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Metro Ridership Continues to Grow

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This came in the e-mail this morning.

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METRO RIDERSHIP CONTINUES TO RISE

AGENCY POSTS SIXTH STRAIGHT MONTH OF GROWTH

More people are riding METRO buses and rail more often.

METRO ridership is on the rise for a sixth consecutive month, recording a 5.2 percent increase to 6,357,131 boardings in January 2012 compared to 6,043,280 in January 2011.

“Thanks to our focus on smart service and service changes to improve the system, we have been able to take advantage of the improving economy to deliver first-class transit to our community,” said METRO President & CEO George Greanias.

Upward METRO Ridership Trend Continues for Sixth Consecutive Month

Local bus and Park & Ride - January, 2011: 5,277,229

Local bus and Park & Ride - January, 2012: 5,455,106

MetroRAIL - January, 2011: 766,051

MetroRAIL - January, 2012: 902,025

METRORail ridership posted a 17.7 percent increase to 902,025 boardings compared to the 766,051 recorded in the same month last year. Park & Ride and local bus service jumped to 5,455,106 boardings versus 5,277,229 in January 2011.

The continued growth is due in large part to increased employment in the area and METRO’s ongoing system adjustments to improve efficiency.

Though there is currently no link between the agency’s growth in ridership and rising gas prices, METRO offers many alternatives to move about the city, and welcomes new riders and returning patrons. The latest transit savings report from the American Public Transportation Association shows that riding public transit saves about $9,914 a year.

About METRO

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) is the region’s largest public transit provider, offering safe, reliable and affordable transportation services about 370,000 times per day. Besides operating more than 1,200 buses, METRO is currently expanding its 7.5-mile light-rail line (Red Line), with three new lines under construction. METRO’s services also include:Star Vanpool, METROLift, HOV lanes, HOT lanes, Bikes-on-Buses/Trains program, Park & Ride and road improvement projects.

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As far as the rail goes, I suspect it's mainly tied to med center employment growth and using the LRT more and more as a remote parking shuttle. There were also two Texans home games in January, including their first playoff game. The mild/warm January also probably helped.

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As far as the rail goes, I suspect it's mainly tied to med center employment growth and using the LRT more and more as a remote parking shuttle. There were also two Texans home games in January, including their first playoff game. The mild/warm January also probably helped.

I doubt the two Texans games matter much. TMC employment growth is probably the biggest reason, but it could also be that people are just more open to using it now (and are getting use to it). Can't wait for the other lines.

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I doubt the two Texans games matter much. TMC employment growth is probably the biggest reason, but it could also be that people are just more open to using it now (and are getting use to it). Can't wait for the other lines.

I think you might be surprised. Not just attendees at the 71,500 capacity stadium, but many more just go for the tailgating before the game. Parking is tight. And that playoff game was a *really* big deal. I would not be surprised if a big chunk of that ~135,000 rider increase happened on those two game days.

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I wouldn't be surprised if 50-70k of that was for the Texans games, but so what? I would expect us to be hosting more January playoff games in the coming years. It is nice to have the rail as an option for major events like NFL / college football games or the Rodeo, even if it is just as a parking shuttle. It helps alleviate congestion around the stadium, and helps some of us avoid paying $20 or whatever for parking.

As Houston continues to grow, aside from our playoff appearances, I'd only expect us to be landing more major events where rail might help - like the NBA All-Star game, the Superbowl, NCAA tournament, major rock concerts, and on and on. I'd argue rail has helped us land some of these major events in the first place since people can stay anywhere along the line now and not have to worry with driving / parking, and some of our major hotels like the Hilton downtown were certainly designed with this in mind.

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Rodeo will also boost ridership. It's really quite funny to me to see the train at night, chock full of Cowboys & Cowgirls. It looks like they've been corralled in there. I might just hop on there one evening, just for kicks.

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I agree it's a great asset for Reliant Park. Just trying to get accurate reasoning behind the increase - tease apart long-term trends from short-term events.

Here's my tongue-in-cheek prediction for the future:

Texans go all the way in the playoffs with the home field advantage, Metro press release headline "Metro is awesome - January rail ridership spikes 30%!" (no mention of Texans, just good Metro management)

Texans fail to make the playoffs the next year (or don't have home field seeding), "Metrorail January ridership drops 30%, Texans at fault"

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I agree it's a great asset for Reliant Park. Just trying to get accurate reasoning behind the increase - tease apart long-term trends from short-term events.

Simply awesome. LOL, I think I'm going to go for that picture.

I've been noticing more and more people riding the rail as a way to get TO their final destinations to avoid the parking hassles, which is the smart way to go.

