go through the Northwest Transit Center and then run east towards downtown along an elevated busway that METRO and TxDOT are designing right now.
  2. Glad that EK is bringing the A380 back. As for service to Africa, probably not going to happen unless United sees a reason to resume the Lagos route. Another remote possibility is South African Airways - they are a Star Alliance member - flying from JNB to IAH (maybe they could make an interim stop in Luanda a few days a week to replace SonAir's service). But I don't see that happening anytime soon. (Cool fact: South African Airways actually flew to Houston for a brief period in the early '80s. They used 747SP equipment that had to stop to refuel in Cape Verde. The service didn't last long, because A) local anti-apartheid activists including future US Representative Mickey Leland petitioned Mayor Whitmire and City Council to revoke their landing rights, and B) the service just didn't make a lot of sense to begin with.)
  3. Umm, maybe because the structure is intended for buses, rather than two-person "carpools"?
  4. An Emirates A380 flew right over my head when I was driving down Will Clayton a couple of weeks ago. Did they not go back to the triple seven, or am I missing something?
  5. METRO is petitioning to the City of Houston to designate Richmond between Main and Greenway Plaza as a "transit street" on its Major Thoroughfare Plan. This is useful for planning/engineering and interagency coordination purposes, but it's a far cry from any portion of the line actually being built anytime soon. Especially since building any portion of the line will cost money and federal grant agreements that METRO simply does not have right now. The next thing that's going to be built (after the three lines currently under construction are completed) is the Uptown BRT, provided funding can be secured. Uptown District is actually driving this project; METRO has simply agreed to provide service. The U-line, I'm afraid, is at least a decade away at this point.
  6. Not only ridiculous, but a direct violation of both FRA and FTA regulations. METRO had proposed an at-grade crossing as part of Frank Wilson's 2005 "BRT-convertible" transit plan. It was a dumb idea even with BRT, as the number of freight trains passing through there would have completely screwed up a system that was supposed to be more reliable than local bus (by virtue of dedicated lanes, offboard fare-collection, etc.), but when the BRT plan was scapped in favor of LRT, there was simply no way a grade crossing at that location was even fathomable.
  7. No surprise here. Airport Direct was well-intentioned, and the few times I used it it worked exactly as advertised. I think Greanias made a good-faith effort to keep it afloat by lowering the fare from $15 to $4.50 (thus bringing its cost in line with other relatively successful airport bus services around the nation, like Denver's SkyRide or LA's FlyAway) and having it serve other downtown destinations other than just the Downtown Transit Center. But even though more people used the service after it was altered, it still didn't generate enough ridership to make up for the decrease in revenue and actually ended up losing more money than before. There were a number of flaws with the service. It focused on serving a vanishingly small market, namely business and convention travelers whose destination was downtown who didn't want to rent a car. The vast majority of business and convention travelers to Houston, of course, do rent a car so they can get from their hotel to meetings, restaurants and the like. It wasn't optimal for local travelers unless they were dropped off or picked up at the DTC (as I was) or transferred to and from local bus or rail at the DTC (which air travelers rarely do). Parking at a garage downtown near the DTC and taking the bus to IAH was more expensive and less convenient than simply driving to the airport and parking there. Airport workers (namely lower-wage workers, such as custodial staff and food service workers... maybe the occasional baggage handler or TSA agent), which generally make up the bulk of transit riders to airports in the United States, were priced out, even after the fare was reduced ($9 round trip every day is prohibitively expensive when you're making minimum wage). Taxis and SuperShuttle might be more expensive, but they offer door-to-door service. Obviously some people did use the service, so maybe there's an opportunity for METRO to work with SuperShuttle or somebody to continue providing some sort of DTC-to-IAH link. But there was never enough demand to justify using 45' Park and Ride coaches for the service.
  8. That is even more interesting. Is it a difference between the two reports as to what is defined as a rail-related accident? And if so, why is it off by exactly half (or twice, depending on your perspective)? To make it clear: I take every report generated by Frank Wilson's METRO with a huge grain of salt. But I don't know anything about the people who provided your data either. I am not passing judgement, just noting a peculiar discrepancy.
