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Let’s spend our transit taxes on transit

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Let’s spend our transit taxes on transit

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David Crossley, President Houston Tomorrow

As the three new Houston light rail lines being constructed reach the halfway point, people are asking when the work on the University line will begin. The answer is: maybe never, unless we get our act together right now – and I mean in the next 3-4 weeks.

Not only is the University line endangered but so is the Uptown line, which depends on the University line. Indeed, any transit expansion at all other than the current rail construction and two more park-and-ride lots is not going to happen unless we can stop spending our transit taxes on roadway projects.

Metro receives local money from a 1-cent sales tax that was approved by voters when the agency was created in 1978. In 1987 then-Mayor Bob Lanier began taking 25% of that money away from Metro annually to use as he saw fit. That included funding design work for the so-called “Grand Parkway,” which is now under intense construction in order to pull population away from the City of Houston and all the other towns and cities in the region.

Generally, that misappropriated money is used for road projects to provide facilities that compete with Metro’s transit services. That highway robbery continues today and is called the General Mobility Program. It is why there is no work being done on the University light rail line, which is a required precursor to the Uptown line.

As Minister Robert Muhammad said in a 2009 blog post, “The public transportation system of Harris County has been looted for the past 21 years by the City and county to the tune of $2.5 billion. Let me be explicit, 25% of public transit revenue from the one cent public transit sales tax has gone for street, drainage, and landscaping projects. This is NOT what voters established Metro to do when it was created in 1978.”

Muhammad also pointed out that the $2.5 billion could have been used to leverage another $2.5 billion in federal money over the years, so more than $5 billion has been lost that could have already produced the expansion of transit system we need.

Recently, one political insider asserted that “We have spent more transit money on building roads than we have on building transit.”

If the light rail system that was approved by voters for 2012 were operating, it would have far more ridership than the much more expensive Dallas system, and would probably have the highest ridership of any light rail system but Boston’s Green Line, which is fed by a 100-year-old commuter rail system.

The University line is absolutely essential for this kind of efficiency to happen and to give 65 Houston neighborhoods high-capacity transit service, more than any city except New York, Chicago, and Washington DC. This is a smart system with no wasted miles.

Later this year, Metro will have a referendum on the day of the Presidential election, November 6. The 2003 referendum required that it seek a new local determination from the voters regarding Metro’s continuing support of this General Mobility idea. It is not at all clear what will actually be in this referendum, but some sort of vote about the sales tax will be in it, and maybe that’s all that will be in it.

Most of the diverted taxes (about 63%) go to the City of Houston, which has come to depend on them and has been strongly opposed to giving up this easy financial source.

Although Metro is an independent agency, the Mayor appoints the majority of the board. The City appointees are not puppets by any means, but the Mayor is an important player in this decision about what to do.

Naturally, the County commissioners, who are hands-down winning the population growth war on the towns and cities, want to keep the money flowing for roads as do the major engineering firms, not to mention the small cities that use the cash to lower their property taxes.

Rumors are just rumors, of course, but the ones I’m hearing almost every day say the City of Houston insists on holding on to its Metro sales tax money. While this is not a done deal, the Mayor and City Council and

Metro board members need to hear from the public quickly, or it will be etched in stone. When that happens, talk of transit expansion will fade away.

Not only is the City raiding the transit agency’s limited coffers, but Metro investment in roads goes beyond General Mobility. More than half a billion dollars of the cost of the three light rail lines now under construction is street improvements and utilities, replacing worn pavement and substandard drainage along all of those streets. The rebuilding of Downtown and Midtown streets was a $200 million program funded by Metro and federal transit funds outside of the General Mobility program.

If we don’t begin to realize that the economic success of the City of Houston is going to be about walkable urbanism served by high-capacity transit, then the City’s future is surely in jeopardy.

We have done a lot of research on the increase in property values and sales taxes around light rail stations. There’s no other way that’s even remotely close to walkable urbanism and transit-oriented development for spurring new business and increasing property values.

If economic development were the primary motivation of the City, this tax robbery would go away in an instant and the light rail system would be the top priority.

The previous Metro administration over-promised and under-delivered. Now it appears Metro’s folks are getting their act together: they got the federal funding that was threatened a few years ago, they’re paying down the short-term debt, they’re more transparent, and they’re getting ready to make the bus system more effective. Of course, they can do a lot to make the agency more efficient and effective. But without the ability to keep the taxes they’re already collecting, they can’t build new high-capacity transit lines, and we really need those for the future of the region, not just the City.