It has gotten to the point that I actually worry about the Red line's capacity once the other routes reach completion.

As it stands, Robertson, Dynamo, MMP, Reliant, stand to have heavy use during their games, Med center and DT's Ridership has increased faster than projections.

With the rodeo running at capacity now, I kinda' wonder what true capacity of it will be (even with the additional cars due to go on line later this year) and if METRO will be flexible enough to be able to handle the pulses of increase usage during major events.

But like I've said on other threads, someone would make a mint if they built a large garage with retail on the bottom near the stations.

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Rodeo will also boost ridership. It's really quite funny to me to see the train at night, chock full of Cowboys & Cowgirls. It looks like they've been corralled in there. I might just hop on there one evening, just for kicks.

Indeed. This was Saturday.

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I bet the highest single day of ridership is still one of the SB weekends when it was in Houston.

I remember riding the train and we were packed in so damn tight I could swear I could feel the exact lace design of the panties on the pretty girl I was standing on top of next to. eventhough it was about 35 degrees outside and she was wearing exactly 3 layers of clothes and long underwear to help keep warm.

Edited by samagon

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According to the mighty wiki, the ridership that day was 65,005. But there was quite a few hiccup that day, including shutting down the life the line after leeland.

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I think you might be surprised. Not just attendees at the 71,500 capacity stadium, but many more just go for the tailgating before the game. Parking is tight. And that playoff game was a *really* big deal. I would not be surprised if a big chunk of that ~135,000 rider increase happened on those two game days.

A couple of things you missed. One, there was also a January home game in 2011, so only the playoff game was added in 2012. Two, while the Texans do allow non-game attending patrons to attend the tailgating, tailgaters tend to arrive in vehicles (hence the term), and the Texans severely limited non-game attendees this year by requiring the purchase of a tailgating pass. The Texans limit the number of tailgating passes to no more than 4,000 per home game. If anything, the total number of fans attending Reliant dropped this year, not increased.

http://www.houstontexans.com/gameday/tailgating/policy.html

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A couple of things you missed. One, there was also a January home game in 2011, so only the playoff game was added in 2012. Two, while the Texans do allow non-game attending patrons to attend the tailgating, tailgaters tend to arrive in vehicles (hence the term), and the Texans severely limited non-game attendees this year by requiring the purchase of a tailgating pass. The Texans limit the number of tailgating passes to no more than 4,000 per home game. If anything, the total number of fans attending Reliant dropped this year, not increased.

http://www.houstonte...ing/policy.html

Last game last year was meaningless, vs. tremendous hype this year both at the end of the season and for the first playoff game in franchise history. They had a graph in the paper with the last 6 months. Most other months weren't close to January's gains, although Nov had a similar spike. The nice walking weather in Jan was probably also a large factor.

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I'll give you the warm weather and then some. Look at these temps.

The temps going across are Max, Average, and Min.

2011

Max Temperature 75 °F 61 °F 39 °F Mean Temperature 67 °F 52 °F 36 °F Min Temperature 59 °F 42 °F 26 °F

2012

Max Temperature 81 °F 70 °F 55 °F Mean Temperature 74 °F 59 °F 43 °F Min Temperature 66 °F 48 °F

30 °F

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Good find. I'll go with the warm weather for most of the rest, with some long-term med center growth thrown in.

I've never once decided to take or not take public transportation based on the weather - it is more a function of where I am going, parking costs, etc, so I can't imagine that average temps in the upper 50s versus average temps in the upper 60s make a very big difference. Houston in January is generally pretty mild. Even last January when it dipped into the 30s I can't imagine not taking the rail into work if that was my normal routine. Throw on a sweater or a coat and problem solved. It is not as if we have major ice storms or a foot of snow that keep people away from work as in some cities.

Edited by mikehouston

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I've never once decided to take or not take public transportation based on the weather - it is more a function of where I am going, parking costs, etc, so I can't imagine that average temps in the upper 50s versus average temps in the upper 60s make a very big difference. Houston in January is generally pretty mild. Even last January when it dipped into the 30s I can't imagine not taking the rail into work if that was my normal routine. Throw on a sweater or a coat and problem solved. It is not as if we have major ice storms or a foot of snow that keep people away from work as in some cities.

It's not the commuters, it's the daytime and weekend crowds that decide to take the train and walk around the museum district, Hermann Park, Midtown, Downtown, or elsewhere. Cold and gray might keep you in or take the car - nice and above 55 you start walking/exploring.

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Today, the light rail was free because it's black heritage day. How are riders counted that don't pay?

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Today, the light rail was free because it's black heritage day. How are riders counted that don't pay?

