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METRO Rail Construction Resumes


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hard to argue with Crossley b/c he's talking ideal case, which is exactly what every public agency should strive for. instead the public policy debate in Houston is now filtered through $300 million of our dollars spent over 7 years, construction halted, federal law violated, agency finances radically over-leveraged, a 30% 2011 budget reduction, and going backwards on some parts of the design and procurement processes. and some rail routes moved from optimum alignment b/c of inner loop politics, NOT b/c of "whining" suburbanites.

you think taxpayers should just step back now and let METRO proceed asap? Crossley does.

I think there are more rocks to turn over before we know the extent of METRO's screwup of the Solutions program, more heads need to roll.

This is the most intelligent analysis I've read on METRO's current problem in a very long time.

METRo's flubs, unethical behavior and illegal operations over the last decade will have a lasting impact on the agency that many still can't comprehend. At this rate, voter confidence in METRO is sinking fast, and as a result rail expansion will probably fail if it has to go back to the voters. There are just too many issues to overcome now.

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Well Citykid, its starting to improve, so stop talking like its still 1999 when Houston hardly had any signs of urban development. Yes, the lack of urban feel and mass transit is frustrating. I used Dallas as an example because in reality, they're no better off than Houston as far as density, culture, structure, workability, and rail transit as you so put it but they can put a mass transit plan together with no problem. Their rail stations don't even go though many urban clusters like Houston and they have an extensive network. Hopefully this setback isn't for too long.

Well, one of the main differences between DART and METRO is the structure of the agencies. METRO represents all of Harris County, and has a governing board that has to represent (e.g. battle with) the interests of people living as close in as DT and far out as the Woodlands. DART is comprised of 13 member agencies, and with the exception of University Park and Dallas, all of them are suburbs. That means that Dallas' (inner and outer) loop/suburbs have bought-in to the DART rail system a long time ago by voting to pledge $0.01 of their sales tax to fund DART. It doesn't hurt that when DART proposes a plan, they execute it on-time or ahead of schedule and under-budget. And with the exception of the budget shortfall fiasco a couple of years ago, DART stays out of controversy.

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BRT blows compared to LRT. I'm speaking as someone living in a city with BRT, who rides both BRT and LRT. I doubt any significant portion of the LRT detractors on HAIF have ever ridden BRT. Everything they know is from what they've read from other BRT detractors who also have never ridden it.

Totally agree with you. Boston has both and the LRT is > the BRT.

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I think that there is a key difference between most projects in west Houston and most projects along the Red Line in that most projects in west Houston have been speculative and could have been built anywhere in the region provided that there was investor interest, whereas most projects along the Red Line really couldn't have possibly been very far away from it, especially in the Texas Medical Center. Sure there are exceptions, however I can personally attest from professional experience that investors got a sudden and intense priapism-inducing hard-on for west Houston when the freeway got expanded. It wasn't just that land prices got speculatively bid up; crap actually got built. Memorial City got new highrise condos! Nowhere along the Red Line got new highrise condos. I'll grant you that there's some subjectivity to the interpretation of data, but it's still a pretty strong case.

Really?

Memorial City got one new highrise condo building. It sits about 4 or 5 blocks off of I-10. From the looks of things, it appears to be quite empty.

Isn't One Park Place within 5 blocks of the light rail? Isn't that "new?" I guess you might argue that the building isn't "condo" since it's a rental, but those apartments and their 85%+ occupancy are a way bigger project ($$$ wise) than the Memorial City condo bldg.

Additionally, what about all of the loft conversions downtown? Commerce Towers, Hermann Lofts, Rice Lofts, Franklin Lofts, Capitol Lofts, etc... Sure, while none of those were "new" from the ground up, it's really disingenuous to claim that the rail didn't spur highrise residential development in the area when all of those conversions add up to HUNDREDS of millions of dollars of investment.

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Houston could be a very beautiful organized city if there was a plan. Ok, there are no mountains, well use the trees to make up for it. Imagine if trees lined the freeways and all of the inner city development was retained inside of 610 and all of the suburban development was retained inside of beltway 8 and all streets went in a grid, how nice would that be? Imagine walkable neighborhoods with trees that provide shade from Houston's hot and humid summers.

Imagine if affluent families didn't insist on sending their children to schools with mostly-white children from other affluent families.

Imagine yourself a frickin' time machine...

Houston can only grow so far out until it gets to a point where the people will start to say its not worth it, there is no quality of life here because you have to drive over an hour to get to any destination. I would rather send more to live in a city with a quality transportation network than a cheaper city that is completely car dependent. Also I wanted to speak on how heavy rail and city cores bring people and cultures together like a melting pot. (had more to say but I erased it all). Basically wanted to say I guess Houston is just to conservative. You just don't see those free spirited people that you see in other cities. For instance I can go to another city and different races of people with dreadlocks in their hair and think nothing of it, but you just wouldn't see that in Houston. What I am trying to get at and what I think you all have been saying for years is: move to Houston if you want to work, have a big house and freewill to do or build anything you want anywhere but not much else. Move to cities like NYC, etc if you want culture, structure, workability, and rail transit?