I believe this is the most important fundamental concept to understand about the City’s future: walkable urbanism with rich transit service is the City’s economic and cultural future and the longer we delay becoming a modern city, the tougher will be the budgets and the pain and the general discontent.

Voters didn’t approve the transit tax for it to be diverted to road projects. They are wise: they want transit. As the transit expert Jarrett Walker said recently, “Great cities just don’t have room for everyone’s car.”

David Crossley is president of Houston Tomorrow, an independent nonprofit where the mission is to improve the quality of life for all the people of the Houston region through research, education, and discussion, in order to achieve this vision: In 2036, when Houston is 200 years old, the region will be home to the healthiest, happiest, most prosperous people in the United States.

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I completely agree. What's the point of creating a transit system and then diverting money away from it? The City of Houston needs to create a whole new "General Mobility" tax and use it to improve the poor condition of local streets. Give METRO's whole funds back.

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I completely agree. What's the point of creating a transit system and then diverting money away from it? The City of Houston needs to create a whole new "General Mobility" tax and use it to improve the poor condition of local streets. Give METRO's whole funds back.

Yeah...ummm...they just did that. Only they call it a drainage fee and it gets paid for in your water bill even though it funds both drainage and street repair. Instead of diverting any income from the general fund to transportation, though, I'm betting that they divert it from transportation to cover unfunded pension obligations...because you know, municipal bankruptcy would be a real drag.

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Yeah...ummm...they just did that. Only they call it a drainage fee and it gets paid for in your water bill even though it funds both drainage and street repair. Instead of diverting any income from the general fund to transportation, though, I'm betting that they divert it from transportation to cover unfunded pension obligations...because you know, municipal bankruptcy would be a real drag.

I understand, but they should still give back METRO's full income.

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Imagine how much better Houston's rail could have been if it had all its funds. Most likley the rail could have had its own right of way.

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First of all, if you want to take away Houston's general mobility funds derived from the 1-cent Metro sales tax, you need to say which taxes should be increased to make up for the shortfall or which government services should be cut. These would be substantial tax increases or service cuts.

Second, the idea that the general mobility funds actually go toward new road construction or repair is mostly false. What happens is that the general mobility funds do go into a road construction/maintenance account, but the general revenue which previously funded road construction is diverted elsewhere. So in effect, the mobility money is diverted to law enforcment or other fixed costs (like pensions), so the net increase to roads is typically low. I remember reading an article about this practice many years ago and unfortunately I can't recover it. Other cities receiving general mobilty funds do the same thing. If general mobility funds go away, taxes must be raised or law enforcment must be cut.

Third, the condition of Houston's streets is generally horrible. Sure, you can find some decent or newly-rebuilt streets, but in southwest Houston the condition is an embarrasment. We need more street maintenance and reconstruction, not less.

Fourth, .75 cent going to transit is a substantial tax and a substantial river of money. Looking out for the interests of taxpayers, I think Metro has nothing to complain about with that revenue stream.

Edited by MaxConcrete

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First of all, if you want to take away Houston's general mobility funds derived from the 1-cent Metro sales tax, you need to say which taxes should be increased to make up for the shortfall or which government services should be cut. These would be substantial tax increases or service cuts.

Second, the idea that the general mobility funds actually go toward new road construction or repair is mostly false. What happens is that the general mobility funds do go into a road construction/maintenance account, but the general revenue which previously funded road construction is diverted elsewhere. So in effect, the mobility money is diverted to law enforcment or other fixed costs (like pensions), so the net increase to roads is typically low. I remember reading an article about this practice many years ago and unfortunately I can't recover it. Other cities receiving general mobilty funds do the same thing. If general mobility funds go away, taxes must be raised or law enforcment must be cut.

Third, the condition of Houston's streets is generally horrible. Sure, you can find some decent or newly-rebuilt streets, but in southwest Houston the condition is an embarrasment. We need more street maintenance and reconstruction, not less.

Fourth, .75 cent going to transit is a substantial tax and a substantial river of money. Looking out for the interests of taxpayers, I think Metro has nothing to complain about with that revenue stream.

Houston streets or horrible in general because there are so many milles of them that have to be maintained. I guess that is the cost of building a city that sprawls as much as Houston does. If Houston were 50 percent less spread out imaging how much money would be saved on less roads, less maintenance, etc.

