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That HOV to HOT conversion would be done as part of the $3 Billion rebuild of 290. So, $3 Billion to achieve roughly a speed match for a less comfortable and less popular mode of transit. Bear in mi

Yes, it'll be expensive, but it'll be even more expensive in another 30 or 40 years when we'll do it anyhow. It's before most everybody's time on this board (including my own), but for a full forty y

Not true, the Red Line is highly successful despite being significantly slower than a car for most point-to-points.

A ) Congrats Speedy... a week old article.

B ) It hasnt been decided which of several possible entities would run this operation. "Union Pacific willing to work with public officials." ?? did you even read what you posted... That would only true for GCRD... not Metro or Txdot.

C) It's not even news. It's an editorial, an opinion piece. It's the County judge coming to bat for one of the the entities mentioned above.

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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.

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But there is a bigger problem: express buses in managed lanes are faster (65mph vs. 30mph net avg for commuter rail with stops)...

That would be a big problem if it were true. To use real life examples, rather than guessing, the Trinity Railway Express in Dallas-Fort Worth runs approximately 38 miles in 57 minutes (per their schedule), for an average speed of about 40 mph. The METRO Cypress 217 Park and Ride runs from Skinner Road to downtown, a distance of 26.5 miles, in 50 minutes, for an average speed of 31 mph. And, considering that Greenway Plaza and the TMC are serviced by running a bus through downtown first, then on to TMC or Greenway, transferring from a commuter train wouldn't take any more time than it already does. From Cypress, Greenway and the Galleria is serviced by driving down S. Post Oak, then driving east on Richmond...virtually the identical route of the light rail. Again, no quicker than the train. The park & Ride busses do not circulate amongst the buildings. They stop at designated stops. TMC has a circulator that serves the busses AND the light rail. Your "circulating park&ride" argument does not hold water.

Your "flexibility" argument is a red herring. The park&ride busses depart from permanent stations with permanent concrete parking lots. They enter permanent freeways via permanent flyovers onto the permanent HOV lanes. Moreover, permanence increases ridership. Rail commuters AND park&riders know EXACTLY where the stops are and when they run. There is consistency because they are permanent. Bus routes change constantly, affecting the confidence that the stop will always be there. And, permanent rail stations encourage development nearby, making commuting even easier. The same can be said for Houston METRO's park&ride stations and light rail stations, but not for regular bus stops.

The one thing that is true about your bus argument is that it is cheaper to build infrastructure.

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The one thing that is true about your bus argument is that it is cheaper to build infrastructure.

It seems to me the same people who don't and wouldn't use public transportation in the first place are the same people who argue against commuter and light rail. It seems that since they don't see a value in it for themselves, it wouldn't benefit anyone.

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That would be a big problem if it were true. To use real life examples, rather than guessing, the Trinity Railway Express in Dallas-Fort Worth runs approximately 38 miles in 57 minutes (per their schedule), for an average speed of about 40 mph. The METRO Cypress 217 Park and Ride runs from Skinner Road to downtown, a distance of 26.5 miles, in 50 minutes, for an average speed of 31 mph. And, considering that Greenway Plaza and the TMC are serviced by running a bus through downtown first, then on to TMC or Greenway, transferring from a commuter train wouldn't take any more time than it already does. From Cypress, Greenway and the Galleria is serviced by driving down S. Post Oak, then driving east on Richmond...virtually the identical route of the light rail. Again, no quicker than the train. The park & Ride busses do not circulate amongst the buildings. They stop at designated stops. TMC has a circulator that serves the busses AND the light rail. Your "circulating park&ride" argument does not hold water.

Your "flexibility" argument is a red herring. The park&ride busses depart from permanent stations with permanent concrete parking lots. They enter permanent freeways via permanent flyovers onto the permanent HOV lanes. Moreover, permanence increases ridership. Rail commuters AND park&riders know EXACTLY where the stops are and when they run. There is consistency because they are permanent. Bus routes change constantly, affecting the confidence that the stop will always be there. And, permanent rail stations encourage development nearby, making commuting even easier. The same can be said for Houston METRO's park&ride stations and light rail stations, but not for regular bus stops.