"Bus

Boardings are recorded by automatic passenger counters (APCs) and passenger count cards. METRO has equipped 100% of its fixed-route bus fleet with automatic

passenger counters. The raw data are adjusted for missing data and APC under counting as approved in METRO's NTD alternative sampling methodology. Additionally,

there are several routes for which passenger count cards are used due to the absence of APC equipment in the vehicle (Route 352 Swingle), multiple fares on the same

route (Route 236 Baytown and 244 Monroe), and recording of non-riders (Route 500 Airport Direct, which uses concierge staff to assist with boarding and alighting).

Rail

Boardings are recorded by automatic passenger counters (APCs). METRO has equipped 100% of its fixed-route rail fleet with automatic passenger counters.

The raw data are adjusted for missing data and APC under counting for Special Events as approved in METRO's NTD methodology."

-Metro ridership reports

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I'll give you the warm weather and then some. Look at these temps.

The temps going across are Max, Average, and Min.

2011

Max Temperature 75 °F 61 °F 39 °F Mean Temperature 67 °F 52 °F 36 °F Min Temperature 59 °F 42 °F 26 °F

2012

Max Temperature 81 °F 70 °F 55 °F Mean Temperature 74 °F 59 °F 43 °F Min Temperature 66 °F 48 °F

30 °F

is this just for January, just for February, or YTD?

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the Chron article that referenced this Metro press release pointed out that while boardings have increased the last 6 months, the METRO bus/rail system is still down from its 1998 high of 98 million bus boardings.

just dividing the 98 mil by 12 yields a bit over 8 mil/month vs the 6.3 mil for Jan 2012.

that's a decline of over 20%. what explains that decline?

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the Chron article that referenced this Metro press release pointed out that while boardings have increased the last 6 months, the METRO bus/rail system is still down from its 1998 high of 98 million bus boardings.

just dividing the 98 mil by 12 yields a bit over 8 mil/month vs the 6.3 mil for Jan 2012.

that's a decline of over 20%. what explains that decline?

Hypothesis: some of the strongest, sustained job growth in the country -> reduced poverty -> poor can afford cars instead of transit

A quote from one of my old blog posts:

"One measurable result: Houston's population in hard-core poverty areas fell by 107,272 (47.8 percent) during the 1990s, one of the largest urban declines, according to the Brookings Institution."

And I suspect the trend continued into the new century.

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interesting.

maybe that helps explain why decisionmakers in this town have shifted METRO's emphasis from public transportation to mass transit since the end of the 90s.

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Houston is in a weird position- parking is so incredibly easy in every single part of town that even those of us who would prefer to use public transportation largely can't justify it. I would be happy to take a bus or train to get around, but I'm a 15 minute walk to my bus stop and I find the bus routes to be ...odd. If I lived in Midtown I would be riding the rail regularly, and if the University line gets built I will be all about that. The University line might actually get me to go to the Galleria every once in a while.

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Parking in the Medical Center has become abysmal. Many more people are getting Q Cards for that sole purpose. But METRO is also working to align more routes into the rail line, so I think we're starting to see the benefit of that.

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Agreed.

Kinda makes me wonder if they are eventually going to shut down the smith lands and build a mega garage.

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There are too many possible factors at play here, among them economics (gas prices), convenience (crowded highways), attitudinal changes (why did it take me 8 years to even try the train).

I think it would be useful to look elsewhere for precedents that show city growth and what factors struck a balance between growth and infrastructure spending. But first i'm curious whether everyone here agrees that the mass adoption of an efficient public transport system is both desirable and preferable to gridlock and more roads.

Stumped if I know :mellow:

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But first i'm curious whether everyone here agrees that the mass adoption of an efficient public transport system is both desirable and preferable to gridlock and more roads.

Nobody votes for gridlock. It's the efficient part that is causing the disputes.

If we are going to build fixed-rail systems in a big metro area designed wholly for automobiles, the routing and interaction with auto traffic has to be the 1st priority, but what we have gotten from METRO is an attempt to balance that priority with what it can afford to build.

Add to that METRO's proven squandering of $100s of millions of taxpayer money on the 2003 "Solutions" plans, and proven malfeasance at the highest levels of previous METRO management, and you have our current predicament in which METRO says the "Uptown Line" once scheduled to be operational by 2012 may be running by 2030 (if METRO can find some funding).

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Nobody votes for gridlock. It's the efficient part that is causing the disputes.

If we are going to build fixed-rail systems in a big metro area designed wholly for automobiles, the routing and interaction with auto traffic has to be the 1st priority, but what we have gotten from METRO is an attempt to balance that priority with what it can afford to build.

