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ToryGattis

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Everything posted by ToryGattis

  1. Nope, sorry. The way it would work on 290 is they would build the HOT lanes first down the Hempstead corridor, then start 290 reconstruction. The express service would be available throughout construction. Wifi is perfectly doable by buses, and done by all sorts of super-cheap ultra-luxury bus services in the northeast, which, btw, are competing quite effectively with Amtrak, including Acela. I believe the fastest service will draw the most riders, and, in general, across Houston, nonstop buses in express lanes will be faster than commuter rail with connections.
  2. So we're going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to provide service that is only a few minutes faster than existing bus service? You have picked the right corridor to argue from, though. The lack of HOV lanes on the west loop makes express bus service from the north side of town to the south (Greenway, TMC) problematic. If the same money could build those lanes with connecting ramps (probably elevated down the median), I think they would be a better investment. Then you could have nonstop 65mph express buses/vanpools from all over northwest Houston nonstop to Uptown, Greenway, and TMC - and those travel times would blow away what you're describing. A while back I was co-author on a Chron op-ed that called for a "Brain Train" from Galveston UTMB all of the way to College Station TAMU, ideally via the 249 route rather than 290 because there is no freeway/HOV access to the core from the 249 corridor (it would offer completely new access rather than compete with an existing HOV). This was proposed by one of my co-authors (Christof), and despite my skepticism on the economics, I went along with it because it just *might* make cost-benefit sense if done just right (all of the right connections and stops, as well as low costs and hefty federal support). I continue to raise my commuter rail concerns because I want them thought-about by the decision-makers before we blow a lot of money on something that might actually offer worse service than we currently have with the affordable express bus service.
  3. The train plans are at grade, and cannot be rerouted around water like that bus was. As long as Texas is a mostly coal-fired electricity state, trains have plenty of emissions. The data I've seen say, based on average real ridership, that they actually use more energy per passenger than buses or cars. It's not about holding more people or car-life, it's the total cost per *actual* passenger-mile (not theoretical capacity, and inc. capital and maintenance costs), and buses win hands down.
  4. No, Metro is doing the HOV to HOT conversion independent of any 290 rebuild. They already have the federal funds to do it, and expect it to be done over the next year or two. Trains have much more capacity than buses - the equivalent of at least 2 busloads per train car. But the downside is they run less frequently because they take longer to fill up. One train of 500 can go along one route, while 10 50-person busloads can leave from 10 different P&Rs to 10 different destinations (or offer twice the frequency to 5 destinations), taking people directly where they want to go instead of slow transfers. Yes the operator cost is higher, but never enough to come close to the capital and maintenance cost of trains (look at the undermaintained, falling-apart systems in Chicago, NYC, and DC). Trains really only make sense if you're trying to get a ton of people into one destination, but in Houston we're trying to get a ton of people to many destinations. BTW, the transfer and ride time from the north intermodal to TMC would be on the order of a half-hour, as would NWTC to Greenway - and that's *after* they already drove to the P&R and rode the 30-40mph train (another 30-45 mins minimum). Remember that LRT is not as fast as grade-separated subways. Are people going to really tolerate commutes that take that long?
  5. 26 miles in 40 min is 39 mph. 40 min is the best time, which it should be able to achieve regularly once the HOV->HOT conversions are done. So that's roughly a speed match. But at the end of that time, the bus is circulating you to your building, while the rail line is dumping you on the far northern edge of downtown. Also, under my system, rather than having a single bus stop at both the NW transit center (for transfers) and downtown, there would be two buses, one to each job center, and they would circulate without transfers. That would improve the speeds substantially for both sets of riders, esp. if there were a direct ramp from the 290 HOV onto 10 without the NWTC stop.
  6. I think I see the confusion. Yes, there are 4 P&R lots, but a bus leaving from one of them does *not* stop at the other three. It goes directly to the NW transit center and then downtown. The rail would stop at all 4, therefore, yes, in general, it should be slower.