Most people don't care about being within an hour of any destination. They mostly just want to be convenient to work or school, to where their kids go to school (if applicable), and reasonably close to basic shopping. If they're younger, they probably care about being somewhat close to a breeding ground (whether that's a club scene, bars, church, or whatever).

Besides which, heavy rail is about the worst kind of technology to deliver your vision of being within an hour of "any destination". There are too few corridors that are physically feasible.

Basically wanted to say I guess Houston is just to conservative. You just don't see those free spirited people that you see in other cities. For instance I can go to another city and different races of people with dreadlocks in their hair and think nothing of it, but you just wouldn't see that in Houston. What I am trying to get at and what I think you all have been saying for years is: move to Houston if you want to work, have a big house and freewill to do or build anything you want anywhere but not much else. Move to cities like NYC, etc if you want culture, structure, workability, and rail transit?

It's funny that you bring this up, actually, about rail-based transit giving rise to or perhaps being a reflection on some kind of a free-spirited hipster culture.

See, I've been traveling to Dallas a lot lately. It is of comparable size to Houston and has a fair bit of rail-based transit. ...I very near literally feel deprived and suffocated by all the ____ing squares when I go out and try to find a locally-operated restaurant in which to expense a good meal. Don't get me wrong, Dallas has nicer curb appeal than Houston whether we're talking about freeways or major thoroughfares. But there are only so many retail districts tucked into particular pockets of the city. You can't just drive around randomly for five minutes and find an awesome hole in the wall. No! Maybe in some of its suburbs (Garland proves good for that), but not Dallas. For Dallas, you end up journeying to some little retail enclave; they're all very nice and uniform, looking just so to a crowd that looks just so. It's as though they've taken Washington Avenue, scrunched it up all close together in several little nodes throughout the city, and eliminated any other competing options for people who would prefer not to be douches...except of course for places like Mockingbird Station.

I drove to Mockingbird Station once, late, out of desperation. (I would've ridden the train, but it didn't go suburb-to-suburb...because it sucks, as trains are prone to do in low-density sunbelt cities.) ...had to drive past a vampire-themed wine bar as I entered the little parking area in the middle of it. [facepalm] ...walked around a little bit afterward. ...figured that in the grand scheme of things, this was a trite and meaningless gesture to a constituency that appreciates trite and meaningless gestures.

I'm just...so disgusted that Dallas exists within Texas. It brings shame to my heritage.

You should probably move there. /endrant

If Houston wants to skirt dubious federal policy in order to attract hipsters, we should strongly consider just dropping any and all enforcement or prosecution related to marijuana. It wouldn't cost any money and would be something that no other city is doing. ...and that certainly beats trying to keep up with the Jones' where the construction/erection of phallic symbolism is concerned.

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Really?

Memorial City got one new highrise condo building. It sits about 4 or 5 blocks off of I-10. From the looks of things, it appears to be quite empty.

Isn't One Park Place within 5 blocks of the light rail? Isn't that "new?" I guess you might argue that the building isn't "condo" since it's a rental, but those apartments and their 85%+ occupancy are a way bigger project ($$$ wise) than the Memorial City condo bldg.

In the long run, they'll both fill. The important thing is that they got financed in the first place.

Also, it's important to point out although the ped-shed is only about 1/4 of a mile for transit stations, most people are generally willing to drive significantly further because they can do so quickly and sweat-free. Consequently, the area benefited by a freeway is vastly larger than the area benefited by a fixed-guideway transit corridor.

Additionally, what about all of the loft conversions downtown? Commerce Towers, Hermann Lofts, Rice Lofts, Franklin Lofts, Capitol Lofts, etc... Sure, while none of those were "new" from the ground up, it's really disingenuous to claim that the rail didn't spur highrise residential development in the area when all of those conversions add up to HUNDREDS of millions of dollars of investment.

Seeing as how the Rice Lofts were originally purchased for redevelopment in 1996, I think that it is disingenuous to attribute their redevelopment to light rail. Furthermore, their success signals that some significant demand for residential conversions downtown exists independently of access to light rail.

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Exactly what profession are you talking about?

ur mom. lol. :P

Sorry, couldn't help myself. ...had to do that on account of that I hate it when people try to rub my nose in a career that spontaneously combusted. No, seriously though, that was back in the days when I worked development and development-related consulting.

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There are some frustrations about buses that cannot be avoided. A driver that has to piss needs to go and piss. We can't be paying insurance premiums on a workforce of bus drivers with bladder infections!