The one thing that is true about your bus argument is that it is cheaper to build infrastructure.

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.

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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.

Tory: I know your an expert on this subject that can argue both sides if you wish. It seems like we always hear about the downsides of rail based transit. What are some of the upsides? It seems there are a lot of people in favor of rail based transit. What are their reasons for favoring it over buses?

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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.

I didn't expect you to admit intentionally trying to make busses look faster than trains, but I didn't expect you to make rebutting your argument so easy, either. I bring up a "specific slower express bus route" because that is the EXACT ROUTE that the 290 commuter train will replace. And, even your explanation of train vs. bus speeds is still intentionally deceptive. In your first post, you claimed "express buses in managed lanes are faster (65mph vs. 30mph net avg for commuter rail with stops". In your feeble attempt at explaining yourself, you claim busses "can do 65mph in the HOV lanes". What kind of argument is that? Net speed versus top speed? Please, you are embarrassing yourself.

And stop with the "flexible" argument already! We don't want flexible! I don't think you even lived in Houston in 1984, but in that year, I took the Kuykendahl P&R to law school downtown nearly every day. Back then, the P&R lot was surrounded by fields. Guess what? That same P&R is still running in the same location today, surrounded by apartments, with no intention of moving. There are dozens just like it all over the METRO service area.

It is possible that busses are better than commuter rail in Houston. But, we wouldn't know it based on your arguments. Your arguments amount to a conclusion looking for stats to back it up. Use fair comparisons and see where it ends up. You might be surprised.

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From Cypress, Greenway and the Galleria is serviced by driving down S. Post Oak, then driving east on Richmond...virtually the identical route of the light rail. Again, no quicker than the train.

OK, here's a positive argument for the train.... the bus is no quicker. I'm looking for more of this. What are the other reasons that rail is better than bus?

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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.

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It seems to me the same people who don't and wouldn't use public transportation in the first place are the same people who argue against commuter and light rail. It seems that since they don't see a value in it for themselves, it wouldn't benefit anyone.

Being primarily concerned with what benefits you is, unfortunately, a common human condition. As soon as gas prices spike back up and the cost of commuting rises again you'll see those arguments subside and general interest resume in public transportation. Hopefully, our public officials will take this likelihood into account and prepare the groundwork so we won't be so far behind the curve when the need hits.

Interestingly, during last summer's gas price spike I started seeing more of what looked like middle-class white folks waiting at bus stops on the west side. When the prices went back down, they disappeared.

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And stop with the "flexible" argument already! We don't want flexible! I don't think you even lived in Houston in 1984, but in that year, I took the Kuykendahl P&R to law school downtown nearly every day. Back then, the P&R lot was surrounded by fields. Guess what? That same P&R is still running in the same location today, surrounded by apartments, with no intention of moving. There are dozens just like it all over the METRO service area.

I suspect you'll find even more examples if you look at public transit in the US and abroad over a longer range of years. Having a predictable, long-term investment in the transportation network drives development in those areas over the long term. You can even make that argument using our current primary infrastructure, the highway system, and see that development tends to occur more frequently on or close to the highways.

If you build a rail system, they will come.

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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).

Again, apples and oranges. You insist that the train must stop "every couple of miles". Why? The TRE makes 9 stops along its 38 mile route, or every 4.5 miles. Why does the Cypress commuter rail have to stop more often than the 5 stops that the park&ride busses currently make? It's a commuter train, not a light rail. And, suggesting that a 70 mph train on a dedicated track is slower than a bus that must compete with cars on an HOV is ridiculous. I watch the busses get bogged down in HOV traffic daily. That is why METRO schedules the 26.5 mile Cypress bus to take 50 minutes. My numbers, by the way, do not come from studies. These are the schedule ride times on actual trains and busses in cities just like Houston...Houston itself and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Northwest P&R map

Trinity Railway Express map

Edited by RedScare
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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.

Thanks for the answer Tory. I usually don't see the people who argue in favor of rail making much of an argument past "I want it". I'm really curious what their reasons are.

