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Three commuter lines being studied


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It's good that they are being essentially forced off consideration of the freight lines.  Ownership of the lines will give more freedom for scheduling regular, frequent service.  Perhaps they'll find a way to connect it to the local freight system for occasional jaunts to Galveston.  A line on Westpark under construction might help kick-start the University line as well.

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This city really needs to catch up with other major cities around the globe and build more rail. 

 

Uh, no. Just because someone else is doing something stupid doesn't mean we have to do it. That kind of mentality has already lead to a lot of problems in the last few mayoral administrations.

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Uh, no. Just because someone else is doing something stupid doesn't mean we have to do it. That kind of mentality has already lead to a lot of problems in the last few mayoral administrations.

Uhh, no.. More like THAT kind of mentality has already led to a lot of the problems were in.. If we built the planned heavy rail system back in the 80s and were more open to alternate modes of transportation the traffic in this city wouldn't be such an issue. Not to mention it's much cheaper to build rail now (or preferably back in the 80s but that went out the window thanks to Lanier) rather than later when we really need it.

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Uhh, no.. More like THAT kind of mentality has already led to a lot of the problems were in.. If we built the planned heavy rail system back in the 80s and were more open to alternate modes of transportation the traffic in this city wouldn't be such an issue. Not to mention it's much cheaper to build rail now (or preferably back in the 80s but that went out the window thanks to Lanier) rather than later when we really need it.

^ The early 1980s heavy rail system lost in the ballot box by a significant margin (62-38), and that was before the bust, and anyone thinking that the government was going to give Houston a free ride (plop the entire funds into their lap) is mistaken.

On this, I'm glad METRO isn't running this operation, and Gulf Coast Rail District at least has reality in mind in its cost estimates (unlike METRO and its grossly underestimated $640 million for four lines). On the other hand, it borrows from the Eastern Seaboard style "ride the rail to the light rail, then transfer" problem and becomes in essence, a slightly faster but way more expensive park and ride.

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Why does everyone always say Bob Lanier shut down the heavy rail plan when he came into office in the early 90s? I've read that multiple times..

So you agree with everything else?

Who funded the Atlanta rail system??

And yeah.. I too am glad it's someone else trying to push this instead of metro. Metro needs a serious overhaul or something.

Edit: my bad, Lanier stopped an 80s light rail plan and used the 500 million elsewhere..

"Houston METRORail Timeline:

1988 - Voters approve plan to construct twenty miles of light rail.

1992 - New Mayor Bob Lanier kills light rail plan and proceeds to spend $500 million set aside for light rail on the Metro police force and fixing potholes."

Edited by cloud713
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There were two different proposals. The early 1980s plan, the heavy rail plan everyone talks about was defeated in the votes. The second was voted on (and won) but given to Lanier to implement, which he chose not to because he thought it was economically unfeasible (a monorail loop). If this was illegal or highly controversial, it would have been dragged to the courts, or at the very least, hurt his re-election prospects (which it didn't, he won by a huge margin each time until term limits finally pushed him out in 1998).

Edited by IronTiger
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Uhh, no.. More like THAT kind of mentality has already led to a lot of the problems were in.. If we built the planned heavy rail system back in the 80s and were more open to alternate modes of transportation the traffic in this city wouldn't be such an issue. Not to mention it's much cheaper to build rail now (or preferably back in the 80s but that went out the window thanks to Lanier) rather than later when we really need it.

 

Unfortunately, building rail doesn't really reduce congestion by much.  That's the real problem.  It's hard to agree to spend that much money and still have crowded freeways once it's built.  If you could build rail and congestion really went down, that would be another story.  I don't think that happens in the real world.

 

I don't know why people get so down on the park and ride system.  It's cheaper and more efficient than rail and has a proven track record here.  I guess it's just not as sexy.

 

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Unfortunately, building rail doesn't really reduce congestion by much. That's the real problem. It's hard to agree to spend that much money and still have crowded freeways once it's built. If you could build rail and congestion really went down, that would be another story. I don't think that happens in the real world.

I don't know why people get so down on the park and ride system. It's cheaper and more efficient than rail and has a proven track record here. I guess it's just not as sexy.

I agree building rail doesn't suddenly reduce traffic. It does however provide other options so you don't have to sit in traffic on the highway if you don't want to when you are trying to travel around the city.

Is it really that hard to agree to spend that much money on an infrastructure project? They didn't seem to have a problem agreeing to expand the Katy freeway for billions of dollars and look at the traffic there just a few years after it was expanded..

Your last sentence hits the nail on the head. Busses aren't as sexy.

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I agree building rail doesn't suddenly reduce traffic. It does however provide other options so you don't have to sit in traffic on the highway if you don't want to when you are trying to travel around the city.

Is it really that hard to agree to spend that much money on an infrastructure project? They didn't seem to have a problem agreeing to expand the Katy freeway for billions of dollars and look at the traffic there just a few years after it was expanded..

Your last sentence hits the nail on the head. Busses aren't as sexy.

 

In a word, yes.  Otherwise it'd already have been done long ago.  The people paying the taxes for such a system are going to weigh their increase in taxes vs whether it will make enough of a difference to save them money and/or time and vote accordingly.  There was a reason Ton Delay could get away with stalling metro on rail to the point they had to do an end-run around him to get the red line going.  The voters of his district wouldn't see much benefit so they weren't interested in paying for it and supporting it.

 

I happen to like trains, personally.  But I'm paying taxes to support a light rail system that doesn't come anywhere near my house and probably never will.  For me, I have to make an effort to ride the train and so only ride once every couple of years when it happens to be convenient.  Based on that calculus, I'd vote against rail any day of the week.  I don't think I'm alone on that.

 

Too bad busses aren't sexy.  Frankly, I've always thought the P&R service is the best use of tax dollars for commuting and would like to see it expand to non-peak hours and multiple destinations.

 

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Unfortunately, building rail doesn't really reduce congestion by much.  That's the real problem.  It's hard to agree to spend that much money and still have crowded freeways once it's built.  If you could build rail and congestion really went down, that would be another story.  I don't think that happens in the real world.

 

I don't know why people get so down on the park and ride system.  It's cheaper and more efficient than rail and has a proven track record here.  I guess it's just not as sexy.

 

 

Looking at I-10 you can say that making a freeway wider doesn't really reduce congestion by much either. Katy Fwy went from being a moo freeway to the widest freeway in the world, and how much did it reduce commute times for everyone? And is just about as useful to someone who doesn't live in the corridor as commuter rail is to someone who doesn't live in the corridor adjacent.

 

So, as the saying goes, that dog don't hunt.