Edited by citykid09

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Houston streets or horrible in general because there are so many milles of them that have to be maintained. I guess that is the cost of building a city that sprawls as much as Houston does. If Houston were 50 percent less spread out imaging how much money would be saved on less roads, less maintenance, etc.

I definitely agree citykid09. The problem with a city that expands and annexes to capture a tax base is purely short term thinking. They are thinking what is in it for them now and are totally ignoring the fact that they are going to have to go in an maintain the infrastructure and possibly even replace it in 50 years or so.

Houston is entering that stage where they are going to have to allocate a large chunk of their budget to replace aging infrastructure. To add insult to industry, the lack of zoning, city plan, and pro 'sprawl' mentality may actually force that expected tax base to be located outside of the city limits. Where are they going to get money to repair aging infrastructure. The federal government? We all know Texas and Houston is not as aggressive in hunting out federal funds but the Kirby infrastructure project is a great example of a federal/local project. We have to continue to do these and possibly shrink the city limits to maintain.

I sure hope our city leaders is preparing for this future.

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First of all, if you want to take away Houston's general mobility funds derived from the 1-cent Metro sales tax, you need to say which taxes should be increased to make up for the shortfall or which government services should be cut. These would be substantial tax increases or service cuts.

I already suggested that we create a whole new "general mobility" tax. That would be more than enough, and would also give METRO their whole sales tax.

Third, the condition of Houston's streets is generally horrible. Sure, you can find some decent or newly-rebuilt streets, but in southwest Houston the condition is an embarrasment. We need more street maintenance and reconstruction, not less.

Agreed. This is why I am suggesting a whole new general mobility tax, which would give the city funds to vastly improve street conditions.

Fourth, .75 cent going to transit is a substantial tax and a substantial river of money. Looking out for the interests of taxpayers, I think Metro has nothing to complain about with that revenue stream.

Not really. METRO has had plenty of financial issues, and is struggling to build a mediocre rail system (although they will be able to afford it, but just barely IMO). Most excellent transit systems have much more funding than that. For as big of a city as Houston is, it just isn't enough to comfortably build a good transit system that serves more than a couple hundred thousand people.

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Not really. METRO has had plenty of financial issues, and is struggling to build a mediocre rail system (although they will be able to afford it, but just barely IMO).

METRO's financial issues are largely self-inflicted. They have spent beyond their means and now ask for more money so that they can tackle pressing regional mobility issues like...an MLK memorial. Why aren't you outraged? Why aren't you demanding a restoration of the public confidence from them? More than anything else, that's my beef with METRO. If they want me to trust them, they must prove themselves trustworthy.

The City is only marginally better, but at least I can vote to teach them a lesson.

Most excellent transit systems have much more funding than that. For as big of a city as Houston is, it just isn't enough to comfortably build a good transit system that serves more than a couple hundred thousand people.

Do we need an "excellent" transit system? I advocate an "adequate" transit system, financed transparently and within our means.

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METRO's financial issues are largely self-inflicted. They have spent beyond their means and now ask for more money so that they can tackle pressing regional mobility issues like...an MLK memorial. Why aren't you outraged? Why aren't you demanding a restoration of the public confidence from them? More than anything else, that's my beef with METRO. If they want me to trust them, they must prove themselves trustworthy.

The City is only marginally better, but at least I can vote to teach them a lesson.

Isn't METRO building the MLK memorial in agreement with the city? I assume the city had something to do with it. It's troublesome that METRO is paying for it, yes. But I'm not outraged because in the grand scheme of things, it isn't much money at all. I'm more outraged about the East End line underpass deal, and how the city is picking up the tab for east end residents. I'm upset that it will delay construction.

Do we need an "excellent" transit system? I advocate an "adequate" transit system, financed transparently and within our means.

We certainly don't need a better transit system. I believe we already have a somewhat adequate system, and we are improving upon it. But I would like to see an excellent system, why not? We are growing and buidng as a city, why not make responsible infrastructure investments? I agree, but I think giving METRO's full share of the tax back is certainly within our means.

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My solution?

Stick toll booths at Houston City Limits on the following;

1) Katy Freeway

2) Southwest Freeway

3) North Freeway

4) Gulf Freeway

5) 288

6) Eastex Freeway

7) I-10 East

People from The Woodlands, Spring, Tomball, Atascocita, Baytown, LeagueCity, Friendswood, Pearland, Missouri City, SugarLand, Katy, etc... use the COH every day and it's high time they pay for it. Use this new money to fund local road projects and return the pillaged funds from the sales tax back to METRO for transit solutions.

