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Metro moving toward $3B bond vote for 20-year transit plan

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3 hours ago, samagon said:

 

I would say that this documents a specific instance in Brussels and that each city has it's own unique layout and bottlenecks, but you don't really need this article at all.  Drive the highways of Houston at 10pm and see how it flows vs 5pm.  There's a considerable reduction in cars on the highway since it's not rush hour.  Traffic flows fairly freely unless there's construction or an accident.

 

As I've been saying all along, our primary transit issue is getting people into the city on weekday mornings and out of the city on weekday afternoons.  I'd love to say that all we have to do is build commuter rail and that will magically solve the problem, but will it really?

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19 hours ago, august948 said:

 

I would say that this documents a specific instance in Brussels and that each city has it's own unique layout and bottlenecks, but you don't really need this article at all.  Drive the highways of Houston at 10pm and see how it flows vs 5pm.  There's a considerable reduction in cars on the highway since it's not rush hour.  Traffic flows fairly freely unless there's construction or an accident.

 

As I've been saying all along, our primary transit issue is getting people into the city on weekday mornings and out of the city on weekday afternoons.  I'd love to say that all we have to do is build commuter rail and that will magically solve the problem, but will it really?

Do you have a better idea? Because having the "world's largest highway" clearly hasn't worked. Yes, highways are just as important, if not more, as a rail system especially in Houston. These highways are becoming an eyesore, 26 lanes? Is that not enough lol? A rail line would literally take up 2-3 lanes max (most likely the median). Highways are important, but they do not need any more attention. Lets focus on ALTERNATIVE modes of transportation.  

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21 minutes ago, Amlaham said:

Do you have a better idea? Because having the "world's largest highway" clearly hasn't worked. Yes, highways are just as important, if not more, as a rail system especially in Houston. These highways are becoming an eyesore, 26 lanes? Is that not enough lol? A rail line would literally take up 2-3 lanes max (most likely the median). Highways are important, but they do not need any more attention. Lets focus on ALTERNATIVE modes of transportation.  

 

First of all, the world's largest freeway is only 21 miles long.  That's a drop in the bucket compared to all the freeway miles in the Houston area.  the HOV/toll lanes start and end along it's length and don't connect to anything except the mainlanes and surface roads.  You can't get on the HOV and even go all the way downtown, much less drive HOV all the way to Pearland or any other destination in the city.  The better idea is to make all the freeways the same size with interconnecting HOV lanes so we can run P&R style service between major destinations all over the city.  The number of mainlanes can vary even, but the important thing is to make all the HOV lanes connect in both ways throughout the entire freeway system.

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On 9/25/2019 at 6:31 AM, BeerNut said:

 

something something small government, something something socialism.   

 

I think this is a good watch;

 

 

The author of this video makes a good distinction at why transit is better in this context rather than our context. In Hong Kong's context its system works as a market solution that can fend for itself and at the same time is seen as a public good for everyone because everyone seems to be able to take part in the project and its reach. This makes the solution not a burden on the government and in fact pays into the government instead of taking out. In our model transit for a long time has been seen not as a market solution, but as welfare, and its not difficult to understand why its viewed that way when most transit doesn't reach everyone, and instead is primarily directed to those of lower income which are people that won't be able to sustain a system because they don't have that much money, and therefore it will become a burden on the government, and therefore will not see that much invest. Its kind of a vicious cycle. I really think we should go with a Hong Kong model of operating mass transit. A partnership with private companies and government and let each do what they do best. The private side understands the market while government understands regulation and they can play off one of another.

 

So @BeerNut when you say off hand that some don't want government to invest in these sort of things because "something something socialism" they aren't wrong because the perspective in our context is that mass transit is a kind of welfare where it is expected to lose money, but can help an unfortunate few.

 

This has to be flipped if this perspective is going to change. It needs to be seen not as welfare, but as a market solution that has the opportunity to be a mass option for all. Lets be real here, mass transit for it to really be successful needs to get people that can truly finanically support it on board and that means catering to a market where people can spend money. Poor people will not do that. If we turn to a market based solution then we get people that can pay for the service which can build a better network which can then reach more people which can give those who are poor better access which can help lift those unfortunate up.

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@Luminare I was just making a snarky comment.  I totally agree with that Metro should be tapping the private market for funding solutions and integrations.  Gateway Station  looks like a good start for what can be done in the Houston market.  I think the biggest hurdle is that METRO transit isn't seen as superior product over Uber or driving.  To accomplish this you would need a transit system that is ubiquitous, fast cross town travel, clean,  priced right fares, and safe.  Hitting all these metrics is impossible given the current model.  So what should METRO focus on since turning over to a private company will probably never happen?