 

Anyway, haven't we had this discussion a few hundred times in other threads?

 

I would imagine that for this to even have a hope of working, the inner terminus of the commuter line would have to be connected to other circulators (bus, or light rail) to get people to their employment centers.

 

Would be interesting to see a line straight up the westpark tollway, and continuing on 59, stopping at greenway, and terminating at mainstreet near the wheeler station. you hit a major employment center that could feed out to others nearby, then you hit a direct connect to downtown and the medical center. 

Edited by samagon
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There were two different proposals. The early 1980s plan, the heavy rail plan everyone talks about was defeated in the votes. The second was voted on (and won) but given to Lanier to implement, which he chose not to because he thought it was economically unfeasible (a monorail loop). If this was illegal or highly controversial, it would have been dragged to the courts, or at the very least, hurt his re-election prospects (which it didn't, he won by a huge margin each time until term limits finally pushed him out in 1998).

 

I didn't think there was ever a vote on the monorail plan.

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Looking at I-10 you can say that making a freeway wider doesn't really reduce congestion by much either. Katy Fwy went from being a moo freeway to the widest freeway in the world, and how much did it reduce commute times for everyone? And is just about as useful to someone who doesn't live in the corridor as commuter rail is to someone who doesn't live in the corridor adjacent.

 

So, as the saying goes, that dog don't hunt.

 

Anyway, haven't we had this discussion a few hundred times in other threads?

 

To be more precise and fair, the dog that doesn't hunt is the one who constantly, and falsely, claims or implies that building rail would have meant no traffic congestion, or even significantly less traffic congestion.

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To be more precise and fair, the dog that doesn't hunt is the one who constantly, and falsely, claims or implies that building rail would have meant no traffic congestion, or even significantly less traffic congestion.

 

It would have a similar impact as making the freeways wider does.

 

Completely remove congestion? No.

 

Reduce congestion by an amount that is considered adequate enough that it green-lights freeway widening projects? Yes.

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I don't think anyone ever thought he Katy project would reduce congestion significantly. It did however, provide additional capacity to handle growth on the West side. That's all rail does as well, provide additional capacity. I've never been in a large city that had trains that did not also have significant traffic problems.

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The 1983 rail proposal was easily the best rail proposal we've had, and likely ever will have.  All of the proposals since then have been a joke, not even close to having the same impact on ridership that the '83 proposal would have had, if fully implemented.  

 

Cities like DC and SF that went ahead and fully implemented their '70s/'80s rail plans are light years ahead of Houston in the public transportation department.  

 

Cities like Atlanta and Miami that only built out phase I and never finished the job on those heavy rail systems are still ahead of Houston. 

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I don't think anyone ever thought he Katy project would reduce congestion significantly. It did however, provide additional capacity to handle growth on the West side. That's all rail does as well, provide additional capacity. I've never been in a large city that had trains that did not also have significant traffic problems.

But not having alternatives only makes the situation worse. I don't think widening then stacking freeways while ignoring alternatives is a viable long term solution.

The 1983 rail proposal was easily the best rail proposal we've had, and likely ever will have. All of the proposals since then have been a joke, not even close to having the same impact on ridership that the '83 proposal would have had, if fully implemented.

Cities like DC and SF that went ahead and fully implemented their '70s/'80s rail plans are light years ahead of Houston in the public transportation department.

Cities like Atlanta and Miami that only built out phase I and never finished the job on those heavy rail systems are still ahead of Houston.

If metro didn't go ahead with the proposal at least one line would've been built anyway

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Unfortunately, building rail doesn't really reduce congestion by much. That's the real problem. It's hard to agree to spend that much money and still have crowded freeways once it's built. If you could build rail and congestion really went down, that would be another story. I don't think that happens in the real world.

I don't know why people get so down on the park and ride system. It's cheaper and more efficient than rail and has a proven track record here. I guess it's just not as sexy.

The problem with the park and ride is the HOV isn't guaranteed to have the speed it promises due to the fact it shares traffic with cars. 45 north in particular is slow every day. But I would like to see it expanded to weekends and more often in non peak times also. But there is a significant portion of the population that has rail bias and that's always going to be there.

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Lulz.. The twenty mile light rail system was just a monorail loop? I couldn't find system maps or routes. Where was it supposed to go?

The monorail was a bit from a forum post on City-Data, which tends to be pretty unreliable (I don't want to spread false intel)...but the late 1980s are archived in the Chron, so constructing a rough timeline could be done. Unfortunately, it's far more complicated then I thought, so this is the timeline from 1983 to February 1991.

1983 - An aerial rail system is proposed for Main Street and shot down (mentioned in "Transit firms vie for slice of Metro pie", 2/28/88)

Jan. 1988 - Vote done on $2.6 billion transit system (road + rail), it passes. ("Transit firms vie for slice of Metro pie")

Feb. 1988 - METRO begins to draft up futuristic rail plans. Guess who's the METRO chairman at this point? Lanier! ("Transit firms vie for slice of Metro pie") This transit system would "link the city's major employment centers - downtown, the Texas Medical Center, Greenway Plaza and Galleria-Post Oak - as well as serve southeast Houston neighborhoods and possibly the Astrodome". Sound familiar? Aerial lines are discussed, but still unpopular.

Directors of Uptown Houston Association, a developer-backed planning group in the Galleria-Post Oak area, are vehemently opposed to any aerial structure on Post Oak, said John Breeding, executive director.

``You can draw something and it will look very nice,'' he said. ``But the stations are going to be 50 feet to 75 feet wide - that would literally cover the boulevard. There is too much investment in this area to allow something with as much downside risk as an aerial guideway.''

September 1988 - A circular downtown plan is being studied at this point. At this point, no one if it's going to be monorail, trackless trolley, mag-lev, light rail, or anything. The only thing is that they want to avoid is calling it a people-mover, noting the systems in Detroit and Miami that failed to gain much ground. ("Getting around in high style - Downtown circulator idea studied")

December 1988 - Lanier cans a symposium because he wants to get more information on other city's transit systems. At this point, Lanier is still METRO Chairman and stated pro-rail. ("Lanier still favors rail despite delay")

Lanier said a consultant's study suggests monorail would not provide needed capacity and recommends an automated system with the ability to shift to manual operation for at-grade feeder lines.

He said he leans toward a fully automated, totally grade-separated system and ``remains unimpressed'' by any at-grade segments that could add to street congestion.

January 1989 - By this point, METRO has approved a layout "which will run in a U-shaped configuration from northwest Houston to the north edge of downtown - to be entirely grade-separated.", but opposition is building, this time from a church in Midtown worried about the vibrations and noise. For Main Street, it's recommended that the rail system will be a subway and the street will be a no-traffic transit mall.