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My solution?

Stick toll booths at Houston City Limits on the following;

1) Katy Freeway

2) Southwest Freeway

3) North Freeway

4) Gulf Freeway

5) 288

6) Eastex Freeway

7) I-10 East

People from The Woodlands, Spring, Tomball, Atascocita, Baytown, LeagueCity, Friendswood, Pearland, Missouri City, SugarLand, Katy, etc... use the COH every day and it's high time they pay for it. Use this new money to fund local road projects and return the pillaged funds from the sales tax back to METRO for transit solutions.

Right, b/c every person driving those corridors goes into the city for something? Its absurd, its just the snotty attitude that many of the city people have where they think they are better than those people who live outside the city. The inner loopers are the worst, but there is also a growing snot nosed crowd who considers inside the beltway to be urban living....The only thing worse than someone living in a suburb??? Living in the suburb with kids, a pool, and GASP - a suburban or other large gas guzzling SUV.

They city makes its money off everyone - our world renound hosptial district could not be as large as it is without drawing from all over...same with the port, downtown, and everything else....The other areas contribute plenty to the city, without the largest burdens - the schools, city services -

Its time all these greeny weenie urbanites, stop trying to force feed their utopia down everyones throats. If you want to spend money on something somebody might actually use then you need to build reliable transit connecting the surburbs to the city, and stop trying to connect the city to other areas inside the city.

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Isn't METRO building the MLK memorial in agreement with the city? I assume the city had something to do with it. It's troublesome that METRO is paying for it, yes. But I'm not outraged because in the grand scheme of things, it isn't much money at all.

That's not my understanding. It got a lot of press, but there was no mention of reimbursement or other participation with the City of Houston. If a gross misallocation of $750,000 doesn't outrage you, I don't know what will. Many people don't make that much money in their lifetime!

And besides, something like this probably indicates that there are similarly wasteful projects that just haven't been reported on previously.

I'm more outraged about the East End line underpass deal, and how the city is picking up the tab for east end residents. I'm upset that it will delay construction.

There's another instance where METRO shot itself in the foot. Do you realize that METRO began construction on the East End line without final and approved engineer's drawings? Since they hadn't bothering to inform Union Pacific that they wanted to cross the UP tracks at-grade, UP had the ability to veto, was caught off-guard, and used it. Construction was delayed by almost two years following ground-breaking. That was just...obviously...stupid. And it was probably the (long-overdue) tipping point where most people lost faith in METRO's capabilities and priorities.

We certainly don't need a better transit system. I believe we already have a somewhat adequate system, and we are improving upon it. But I would like to see an excellent system, why not? We are growing and buidng as a city, why not make responsible infrastructure investments? I agree, but I think giving METRO's full share of the tax back is certainly within our means.

You're welcome to make a donation. I'd rather buy a plane ticket to Dallas than spend money trying to emulate Dallas. And the thing is, I don't even like Dallas. I'd rather just take my money buy a cell phone that holds a better charge, then forget that you ever suggested that I pay more in taxes.

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Right, b/c every person driving those corridors goes into the city for something? Its absurd, its just the snotty attitude that many of the city people have where they think they are better than those people who live outside the city. The inner loopers are the worst, but there is also a growing snot nosed crowd who considers inside the beltway to be urban living....The only thing worse than someone living in a suburb??? Living in the suburb with kids, a pool, and GASP - a suburban or other large gas guzzling SUV.

They city makes its money off everyone - our world renound hosptial district could not be as large as it is without drawing from all over...same with the port, downtown, and everything else....The other areas contribute plenty to the city, without the largest burdens - the schools, city services -

Its time all these greeny weenie urbanites, stop trying to force feed their utopia down everyones throats. If you want to spend money on something somebody might actually use then you need to build reliable transit connecting the surburbs to the city, and stop trying to connect the city to other areas inside the city.

What the hell are you talking about?

My proposal is simply a "usage" tax. Millions of people live outside of the C.O.H. but use the city every single day. They drive on our roads. The flush toilets at work. They rely on HPD or Houston Fire to protect their offices. It's high time they pay for those services.

MANY cities across the globe already have these tolls set up. It's high time Houston got on board too.

It has nothing to do with "forcing" people to live inside the loop or in dense apartment tower blocks but everything to do with trying to maintain a healthy city center. I am sorry, but someone who lives in Pearland but drives to the TMC everyday SHOULD have to help pay for Houston roads, water, utilities, police, fire, etc...