Edited by BeerNut
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The biggest gap for Metro is going cross town - the P&R network is sparse, weekday only, and usually only has local connections on one end.  The frequent bus service is a good start, but it only works for short distances.  The highest ridership route in the entire network, 82 Westheimer, does go an impressive distance (from downtown all the way to HWY 6) but it takes 1 hour and 41 minutes to go that whole length (18.4 miles) at an average speed of 11 mph.  

 

The current proposal expands the P&R service to be 2 way express bus service, which is a start, but I'd like to see more limited bus service lines - buses that make limited stops along a similar route as the local bus, maybe even skipping big chunks to save end-to-end route time.

 

 

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That is exactly the plan - that's why there would be *both* "Boost" bus corridors and BRT running parallel routes. Obviously this all comes down to implementation, but the MetroNext plan is pretty explicitly about trying to build off of the existing system as much as possible because there just isn't funding to build something new from the ground up.

 

This is the issue with the NHHIP. It's not just about whether specific design aspects will negatively impact a particular business or community; it's about how TXDOT is prioritizing spending. They are approaching it purely as a "how do we move cars better" question rather than "how do we move people better." Not saying they should just shift all funding over to transit, but they start with freeways as the default, so of course they end up with a freeway project for which local entities have to gin up money to make less intrusive to the neighborhoods it runs through.

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If your only tool is a hammer...

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I don't think there's enough details on what the BOOST plan will consist of - according to https://www.metronext.org/moving-forward-plan/plan-by-service

Quote

Improvements could include bus stop relocation, new shelters, accessibility upgrades, transit signal priority, and real-time passenger information.

[emphasis added]

 

I forgot about the planned Westheimer signature bus service; according to metro:

Quote

The Westheimer Signature Bus Service is designed to include infrastructure and service improvements to provide fast transit connections between Downtown, Greenway, Uptown, Westchase, and West Oaks (at State Highway 6).  The Signature service will use a new two-way HOV facility on [US 59] between Midtown and Edloe Street.

 

There's also a list of 2 way HOV lanes (which would be more freeway lanes, but for transit and carpools):

  • US 90A (presumably between 610 and Missouri City, though center bus lanes coming down from TMC would be great)
  • I-10 West (that will definitely require either elevated lanes or freeway expansion - I assume it will be colocated with the Inner Katy BRT)
  • I-45 N (will this require the NHHIP to implement, or will it be independent of that?  The headline item of BRT to the airport depends on this too I assume)
  • The aforementioned 2 way HOV lane to Edloe - I wonder why not further?  I suspect it's planned with 0 freeway expansion or new structures.  But how slow will that service be at rush hour past Edloe?
  • 249 2 way diamond lanes - probably just paint, but potentially an additional lane each way added.
  • "4 off-peak direction diamond lane corridors" - I suspect that is how they're going to implement the rest of the express network on 59 and 45

If you have some time, I would recommend looking through the plan on the website.  It's formatted very nicely

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Some new changes on this website:

 - BRT along BWY 8 now instead of Gessner - it will be faster than if it was on Gessner, but there will be less to walk to directly from the BRT stations.  It will lean heavily on local service connections and the P&R on each end.  It also looks like it goes from 30 stations (on Gessner) to 5

- New City Centre TC - hopefully actually near City Centre as opposed to the center of the freeway

- New Park Place TC that would connect to the Green line to Hobby - depending on schedules, this could put Hobby within reasonable transit time of a large portion of the metro area

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12 minutes ago, cspwal said:

Some new changes on this website:

 - BRT along BWY 8 now instead of Gessner - it will be faster than if it was on Gessner, but there will be less to walk to directly from the BRT stations.  It will lean heavily on local service connections and the P&R on each end.  It also looks like it goes from 30 stations (on Gessner) to 5

- New City Centre TC - hopefully actually near City Centre as opposed to the center of the freeway

- New Park Place TC that would connect to the Green line to Hobby - depending on schedules, this could put Hobby within reasonable transit time of a large portion of the metro area

 

I still question why they will take the green line all the way down broadway only to divert to telephone once it hits bellfort. That makes zero sense. Just have the purple and green lines meet at the intersection of broadway and Park Place and then have both lines go south down broadway to in front of the airport.