Wait... I must have missed this portion of the discussion. Are you saying that Metro does not have designated places at the beginnings and ends of routes for drivers to relieve themselves?

I know one transit system I used to ride had places not only at both ends, but also along the way where drivers could stop. All they had to do is get a certain number of minutes ahead of schedule (2 or 3 I think) and they were allowed to stop a [insert random donut shop here]; or they could make up the 2-3 minute pee break delay on the back end of the schedule.

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Chicago is flat as well, but look how they developed.

In many ways comparing Houston and Chicago is pointless when it comes to development.

In Houston you've had a series of short-term, fairly powerless mayors who do what they can with their limited power in a city with no zoning.

In Chicago they had one mayor and his son rule the city with an iron fist for the better part of 60 years. In Chicago the mayors Daley had the power to tell developers, "You WILL build in THIS neighborhood, and your buildings WILL be THIS tall, or else." The Chicago mayors also exerted massive amounts of influence over the development of the surrounding suburbs. I think the only developer who ever stood up to a Daley was Donald Trump, and even he had to give in at the last minute on the height of his building, resulting in the famous newspaper headline "Daley to Trump: You're Spired!"

There are dozens of books about all of this. Most pretty interesting. There will doubtless be more to come.

Another reason it's kind of pointless to compare the development of Houston and the development of Chicago when it comes to rail is that the whole reason most of the Chicago suburbs even exist is because of rail. Chicago railroad barons would run their lines out into the prairie and build towns along the way, creating commuter rail suburbs long before they even had roads connecting them to the city.

Houston's development was just the opposite, with a combination of developers building huge developments out in the prairie and the local governments being forced to lay freeways to them to keep up with demand from commuters coming in by car; and large freeway ring roads being laid across empty expanses of land in anticipation of future development.

It's not just apples and oranges. It's more like apples and telephones.

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Wait... I must have missed this portion of the discussion. Are you saying that Metro does not have designated places at the beginnings and ends of routes for drivers to relieve themselves?

I know one transit system I used to ride had places not only at both ends, but also along the way where drivers could stop. All they had to do is get a certain number of minutes ahead of schedule (2 or 3 I think) and they were allowed to stop a [insert random donut shop here]; or they could make up the 2-3 minute pee break delay on the back end of the schedule.

The comment, embellished for effect, was meant to communicate that I recognize that there are times where a driver has to pull over and go run an errand of some sort. Whether it's pee or explosive diarrhea or a crash in blood sugar or some such medical thing or whatever, they're human, and within reason, humans sometimes need to take a quick break to attend to something pressing. There should be (and probably are) checks to make sure that drivers don't take excessive liberties with their route.

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In many ways comparing Houston and Chicago is pointless when it comes to development.

In Houston you've had a series of short-term, fairly powerless mayors who do what they can with their limited power in a city with no zoning.

In Chicago they had one mayor and his son rule the city with an iron fist for the better part of 60 years. In Chicago the mayors Daley had the power to tell developers, "You WILL build in THIS neighborhood, and your buildings WILL be THIS tall, or else." The Chicago mayors also exerted massive amounts of influence over the development of the surrounding suburbs. I think the only developer who ever stood up to a Daley was Donald Trump, and even he had to give in at the last minute on the height of his building, resulting in the famous newspaper headline "Daley to Trump: You're Spired!"

There are dozens of books about all of this. Most pretty interesting. There will doubtless be more to come.

Another reason it's kind of pointless to compare the development of Houston and the development of Chicago when it comes to rail is that the whole reason most of the Chicago suburbs even exist is because of rail. Chicago railroad barons would run their lines out into the prairie and build towns along the way, creating commuter rail suburbs long before they even had roads connecting them to the city.

Houston's development was just the opposite, with a combination of developers building huge developments out in the prairie and the local governments being forced to lay freeways to them to keep up with demand from commuters coming in by car; and large freeway ring roads being laid across empty expanses of land in anticipation of future development.

It's not just apples and oranges. It's more like apples and telephones.

Thanks for the explanation editor. Do you think that Houston will ever be a city with a heavy rail system and a vibrant city center like other cities of its size? Or is there no hope?

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The comment, embellished for effect, was meant to communicate that I recognize that there are times where a driver has to pull over and go run an errand of some sort. Whether it's pee or explosive diarrhea or a crash in blood sugar or some such medical thing or whatever, they're human, and within reason, humans sometimes need to take a quick break to attend to something pressing. There should be (and probably are) checks to make sure that drivers don't take excessive liberties with their route.

Haha, you are really showing your lack of experience riding METRO. I can understand explosive diarrhea or explosive urination (if there is such a thing) but if you have ever tried to ride METRO -2-3 times a week then you would scratch your head and wonder why a bus driver needs James Coney Island or La Mexicana. I've seen that some drivers carry drinks and lunches so they can appropriately plan if they have a known medical condition.