Does it save them money or time? Would rail transit in Houston save a large segment of the population money or time? I think when we talk about rail transit in Houston we are assuming that it will take people downtown. How much of the metro area would this benefit? What is the percentage of the population that works or lives downtown?

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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.

Not true. People would walk if the option was available, even during August. People did when gas cost $5/gallon, and people walk all the time in cities in Mexico and Central America that are hotter and more humid than Houston. It's when walking is inconvenient beyond just the temperature that people opt against it. If it's necessary to drive somewhere in order to walk, then people will just continue driving. The problem is, considering very few sunbelt cities have any extensive rail systems, many people like to make assumptions that benefit their own argument. You can't say people won't walk until you give them the opportunity to walk.

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Not true. People would walk if the option was available, even during August. People did when gas cost $5/gallon, and people walk all the time in cities in Mexico and Central America that are hotter and more humid than Houston. It's when walking is inconvenient beyond just the temperature that people opt against it. If it's necessary to drive somewhere in order to walk, then people will just continue driving. The problem is, considering very few sunbelt cities have any extensive rail systems, many people like to make assumptions that benefit their own argument. You can't say people won't walk until you give them the opportunity to walk.

OK, here is another positive argument for rail. Most of what I see are people defending rail against other forms of transit.

We want people to walk more.

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OK, here is another positive argument for rail. Most of what I see are people defending rail against other forms of transit.

We want people to walk more.

Here's another positive argument for rail. Developers, businesses and residents need predictability. When you make a massive infrastructure investment, it's not likely that the routes are going to change. Rail alignments, once they are built, aren't easily subject to change. That predictability is what people need to make other long-term decisions about how and where they will live and work.

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Here's another positive argument for rail. Developers, businesses and residents need predictability. When you make a massive infrastructure investment, it's not likely that the routes are going to change. Rail alignments, once they are built, aren't easily subject to change. That predictability is what people need to make other long-term decisions about how and where they will live and work.

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."

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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."

We made that change when we started building the highway system 50+ years ago. You can locate anywhere you want, but you still have to pay more in time and money the farther you are from the highway. Since express buses also have limited stops, I'm not sure how different this really is since you are either going to be driving to a bus stop or driving to a rail stop.

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Again, apples and oranges. You insist that the train must stop "every couple of miles". Why? The TRE makes 9 stops along its 38 mile route, or every 4.5 miles. Why does the Cypress commuter rail have to stop more often than the 5 stops that the park&ride busses currently make? It's a commuter train, not a light rail. And, suggesting that a 70 mph train on a dedicated track is slower than a bus that must compete with cars on an HOV is ridiculous. I watch the busses get bogged down in HOV traffic daily. That is why METRO schedules the 26.5 mile Cypress bus to take 50 minutes. My numbers, by the way, do not come from studies. These are the schedule ride times on actual trains and busses in cities just like Houston...Houston itself and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Northwest P&R map

Trinity Railway Express map

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.

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We made that change when we started building the highway system 50+ years ago. You can locate anywhere you want, but you still have to pay more in time and money the farther you are from the highway. Since express buses also have limited stops, I'm not sure how different this really is since you are either going to be driving to a bus stop or driving to a rail stop.

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.

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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.

Commuter rail is not "astronomical cost". $3 Billion to rebuild Katy Freeway is astronomical, considering the increase in capacity was only 30,000 vehicles per day. Likewise, another $3 Billion to rebuild 290 is astronomical. When are you going to decree the wasted tax dollars there?

A casual look at the 290 corridor reveals park & ride lots at 4 locations along the freeway. A 5th stop is at the Morthwest Transit Center. An apples to apples comparison would look at a commuter rail system that replaces those 4 stops with rail stations. A 5th rail station would be at the NWTC. Because the train never mixes with vehicular traffic, does not have to stop at intersections, and has the same top speed as the bus, it is a mathematical impossibility to make it slower than the bus...without adding some illogical impediment to the train, such as making it stop more often than the bus.

As for your circulator plan, they already exist. TMC has a circulator. Greenway doesn't need one. Downtown busses stop every two blocks, and the rail does too.