November 1989 - The METRO board rejects the $1 billion 20 mile plan under Lanier's rule but not solely from him, believing "the line was too costly and would not draw sufficient ridership." (1/20/90, "Two dozen firms vie to build high-tech city transit system")

December 1989 - Lanier leaves METRO.

January 1990 - Private firms begin to come in and make all sorts of proposals.

February 1991 - Flash forward to a year later (yes, I know there's a hole) but by this time METRO's current plan is like so:

 

Metro hopes the main line will be in operation by 1997 and the remaining legs by 2000.

The project would be built with almost $600 million in federal aid, $390 million in Metro tax money and $130 million in private contributions. So far, Congress has approved $143 million for the rail system.

The plans proposed by the five firms competing to build the project include two types of monorail , one suspended and one atop an elevated beam; an automated light rail on conventional tracks with power from a third rail; and a bus guided by electricity along an elevated guideway.

With the project now behind schedule and overbudgeted, and Lanier no longer part of METRO (or pro-rail) but not mayor yet (that's still Whitmire), the Texas government works on a bill to delay rail by throwing the 1988 referendum and putting it to another vote. The risk that METRO will award a contract out of fear (their schedule was set a year ago) is high. It is noted that

 

Four months before the 1983 vote [(substantially different in design and funding)], the Metro board met in an emergency session to award a $139 million contract for 130 rail cars. When voters rejected the $2.3 billion plan, Metro was forced to pay about $1 million to settle its contracts with two Japanese firms.

If Metro approves a contract for the current rail plan, it likely will commit itself to spending $10 million to $12 million for preliminary engineering and design.

Of course, March 1991 is when things would start kicking into high gear with the Texas state government decided to step in and force METRO (which was created by them) to make some changes while revealing that there was some palm-greasing going on in the pro-rail set, but that's another story.

In short, it's obviously more than Big Bad Lanier stopping the Will of the People and more a complicated political battle. And it's still 7 more months until Lanier was elected mayor.

EDIT: Yes, I do intend on finishing my timeline. Another day, another post.

Edited by IronTiger
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It would have a similar impact as making the freeways wider does.

 

Completely remove congestion? No.

 

Reduce congestion by an amount that is considered adequate enough that it green-lights freeway widening projects? Yes.

 

Not likely.  Show us a rail project anywhere that reduced congestion in a noticeable way.

 

And by the way, another dog that won't hunt is the repeated lie that the Katy Freeway project did not reduce congestion in a significant way.  Repeating the lie does not make it true.  Years after completion,  despite huge population, job and economic growth, the Katy Freeway is still significantly less congested than it was prior to the widening project.

Edited by Houston19514
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What is the next steps for the Katy Freeway?  What happens when that area adds another 500,000 people?  Will we add more lanes?  Will we add a doubledecker freeway above the current one?

Also, other than the costs - what is the primary reason people loath rail transit?  Do you like driving that much?

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Looking at I-10 you can say that making a freeway wider doesn't really reduce congestion by much either. Katy Fwy went from being a moo freeway to the widest freeway in the world, and how much did it reduce commute times for everyone? And is just about as useful to someone who doesn't live in the corridor as commuter rail is to someone who doesn't live in the corridor adjacent.

 

So, as the saying goes, that dog don't hunt.

 

 

Since I drive I10 on a regular basis, I can tell you from my personal experience that the widening did help even if it didn't totaly eliminate congestion during rush hour.  Thing is, a lane of highway can accomodate not just commuters in cars, but busses and even trucks that deliver goods to, let's say for example, east end neighborhoods.  And since it's part of a wider, interconnected system, that additional highway lane can be an integral part of trips from any destination to any destination. A rail line is a trip from a given destination through a limited number or destinations to a final destination and requires you change your mode of transportation at least a couple of times before reaching your destination unless both origin and destination for the trip are on the rail line.

 

So, I'm afraid, that dog does hunt, and quite well.

 

But, if they're going to do this, and I suspect they will at some point, I hope they are able to maximize the usefullness.  Last thing we need is Dallas' rail to nowhere. 

 

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The Katy Freeway isn't going to be widened. The next step will probably be semi-autonomous vehicles that will be able to detect traffic situations and communicate with other cars and systems. (I have a friend who's in civil engineering)

You see, congestion isn't solely based on the number of cars on the road. When an impatient jackass decides to cut through three lanes to get to an exit and cars start braking (thus, causing a "shockwave").

traffic%20jam%20environment%201%20600x66

If we all drove better, congestion would be less of an issue, which is why smarter cars will actually help.

Rail isn't the silver bullet in traffic congestion, and in all situations it's cost-effective only in dense environments (Eastern Seaboard, India, NYC, Great Britain).

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New construction of rail has little impact on traffic congestion, especially if the city is still growing.  On the other hand, if you get rid of an established rail system similar to DC's which carries 800,000 daily riders, then there will be a huge traffic increase.  Cities build around rail systems over a period of decades, but that doesn't mean commuter patterns, housing and jobs in place before the rail line will go away. 

 

Personally I am on the fence regarding commuter rail in Houston.  I am a huge proponent of a heavy rail system connecting destinations within the city, but we've sunk so much money into our HOV/P&R lane system that it seems like a waste to do it all over again on a commuter rail system, which would likely only marginally increase ridership over the existing P&R network. In the long run, it's more efficient and has the potential to carry many more riders, but I'd rather build our transit system from the core outwards, rather than pouring money into getting more people into the city and then forcing them to navigate an inefficient bus system/piecemeal light rail system. 

Edited by mfastx
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Right, I never said rail isn't the end all, be all.  In fact I've said as much in any of my transit posts on here.

 

Semi-autonomous cars... so that's the answer?  Computer controlled cars?  That will be the end of congestion?  Doubtful.

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What is the next steps for the Katy Freeway?  What happens when that area adds another 500,000 people?  Will we add more lanes?  Will we add a doubledecker freeway above the current one?

Also, other than the costs - what is the primary reason people loath rail transit?  Do you like driving that much?

 

You can add more lanes. Or double-deck the freeways.  A better solution, and one that is really already underway, is to distribute employment out of the city core. People and businesses will make their own decisions regarding acceptable commute times and will opt to work outside the loop and even outside the beltway.  We can see that already in motion in the energy corridor and westchase where there are buildings going up right and left.