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Thanks for the explanation editor. Do you think that Houston will ever be a city with a heavy rail system and a vibrant city center like other cities of its size? Or is there no hope?

Which cities are you talking about? If you're talking about NYC and Chicago? Probably not, at least not in our lifetimes. Heck i think we'd be lucky if our city center becomes halfway vibrant as Denver Colorado.

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Haha, you are really showing your lack of experience riding METRO. I can understand explosive diarrhea or explosive urination (if there is such a thing) but if you have ever tried to ride METRO -2-3 times a week then you would scratch your head and wonder why a bus driver needs James Coney Island or La Mexicana. I've seen that some drivers carry drinks and lunches so they can appropriately plan if they have a known medical condition.

I didn't say that there wasn't room for improvement, just that I'm accepting of the limitations entailed by human operators.

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I didn't say that there wasn't room for improvement, just that I'm accepting of the limitations entailed by human operators.

Why the stark difference?

Service reliability (On-Time) - Weighted Average 69% for Bus; 96% for Rail.

Edited by kdog08
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Imagine if affluent families didn't insist on sending their children to schools with mostly-white children from other affluent families.

Imagine yourself a frickin' time machine...

Most people don't care about being within an hour of any destination. They mostly just want to be convenient to work or school, to where their kids go to school (if applicable), and reasonably close to basic shopping. If they're younger, they probably care about being somewhat close to a breeding ground (whether that's a club scene, bars, church, or whatever).

Besides which, heavy rail is about the worst kind of technology to deliver your vision of being within an hour of "any destination". There are too few corridors that are physically feasible.

It's funny that you bring this up, actually, about rail-based transit giving rise to or perhaps being a reflection on some kind of a free-spirited hipster culture.

See, I've been traveling to Dallas a lot lately. It is of comparable size to Houston and has a fair bit of rail-based transit. ...I very near literally feel deprived and suffocated by all the ____ing squares when I go out and try to find a locally-operated restaurant in which to expense a good meal. Don't get me wrong, Dallas has nicer curb appeal than Houston whether we're talking about freeways or major thoroughfares. But there are only so many retail districts tucked into particular pockets of the city. You can't just drive around randomly for five minutes and find an awesome hole in the wall. No! Maybe in some of its suburbs (Garland proves good for that), but not Dallas. For Dallas, you end up journeying to some little retail enclave; they're all very nice and uniform, looking just so to a crowd that looks just so. It's as though they've taken Washington Avenue, scrunched it up all close together in several little nodes throughout the city, and eliminated any other competing options for people who would prefer not to be douches...except of course for places like Mockingbird Station.

I drove to Mockingbird Station once, late, out of desperation. (I would've ridden the train, but it didn't go suburb-to-suburb...because it sucks, as trains are prone to do in low-density sunbelt cities.) ...had to drive past a vampire-themed wine bar as I entered the little parking area in the middle of it. [facepalm] ...walked around a little bit afterward. ...figured that in the grand scheme of things, this was a trite and meaningless gesture to a constituency that appreciates trite and meaningless gestures.

I'm just...so disgusted that Dallas exists within Texas. It brings shame to my heritage.

You should probably move there. /endrant

If Houston wants to skirt dubious federal policy in order to attract hipsters, we should strongly consider just dropping any and all enforcement or prosecution related to marijuana. It wouldn't cost any money and would be something that no other city is doing. ...and that certainly beats trying to keep up with the Jones' where the construction/erection of phallic symbolism is concerned.

Pretty much Everyone on this forum knows not to pay any attention to this guy when he starts to go off on tangents regarding rail. The Niche can't even be taken seriously on the subject of rail in Houston because his viewpoint is so skewed in the anti-rail direction that we can almost predict what he's going to post (which is anything anti-rail). Niche doesn't want to acknowledge the benefits of a light rail system. So, there's no point in even engaging him in meaningful conversation on this topic. Niche lives for the argument, and that's especially true when it comes to Light Rail in Houston. This is one of those times where you should ignore what he's posting. I would dare state that he's making a lot of his facts up. , .because it's so far from the truth that it is laughable. I Know that many rail proponents can see DART for what it is, and is doing. The proof is in the pudding. The rail antagonists will try to use DART as an example of an unsuccessful transit agency. However, the reality of the matter is that DART keeps expanding, and DART's regional rail success is pushing outlying suburbs to consider/push for the legislature to give more transportation dollars to mass transit/rail projects in the North Texas area. If Harris County were to adopt the same strategy, Houston would be moving rapidly in the direction of mass transit. As it stands now, though, the Niche's of the world rule the day. Because of that, it doesn't really seem like there is much hope for Houston, unless something drastic happens in the next 12 months.