The commuter rail has the added benefit of adding capacity to the corridor that is currently unused. The rail line sits empty while 290 is full. We already know that we must expand 290. There is enough traffic to do both. Taking the busses off the HOT lane gives it more capacity. More importantly, people want the trains. They want the comfort, added services and added capacity that they provide. There is an inherent bias toward trains. If the goal is to increase the number of commuters, and more commuters will ride the trains, why not add the trains? You seem to use that argument to puch for more freeways and HOT lanes. Why is it not a valid argument for commuter trains? Why do you get to spend $6 Billion to rebuild two westside freeways, but we can't spend a few hundred million to build rail? You seem to be all about saving tax dollars for transit modes that you won't use, but all about the benefits of blowing wads of cash on modes that suit you.

Your arguments continue to impose differing standards on the different transit modes.

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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?

I can't imagine that the current road network would ever be chucked. That represents a sunk cost that we can continue to benefit from, even if we choose to spend expansion money on alternate forms of transport. It's not an either/or debate since bus and rail can and do coexist in a comprehensive system. How we manage it is up to us. But, the reason to build rail is what I stated before. Predictability. In order to evolve to meet what I believe are going to be much higher energy costs and still remain a vibrant city we are going to have to adapt. That's going to mean evolution towards more density in the city and also in outlying communities. People and businesses are going to cluster around the transport network that affords the least personal 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.

It's not going to be pretty, but I don't believe the future holds the same convenience of transport that the post WW2 era held. I would think, though, that express and local buses would be used in conjunction with rail to get people where they want to go. Who knows, we might even see the re-advent of private bus or shuttle services that compete or complement the existing public system.

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A casual look at the 290 corridor reveals park & ride lots at 4 locations along the freeway. A 5th stop is at the Morthwest Transit Center. An apples to apples comparison would look at a commuter rail system that replaces those 4 stops with rail stations. A 5th rail station would be at the NWTC. Because the train never mixes with vehicular traffic, does not have to stop at intersections, and has the same top speed as the bus, it is a mathematical impossibility to make it slower than the bus...without adding some illogical impediment to the train, such as making it stop more often than the bus.

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.

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Thanks for the answer Tory. I usually don't see the people who argue in favor of rail making much of an argument past "I want it". I'm really curious what their reasons are.

Does it save them money or time? Would rail transit in Houston save a large segment of the population money or time? I think when we talk about rail transit in Houston we are assuming that it will take people downtown. How much of the metro area would this benefit? What is the percentage of the population that works or lives downtown?

Carbon emissions???

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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.

Except that we know from looking at the TRE transit times that it is still faster than individual busses. A train leaving the Cypress lot and running non-stop to downtown would arrive in almost half the time it takes the bus. Even with stopping at all 4 stops, it will likely average 9 mph faster than the bus. The TRE, as explained several posts earlier, averages 40 mph WITH 9 STOPS along its 38 mile route. The Cypress Park&Ride only averages 31 mph with no intermediate stops.

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Except that we know from looking at the TRE transit times that it is still faster than individual busses. A train leaving the Cypress lot and running non-stop to downtown would arrive in almost half the time it takes the bus. Even with stopping at all 4 stops, it will likely average 9 mph faster than the bus. The TRE, as explained several posts earlier, averages 40 mph WITH 9 STOPS along its 38 mile route. The Cypress Park&Ride only averages 31 mph with no intermediate stops.

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.

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This evening P&R buses going I-45N had to be rerouted because Travis was closed at White Oak Bayou (water on the road). A rail line would most likely be at an elevation that would not flood.

Ever heard of express trains? Not all trains have to stop at all stops, especially when no one is likely getting off at many. Besides, trains would fill on the north end pretty quickly.

Trains have no emissions, wheels don't blow out like tires, they are more energy efficient, hold more people and car life far exceeds that of a bus.

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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.

That HOV to HOT conversion would be done as part of the $3 Billion rebuild of 290. So, $3 Billion to achieve roughly a speed match for a less comfortable and less popular mode of transit. Bear in mind how much slower the P&R system gets DURING the 6-8 years of construction. On the other hand, a commuter train could actually help REDUCE congestion during the rebuild, with no slower trip times.