  7. Yes, but we *already* have the freeways, HOV lanes, and buses. That is what our city is and how it evolved. Why chuck it for rail at astronomical cost? It is different because you should be able to drive to the single P&R lot near you and find express buses to all of the major job centers running at frequent intervals, as opposed to driving to a rail stop with a single line only serving a couple of job centers at most, and even those will require transfers and long walks.
  8. I do notice that route varies from 40 min to 50 min based on time of day. I assume that's some sort of HOV congestion issue. When they are converted to HOT, that should go away, as prices will be increased to keep speeds high. Of course rail stops can be farther apart to increase net speeds. But that does make it less convenient for people. In Houston's case, since almost everybody will be driving to/from the commuter rail stops, they could be farther apart and increase speeds. TRE is probably a good model. Point taken. This confused me: "Why does the Cypress commuter rail have to stop more often than the 5 stops that the park&ride busses currently make?" The P&R buses should be going nonstop from the P&R lot to the destination job center, then stopping multiple times there to get people close to their building (in this specific case, they do make one stop at the NW transit center for transfers). As I mentioned before, that job center circulation is not comparable to what rail offers, but to what people have to do after they get off the rail at the single station on the north edge of downtown. Buses can do this because they're small enough that they can fill up at a single P&R lot and don't need to stop at other P&R lots along the way, and yet they can still offer frequent service. A train is huge, with large capacity, and must stop multiple times along the route to fill up and yet still offer frequent service.
  9. Yes, but I don't think we're better off changing from a city with more flexibility - i.e. "I can locate my home or business in many places and still have access to express buses" - to one with less - "I now have to locate near a small handful of rail stops or I'm screwed."
  10. Speed: they are clearly different. A commuter train stops every couple of miles along its entire route, netting to 30-40mph. An express bus leaving from a P&R directly onto a freeway HOV is immediately going 65mph over its entire route (as long as the lanes exist), *until* it exits at the job center. Then it circulates. That circulation would slow the average speed over the entire route, but it's a "feature not a bug" because it's getting people closer to their destination building without a transfer. That train stop would have been substantially farther away. That circulation speed should not be factored in and compared to the train, but rather compared to whatever people have to do *after they get off the train* (i.e. walk or transfer). Flexibility: you're talking about the P&R lot side, I'm talking about the route among the destination buildings. Obviously the P&R lots don't move. But I do favor contracts with private parking lots all over the city that are underutilized on weekdays, like churches and malls, to offer additional, closer P&R lots. jgriff: trains are obviously more comfortable vehicles than buses. Bigger seats, easier to walk around, and there can be services like a cafe car. But the real reasons people like trains is that they've had a good experience with them when they visited much older cities that evolved around the lines, where it really works well (esp. in Europe). Those old, dense, colder cities, built around walking before trains even existed, fit well with rail because they kept their jobs concentrated in a single, main, downtown job center (like Manhattan or downtown Chicago). But they extrapolate that to assume that it's also the right answer for Houston, a decentralized, sunbelt, low density, post-WW2, car-based city. We have less than 7% of our jobs downtown, and many different job centers (dt, uptown, TMC, Greenway, Greenspoint, Clear Lake, Energy Corridor, Westchase, etc.) We also have pedestrian-hostile climate 5 months of the year - and while you can wear coats for cold northern weather, there are no air-conditioned clothes we can wear down here. Our city wasn't built like theirs, and serving it with rail transit makes about as much sense as replacing their old-city rail lines with freeways.
  11. Of course commuter rail speeds vary depending on the number of stops. I've seen 30mph in reports. Props to TRE for making 40mph - we should try to do the same. You bring up a specific slower express bus route with surface streets as a substantial part of its route, but they can do 65mph in the HOV lanes. Trains avg 30-40mph over their entire length. We will need more diamond/HOV/HOT lanes in key places so the higher speeds can be sustained over more of the routes, mainly on the 610 loop. I agree existing express bus service is not done well by Metro. There should be more expresses nonstop to more job centers, and they should do a better job circulating, which they are perfectly capable of doing. Just because the service is not done that way today does not mean that it could not. The real "red herring" is believing the city will adapt around the rail stops, esp. employers, when it could take many, many decades, if ever. The buses are inherently more flexible and can get closer to destination buildings than rail ever will. And their routes can be easily adapted if new job concentrations grow in new places, for whatever reason. I am not opposed to LRT as a core circulator, but, in Houston, commuter transit is better done by express buses than heavy rail.