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Pretty much Everyone on this forum knows not to pay any attention to this guy when he starts to go off on tangents regarding rail. The Niche can't even be taken seriously on the subject of rail in Houston because his viewpoint is so skewed in the anti-rail direction that we can almost predict what he's going to post (which is anything anti-rail). Niche doesn't want to acknowledge the benefits of a light rail system. So, there's no point in even engaging him in meaningful conversation on this topic.

Predictability is a good thing. It means that I'm being consistent.

I fully acknowledge the benefits of light rail. It definitely provides a level of service that is superior to a comparable bus route. I also fully acknowledge the financial commitment that light rail entails, as well as the budget constraints inherent to the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County.

I would dare state that he's making a lot of his facts up. , .because it's so far from the truth that it is laughable.

I've been wrong before, which is all the more reason for you to try and expose my incorrectness yet again. Supposition is inadequate, however.

I Know that many rail proponents can see DART for what it is, and is doing. The proof is in the pudding. The rail antagonists will try to use DART as an example of an unsuccessful transit agency. However, the reality of the matter is that DART keeps expanding, and DART's regional rail success is pushing outlying suburbs to consider/push for the legislature to give more transportation dollars to mass transit/rail projects in the North Texas area. If Harris County were to adopt the same strategy, Houston would be moving rapidly in the direction of mass transit. As it stands now, though, the Niche's of the world rule the day. Because of that, it doesn't really seem like there is much hope for Houston, unless something drastic happens in the next 12 months.

Well, the state legislature meets in January 2011, which is only about four months away. I would urge you to write to your elected officials urging them to restructure the means by way of which METRO generates revenue and would also urge you to press for a new state agency with the budget to take on an inter-regional rapid transit program...but none of you will. (Only politically aware entities, such as large corporations and real estate developers do that, which is why they wield influence, and not you.) You'd rather waste your time blaming METRO's detractors such as myself for stating the obvious, that METRO cannot reasonably be expected to accomplish what you would like it to provided its current budget.

Edited by TheNiche
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The industry standard for transit OTP considers a trip "on time" if it arrives at the end of the route not early and within 5:59 of the scheduled time. This causes additional reliability issues because if an operator knows the schedule is padded at the end, he/she can run late for the entire route but still technically be on time. METRO has the vehicle monitoring technology to look deeper into this but thus far has not made an effort.

The limitations of human operators, and the cost, are arguments for heavy rail, or "light metro" systems as most new ones are called. No one is using NYC subway technology in new systems nowadays; Vancouver Skytrain would be a better model.

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Well, the state legislature meets in January 2011, which is only about four months away. I would urge you to write to your elected officials urging them to restructure the means by way of which METRO generates revenue and would also urge you to press for a new state agency with the budget to take on an inter-regional rapid transit program...but none of you will. (Only politically aware entities, such as large corporations and real estate developers do that, which is why they wield influence, and not you.) You'd rather waste your time blaming METRO's detractors such as myself for stating the obvious, that METRO cannot reasonably be expected to accomplish what you would like it to provided its current budget.

It may also help if Texans as a whole were more receptive to the concepts of light rail and mass-transit mobility. That is a systemic failure of education because we spend too much time choked in traffic via cars... trying to reconnect with the "wide open spaces" theories while still needing to be tied to cities like Houston. I disagree with Niche as well, but I'm not going to invalidate his points. The budget is strapped in Houston and Texas. If the priority isn't rail, then it just isn't. Though my personal opinion is that we need rail more than ever.

But we can't sacrifice the current transit infrastructure for it. We shouldn't have to cut bus routes (which are well-used and drastically needed btw) to support light rail that doesn't exist yet. For many Houstonians without cars, or unable to drive, METRO is literally their lifeline. It allows them to be independent in their homes and still be able to get around the city. This is METRO's primary function.

And guess what?? If we REALLY wanted rail, all we have to do is get on the busses. If every single Houstonian took METRO 8 times a week for one year, METRO would make 23 million dollars a week. Within a year's time, they would have over a billion dollars and could easily build the rail system of their choice. Call it "rail bias", anti-rail sentiment, class discrimination, whatever you want. Point is, if we really wanted to improve transit, we would be infusing money into the current bus system, and thusly generate the funds needed for improvement.

So I say if Houston wants rail so badly, we need to get on the BUS and start voting with our pocketbooks.

Edited by totheskies
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Metro wasn't able to start work on the Main St./Red Line until March 2001. Construction was delayed due to a couple of lawsuits (one from Rob Todd?). Planning for the first rail line began in the mid 1990s if not even earlier. I highly doubt that the folks who purchased the old Rice Hotel were unaware of the future potential of light rail being located right next door.