Stop being so reactive and actually read a thread for once.

Edited by KinkaidAlum
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It would slow down interstate traffic in multiple directions. While New York may be able to charge tolls of everyone going in and out, I don't see that working for Houston

What the hell are you talking about?

My proposal is simply a "usage" tax. Millions of people live outside of the C.O.H. but use the city every single day. They drive on our roads. The flush toilets at work. They rely on HPD or Houston Fire to protect their offices. It's high time they pay for those services.

MANY cities across the globe already have these tolls set up. It's high time Houston got on board too.

It has nothing to do with "forcing" people to live inside the loop or in dense apartment tower blocks but everything to do with trying to maintain a healthy city center. I am sorry, but someone who lives in Pearland but drives to the TMC everyday SHOULD have to help pay for Houston roads, water, utilities, police, fire, etc...

Stop being so reactive and actually read a thread for once.

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What the hell are you talking about?

My proposal is simply a "usage" tax. Millions of people live outside of the C.O.H. but use the city every single day. They drive on our roads. The flush toilets at work. They rely on HPD or Houston Fire to protect their offices. It's high time they pay for those services.

MANY cities across the globe already have these tolls set up. It's high time Houston got on board too.

It has nothing to do with "forcing" people to live inside the loop or in dense apartment tower blocks but everything to do with trying to maintain a healthy city center. I am sorry, but someone who lives in Pearland but drives to the TMC everyday SHOULD have to help pay for Houston roads, water, utilities, police, fire, etc...

Stop being so reactive and actually read a thread for once.

Every "service" you just listed is entirely paid for by the businesses through taxes and fees on the businesses exactly the same as if the person lived here...The business is paying for it...making another person pay for it, is doing nothing more than subsidizing the city which makes a TREMOUNDOUS sum of money from non-resident suburbs already. Many of these non-residents buy their gasoline here which is a huge boom for the road system.

All tolls on people coming/going through a city are nothing more than the city trying to encourage a behavior....the tax is a negative encouragement - it is punishing those who live in the outskirts and work in the city because you wrongly believe that they are taking without contributing, when in reality they contribute far more than they take. Houston does not need that at all. Houston needs more high tax paying residents without kids inside its city limits, and fewer mooches - the commuters are not the problem. Your idea of a toll tax on going through the city is nothing more than some dream to turn Houston into another failed East coast dream.

Stop trying to solve every problem by taxing and spending and actually think for once.

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I think all the suburbs around Houston should levy a tax on the outbound use of the freeways through their city. After all, Houston is so gloriously self-sufficient, if you must go to Dallas or San Antonio, either pay the toll or since you have not just one, but two airports in the city limits - you should fly. Also, all train tracks inbound carrying freight to all the Houston stores should be taxed as the people of Houston are getting subsidized freight costs on all their Schwinn bikes, Urban Outfitter clothes and Pabst beer.

And lets not forget taxing the electric lines. One of the largest power plants in the country - W.A Parrish sits in the middle of Sugar Land. They have at to deal with all of the pollution, coal trains, noise, etc daily in order to generate something like 30% of the energy used in the Houston/Fort Bend area. So they are subsidizing a huge portion of the people in Houston that turn of their lights and plug in their iPads everyday. I think that is patently unfair and Houston should pay for it!

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There's another instance where METRO shot itself in the foot. Do you realize that METRO began construction on the East End line without final and approved engineer's drawings? Since they hadn't bothering to inform Union Pacific that they wanted to cross the UP tracks at-grade, UP had the ability to veto, was caught off-guard, and used it. Construction was delayed by almost two years following ground-breaking. That was just...obviously...stupid. And it was probably the (long-overdue) tipping point where most people lost faith in METRO's capabilities and priorities.

What?! At grade?! Are you sure? It was my undestanding that they wanted a bridge over the UP tracks, and that local residents (NIMBYS) didn't want it. So they negotiated and got METRO to build an underpass. I'm pretty sure they weren't trying to cross tracks at grade, that wouldn't be feasable/possible.

You're welcome to make a donation. I'd rather buy a plane ticket to Dallas than spend money trying to emulate Dallas. And the thing is, I don't even like Dallas. I'd rather just take my money buy a cell phone that holds a better charge, then forget that you ever suggested that I pay more in taxes.