 

And, yes, I do like driving.  I can get in my car and go anywhere I want in this great city we live in at any time, day or night.  Shop, go to restaurants, run errands, visit museums, fill up my trunk with whatever we need and return.  I can change my destinations and the order I go to them on a whim.  I can be heading to Katy Mills mall and figure, what the hell, let's just keep going to San Antonio (true story).  Rail is limited purpose transit.  I don't loath it, but I'm realistic enough to realize that dollars spent on roads are more useful than dollars spent on rail, particularly in this town where everything is spread out.

 

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Right, I never said rail isn't the end all, be all.  In fact I've said as much in any of my transit posts on here.

 

Semi-autonomous cars... so that's the answer?  Computer controlled cars?  That will be the end of congestion?  Doubtful.

 

And that's the rub.  There is no end to congestion unless you have a massive population drop.  So we're always going to be fighting a losing battle if the goal is the end of congestion.  What we should be looking for is the best way to mitigate or minimize it's causes and effects short of stifling growth.

 

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You can add more lanes. Or double-deck the freeways.  A better solution, and one that is really already underway, is to distribute employment out of the city core. People and businesses will make their own decisions regarding acceptable commute times and will opt to work outside the loop and even outside the beltway.  We can see that already in motion in the energy corridor and westchase where there are buildings going up right and left.

 

And, yes, I do like driving.  I can get in my car and go anywhere I want in this great city we live in at any time, day or night.  Shop, go to restaurants, run errands, visit museums, fill up my trunk with whatever we need and return.  I can change my destinations and the order I go to them on a whim.  I can be heading to Katy Mills mall and figure, what the hell, let's just keep going to San Antonio (true story).  Rail is limited purpose transit.  I don't loath it, but I'm realistic enough to realize that dollars spent on roads are more useful than dollars spent on rail, particularly in this town where everything is spread out.

 

 

How much do you think it will cost to add a second tier to an existing freeway system?  Just curious.  How much did the Katy Freeway expansion cost?  Just curious.

 

I don't mind driving, but if when I'm going to work I had the ability to read a book or surf the web or some other form then that would be great.

 

I don't want to get into an argument about rail/freeways... the pro-roads people greatly outnumber the pro-alternative to driving everywhere crowd in this town.  Not saying that it is a bad thing, just saying there are two sides to this conversation in this town of 6.3 million and both are QUITE opinionated.

 

Personally I don't live or have to deal with anything in this particular area (Katy Freeway), though I would appreciate being able to take a train from say Baybrook to Katy Mills on occasion, or maybe to the Galleria or IAH?  Driving is nice when you need to be  flexible, but the other 95% of the time its confounding.  And autonomous cars won't alleviate traffic - if a road can only handle 10,000 cars and there are 35,000 on it then the computer aided cars may help, but only to a point.

Edited by arche_757
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Since I drive I10 on a regular basis, I can tell you from my personal experience that the widening did help even if it didn't totaly eliminate congestion during rush hour.  Thing is, a lane of highway can accomodate not just commuters in cars, but busses and even trucks that deliver goods to, let's say for example, east end neighborhoods.  And since it's part of a wider, interconnected system, that additional highway lane can be an integral part of trips from any destination to any destination. A rail line is a trip from a given destination through a limited number or destinations to a final destination and requires you change your mode of transportation at least a couple of times before reaching your destination unless both origin and destination for the trip are on the rail line.

 

So, I'm afraid, that dog does hunt, and quite well.

 

But, if they're going to do this, and I suspect they will at some point, I hope they are able to maximize the usefullness.  Last thing we need is Dallas' rail to nowhere. 

 

Too true on the buses and trucks.

 

It's reasonable also to state that if there is a commuter rail that people would switch their mode of transportation to use the rail instead, easing congestion on the freeway (unless more people decided to drive to fill in for those who don't), having the same overall benefit for trucks and buses.

 

How many minutes of your commute did the pre expansion and post expansion gain you? before construction your average commute time was x and after construction was completed your average commute time is y?

 

So why do you think that if a commuter rail was put in and was along a useful corridor no one would use it?

 

Assuming it was a useful line, what rail system ever in the history of man that goes from a useful location to another useful location is not successful in attracting riders?

 

Where do those riders come from do you think?

 

Do they just materialize out of no where? Certainly, you are all right, they are not going to be people who drive currently, that wouldn't be affected at all, no sir, people would never get out of their cars to take rail, maybe that's it, the riders would just materialize out of thin air, and the people in the cars would grumble about a system that their tax money paid for and only benefit the people who materialize out of thin air.

 

How is the connection not established that a successfully high ridership directly reduces the number of people using a freeway, thereby making it easier for those long haul trucks to get through town, offering the same benefit to them?

 

How is the connection not established that a successfully high ridership directly reduces the number of people using freeways, thereby reducing your commute time (or allowing more people to live in an area and use up that space again).

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How much do you think it will cost to add a second tier to an existing freeway system?  Just curious.  How much did the Katy Freeway expansion cost?  Just curious.

 

I don't mind driving, but if when I'm going to work I had the ability to read a book or surf the web or some other form then that would be great.

 

I don't want to get into an argument about rail/freeways... the pro-roads people greatly outnumber the pro-alternative to driving everywhere crowd in this town.  Not saying that it is a bad thing, just saying there are two sides to this conversation in this town of 6.3 million and both are QUITE opinionated.

 

Personally I don't live or have to deal with anything in this particular area (Katy Freeway), though I would appreciate being able to take a train from say Baybrook to Katy Mills on occasion, or maybe to the Galleria or IAH?  Driving is nice when you need to be  flexible, but the other 95% of the time its confounding.  And autonomous cars won't alleviate traffic - if a road can only handle 10,000 cars and there are 35,000 on it then the computer aided cars may help, but only to a point.

 

A buttload, in both cases I'm sure.

 

Being able to do something else rather (read, work, snooze) rather than pay attention to the road is a great benefit, no doubt.  That may eventually be possible in cars as well if automation really works out large-scale.  I'll probably be too old and set in my ways by that time to really be able to relax with a computer in control, though.

 

The fact that we're having this conversation is prima facie evidence that there are two sides to this issue and both have good enough points (and strong opinions) to keep it going.  All I'm saying, in my opinion, is that for a given dollar spent the greater value is gotten from spending it on road system improvements rather than rail.  I fully understand and respect that others have differing opinions based on their own personal circumstances and preferences.

 

Like I said earlier, I suspect that sooner or later we'll get commuter rail, just like we eventually got light rail.  I just hope they take every opportunity to do it in an efficient and effective way.  I won't get my hopes up too high, though, because it's a governmental process and I've been disappointed before (see Metro's history with regards to light rail).

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Too true on the buses and trucks.