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.

So, you recommend DOUBLING the cost of the P&R in order to run two sets of buses, or do you recommend HALVING P&R service so that buses can go to two different destinations? Alternatively, buses OR trains can allow riders to take light rail to the Galleria or Greenway from the NWTC, or to Downtown or TMC from the intermodal terminal, transit options that already exist, and do not cost extra.

It seems to me that all of your solutions require new infrastructure or massive increases in rolling stock and drivers. This decreases any supposed cost advantage that buses have over the trains. Since the trains are more popular, faster and more comfortable, why not just build them instead of spending all of that money to expand the bus service?

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Not true. People would walk if the option was available, even during August. People did when gas cost $5/gallon, and people walk all the time in cities in Mexico and Central America that are hotter and more humid than Houston. It's when walking is inconvenient beyond just the temperature that people opt against it. If it's necessary to drive somewhere in order to walk, then people will just continue driving. The problem is, considering very few sunbelt cities have any extensive rail systems, many people like to make assumptions that benefit their own argument. You can't say people won't walk until you give them the opportunity to walk.

You have just said what I have been trying to tell these people on here for years. Thanks!

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That HOV to HOT conversion would be done as part of the $3 Billion rebuild of 290. So, $3 Billion to achieve roughly a speed match for a less comfortable and less popular mode of transit. Bear in mind how much slower the P&R system gets DURING the 6-8 years of construction. On the other hand, a commuter train could actually help REDUCE congestion during the rebuild, with no slower trip times.

So, you recommend DOUBLING the cost of the P&R in order to run two sets of buses, or do you recommend HALVING P&R service so that buses can go to two different destinations? Alternatively, buses OR trains can allow riders to take light rail to the Galleria or Greenway from the NWTC, or to Downtown or TMC from the intermodal terminal, transit options that already exist, and do not cost extra.

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?

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This evening P&R buses going I-45N had to be rerouted because Travis was closed at White Oak Bayou (water on the road). A rail line would most likely be at an elevation that would not flood.

Ever heard of express trains? Not all trains have to stop at all stops, especially when no one is likely getting off at many. Besides, trains would fill on the north end pretty quickly.

Trains have no emissions, wheels don't blow out like tires, they are more energy efficient, hold more people and car life far exceeds that of a bus.

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.

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I think the biggest hurdle is making commuter rail connect to LRT in fashion that gets people to all the destinations. I'm in favor of doing commuter rail right, and if commuter rail down 290 means ending at the NW transit center or God forbid a bus transfer from commuter rail to LRT, then it's really not worth it. Getting commuter rail to downtown will get more people on rail and get them closer to the up and coming 2nd largest employment center, TMC.

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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?

I notice that you still have not given any source for your statements. To answer your last question first, Yes, people really ARE going to tolerate commutes that take that long, as they already do so. Looking at METRO's schedules and maps, there are buses running from NWTC to both Greenway and TMC. Trip times are easily ascertainable from the schedules. What we find is that it takes 26 minutes for a bus to run from NWTC to Greenway. It takes 36 minutes to go to TMC. The distance from NWTC to the Intermodal is 5.5 miles for a train. It could make that run at 45 mph in 8 minutes or less. The Red Line runs from UH Downtown to TMC in 21 minutes. The average wait for a train running every 6 minutes is 3 minutes. So, from NWTC to TMC by commuter rail and light rail is 32 minutes...4 minutes LESS than by bus.

Same goes for Greenway. Light rail from NWTC to Greenway will probably take 18-21 minutes to traverse the 4 mile Uptown line and 1.5 miles of the University line. No transfer will be required to get from NWTC to Greenway. By contrast, the bus trip takes 26-28 minutes.

So, using readily available maps and schedules, we are able to see that the trains will probably take no more time to ride than the buses already do, and likely will take several minutes less than the bus in more comfort with better and more services. We also know that improvements to the bus services will incur significant expenditures, and still not necessarily make them any faster than trains. And, finally, trains allow full use of the HOV lanes for carpools and toll-paying drivers.