LOL, I don't really like Dallas either, and I never suggested trying to emulate them! :P

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What?! At grade?! Are you sure? It was my undestanding that they wanted a bridge over the UP tracks, and that local residents (NIMBYS) didn't want it. So they negotiated and got METRO to build an underpass. I'm pretty sure they weren't trying to cross tracks at grade, that wouldn't be feasable/possible.

LOL, I really love Dallas, and I always suggested trying to emulate them! :P

Niche is correct. Morons at METRO wanted to cross at grade. I believe for one of the proposed routes METRO wanted to actually ride on the same track as some of the freight trains. I forget which track/route that was. But it was fairly recent.

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What?! At grade?! Are you sure? It was my undestanding that they wanted a bridge over the UP tracks, and that local residents (NIMBYS) didn't want it. So they negotiated and got METRO to build an underpass. I'm pretty sure they weren't trying to cross tracks at grade, that wouldn't be feasable/possible.

Yes, an at-grade crossing was the original proposal for Harrisburg near 66th Street. They intended that light rail service would simply be interrupted when freight trains passed through the intersection, which was ridiculous. The elevated grade-separation was the second proposal, and the submerged grade-separation was the third and final proposal.

(I can't confirm LTAWACS' comment about the LRT riding on the same tracks as freight trains, although the plan for how to cross the tracks closer to downtown was certainly not made very clear for a very long time. He might be thinking of that section or he might have beeen thinking about the notion that the southeast line might have shared the freight rail's right of way.)

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Yes, an at-grade crossing was the original proposal for Harrisburg near 66th Street. They intended that light rail service would simply be interrupted when freight trains passed through the intersection, which was ridiculous. The elevated grade-separation was the second proposal, and the submerged grade-separation was the third and final proposal.

Not only ridiculous, but a direct violation of both FRA and FTA regulations.

METRO had proposed an at-grade crossing as part of Frank Wilson's 2005 "BRT-convertible" transit plan. It was a dumb idea even with BRT, as the number of freight trains passing through there would have completely screwed up a system that was supposed to be more reliable than local bus (by virtue of dedicated lanes, offboard fare-collection, etc.), but when the BRT plan was scapped in favor of LRT, there was simply no way a grade crossing at that location was even fathomable.

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Niche is correct. Morons at METRO wanted to cross at grade. I believe for one of the proposed routes METRO wanted to actually ride on the same track as some of the freight trains. I forget which track/route that was. But it was fairly recent.

Yes I remember this, they wanted to cross the tracks at grade and it would have been the only crossing of its kind in the world. Now that I think about it, I was arguing on here a few months ago about Houston having the only light rail to light rail at grade crossing but I was wrong as proven a few months back. Now I know why I was thinking that back then, it was because Houston would have had the world's first light rail (passanger) /freight rail crossing at grade. can you say CHEAP!

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Every "service" you just listed is entirely paid for by the businesses through taxes and fees on the businesses exactly the same as if the person lived here...The business is paying for it...making another person pay for it, is doing nothing more than subsidizing the city which makes a TREMOUNDOUS sum of money from non-resident suburbs already. Many of these non-residents buy their gasoline here which is a huge boom for the road system.

All tolls on people coming/going through a city are nothing more than the city trying to encourage a behavior....the tax is a negative encouragement - it is punishing those who live in the outskirts and work in the city because you wrongly believe that they are taking without contributing, when in reality they contribute far more than they take. Houston does not need that at all. Houston needs more high tax paying residents without kids inside its city limits, and fewer mooches - the commuters are not the problem. Your idea of a toll tax on going through the city is nothing more than some dream to turn Houston into another failed East coast dream.

Stop trying to solve every problem by taxing and spending and actually think for once.

Ha.

Yes, I will think for once. You are right. Tax and spend is bad. property rights good. East Coast liberal elites bad. Texas bubba good. Me see light now.

Now, back to reality, are you really going to argue that non-residents of Houston who work in the city five times a week actually pay more than they take away? Really? How, because they make their bosses pay? Next, are you going to tell me that they contribute more to the city than residents and property owners?

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The toll booths, when entering or leaving one area, just sounds too funny (odd) and impractical to be implement. Not sure why but this kind of reminds of our company's consideration, and quick rejection, a few years ago of charging consultants/contractors for using our office space to reduce costs because it would just be passed onto us via their charges/fees anyway. :blush: So deemed a "non-starter".