Add to that METRO's proven squandering of $100s of millions of taxpayer money on the 2003 "Solutions" plans, and proven malfeasance at the highest levels of previous METRO management, and you have our current predicament in which METRO says the "Uptown Line" once scheduled to be operational by 2012 may be running by 2030 (if METRO can find some funding).

Don't forget the looting of Metro's "war chest" that had been built up to pay for rail back in the 90's. I believe it was good old Bob Lanier who did that - wasn't it somewhere around $600 million ( my memory may be failing me here) that. Plus the continued diversion of 25% of the funds that are supposed to support Metro being siphoned off for non-mass transit purposes.

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Don't forget the looting of Metro's "war chest" that had been built up to pay for rail back in the 90's. I believe it was good old Bob Lanier who did that - wasn't it somewhere around $600 million ( my memory may be failing me here) that. Plus the continued diversion of 25% of the funds that are supposed to support Metro being siphoned off for non-mass transit purposes.

You're correct, Lanier pillaged the funds that METRO had and diverted them to Police and other projects I forget.

I wonder if there is some way to allow metro to get its full penny tax back, instead of it being split up to other entities?

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I wonder if there is some way to allow metro to get its full penny tax back, instead of it being split up to other entities?

They'd definitely like to, and I think they're considering a referendum to do that (?). But the people who appoint their board are the beneficiaries of that $ (CoH, Harris County, smaller cities), so it will be a very tough sell. If they follow the path of other transit agencies, they will push themselves into the equivalent of bankruptcy (mainly with rail spending) and then demand the extra money or threaten draconian bus service cuts.

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They'd definitely like to, and I think they're considering a referendum to do that (?). But the people who appoint their board are the beneficiaries of that $ (CoH, Harris County, smaller cities), so it will be a very tough sell. If they follow the path of other transit agencies, they will push themselves into the equivalent of bankruptcy (mainly with rail spending) and then demand the extra money or threaten draconian bus service cuts.

Which other transit agencies have followed this "path?"

They have been pushed to the equivalent of bankruptcy by Bob Lanier.

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Which other transit agencies have followed this "path?"

They have been pushed to the equivalent of bankruptcy by Bob Lanier.

Plenty over the years. Go back through the archives here to find some of them: http://ti.org/antiplanner/

Metro was just fine without the 25% until they embarked on the overly-ambitious light rail plan well after the Lanier administration. They could still be just fine with the Main St. line and even the University line, but the other lines are likely to put them in a deep fiscal hole.

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Which other transit agencies have followed this "path?"

They have been pushed to the equivalent of bankruptcy by Bob Lanier.

agreed that Lanier spent dedicated METRO money on police by a technically legit switcheroo, but 20 years later the alleged reasons for that have been simplified and lost is the civic/political context in which he acted.

No doubt Lanier was hardcore anti-rail but he was also a 1st term mayor faced with 2 huge problems - Houston was not yet recovered from its 1980s oil crash depression, so revenues and reserves were down, and there was a serious crime wave that peaked in the early 90s. His alternative would have been a tax hike, but that would have been political suicide given the shaky post- depression state of the local economy.

So IMO his prospects for future reelection drove a lot of what he did.

As a resident here at the time I had no problem with taxpayer money dedicated to an amenity like LRT being diverted to put more cops on the street and fix deteriorating streets.

Since he was elected for a 2nd term with 92% of the vote I don't think I was the only one that felt that way.

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agreed that Lanier spent dedicated METRO money on police by a technically legit switcheroo, but 20 years later the alleged reasons for that have been simplified and lost is the civic/political context in which he acted.

No doubt Lanier was hardcore anti-rail but he was also a 1st term mayor faced with 2 huge problems - Houston was not yet recovered from its 1980s oil crash depression, so revenues and reserves were down, and there was a serious crime wave that peaked in the early 90s. His alternative would have been a tax hike, but that would have been political suicide given the shaky post- depression state of the local economy.

So IMO his prospects for future reelection drove a lot of what he did.

As a resident here at the time I had no problem with taxpayer money dedicated to an amenity like LRT being diverted to put more cops on the street and fix deteriorating streets.

Since he was elected for a 2nd term with 92% of the vote I don't think I was the only one that felt that way.

Not only that, but Lanier pretty explicitly campaigned for his first term on the platform of killing the monorail and diverting Metro funds to police and roads.

Edited by Houston19514

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Plenty over the years. Go back through the archives here to find some of them: http://ti.org/antiplanner/

Sorry, but all I see from that website is an obvious anti-rail and transit bias. Most the transit agencies that this website criticizes are not only better than Houston's METRO, but they are developing and expanding their transit lines even more. I hope that METRO follows the path of the agencies that this website fasly criticizes.