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I fully acknowledge the benefits of light rail. It definitely provides a level of service that is superior to a comparable bus route. I also fully acknowledge the financial commitment that light rail entails, as well as the budget constraints inherent to the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County.

Well since you acknowledged that rail transit is superior to buses, then why don't you agrue for more funding for METRO? Why should we (as a city) settle for a mediocre transit system? METRO will get more funding if enough people are behind it, then there will be less budget problems.

The reason MARTA has so few bus routes is that they recieve by far the lowest funding of any large transit system.

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Well since you acknowledged that rail transit is superior to buses, then why don't you agrue for more funding for METRO?

First of all, changes need to be made to the way in which METRO is governed so as that it is more directly accountable to its constituency and also more transparent. It is not enough that it appears to be competently run at the moment. I have similar concerns about allowing TXDoT access to lots of additional funding because it is also notorious for shenanigans and whose Director is appointed by a commission whose members are appointed by the Governor. (Sound familiar?)

Edited by TheNiche
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there are lots of agencies that are not transparent enough, or aren't directly accountable, or that are even corrupt. I don't think anything would get done if we didn't move forward on projects until these institutes/programs were deemed satisfactory. It's important to push for transparency, and accountability, at the same time as we push for improvements.

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First of all, changes need to be made to the way in which METRO is governed so as that it is more directly accountable to its constituency and also more transparent. It is not enough that it appears to be competently run at the moment. I have similar concerns about allowing TXDoT access to lots of additional funding because it is also notorious for shenanigans and whose Director is appointed by a commission whose members are appointed by the Governor. (Sound familiar?)

Agreed, but the same can be said for virtually every major governing agency in Houston and Texas. They all need to be more directly accountable. But that doesn't mean we should just throw in the towel every time someone steals money from one of them. I say this as I go to my supply cabinet at work, and get some color ink that is definitely going to be used for a purpose that is NOT work-related.

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there are lots of agencies that are not transparent enough, or aren't directly accountable, or that are even corrupt. I don't think anything would get done if we didn't move forward on projects until these institutes/programs were deemed satisfactory. It's important to push for transparency, and accountability, at the same time as we push for improvements.

No, I'm fine with continuing with their operating budgets for the time being, just to maintain what already exists and make minor updates, however I think that capital improvement programs with billion-dollar price tags should have some pretty heavy-duty strings attached.

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Agreed, but the same can be said for virtually every major governing agency in Houston and Texas. They all need to be more directly accountable. But that doesn't mean we should just throw in the towel every time someone steals money from one of them. I say this as I go to my supply cabinet at work, and get some color ink that is definitely going to be used for a purpose that is NOT work-related.

You are engaging in employee theft. That's already against the law, as well it should be.

The problem with TXDoT and METRO is that they are run poorly in no small part as a consequence of complying with crappy law, and my position is that the law needs to be updated.

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So, yeah...not your best line of argument.

OK well I have a new line of argument. Total ridership. Earlier, we had assumed that the 600,500+ daily ridership for METRO provided by Wikipedia was correct. However, looking at the Second Quarter 2010 ridership statistics (pg. 27 of the document), I realized that TOTAL daily ridership for METRO was only 270,600 (actual bus ridership was 229,200). On the other hand, MARTA (pg. 17 of the document) had a total ridership of 464,100, with a bus ridership of 216,300 (heavy rail ridership was 246,000).

So basically MATRA has almost double our ridership, in less than half (!) the service area. To me, it's pretty clear cut who the better transit agency is, and strengthens my argument that if you want ridership, rail is the way to go.

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Thanks for the explanation editor. Do you think that Houston will ever be a city with a heavy rail system and a vibrant city center like other cities of its size? Or is there no hope?

Eventually. But like with any large infrastructure project, whether it be rail or a freeway or an aqueduct or a bridge or whatever, the longer you wait the more expensive it gets. Delaying is just part of the playbook for killing large projects, because the more it costs the more people decide against it.

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OK well I have a new line of argument. Total ridership. Earlier, we had assumed that the 600,500+ daily ridership for METRO provided by Wikipedia was correct. However, looking at the Second Quarter 2010 ridership statistics (pg. 27 of the document), I realized that TOTAL daily ridership for METRO was only 270,600 (actual bus ridership was 229,200). On the other hand, MARTA (pg. 17 of the document) had a total ridership of 464,100, with a bus ridership of 216,300 (heavy rail ridership was 246,000).

So basically MATRA has almost double our ridership, in less than half (!) the service area. To me, it's pretty clear cut who the better transit agency is, and strengthens my argument that if you want ridership, rail is the way to go.

MARTA isn't light rail, though. It's a full-on subway, and a pretty nice one at that.

I took a quick trip to Atlanta once. It was great to land at the airport, hop on the subway, and be right in the center of downtown in a matter of minutes. I stayed at the Omni, so the subway stop was practically next to my hotel. Took the subway up to Bucktown to see what that area was like. Then back on the train to the plane and off I went. Some day Houston will offer that kind of convenience to the business traveler. But not yet.