Edited by JJVilla

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Now, back to reality, are you really going to argue that non-residents of Houston who work in the city five times a week actually pay more than they take away? Really? How, because they make their bosses pay? Next, are you going to tell me that they contribute more to the city than residents and property owners?

Marksmu's heavy-handed rhetoric makes for easy fodder; I can't blame you for pouncing on it. But think this through. Commuters buy a heck of a lot of food and gas inside of Houston, and most of the regional malls and other destination retail is located within the Houston city limits, so there are a lot of other major expenditures that accrue sales taxes to the City's and METRO's coffers as well...without them having to provide very many services to these individuals, which is a critical difference.

A lot of suburbanites also own businesses inside of the city limits, paying property taxes on both real and personal property, and generating sales tax revenue.

Just as an example from my anecdotal experience, it seems like this is especially true of the Asian investor class, which likes to live in Fort Bend County but conducts the bulk of their business in southwest Houston. I'm sure that if their tax revenue is unwelcome in Houston, it is perfectly welcome in Sugar Land or Stafford. The portion of those cities' sales tax that they allocate to economic development instead of to METRO would undoubtedly be used to snipe businesses such as these away from Houston on the pretense that Houston had become unfriendly and too expensive. And whether the toll was terribly expensive or not, it would be obnoxious. The drainage fee only pisses people off after they've invested in a business and figure out how much it is and how unfavorable the rules are, and even a property tax comes in slightly below your market value followed by your protest that gets it far below your value so that you feel like you're getting a good deal; but a forced toll irredeemably slaps you upside the head every single day. People won't stand for it.

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My solution?

Stick toll booths at Houston City Limits on the following;

1) Katy Freeway

2) Southwest Freeway

3) North Freeway

4) Gulf Freeway

5) 288

6) Eastex Freeway

7) I-10 East

People from The Woodlands, Spring, Tomball, Atascocita, Baytown, LeagueCity, Friendswood, Pearland, Missouri City, SugarLand, Katy, etc... use the COH every day and it's high time they pay for it. Use this new money to fund local road projects and return the pillaged funds from the sales tax back to METRO for transit solutions.

this idea doesn't go far enough.

build a wall around the city. tax entry into the city where gates are situated. if you live in the city and want to return, you have to prove your residence, then the tax is waived. if you haven't come into the city by dusk, the gates close and entry is not allowed unless you are flying into hobby.

oh, and a tax to leave the city too, but that tax would be higher than the entry tax.

the tax would be waived if you travel on mass transit, a bicycle, kayak, or walk.

Edited by samagon
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(I can't confirm LTAWACS' comment about the LRT riding on the same tracks as freight trains, although the plan for how to cross the tracks closer to downtown was certainly not made very clear for a very long time. He might be thinking of that section or he might have beeen thinking about the notion that the southeast line might have shared the freight rail's right of way.)

I might have mixed up the two.

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this idea doesn't go far enough.

build a wall around the city. tax entry into the city where gates are situated. if you live in the city and want to return, you have to prove your residence, then the tax is waived. if you haven't come into the city by dusk, the gates close and entry is not allowed unless you are flying into hobby.

oh, and a tax to leave the city too, but that tax would be higher than the entry tax.

the tax would be waived if you travel on mass transit, a bicycle, kayak, or walk.

Place defensive turrets at regular intervals at the top of this wall and you've got yourself a deal.

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Place defensive turrets at regular intervals at the top of this wall and you've got yourself a deal.

excellent idea, and thinking about this more, we would really only need a wall from southwest Houston around to northeast Houston, it could be Houston's very own Maginot Line!

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excellent idea, and thinking about this more, we would really only need a wall from southwest Houston around to northeast Houston, it could be Houston's very own Maginot Line!

Place defensive turrets at regular intervals at the top of this wall and you've got yourself a deal.

You guys are really missing the big picture. The most important reason for building this 80-mile fortress around Houston is when the Rage Virus hits. All indications are that it will start in the UK, so as long as you're an Inner Looper, you'll be safe.

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You guys are really missing the big picture. The most important reason for building this 80-mile fortress around Houston is when the Rage Virus hits. All indications are that it will start in the UK, so as long as you're an Inner Looper, you'll be safe.

We're gunna need a moat too then.

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Ha.

Yes, I will think for once. You are right. Tax and spend is bad. property rights good. East Coast liberal elites bad. Texas bubba good. Me see light now.

Now, back to reality, are you really going to argue that non-residents of Houston who work in the city five times a week actually pay more than they take away? Really? How, because they make their bosses pay? Next, are you going to tell me that they contribute more to the city than residents and property owners?