  9. I noticed that the number of rail accidents in the information provided to TheNiche is exactly twice the number reported in METRO's own FY08 summary: FY2008 Year End Fiscal and Management Report See p. 35. Not sure why that is, but interesting.
  10. FWIW, a TXDoT engineer once told me that Cleveland was chosen as the control city for 59 north because that is the closest city to where 59 ends as a limited-access freeway and becomes an at-grade divided highway.
  11. The KTRK story says that the service costs $1.5 million to operate per year. That works out to about $4,110 per day (Airport Direct is, to my knowledge, the only METRO service that operates the same schedule every day of the year, including holidays). There are 60 one-way trips on this service. That breaks down to an operating cost of $68.50 per one-way trip. That means the service needs approximately 4.5 passengers per trip, or 274 passengers per day, to break even (i.e. have an operating ratio of 100%). Instead, according to METRO's own spokesperson, the service is achieving an operating ratio of 22 percent, although if you divide $15 by $74 the number is really 20%. Do the math, and this works out to about 55 riders per day. Or, as the KTRK story notes, less than two people per each round trip. Less than one person per each one-way trip. In other words, some of these buses are running completely empty, and the buses that are carrying people aren't carrying very many. The question then becomes: is this an efficient use of METRO resources, considering that in absolute terms the subsidy per rider on this service is far higher than METRO's average subsidy per rider? MetroMogul is arguing that it is not. I can't really argue with him, and I say that as somebody who really wanted to see the service succeed. I think the Airport Direct service was well-intentioned. Somebody at METRO (my understanding that it was driven by upper management and the Board of Directors; service planning was apparently not in favor of the service because they felt like they already tried the concept with the 112 several years ago) thought there was room for them to compete in the IAH-to-CBD business travel market by offering a cheaper alternative to taxis. And indeed, there are some express airport bus services in other cities, such as the FlyAway service in Los Angeles or the SkyRide system in Denver, that are actually relatively successful (although it's worth mentioning that both services are cheaper than Airport Direct; FlyAway charges $7 from LAX to downtown LA and SkyRide charges $10 from downtown Denver to DIA. Both of these services also offer discounts to airport employees, who make up the majority of transit users to airports in any city. METRO does not offer any discounts for airport employees, and nobody who works at IAH is going to pay $30/day to commute to and from work.) It really is a shame that Airport Direct is not used by more people. I've used it on a couple of occasions and it does exactly what it is supposed to do, which is get you from downtown to IAH in 30 minutes. I don't know if it's because people aren't willing to pay $15 to ride a METRO bus, or because not enough people (especially out-of-town business travelers) know about it, or whatever. But, generally speaking for transit services, a year and a half should be enough time to build ridership. Given that that hasn't occurred, and also given that a new Board and CEO is coming in soon, I don't see Airport Direct operating much longer.
  12. University Oaks used to have the same discrepancy. When the neighborhood was platted, the names of the east-west streets took the names of the streets already running through Riverside Terrace, i.e. Wentworth, Blodgett, etc. But sometime in the 1960s, the neighborhood successfully petitioned for the names of the neighborhood's east-west streets to be changed, because they weren't connected to the older streets they were named after. so Wentworth became Faculty, Blodgett became Fiesta, etc. The old street names remained on the tiles, however. A few years ago the streets in the neighborhood were completely rebuilt, and the tiles were removed.
  13. Hey Erik: Is there any way you could create a printable .pdf of that webpage?
  14. Dubai is also replacing congested roundabouts with standard four-way intersections. For example, the roundabout at Sheikh Kalifa bin Zayed Street and Bin Al Waleed Street in front of the Burjuman: it might have been a great idea fifteen years ago, when the number of vehicles in Dubai was a fraction of what they are today, but today that intersection is an absolute disaster. Once construction on the metro station at that location is complete, the roundabout will be replaced with a conventional intersection. Roundabouts that haven't yet become congested, on the other hand, seem to work well.
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