This may not be the best solution on every corridor, but you have yet to show that it is not the best solution for the 290 corridor. Frankly, you have yet to show a single statistic at all, instead simply making general statements and guesses as to times. I do want to thank you though. Before being forced to look up these numbers to refute your statements, I was less convinced of commuter rail's viability on 290. I now believe that it will be faster, more convenient, more comfortable, and provide commuter transit during the horrendous mess that rebuilding 290 will be. I look forward to this project moving ahead.

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Trains have no emissions, wheels don't blow out like tires, they are more energy efficient, hold more people and car life far exceeds that of a bus.

I'm not sure about that. Electric cable run light rail trains, yeah, but diesel powered locomotives are the backbone of commuter rail lines such as the Trinity Railway Express.

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Here's another positive argument for rail. Developers, businesses and residents need predictability. When you make a massive infrastructure investment, it's not likely that the routes are going to change. Rail alignments, once they are built, aren't easily subject to change. That predictability is what people need to make other long-term decisions about how and where they will live and work.

Carbon emissions???

Neither of these arguments do it for me.

Carbon emissions can be reduced in cheaper ways. I also don't see myself suffering any economic or quality of life problems that will be solved by lower carbon emissions. I'd rather have higher carbon emissions and more money. I can see a lot of quality of life that I could buy with more money.

Business owners and residents already have predictability. We can predict that freeways and roads can get us to any residence or business in Houston, rail can't do that. I'm not convinced that rail would get people to their destinations much faster than bus either.

I still don't see what the fascination with rail is. How is it going to improve your life? If it's being built to get people from places like Sugarland, The Woodlands, etc... into downtown then I assume the benefit people are expecting would be shorter commute times. We already have an answer for that... move closer to downtown. That's what I did. I sacrificed square footage for more free time. Now I'm expected to pay for rail that will shorten commute times for people who never made this sacrifice? I think if we get commuter rail then people in The Woodlands and Sugarland should pay for it. People who live inside the loop don't need it.

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Neither of these arguments do it for me.

Carbon emissions can be reduced in cheaper ways. I also don't see myself suffering any economic or quality of life problems that will be solved by lower carbon emissions. I'd rather have higher carbon emissions and more money. I can see a lot of quality of life that I could buy with more money.

Business owners and residents already have predictability. We can predict that freeways and roads can get us to any residence or business in Houston, rail can't do that. I'm not convinced that rail would get people to their destinations much faster than bus either.

I still don't see what the fascination with rail is. How is it going to improve your life? If it's being built to get people from places like Sugarland, The Woodlands, etc... into downtown then I assume the benefit people are expecting would be shorter commute times. We already have an answer for that... move closer to downtown. That's what I did. I sacrificed square footage for more free time. Now I'm expected to pay for rail that will shorten commute times for people who never made this sacrifice? I think if we get commuter rail then people in The Woodlands and Sugarland should pay for it. People who live inside the loop don't need it.

...yes... let's cram 4 million people inside of 610. That'll work...

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As long as Texas is a mostly coal-fired electricity state, trains have plenty of emissions.

Its not, there's more natural gas generation than coal. And regardless of the distribution now, the transit authority can choose where to get the power from. Wind is now very nearly competitive with other forms of power generation.

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C) It's not even news. It's an editorial, an opinion piece. It's the County judge coming to bat for one of the the entities mentioned above.

I wager that county judge good ol boi is batting for whichever option is good for the tollways.

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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.

I think you miss the point of LRT, I don't think I've ever seen anything anywhere that states that LRT will completely overtake and remove buses. Every successful system is a compliment of different types of mass transit. Look at the biggest city in the world, they have an extensive subway system, an extensive commuter rail system and still there are buses that travel through the streets.

However, there aren't as many of them, and they don't run on the same routes as the different rail systems would take them.

LRT has very good benefits over buses.

First and foremost reason is that bus drivers are horrid in this city. they do not follow many of the laws of the road, and I find myself calling into the hotline to 'tattle' on drivers who speed, tailgate, make illegal turns (I see this mostly in downtown, where they will turn right out of a lane that is 2 or 3 lanes towards the left), and a host of other things that are just not safe. A huge brick on wheels going 75 mph is not good for gas mileage, not to mention the safety issues.