There is no point in arguing with someone who argues only with their emotions and ignores facts...the fact is that every business in the city pays all of the taxes you want the commuters to pay...the business absorbs the cost of fire/police/ambulance in its rent and property taxes....School Districts loves business as they bring in an enormous sums of money through sales tax, payroll taxes, property tax, personal property taxes, and a multitude of other taxes that are paid by businesses that benefit local communities, while utilizing almost zero public services....how many times a year do you think a business utilizes the fire department vs a resident?

Commuters do flush toilets, drink water, and drive on the roads, but all of those costs are paid by the business where they do those things ...you don't think burger king gets free water/sewer do you?...so please tell me, exactly how are these evil commuters who buy our gas, eat at our resteraunts, get speeding tickets, parking tickets, and dont use our most expensive service (schools) utilizing more services than they are consuming? Commuters are not coming into town to put their kids in public schools, goto our free parks, collect our welfare, and sit in the public library....they are here to work. They come, they contribute, they go home and let some other town pay for the cost of protecting their house. They are contributing substantially more than they are consuming. If you don't think so - then please tell me where all this commuter money is going? It isnt the roads b/c they are paying for that through taxes on their fuel...so how exactly are they draining the city?

You want to see business flee the city - make it too expensive for those businesses to hire employees....they will leave. They always do.

Edited by Marksmu

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There are reasonable arguments to be made on both sides, but if we are going to "return" all of the 1% sales tax "transit taxes" (as if roads are not also part of transit), how about we also return all of the nation's highway (gasoline and diesel fuel) taxes to building and maintaining highways. Just sayin' ;-)

Edited by Houston19514

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West University is saying if they don't get the roughly $300,000 a year they would have to raise taxes? lol, by how much, like a few dollars per person?

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West U's population is approximately 15,000, so we're talking about $20 per capita. But considering how little of West U's population is likely to use transit, that seems like a raw deal. If I were a citizen of West U, I'd want out of METRO completely if that's possible. Make the buses go around.

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There's a lot of doctors that take buses to the Med Center. Aside from residents, there's also the people watching their kids and cleaning their houses.

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According to 2010 Census estimates, there are only 38 employed persons living in West U that commute using public transportation.

Of the broad category that might be doctors (or petroleum engineers, or whatever), there are only 27 citizens. Is that "a lot"? And yeah, if lived in West U, I wouldn't care how my maid came to work; if one candidate can't drive (or walk into the city limits from Houston), then I'd hire the next candidate that can. What the hell would I care?

Public transportation (excluding taxicab): 38 +/-42 Management, business, science, and arts occupations 27 +/-39 Service occupations 0 +/-127 Sales and office occupations 0 +/-127 Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations 0 +/-127 Production, transportation, and material moving occupations 11 +/-18 Military specific occupations 0 +/-127

Edited by TheNiche

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West U's population is approximately 15,000, so we're talking about $20 per capita. But considering how little of West U's population is likely to use transit, that seems like a raw deal. If I were a citizen of West U, I'd want out of METRO completely if that's possible. Make the buses go around.

Sorry, I just don't agree with saving suburban citizens $20 over increasing the funding for METRO.

If I lived in West U, I'd want MORE transit, so that I could actually use it.

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I suspect that those being critical of West U's preference to keep its share of the transportation revenue are also people that wouldn't desire to live there if they could afford it....which is to say, pretty much under any circumstance.

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I suspect that those being critical of West U's preference to keep its share of the transportation revenue are also people that wouldn't desire to live there if they could afford it....which is to say, pretty much under any circumstance.

and I suspect those being critical of any or all of the small municipalities' and the COH's desire to avoid a certain tax increase also believe that politics, specifically the politics of reelection, is not the primary determinant of all municipal policy decisions regarding METRO.

my guess is we'll need boom times again before any elected official even considers restoring the 25% to METRO.

and since the Univ & Uptown lines are probably dependent on the restoration of that % and on fed transit dollars before any ground is broken, I think we're going to have a LRT grid with no east-west axis for many years to come.

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Interesting video from the former Mayor of Houston Kathy Whitmire on why Houston has built the wrong rail system and Honolulu has built the better rail system. I think it applies to this thread perfectly!

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Perhaps this video should be sent to the local goons in office.

Yes, the ramblings of long-ago office-holders, who earned 20% of the vote in their last attempt at elective office, are always meaningful.

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