  12. This is not as clear-cut as it seems. Judge Emmett's argument, which I sympathize with, is that we need all available transportation capacity we can muster, esp. if there are underutilized rail lines. On the other side there are two main problems (assuming costs are reasonable, which is a big assumption). One is that these lines won't come inside the 610 loop, where the tracks are more congested. Major problem, since that's where everybody wants to go, and transfers to shuttle buses or long light rail rides aren't going to work for most people. The only part I can see working is the 290 line feeding the Uptown LRT, but there's no way those riders will continue on to Greenway, Downtown, or TMC, given the slow LRT speeds (<20mph net). But there is a bigger problem: express buses in managed lanes are faster (65mph vs. 30mph net avg for commuter rail with stops), more frequent, much cheaper, more convenient (closer Park and Rides, no transfers), and can circulate at job centers to get people right to their destination building (and stay out of the weather as much as possible). But the ironclad rule of rail investment is that all competing bus service must be canceled to maximize rail ridership. So, in the end, people end up with much worse service for much more money. I'd like to think there's a way to mix everything (commuter rail, LRT, and buses) and get better overall service, but I don't see how.
  13. Why can't they play at Reliant? Climate-controlled, NFL-class facility with plenty of available dates. Will be connected by light rail to the campus in just a few years. No parking problems. Take the money saved and plow it into other improvements to go for Tier 1 status.
  14. I had it a while back, and found the outages from heavy rains to be annoying. You'll be watching DVR recordings of your favorite shows, and right at a critical juncture, it'll go to static snow because there was a rain storm during the recording period. Same with live sports events. Houston gets heavier downpours more frequently than most of the country (although not so much this summer), and it's a problem. I don't think the minor savings is worth the hassle vs. Comcast or AT&T U-verse (which I've heard very good things about, and was rated highly in a Consumer Reports survey).
  15. Downtown was the *perfect* place for such a district - walkable, shaded, plenty of people come down from their buildings right after work (not to mention to/from the sports stadiums and convention center), tons of parking, next to the theater district nightlife, few residents to upset (and they probably live there because they *want* street life) - yet it faded for reasons I don't understand. That's where it needs to be, and that's where it could be nurtured back.
  16. You asked for rampant speculation, so here it is: the writing is on the wall that United will declare bankruptcy next year and be forced to merge with Continental. That will require a massive private equity investment (which could be very profitable, btw), and who better to lead and assemble that PE firm than the former CEO of Continental? That gives both investors and Wall Street a sense of credibility - that they might actually pull it off without destroying each other in the process. It would create the largest airline in the world. The question is can we find a way to keep the HQ here instead of Chicago?
  17. OK, my blog post is up with some additional excerpts and commentary.
  18. The other thread has focused on education. This one is for the Leader and survey as a whole (6 stories total). There is a lot here to talk about, so insert your favorite excerpts for discussion. I'll put a link here to my own post on Houston Strategies when it's up. Houston gets most of the attention. Doing a word count in the PDF, Houston gets mentioned 37 times vs. 20 for Dallas, but they did get the cover image for the section (not available online, but a shot of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders on the center field Lone Star at Cowboys stadium, since the title of the report is Lone Star Rising - maybe someone can scan it and upload it here?). Gotta love the cover... Here is the concluding excerpt:
  19. How did Candelari's not make the short list? Long live King Mike's! http://www.candelaris.com/
  20. You know, I'm not surprised by this. The food there never really impressed me, although the location did (backside forest and bayou). I think the landlord figured out if he got somebody in there with food to match the ambiance, that restaurant would make more money and therefore be able to pay higher rent.
  21. You might try using the U-turn at Broadway (after exiting off 610eb). A little distance, but should be fast.
  22. You know, if they expanded the scope from 'world' cities to 'galactic' cities - or even just the solar system - I think we'd move dramatically to the top of the rankings...
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