 

It's reasonable also to state that if there is a commuter rail that people would switch their mode of transportation to use the rail instead, easing congestion on the freeway (unless more people decided to drive to fill in for those who don't), having the same overall benefit for trucks and buses.

 

How many minutes of your commute did the pre expansion and post expansion gain you? before construction your average commute time was x and after construction was completed your average commute time is y?

 

So why do you think that if a commuter rail was put in and was along a useful corridor no one would use it?

 

Assuming it was a useful line, what rail system ever in the history of man that goes from a useful location to another useful location is not successful in attracting riders?

 

Where do those riders come from do you think?

 

Do they just materialize out of no where? Certainly, you are all right, they are not going to be people who drive currently, that wouldn't be affected at all, no sir, people would never get out of their cars to take rail, maybe that's it, the riders would just materialize out of thin air, and the people in the cars would grumble about a system that their tax money paid for and only benefit the people who materialize out of thin air.

 

How is the connection not established that a successfully high ridership directly reduces the number of people using a freeway, thereby making it easier for those long haul trucks to get through town, offering the same benefit to them?

 

How is the connection not established that a successfully high ridership directly reduces the number of people using freeways, thereby reducing your commute time (or allowing more people to live in an area and use up that space again).

 

It's absolutely reasonable to state that some people will switch their commute from road to rail (or at least some part of it) if rail is available.  And no, those riders don't just materialize out of nowhere.  If they could do that we'd have no need for rail or roads, would we?  But how do they get to the rail station and how do they get from it?  I don't believe I stated anywhere that no one would use a rail system, particularly along a useful corridor.  The point is, though, that a train goes from a set destination, through a set of intermediary destinations, to a final destination.  As long as your starting point and ending point are on the rail line, it can be more efficient to use rail for your trip.  Once the starting and ending point for your journey starts to deviate from the set points and set schedule, its efficiency versus a road trip goes down dramatically. 

 

Since I don't commute regularly anymore, and so don't have to deal with begin and end times on I10, I can only offer my impressions.  I do, however, take I10 on an almost daily basis, sometimes during rush hour, sometimes not. During non-peak hours it's wide open in a way that I don't recall it being pre-expansion.  During rush hour jaunts I rarely slow to a stop, something that would happen pre-expansion.  I'm sure there are other regular commuters who can provide better numbers.

 

 

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Yep.  Transportation is very expensive!

 

Clearly both sides have very opinionated people - nothing wrong with that - I'm one of them!  We just need to remember that each side has valid points when discussing these items.

 

Personally I'm intrigued by the proposed HSR between Houston and Dallas.  If that is done properly it may spur on some interest in some well designed/run government funded rail options around?   hopefully

 

Frankly, I like the lightrail system *idea* that Metro has/is building.  I can certainly see where some would wish the system was a little different.  I think the idea that Metro took of "building the ribs FIRST, then adding the legs and spine to the system" was the right idea for a town like Houston.  The people who really want rail mostly live inside the Loop (or that immediate area), and they'll use it!  They can.  The commuter/heavy rail options much later down the road will need to connect properly to the existing light rail system or the whole thing won't work very well.

 

I've always been of the idea that we need rail alternatives; and believe that Houston would have a successful system realatively quickly.  I am however, of the mindset that it *must* be done correctly and would rather we plan things well before moving dirt.

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Yep.  Transportation is very expensive!

 

Clearly both sides have very opinionated people - nothing wrong with that - I'm one of them!  We just need to remember that each side has valid points when discussing these items.

 

Personally I'm intrigued by the proposed HSR between Houston and Dallas.  If that is done properly it may spur on some interest in some well designed/run government funded rail options around?   hopefully

 

Frankly, I like the lightrail system *idea* that Metro has/is building.  I can certainly see where some would wish the system was a little different.  I think the idea that Metro took of "building the ribs FIRST, then adding the legs and spine to the system" was the right idea for a town like Houston.  The people who really want rail mostly live inside the Loop (or that immediate area), and they'll use it!  They can.  The commuter/heavy rail options much later down the road will need to connect properly to the existing light rail system or the whole thing won't work very well.

 

I've always been of the idea that we need rail alternatives; and believe that Houston would have a successful system realatively quickly.  I am however, of the mindset that it *must* be done correctly and would rather we plan things well before moving dirt.

 

Actually, I've got a slightly opposite opinion on the HSR.  Since it is a private venture, if it is successful it may spur on more privately funded rail options. 

 

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Actually, I've got a slightly opposite opinion on the HSR.  Since it is a private venture, if it is successful it may spur on more privately funded rail options

 

 

Or that!  I almost typed that in my previous response...  Of course that would be a great thing if it did happen.

 

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[Continued...]

By March 1991, METRO has spent $60,000 since 1985 to reinforce or to change minds about rail. This included sending two to see Atlanta's rail system in regards to a then-current plan about rail wouldn't destroy a neighborhood: the plan was to send rail down Richmond (gee, sounds familiar, doesn't it?) but it didn't work.

Hood and Seger, who this week learned they had convinced a majority of the Metro board to move a controversial segment of the rail line off Richmond Avenue, said the Atlanta trip did show them that rail can be successful. But the trip also gave them ammunition to fight rail in their neighborhood.

"If somebody perceives that Metro used that to change my mind on something, that's not the case," said Seger, who is an officer in the Afton Oaks Civic Club. "The most obnoxious pictures I brought back of the Atlanta system were where they had gone aerial on this thing and it looks terrible.

"The trip very much reinforced the no rail on Richmond situation."

This also included sending people to Orlando to see the then-current monorail plan which was in place in some areas like Disney World.

March 12 1991 - A bill that would force another election on the $1 billion is approved in the Texas Senate 28-0.

Toward the end of March, METRO has decided on a $1 billion rail system that will be monorail or another elevated system. The plan is highly controversial but is predicted to win 5-4 in favor. Lanier has "fallen out of favor with Houston's political power structure" due to his rail opposition ("Big vote looms for embattled city rail plan - Despite opposition, Metro board expected to vote yes", 3/25/91)

The vote passes. But...

Metro is taking a unique "turnkey" approach to the project, a method in which the transit authority turns much of the responsibility and risk over to the developer. It is the turnkey issue that has prompted questions from the district attorney.

On Wednesday, Holmes explained that his staff's inquiries began in December after receiving a complaint from Lanier . Prosecutors also received a similar complaint from an engineer involved with one of five groups bidding on the project but would not say who it was.

Holmes said when his staff's research left doubts about whether Metro's approach to design and construction of the rail system is legal, he decided to ask Attorney General Dan Morales to settle the question.

The district attorney's office agreed to investigate because of the possibility that the Metro board would violate the official misconduct statute, Holmes added.