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mfastx, the majority of those MARTA bus riders and rail riders are 1 in the same (counted twice). Pretty much here in Atlanta the bus system is just a feeder to the rail stations.

How is that any different than when a METRO rider makes a bus-to-bus transfer (especially without a Q card)? There is no way of knowing, but it works both ways. Neither you or I know how the American Public Transportation Association gets their numbers, but I think they're credible enough. Besides, I would be very suprised if the "majority" of MARTA riders take both bus and rail on the same trip.

MARTA isn't light rail, though. It's a full-on subway, and a pretty nice one at that.

I took a quick trip to Atlanta once. It was great to land at the airport, hop on the subway, and be right in the center of downtown in a matter of minutes. I stayed at the Omni, so the subway stop was practically next to my hotel. Took the subway up to Bucktown to see what that area was like. Then back on the train to the plane and off I went. Some day Houston will offer that kind of convenience to the business traveler. But not yet.

I realize that MARTA is heavy rail, not light rail. Earlier, however, the "heavy rail vs light rail" debate came up, and TheNiche was adamant that "heavy rail is even worse" and that MARTA had less ridership than METRO, thus using the ridership numbers as proof that heavy rail doesn't work. That discussion took place a few pages back so it is understandable that some people wouldn't understand this last post.

Edited by mfastx
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...the longer you wait the more expensive it gets.

Why is it that in the year 2010, people are still prone to make sweeping generalizations like that based upon datapoints from the boom years? You certainly don't see people scrambling to buy houses quick, anymore, to get in on ever-rising prices. They'd be a laughing stock in this day and age...

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OK well I have a new line of argument. Total ridership. Earlier, we had assumed that the 600,500+ daily ridership for METRO provided by Wikipedia was correct. However, looking at the Second Quarter 2010 ridership statistics (pg. 27 of the document), I realized that TOTAL daily ridership for METRO was only 270,600 (actual bus ridership was 229,200). On the other hand, MARTA (pg. 17 of the document) had a total ridership of 464,100, with a bus ridership of 216,300 (heavy rail ridership was 246,000).

So basically MATRA has almost double our ridership, in less than half (!) the service area. To me, it's pretty clear cut who the better transit agency is, and strengthens my argument that if you want ridership, rail is the way to go.

Wikipedia links to a press release that has since been taken down by METRO, but I do vaguelly recall having read through it when it was still up and having seen that figure represented therein. I'm not sure what to make of all this just right now, but I have to admit that on the face of it, your new figures do seem credible.

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Wikipedia links to a press release that has since been taken down by METRO, but I do vaguelly recall having read through it when it was still up and having seen that figure represented therein. I'm not sure what to make of all this just right now, but I have to admit that on the face of it, your new figures do seem credible.

Well ridership has fluctuated.. in past years METRO's total ridership has been as high as 300,000+, but 600,500 did seem a little high. METRO has been known to exaggerate their ridership numbers, for example they say the Red Line has 45,000 riders (or "railfans" lol) daily when it really only has 34,500. I have a couple of theories.. concerning the Red Line ridership, the APTA might not count the riders who don't pay a ticket (which is probably at least a few thousand). As for the bus ridership.. supposedly the APTA counts linked trips as one (in other words, they don't count transfers as two riders), so possibly the 600,500 number included transfers. Who knows.

I was wrong earlier when I said that P&R was a large chunck of METRO's ridership, actually it is only about 30,000+ (don't have the exact number, but I believe that it's somewhere around there). That number also makes the 600,500 number seem a little unrealistic.

However, I think we can both agree that it would benefit the city of Houston to have more transit ridership, whatever the mode.

Back on topic, I recently saw this video and thought it was interesting, so I'll share it to whomever hasn't seen it yet:

Edited by mfastx
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Well ridership has fluctuated.. in past years METRO's total ridership has been as high as 300,000+, but 600,500 did seem a little high. METRO has been known to exaggerate their ridership numbers, for example they say the Red Line has 45,000 riders (or "railfans" lol) daily when it really only has 34,500. I have a couple of theories.. concerning the Red Line ridership, the APTA might not count the riders who don't pay a ticket (which is probably at least a few thousand). As for the bus ridership.. supposedly the APTA counts linked trips as one (in other words, they don't count transfers as two riders), so possibly the 600,500 number included transfers. Who knows.

I was wrong earlier when I said that P&R was a large chunck of METRO's ridership, actually it is only about 30,000+ (don't have the exact number, but I believe that it's somewhere around there). That number also makes the 600,500 number seem a little unrealistic.

However, I think we can both agree that it would benefit the city of Houston to have more transit ridership, whatever the mode.