Metro was just fine without the 25% until they embarked on the overly-ambitious light rail plan well after the Lanier administration. They could still be just fine with the Main St. line and even the University line, but the other lines are likely to put them in a deep fiscal hole.

Just fine? METRO has historically had one of the lowest transit riderships out of any large city. You really think public transit in Houston is "just fine?" Do you even ride METRO? How is the current light rail plan overly-ambitious? You are the same person that insisted that Houston would probably not get rail funding, well you were wrong. How do you know that the lines they are building are "likely" to put them in a fiscal hole? Are you on METRO's board?? Did you know that light rail has a cheaper operating cost than buses (see for yourself, I started a thread on it :P )?

When you compare the United States to other developed nations, public transit is severely underfunded here. Congress just shells out trillions for highways but it's like pulling teeth the get any transit funding. Yes, most agencies have trouble funding capital projects when they only have enough money to cover operating costs. But rather than just have cheaper and low quality public transit, maybe they should be funded more? It would be pretty hard for TxDOT to build and maintain roads if they didn't get the billions and billions of dollars they get each year from the government, wouldn't it?

agreed that Lanier spent dedicated METRO money on police by a technically legit switcheroo, but 20 years later the alleged reasons for that have been simplified and lost is the civic/political context in which he acted.

No doubt Lanier was hardcore anti-rail but he was also a 1st term mayor faced with 2 huge problems - Houston was not yet recovered from its 1980s oil crash depression, so revenues and reserves were down, and there was a serious crime wave that peaked in the early 90s. His alternative would have been a tax hike, but that would have been political suicide given the shaky post- depression state of the local economy.

So IMO his prospects for future reelection drove a lot of what he did.

As a resident here at the time I had no problem with taxpayer money dedicated to an amenity like LRT being diverted to put more cops on the street and fix deteriorating streets.

Since he was elected for a 2nd term with 92% of the vote I don't think I was the only one that felt that way.

I realize all of that, and I know the majority of Houston during that time was not worried about public transit at all. However the fact is that Lanier did more financial damage to METRO than any of these rail lines will.

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It was 'just fine' in a financial sense. And I believe it won awards as a transit agency for the service it provided the poor over such a large city.

TXDoT is funded by gas tax from the cars that use it. The Feds should only be responsible for the interstate system. Transit is a purely local investment and should be locally decided and funded on its own merits.

This pretty much sums up Metro's problems: http://houstonstrategies.blogspot.com/2010/03/decline-and-fall-of-metro.html

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Sorry, but all I see from that website is an obvious anti-rail and transit bias.

All I see from your comments are an obvious pro-rail and transit bias. See my inane and ridiculous comments on your inane and ridiculous protestations. Hopefully it will become clear to you that rhetoric is not an effective means of objective victory in a debate...though I'll grant you that there are a lot of stupid people out there, easily appealed to. If your objective is to undermine Tory and manipulatively generate popular support for your cause, then kudos to you.

Just fine? That's what he said. METRO has historically had one of the lowest transit riderships out of any large city. METRO gets better bang for the buck than most cities in spite of having to operate in a low-density post-WW2 urban environment. You really think public transit in Houston is "just fine? That's what he said. Do you even ride METRO? I do. It's more or less fine, although there's a lot of stuff that was done half-assedly that I'd rather have not been done at all. How is the current light rail plan overly-ambitious? North, East, and Southeast lines have limited ridership potentials and are better served by BRT; their opportunity costs could have been used to expedite the University Line and to get it built with better grade separations. You are the same person that insisted that Houston would probably not get rail funding, well you were wrong. The ultimate outcome was improbable considering METRO's sloppy handling of the 'Buy American' rule and belt-tightening at the federal level. He was neither right or wrong, but his analysis was sound. How do you know that the lines they are building are "likely" to put them in a fiscal hole? How do you know that they won't? Are you on METRO's board?? Are you on METRO's board?? Did you know that light rail has a cheaper operating cost than buses (see for yourself, I started a thread on it :P )? Did you know that light rail has a higher capital cost than buses?

When you compare the United States to other developed nations, public transit is severely underfunded here. Other countries are stupid. Congress just shells out trillions for highways but it's like pulling teeth the get any transit funding. Congress shells out waaay too much transit funding. Congress is stupid, too. Yes, most agencies have trouble funding capital projects when they only have enough money to cover operating costs. But rather than just have cheaper and low quality public transit, maybe they should be funded more? No, that would be stupid. It would be pretty hard for TxDOT to build and maintain roads if they didn't get the billions and billions of dollars they get each year from the government, wouldn't it? It's pretty hard for TXDoT just to maintain the roads it has with the money it gets. It should get more money.