True, rail operators may not be any better, but at least I know they can't make unpredictable maneuvers, or tailgate, or speed (as they are regulated to a max).

Anyway, I don't think the plan is to bring in LRT and remove buses, the idea is to use them together to make the system work more efficiently.

...yes... let's cram 4 million people inside of 610. That'll work...

wow, when you put it like that, it really makes the inadequacies of this town stand out, doesn't it?

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I notice that you still have not given any source for your statements. To answer your last question first, Yes, people really ARE going to tolerate commutes that take that long, as they already do so. Looking at METRO's schedules and maps, there are buses running from NWTC to both Greenway and TMC. Trip times are easily ascertainable from the schedules. What we find is that it takes 26 minutes for a bus to run from NWTC to Greenway. It takes 36 minutes to go to TMC. The distance from NWTC to the Intermodal is 5.5 miles for a train. It could make that run at 45 mph in 8 minutes or less. The Red Line runs from UH Downtown to TMC in 21 minutes. The average wait for a train running every 6 minutes is 3 minutes. So, from NWTC to TMC by commuter rail and light rail is 32 minutes...4 minutes LESS than by bus.

Same goes for Greenway. Light rail from NWTC to Greenway will probably take 18-21 minutes to traverse the 4 mile Uptown line and 1.5 miles of the University line. No transfer will be required to get from NWTC to Greenway. By contrast, the bus trip takes 26-28 minutes.

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.

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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.

Considering the fact that you spent all of this time claiming that the buses were faster than trains, I'll take this post as a capitulation.

To answer your choices of spending hundreds of millions of dollars (unknown source) to implement commuter rail versus spending hundreds of millions of dollars tearing up our newly rebuilt freeways to crowd in HOV lanes with flyover ramps for your buses...yes, absolutely would I choose the trains. They are more convenient, more comfortable, would allow for services such as wifi, would provide commuters an option during the 6 years or more of construction on 290, would be a starter line for regional rail service, and would draw more riders than buses, due to rail bias.

Raising your rail concerns is one thing. Throwing up unsupported statements that are easily refuted is quite the other. In this multi-post debate we've had, you have not cited one source for your statements. In fact, most of your claims were easily refuted using bus and train schedules and maps for already existing service in Houston or Dallas, a very similarly populated city. I don't know the cost of providing rail on 290. It might be prohibitive. But, the debate has shifted. No longer are $3 Billion road projects considered "necessary", while $100 million rail projects considered a "waste of tax dollars". And, commuters are demanding that their needs be considered. If we can spend $3 Billion for a smoother I-10 for drivers, maybe "hundreds of millions" for a more comfortable train is not a waste of money at all. It is good to see that transit options are being considered.

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Considering the fact that you spent all of this time claiming that the buses were faster than trains, I'll take this post as a capitulation.

To answer your choices of spending hundreds of millions of dollars (unknown source) to implement commuter rail versus spending hundreds of millions of dollars tearing up our newly rebuilt freeways to crowd in HOV lanes with flyover ramps for your buses...yes, absolutely would I choose the trains. They are more convenient, more comfortable, would allow for services such as wifi, would provide commuters an option during the 6 years or more of construction on 290, would be a starter line for regional rail service, and would draw more riders than buses, due to rail bias.

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.

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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.

Boltbus and Megabus may compete with Amtrak Regional service, but definitely not Acela. Those are two distinct markets. The wifi features the bus operators offer are nice, but I am quite slender and still have trouble fitting my laptop between me and the seat in front. This reinforces the comfort factor that favors trains. It's also only a matter of time until Amtrak implements wifi.

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Boltbus and Megabus may compete with Amtrak Regional service, but definitely not Acela. Those are two distinct markets. The wifi features the bus operators offer are nice, but I am quite slender and still have trouble fitting my laptop between me and the seat in front. This reinforces the comfort factor that favors trains. It's also only a matter of time until Amtrak implements wifi.

It's sad that Amtrak hasn't yet, but not surprising. Sounds like the buses need to offer a "business class" section with better spacing at a slightly higher price.

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