Back on topic, I recently saw this video and thought it was interesting, so I'll share it to whomever hasn't seen it yet:

Very interesting. Thanks for posting.

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I thought this article provides some good ideas to learn from for a smaller but similar city and their success with mass transit. For those not familiar with the Canadian oil capital:

Calgary is generally considered a conservative city, dominated by traditional small-c social conservatives and fiscal conservatives.[63] As the city is a corporate power-centre, a high percentage of the workforce is employed in white-collar jobs. The high concentration of oil and gas corporation led to the rise of...
Reasons for success

The C-Train's high ridership rate and cost effectiveness is attributed to a number of factors. The nature of Calgary itself has encouraged C-Train use. Calgary has a dense downtown business district, with the second most corporate head offices in Canada after Toronto, most of them crowded into about one square kilometre of land. In recent decades the population has grown dramatically, outpacing the ability of roads to transport people into the city.[34]

Costs were controlled during construction and operation of the system by using relatively cheap, existing technology. A grade separated system was passed over in preference of a system without significant elevated or buried elements and the trains and stations selected were of the tried and tested, utilitarian variety (for example, vehicles are not air conditioned, storage yards are not automated and stations are in general concrete platforms with a modest shelter overhead). This allowed more track to be laid with the available funds and contrasts with the Edmonton Light Rail Transit which buried the portion of the system in downtown and under the University of Alberta, increasing costs. The C-Train uses a self service model of payment, reducing fare collection costs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C-Train
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I thought this article provides some good ideas to learn from for a smaller but similar city and their success with mass transit. For those not familiar with the Canadian oil capital:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C-Train

I think METRO should have built a light rail like the one in Calgary. Houston's light rail is nearly flat with the ground while Calgary's is elevated like a heavy rail and it looks and operates more like a heavy rail. I think think the elevated cars would have worked better in Houston because of the flooding issues.

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It's amazing. Houston has the sleekest light rail train running along some of the most ragedy streets and surroundings. The rest of Houston doesn't compliment the sleek design of the train. As much as I hate to admit it, it would be better fit in Dallas.

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Well, on my way to and from work, it appears that the construction on Scott Street has stopped. No construction crews or any work being done, but the construction equipment is still around and everything is still a mess. Our worst fears were realized :(

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Well, on my way to and from work, it appears that the construction on Scott Street has stopped. No construction crews or any work being done, but the construction equipment is still around and everything is still a mess. Our worst fears were realized :(

Nope, not my worst fear. Last I checked, METRO was still solvent, not in Chapter 8 or in some form of custodianship.

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Nope, not my worst fear. Last I checked, METRO was still solvent, not in Chapter 8 or in some form of custodianship.

not chapter 8, but still pretty damn bad.

whole streets through downtown just torn up and nothing being done with huge holes and whatnot.

sure it's a direct result of crappiness, but my momma always said, you can't make crappy better by making the situation even more crappy.

well, that isn't what she said verbatim, but it's darn close.

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Nope, not my worst fear. Last I checked, METRO was still solvent, not in Chapter 8 or in some form of custodianship.

I agree totally, there are sections that they can at least lay concrete to give some relief to businesses and residences at certain parts of the line. Some others where it's basically is on it's own ROW, can certainly wait.

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As of last week construction was still in full swing on the East End line. Seems the downtown area is also being prepped for major construction in the coming weeks and Harrisburg east of Hughes is also being worked on as well as far as about 75th street.

that is good news, for sure, but just from observations, scott street appears to be in the same condition it was when this fiasco came up. I also haven't seen any crews out there, granted I work on weekdays, so I don't expect to.

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i've been out of town and i am extremely interested in this... has construction completely stopped or are they moving forward?

in general, are the north, east, and southeast lines officially put on hold just like the university and uptown lines? Anyone have the know on the new completion timelines?

that is good news, for sure, but just from observations, scott street appears to be in the same condition it was when this fiasco came up. I also haven't seen any crews out there, granted I work on weekdays, so I don't expect to.

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i've been out of town and i am extremely interested in this... has construction completely stopped or are they moving forward?

in general, are the north, east, and southeast lines officially put on hold just like the university and uptown lines? Anyone have the know on the new completion timelines?

I don't think any of the lines have been "officially put on hold". Some work continues on lines, but the next round of contracts has to wait until the federal funding is regained. Planning and engineering work continues on the University Lines and I think on the Uptown line as well.

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I don't think any of the lines have been "officially put on hold". Some work continues on lines, but the next round of contracts has to wait until the federal funding is regained. Planning and engineering work continues on the University Lines and I think on the Uptown line as well.

I think you are correct. Work is definitely continuing as we speak...

http://www.gometrora...EE18_101810.pdf

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  • The title was changed to METRO Rail Construction Resumes

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