I realize all of that, and I know the majority of Houston during that time was not worried about public transit at all. However the fact is that Lanier did more financial damage to METRO than any of these rail lines will. METRO's mission is to enhance regional mobility, not merely to develop hipster-approved carnival rides posing as transit. The alternative uses of its funds would seem to further its mission, so I do not see it as damaged.

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I asked a more knowledgeable friend for his thoughts, and here's what he sent:

1. Metro massages its ridership numbers and none are trust-worthy. Witness the fact that numbers it submitted to the feds, which is what O'Toole relied on in 2010 (Cato Policy Analysis #663), are at variance with what it includes in its annual report for that year show on its website.

2. Lanier is not hard core anti-rail...he signed off on Metro's rail plan approved by voters in 1988, and he endorsed the Red Line before construction began in 2001 ("Oh, let's let them have their little toy train", he told the Houston Chronicle, in more or less those words) and he endorsed the extensions before Metro's 2003 referendum.... He also let Metro, under his buddy Billy Burge's chairmanship, conduct a months long study of commuter rail when he was mayor and issue a statement that commuter rail may be appropriate in the future. (Lanier is conflicted on the issue; he knows rail is bad policy but as a political animal he is compelled join his buds in the establishment. He was willing to buck that group when it served his interest as mayor...but not since. He's a sad case.)

3. Texas has six cities with a dedicated transit tax, and at one point three were less than one percent...Ft. Worth, I think I recall, was at the time just a quarter of one percent. Very few agencies in the country are funded with a dedicated transit tax...One percent is HUGE, and for many years collected far more than projected in the original plan released before the 1978 election authorizing the Metro tax. A former Executive Director, Alan Keeper, once bragged to the Chron, circa 1985, that Houston is "the Saudi Arabia of transit agencies."

4. Metro's ridership numbers may be rising but bear in mind that Metro uses its bus program to force feed riders to train stations and double counts riders who make transfers. In spite of that artificial boost to its productivity numbers it is far below its peak when it was a bus-only system. O'Toole's Cato report on rail nation-wide, cited above, states that ridership was on upward trend in 2001 before rail construction began.

5. Metro's annual report shows the agency suffers operational losses of a million dollars DAILY, has a farebox recovery rate around 20% while it promised in its founding report to voters to target a 50% recovery rate, and that the average Houston household gives up to Metro about $500 a year.

6. Lastly, I'll point out that in my 30 years of involvement in transit questions I have never encountered a transportation economist who endorses the decision of cities to convert bus-only systems to bus and rail, and they always point to the OPPORTUNITY COST, how much service and ridership could have been expanded if rail programs had never been launched. This is the underlying theme in the landmark 2010 speech by Peter Rogoff, head of the Federal Transit Administration, when he urged cities to abandon their plans for "shiny" new rail lines and focus on bus service.

(See: Video of Rogoff's speech and his speech notes: http://www.fta.dot.gov/news/speeches/news_events_11682.html)

Barry Klein, Pres./ Houston Property Rights Association

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Ha Ha! Barry Klein? Anyone who takes his METRO rants even remotely seriously deserves whatever hit to their credibility they get! Wow, Tory. I can't believe you went the Barry Klein route.

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Ha Ha! Barry Klein? Anyone who takes his METRO rants even remotely seriously deserves whatever hit to their credibility they get! Wow, Tory. I can't believe you went the Barry Klein route.

Take his opinions however you like (and he and I don't agree on everything), but facts are facts.

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Take his opinions however you like (and he and I don't agree on everything), but facts are facts.

Unless those facts are opinions. Again, when you use Barry to make your point, your point is suspect.

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5. Metro's annual report shows the agency suffers operational losses of a million dollars DAILY, has a farebox recovery rate around 20% while it promised in its founding report to voters to target a 50% recovery rate, and that the average Houston household gives up to Metro about $500 a year.

Barry Klein, Pres./ Houston Property Rights Association

That recovery ratio was based on the 1978 Regional Transit Plan, which had extensive rail planned. Longer trips recover more money. The city didn't go for that, so obviously the recovery ratio target has to come lower. Barry should come post here and we can discuss it with him.

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A few points about Metro promises, and a correction:

1. Metro could not assume in 1978 that all of Harris County would be in the district since voting was done by enclaves. Furthermore, the 29 page REGIONAL TRANSIT PLAN, released in July of that year, made no differentiation about performance commitments based on which enclaves voted YES and which voted NO, such as Pasadena and Baytown. Metro is stuck with its "promises", for whatever they are worth.