Lanier said he discussed various issues with Holmes' office, and did not specifically recall raising the Metro issue as a complaint, but added, "It wouldn't bother me to have stimulated it."

It was under Lanier 's leadership that Metro decided to solicit rail system suggestions from private bidders.

But Lanier said Wednesday that when he left the board in December 1989 the plan on the table was to award a preliminary engineering contract to a private bidder and then open a construction contract to the regular bidding process.

A March 31 article, "Both sides of rail issue binding the ties" reveals some major contribution ties in the pro-rail set including Whitmire's five pro-rail METRO appointees who won the vote, which refutes an accusation of a pro-rail supporter accuses the anti-rail group with a conspiracy while denying there's anything with the pro-rail group.

April 1991 - The House hears several versions on what could be done with METRO. The compromise version is a bill that would give another vote for rail.

Whitmire's appointees to the Metro board prevailed 5-4 in a vote last week to begin designing the first phase of a $1.2 billion monorail system.

A bill that would force another rail election already has won approval in the Senate. But the version sponsored by Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, is viewed as the plan that, if approved in the House, ultimately will be adopted by the Legislature.

Members of the Harris County delegation in the House, however, are sharply divided on the issue.

The bill is a compromise between Turner and Rep. Debra Danburg, D-Houston, who initially took a hardline approach on the rail issue, proposing a bill that would force another election on rail .

But the Turner plan only would give voters the right to petition for a referendum on rail . The bill would require a vote if 5 percent of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election (or 30,000 people, whichever is less) signed a petition within a 90-day period.

In addition to giving Houston residents the chance to call for another vote on rail , Turner's bill also would give voters the authority to petition for a referendum on any Metroissue. But the threshold would increase to 10 percent of voters or 60,000 residents.

In an impassioned speech before the committee, Turner followed the lead of rail supporters such as Whitmire, saying support for his bill would allow the rail issue to be decided locally, rather than by the Legislature.

One of the rail opposition politicians cited a poll that a majority wanted another rail vote. It is important to note that the public was not given a choice on how much would be spent on rail or where it went. Whitmire said that a rail plan was "critical to solving Houston's traffic and environmental problems" while Lanier thought that the reason METRO doesn't want a second vote because they were afraid they'd lose.

Hall [METRO's new chairman and Lanier's replacement] countered that Whitmire has made her position on rail clear, and Houston residents continue to elect her. He rejected Turner's label of the bill as a compromise.

He'd be eating those words soon...

May 1991 - Another bit of compromise is proposed so that METRO would have to get 2/3 (6 out of 9) on votes. This is because the 5-4 split would win every decision whether rail or not.

Metro 's nine-member board hasn't been able to produce more than five votes on any major transit plan for the city. Five members are appointed by Mayor Kathy Whitmire, two more by Harris County commissioners and the last two are named by a committee of mayors from other cities served by Metro .

Cain's proposal would require six votes for any plan to survive past September. That not only would require the city to win a vote from outside committee members, it would force rail and anti- rail factions to cooperate before any mass transit plan could pass.

However, that proposal was halted by Ron Wilson on a technical problem. ("Metro board vote bill hits technical stoplight

"). The project is still controversial even within Houston. Many claim the plan was drastically altered from what they voted on and would rather spend it on roads. As an aside, this is the first mention of John Culberson, who did argue on the referendum. The bill ultimately ends up dying.

June 1991 - A bill affecting term limits is close to being completed, which would prevent Whitmire (and extension, her METRO appointees) from being re-elected. Lanier contributes, which would ultimately be his undoing as the same term limits created prevents him from being re-elected in '97. But that comes later.

July 1991 - A Houston Chronicle poll reveals that 56% want METRO to drop the billion dollar monorail plan (and focus on streets/roads/sidewalks), with another 17% wanting light rail. Only 16% wanted the go-ahead, which was Whitmire's position.

Among those who reject the monorail proposal, 25 percent favored Whitmire in the mayor's race while 21 percent favored Lanier and 16 percent favored Turner. Thirty-eight percent were undecided.

According to the Chronicle Poll, 52 percent of city voters want Whitmire replaced.

But asked about their preference in a Whitmire-Turner race, 35 percent chose Whitmire, 26 percent chose Turner, 34 percent were unsure, and the remainder said they would pick someone else or not vote.

With Whitmire, Turner and Lanier as the choices, Whitmire drew 30 percent, Lanier 18 percent, Turner 16 percent. The remainder were unsure or indicated another preference.

Wednesday: The Houston Chronicle Poll on Houston Councilman Ben Reyes.

............................................................. Chronicle Poll: the Metro rail debate.

Given the following options, which would you prefer?

Drop rail plans, improve roads and sidewalks....56 percent.

Drop monorail, build inner-city light rail ....17 percent.

Proceed with monorail.....16 percent.

Not sure, other opinion....11 percent.

Poll was conducted June 21-27 and includes the responses of 652 registered voters who expressed interest in local politics. Is has an error margin of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

("Most in poll don't want monorail

", July 2, 1991)

In July 1991, Tom DeLay manages to convince a House panel (national) to deny additional funding for a rail system until a " a reasonable consensus" was found.

Before anyone here says "I knew it!" keep in mind that...

The House panel did leave intact Houston's $146 million account from previous appropriations but specified the money "should remain unobligated" although it is earmarked for the monorail plan. The monorail plan calls for the federal government to pay half the $1.2 billion cost.

...and conversely, the first phase of DART would get $48 million while Honolulu, which was "also considering a monorail system similar to Houston's" got $28 million. Getting $500 million from the Feds would be a tall order even if the monorail plan had gotten better backing.

Meanwhile, Lanier decides to go against Whitmire in the next mayoral election. Lanier considers it a revenge move for the events of late 1989. Sylvester Turner was also running. ("A measure of revenge in mayor's race

", 7/21/91)

August 1991 - Lanier officially announces his candidacy. One of his main platforms is his anti-monorail stance.

October 1991 - After a vote, Congress gives $30 million to METRO in addition to the $147 million in rail appropriations. However, METRO can't spend it unless they can provide "strong consensus" on how it should be spent.

November 1991 - Crunch time. The candidates include Whitmire (who can still compete due to term limits, she was mayor throughout the entire 1980s and was going for a sixth two-year term, something no Houston mayor had done), Turner ("vying to become the city's first black mayor, set the tempo in June when he declared his candidacy on a "law and order" platform."), and Lanier, who managed to link crime and transportation issues when he announced his candidacy. Lanier wants to divert the monorail money to "beefing up the police force and rebuilding inner-city streets." Turner never liked the monorail project but wanted a new inner-city project.