2. In that 1978 report, Metro states it will first maximize the utilization of existing transportation facilities (p.9) and promote private transportation (jitneys are mentioned) (see pp. 9 and 16). Of course it quickly veered from that promise when it began issuing rail design contracts in 1979.

3. Metro committed to pay-as-you-go funding capital projects to save on interest charges (p. 26). Another promise abandoned.

4. And, here's a statement that must have had them chuckling: "The MTA Board has recognized that the availability of federal tax dollars is no reason to construct a costly and unused system as has occurred in other cities" (p. 26). Before 1978 had ended Metro was preparing a federal grant request for funds to build a CBD people mover, such as we see (unused) in Detroit and Miami. Community outrage, including a harsh press release from the League of Women Voters, a Metro ally who helped sell voters on the plan, made them back down.

5. A CORRECTION: I see now that I wrongly stated that Metro's annual report shows states that Metro costs the average family $500 annually...that is my calculation based in part on the sales tax revenue number given in the reports. Metro would NOT be so foolish as to put a number like that in its annual report.

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It was 'just fine' in a financial sense. And I believe it won awards as a transit agency for the service it provided the poor over such a large city.

Well, they were operating a very cheap and sub-par transit system. A very inefficient one too, as the bus only transit system only managed about 14% farebox recovery.

TXDoT is funded by gas tax from the cars that use it. The Feds should only be responsible for the interstate system. Transit is a purely local investment and should be locally decided and funded on its own merits.

This pretty much sums up Metro's problems: http://houstonstrate...l-of-metro.html

False. Gas tax only pay for roughly 50% of highway construction. This is stated in a Pew Research Report, you should check it out. If you think the feds should only be responsible for the interstate system, then you are in favor of the feds funding a national high speed rail system, correct?

The second part of your post is just an opinion, but the fact is that the feds finance most major capital projects, which includes our highways, airports, and rail. I don't see anything wrong with that.

All I see from your comments are an obvious pro-rail and transit bias. See my inane and ridiculous comments on your inane and ridiculous protestations. Hopefully it will become clear to you that rhetoric is not an effective means of objective victory in a debate...though I'll grant you that there are a lot of stupid people out there, easily appealed to. If your objective is to undermine Tory and manipulatively generate popular support for your cause, then kudos to you.

I have a pro-infrastructure bias. I am in favor of all projects that improve our city's infrastructure. Whether it be highways, airports, or rail, I am generally in favor of those projects. I believe that infrastructure here in the US is quite underfunded and would like to see more money going to building and improving our infrastructure. That is my objective.

We have had a historically inefficient transit system here in Houston. Our bus only system only had 14% farebox recovery, I don't think that should qualify as a "bang for your buck" system. What has been done half-assedly? If you are thinking of the rail line, I somewhat agree. However, certain congressmen made sure that we wouldn't get any funding to build a better system, so I'm proud that METRO has managed to improve its system the way it has with so many people against it. We've already had the BRT vs. rail discussion, so I'll just save some time and not argue with you, although I disagree. While I agree that METRO "f-ed" up in terms of following policy, the new leadership of METRO seems competent enough, and they ended up getting the funding, so the results speak for themselves. I don't know that the new rail lines will hurt METRO fiscally, but I'm not going to make assertions if I don't know what I'm talking about. When you say that light rail has a higher capital cost than buses, are you including the cost of the streets that the buses drive on? Doesn't that have to be included? If so, then rail definitely has a lower capital cost than buses. However, for the sake of argument, even though rail has a higher cost than buying buses, rail is more efficient in the long run, carries more people, and is more reliable. I'm sure you know all of the pros and cons as a result of all the debates we have had on here.

I hope you are joking with the second series of your replies. In any case, I will not address them.

1. Metro massages its ridership numbers and none are trust-worthy. Witness the fact that numbers it submitted to the feds, which is what O'Toole relied on in 2010 (Cato Policy Analysis #663), are at variance with what it includes in its annual report for that year show on its website.

Agreed. The only reliable source on ridership numbers is the APTA quarterly ridership report.

3. Texas has six cities with a dedicated transit tax, and at one point three were less than one percent...Ft. Worth, I think I recall, was at the time just a quarter of one percent. Very few agencies in the country are funded with a dedicated transit tax...One percent is HUGE, and for many years collected far more than projected in the original plan released before the 1978 election authorizing the Metro tax. A former Executive Director, Alan Keeper, once bragged to the Chron, circa 1985, that Houston is "the Saudi Arabia of transit agencies."

The cities that have good transit systems around the country are adequately funded. Cities with high transit ridership might not require as many operating funds, due to the fact that they have more efficient rail systems which carry a lot of passengers, which means that they recover a higher percentage of farebox recovery. However, if you look at most transit agencies with high ridership, you'll find that they are adequately funded. For example, Los Angeles's transit agency (which has about 1.5 million boardings a day) has more than a 1% sales tax. A 1% sales tax fund might be very large for medium sized cities, but for large cities, it is adequte at best.

4. Metro's ridership numbers may be rising but bear in mind that Metro uses its bus program to force feed riders to train stations and double counts riders who make transfers. In spite of that artificial boost to its productivity numbers it is far below its peak when it was a bus-only system. O'Toole's Cato report on rail nation-wide, cited above, states that ridership was on upward trend in 2001 before rail construction began.

Do you have a reliable source on your bolded assertion besides what this guy is telling you? There are also plenty of riders who make a bus to bus transfer, more actually. I'm sure there were plenty of bus to bus transfers when ridership was at its peak in the 1990s. So that's not much of an argument.

6. Lastly, I'll point out that in my 30 years of involvement in transit questions I have never encountered a transportation economist who endorses the decision of cities to convert bus-only systems to bus and rail, and they always point to the OPPORTUNITY COST, how much service and ridership could have been expanded if rail programs had never been launched. This is the underlying theme in the landmark 2010 speech by Peter Rogoff, head of the Federal Transit Administration, when he urged cities to abandon their plans for "shiny" new rail lines and focus on bus service.

(See: Video of Rogoff's speech and his speech notes: http://www.fta.dot.g...ents_11682.html)

Name one city in the US that both:

A) has a bus only transit system

and

C) has higher ridership than METRO

A transit agency's goal should be to provide transit to as many people as possible, and therefore taking as many cars off the road as possible. Rail has proven to do that better than buses. Every city with a high transit ridership has a backbone rail system. Every other major city in the world isn't stupid, they are building rail for a reason. It works.

4. And, here's a statement that must have had them chuckling: "The MTA Board has recognized that the availability of federal tax dollars is no reason to construct a costly and unused system as has occurred in other cities" (p. 26). Before 1978 had ended Metro was preparing a federal grant request for funds to build a CBD people mover, such as we see (unused) in Detroit and Miami. Community outrage, including a harsh press release from the League of Women Voters, a Metro ally who helped sell voters on the plan, made them back down.

Detriot's system is unused because it is so small. Miami's people mover is very "used," you can see for yourself by looking at the APTA ridership report. If METRO had constructed the heavy rail system proposed in the 1970s, its ridership would probably be similar to Atlanta's (which is about double our transit ridership).

Edited by mfastx

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I have a pro-infrastructure bias. I am in favor of all projects that improve our city's infrastructure. Whether it be highways, airports, or rail, I am generally in favor of those projects. I believe that infrastructure here in the US is quite underfunded and would like to see more money going to building and improving our infrastructure. That is my objective.

We have had a historically inefficient transit system here in Houston. Our bus only system only had 14% farebox recovery, I don't think that should qualify as a "bang for your buck" system. What has been done half-assedly? If you are thinking of the rail line, I somewhat agree. However, certain congressmen made sure that we wouldn't get any funding to build a better system, so I'm proud that METRO has managed to improve its system the way it has with so many people against it. We've already had the BRT vs. rail discussion, so I'll just save some time and not argue with you, although I disagree. While I agree that METRO "f-ed" up in terms of following policy, the new leadership of METRO seems competent enough, and they ended up getting the funding, so the results speak for themselves. I don't know that the new rail lines will hurt METRO fiscally, but I'm not going to make assertions if I don't know what I'm talking about. When you say that light rail has a higher capital cost than buses, are you including the cost of the streets that the buses drive on? Doesn't that have to be included? If so, then rail definitely has a lower capital cost than buses. However, for the sake of argument, even though rail has a higher cost than buying buses, rail is more efficient in the long run, carries more people, and is more reliable. I'm sure you know all of the pros and cons as a result of all the debates we have had on here.

I hope you are joking with the second series of your replies. In any case, I will not address them.

Yes, I know that you are biased. Everybody is biased. You can't form and espouse an opinion and not favor that opinion. You seem to understand that, and yet use others' "bias" as a form of attack rhetoric just by pointing it out. This is what leads me to believe that you are attempting to manipulate the vast horde of stupid people. All of my comments that followed were meant to unravel the variously nonsensical rhetoric that you espouse. They weren't meant to be clever, merely to demonstrate that your claims lack substance, that you and I could conceivably be going back and forth at each other like eight year olds and get nowhere. "Yuh huh!" "Uh uh!"

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