It's a tight race.

Whitmire and Turner say Lanier 's plan to move monorail money to other projects would cripple Metro 's ability to meet future transit needs. Lanier denies that assertion and says his is the only crime-fighting plan that would provide immediate results without a tax increase.

Whitmire, Lanier and Turner each call for adding officers to the police force. But some of Whitmire's crime-fighting moves -- backing a juvenile curfew and increasing police patrols with overtime money -- seemed to come in reaction to ideas propounded by the challengers.

On economic development, Whitmire points to the George R. Brown Convention Center, the international terminal at Houston Intercontinental Airport and other projects as proof that she is best qualified to continue bringing business to the city.

The challengers highlight the failures of the city's Community Development program. They include the now-abandoned El Mercado del Sol marketplace.

Lanier says the key to economic development is neighborhood revitalization. He criticizes the city for getting involved in downtown development projects such as the proposed entertainment complex at the site of the Albert Thomas Convention Center.

In stark contrast, Turner calls for a city role in the creation of a world trade center, a convention center hotel and a new federal government center.

A debate about campaign ethics grew out of Whitmire's fund-raising and Lanier 's private land deals.

Turner and Lanier criticize Whitmire for accepting campaign contributions from businessmen who are either being sued by the city or who have submitted active bids for city contracts. They say the practice gives the appearance of influence-peddling.

The mayor has accused Lanier of using the chairmanship of the Texas Highway Commission, and then Metro , to promote road projects that enhanced the value of his land holdings. Her criticisms were based on Houston Chronicle articles describing some of Lanier 's votes on the public boards.

She made public her personal income tax returns for 1989 and 1990 and challenged her opponents to do the same.

Lanier says he violated no conflict-of-interest rules with his road project votes. And he accuses Whitmire of pursuing the issue to divert public attention from problems of crime and urban decay.

He also refuses to disclose his income taxes for the same years. Turner has said he would take the challenge under consideration.

While Whitmire and Lanier have gone head-to-head with television commercials attacking each other, Turner has portrayed himself as above the fray.

His ads emphasize his college degrees and progress in the law business -- factors that Turner says qualify him to lead the city.

A runoff will be conducted if no candidate gets a majority of the vote. Observers say a runoff is likely.

(The rigorous race for mayor - Challengers seek end to Whitmire rule

, November 3 1991). The result is a blowout loss for Whitmire, gaining 20% of the vote (a fourth candidate, a socialist refinery worker, got only less than .25% of the vote)

By the end of November, the monorail project is all but dead. With the biggest supporter and the person who installed the pro-monorail supporters out of the picture, and Lanier wanting any new mass transit system to be put to the public vote (which would be the case), rail wouldn't be seen in Houston until 2004. And while Lanier was anti-monorail, he wasn't anti-transit: both he and Turner wanted to build commuter rail using existing tracks, which he appended during the campaigns.

January 1992 - A year before "Marge vs. the Monorail" is released, METRO and the new Lanier-based team (Lanier replaced three of Whitmire's people) officially kill the monorail plan and was diverted to other sources, presumably with the "community support" granted earlier.

Work to create a commuter line using existing tracks (partially to take advantage of a $500 million option created by Congress in a large transit bill, but they'd have to act by March) in the early 1990s but goes nowhere, but a commuter rail system still is fascinating today over 20 years later...

So...what happened was far more complex than "Lanier killed the monorail plan approved by the people" because, first off, that's a lie (which I always suspected). The point is, Lanier was politically out of office for two years while the monorail plan collapsed under its own weight, and Whitmire and her appointees were dealt a crushing blow in the 1991 election.

DeLay, too, wasn't instrumental in killing it (not that he was supportive of it) either, and John "Scapegoat" Culberson wasn't functionally in the picture yet. If the "will of the people" had been that strong, they would've heartily backed METRO's monorail plan (which the City of Houston didn't vote on) or backed them up when DeLay was holding back funds, or re-elected Whitmire.

I hope that this timeline informs and educates (all sources from Houston Chronicle articles)

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I remember seeing something about the anti-rail folk bringing in guys from SF and DC in '83 to testify how much of a colossal failure heavy rail was in those cities.  

 

Knowing that those rail systems are great successes, I chuckled when I read that. 

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Given that 1983 was before my time (and the 1980s were very tumultuous) there's no telling what the early 1980s heavy rail system would've really been like, especially since the recession in the 1980s put a damper on everyone's plans.

I wanted to seek the truth in my two-part timeline: I'm not sure if I'd like Lanier or not, but I was certain that didn't do anything illegal or threw out a vote because he didn't like it.

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Or that!  I almost typed that in my previous response...  Of course that would be a great thing if it did happen.

 

 

I think, unfortunately, with metro, this might not be possible in the city of Houston.

 

It would be a great vote for the ballot though, allow private companies to compete against metro to install commuter rail. I imagine it would be too hard to coordinate.

 

While on the subject of private companies, why is it that Metro isn't allowed to put advertisement on the buses (inside or out)? Not that I'd want to see buses driving around with boards on the side advertising cash for gold places, or whatever, but it would be easier to look at knowing it was helping to pay for things.

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 I'm realistic enough to realize that dollars spent on roads are more useful than dollars spent on rail,

 

 

To you and your lifestyle.  Not everyone lives the same way you do. More and more people, even in Houston, are living less car-centric lifestyles. You shouldn't pretend that the solution that works best for you is the solution that works best for everyone.

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I think, unfortunately, with metro, this might not be possible in the city of Houston.

 

It would be a great vote for the ballot though, allow private companies to compete against metro to install commuter rail. I imagine it would be too hard to coordinate.

 

Or maybe some sort of public-private partnership.  It's probably a ways away, but if Texas Central is successful with the Houston to Dallas route, who knows what might spring up either directly by them or by new rail companies inspired by their success.  Of course, if they fail that might put a nail in the coffin of private rail passenger service.  I hope they succeed, though.

 

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To you and your lifestyle.  Not everyone lives the same way you do. More and more people, even in Houston, are living less car-centric lifestyles. You shouldn't pretend that the solution that works best for you is the solution that works best for everyone.

 

It may be true that more people are getting interested in, or exploring, less car-centric lives here and elsewhere, and if that's what they want to do more power to them.  I don't think we can assume that more and more means anything close to even a simple majority of Houston metro residents, 80 to 90% of whom live outside the loop and a good portion of that are also outside the beltway.

 

To be sure, not everyone lives the same way I do, but here, in Houston, I think we can safely say the vast majority do.  You also can't pretend that solutions that work best for a small demographic are the solutions that work best for everyone.

 

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To assume that 90% of Houstonian's do not want alternative transit is not accurate.

 

http://www.houstontx.gov/planning/Demographics/Loop610Website/population.html

 

The 610 Loop has around 440,000 residents.  Care to wager on how many more people will move into the Loop over the next 6 years?

 

*Figures used in that website were figures from before the current boom, and census figures from 2010.

Edited by arche_757
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To assume that 90% of Houstonian's do not want alternative transit is not accurate.

 

http://www.houstontx.gov/planning/Demographics/Loop610Website/population.html

 

The 610 Loop has around 440,000 residents.  Care to wager on how many more people will move into the Loop over the next 6 years?

 

*Figures used in that website were figures from before the current boom, and census figures from 2010.

 

I'll wager that far more will move outside the loop and even outside the beltway than inside the loop.  I don't have the stats handy, but I've seen them posted on other threads.  You should bear in mind that the stats on the website you cite are for the city of Houston, not the greater Houston metro area.  The city itself is around 2m; while the metro area is closer to 6m.  That makes the loop about 7 or 8% of the total.

 

I'm not assuming that 90% of Houstonians don't want alternate methods of transit.  What I'm saying is the reality is that the demand for it isn't as high as you might assume.  People vote with their feet and their pocketbooks.  In the greater Houston area how often does access to alternate transit rate high in comparison to cost and school district, community ammenities, etc. when people actually go to sign mortgage documents and lease agreements?

 

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I'll wager that far more will move outside the loop and even outside the beltway than inside the loop.  I don't have the stats handy, but I've seen them posted on other threads.  You should bear in mind that the stats on the website you cite are for the city of Houston, not the greater Houston metro area.  The city itself is around 2m; while the metro area is closer to 6m.  That makes the loop about 7 or 8% of the total.

 

I'm not assuming that 90% of Houstonians don't want alternate methods of transit.  What I'm saying is the reality is that the demand for it isn't as high as you might assume.  People vote with their feet and their pocketbooks.  In the greater Houston area how often does access to alternate transit rate high in comparison to cost and school district, community ammenities, etc. when people actually go to sign mortgage documents and lease agreements?

 

 

Probably about as often as the commute time to their normal job, so are you suggesting the city shouldn't make freeways wider because most people don't consider it as highly as the schools their kids attend?

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I'll wager that far more will move outside the loop and even outside the beltway than inside the loop.  I don't have the stats handy, but I've seen them posted on other threads.  You should bear in mind that the stats on the website you cite are for the city of Houston, not the greater Houston metro area.  The city itself is around 2m; while the metro area is closer to 6m.  That makes the loop about 7 or 8% of the total.

 

I'm not assuming that 90% of Houstonians don't want alternate methods of transit.  What I'm saying is the reality is that the demand for it isn't as high as you might assume.  People vote with their feet and their pocketbooks.  In the greater Houston area how often does access to alternate transit rate high in comparison to cost and school district, community ammenities, etc. when people actually go to sign mortgage documents and lease agreements?

I read somewhere that the Inner Loop has 15% of Houston's area and 20% of its population (I may have those numbers flipped, but oh well). As for "people wanting alternate methods of transit", remember that a number of light rail initiatives passed, and unless there was some serious corruption going on, that means that people in the Outer Loop had to vote for light rail, even though there was slim to no chance that they would ever use it. Even if you account for people that worked in the Inner Loop, that still might not have necessarily given the green light for it. So clearly, the people DID want some sort of rail.

I believe that despite the "induced demand" theory promoted by pro-rail charlatans and/or people who slept through stat, widened freeways really are the better choice at reducing congestion (and there is data that proves that).

However, even TxDOT admits that freeways aren't expandable forever and you start becoming ineffective after a while. 6 lanes wide in any direction is about the limit as far as freeways go and the Katy Freeway pretty much is maxed out. Now, back to the subject: will rail help?

It may or may not, depending on the density and where the rails go (and building more rails to compensate for this also will start becoming ineffective as well, so building a highway-like network of rails isn't the best strategy). I personally detest the idea of transfers, and I think people do, too, which is why the light rails would need to go outside to the suburbs (less stops, in between, of course) or the commuter trains need to go into the loop.

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Probably about as often as the commute time to their normal job, so are you suggesting the city shouldn't make freeways wider because most people don't consider it as highly as the schools their kids attend?

 

What I'm suggesting is that we make the freeways wider and add expanded P&R service to help alleviate commute times for those interested in alternatives.  Such a plan would include HOV/HOT lanes kept clear enough that the P&R service can travel at highway speeds most of the trip.

 

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I read somewhere that the Inner Loop has 15% of Houston's area and 20% of its population (I may have those numbers flipped, but oh well). As for "people wanting alternate methods of transit", remember that a number of light rail initiatives passed, and unless there was some serious corruption going on, that means that people in the Outer Loop had to vote for light rail, even though there was slim to no chance that they would ever use it. Even if you account for people that worked in the Inner Loop, that still might not have necessarily given the green light for it. So clearly, the people DID want some sort of rail.

I believe that despite the "induced demand" theory promoted by pro-rail charlatans and/or people who slept through stat, widened freeways really are the better choice at reducing congestion (and there is data that proves that).

However, even TxDOT admits that freeways aren't expandable forever and you start becoming ineffective after a while. 6 lanes wide in any direction is about the limit as far as freeways go and the Katy Freeway pretty much is maxed out. Now, back to the subject: will rail help?

It may or may not, depending on the density and where the rails go (and building more rails to compensate for this also will start becoming ineffective as well, so building a highway-like network of rails isn't the best strategy). I personally detest the idea of transfers, and I think people do, too, which is why the light rails would need to go outside to the suburbs (less stops, in between, of course) or the commuter trains need to go into the loop.

 

You are correct on the stats, but that is city of Houston only.  When you take into account the greater Houston area the loop drops down to about 7 or 8% of the total population.  The thing about elections it that not everyone votes.  You don't normally even get a simple majority to vote in most referendums so it usually tips in favor of whoever has the most motivation to go to the polls.  That's all well and good and is how we do things, but I don't think that always correllates to the actual sentiment of the same percentage of total eligible voters.  As I said before, people vote with their feet and their pocketbooks daily so I think that provides a better indication of their priorities.

 

You are right about transfers and that is one thing that leads to a negative comparison vs using a private car.  It's the nature of the beast, though, that you will have transfers, perhaps several, plus having to drive to the starting point to begin a mass transit commute unless you happen to live within walking distance of a station and your destination is also within walking distance.  Thus people who live, work and play along the rail line will love it, but others further out not so much.

 

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