I honestly don't mind BRT going along BWY 8. I've always thought that outrigging our highways with BRT in the middle and branch walkways to neighborhoods would be a great initial start to any plan here since it uses existing infrastructure to get by in and then you can overlay a more robust and properly laid out transit network on top of that.

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My understanding is that the BOOST corridors are basically opportunistic BRT - different portions of different corridors will have some of the features that make BRT better than a normal bus line, but that the exact mix will vary depending on available ROW and other priorities. So a particular BOOST line might even have sections that are basically true BRT, but because the line doesn't meet that standard across its entire length it doesn't get called BRT.

 

I doubt the specifics for each line have been remotely worked out; it's more about a general approach.

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29 minutes ago, Texasota said:

My understanding is that the BOOST corridors are basically opportunistic BRT - different portions of different corridors will have some of the features that make BRT better than a normal bus line, but that the exact mix will vary depending on available ROW and other priorities. So a particular BOOST line might even have sections that are basically true BRT, but because the line doesn't meet that standard across its entire length it doesn't get called BRT.

 

I doubt the specifics for each line have been remotely worked out; it's more about a general approach.

 

I think you are correct on this one. While I still think Metro needs a better overall vision, I'm glad that they are finally make a real push west even if it is only BRT or BOOST. The West side is where the money is at and its where most Houstonians live. At least they are making an effort. Hopefully this round about way of operating can at least begin the conversation about alternatives so a true larger and grander vision can be formulated.

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1 hour ago, Texasota said:

 

This is the issue with the NHHIP. It's not just about whether specific design aspects will negatively impact a particular business or community; it's about how TXDOT is prioritizing spending. They are approaching it purely as a "how do we move cars better" question rather than "how do we move people better." Not saying they should just shift all funding over to transit, but they start with freeways as the default, so of course they end up with a freeway project for which local entities have to gin up money to make less intrusive to the neighborhoods it runs through.

 

Except that is not completely true.  A big part (I believe a large majority) of the I-45 expansion is for MAX lanes, which will provide express lanes for BRT and other Metro service.  I believe TXDot has actually been working pretty closely with Metro on this plan.

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4 hours ago, august948 said:

 

First of all, the world's largest freeway is only 21 miles long.  That's a drop in the bucket compared to all the freeway miles in the Houston area.  the HOV/toll lanes start and end along it's length and don't connect to anything except the mainlanes and surface roads.  You can't get on the HOV and even go all the way downtown, much less drive HOV all the way to Pearland or any other destination in the city.  The better idea is to make all the freeways the same size with interconnecting HOV lanes so we can run P&R style service between major destinations all over the city.  The number of mainlanes can vary even, but the important thing is to make all the HOV lanes connect in both ways throughout the entire freeway system.

You clearly only care about people living outside of Houston getting in/out of Houston. Your whole idea of "we should expand every freeway" is so illogical; what do you suppose we do at 59 near the bridges or 610 thats literally at the doorsteps of some buildings. I feel like it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that we can't expand EVERY highway in Houston. Also, this would literally take more than 50 years, billions of dollars, like idk I would assume all of this is common sense. Once again, this is METRO, worried about the highways complain to TxDOT. 

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I don't know what to make of moving the BRT to Beltway 8. People were thinking the I-10 BRT didn't make sense because there isn't too much along that path, but what they were missing is that it provides a fast connection between Uptown and Downtown. This is especially true if the bus keeps going beyond the NWTC and you don't have to transfer to get into Uptown. The two endpoints are major hubs for work, dining, entertainment, shopping, etc. that people need to get to.

 

So what about the Beltway 8 line? Apart from City Center, I don't get the impression anything on that line is walkable. So now you're having to make multiple transfers to get where you need to go. Also, does beltway 8 get that congested? I only ever hear complaining about 610, 59, 290, 45, and I-10.

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46 minutes ago, Amlaham said:

You clearly only care about people living outside of Houston getting in/out of Houston. Your whole idea of "we should expand every freeway" is so illogical; what do you suppose we do at 59 near the bridges or 610 thats literally at the doorsteps of some buildings. I feel like it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that we can't expand EVERY highway in Houston. Also, this would literally take more than 50 years, billions of dollars, like idk I would assume all of this is common sense. Once again, this is METRO, worried about the highways complain to TxDOT. 

 

The Houston MSA is about 7 million and the city itself is about 2.5 million.   That means 4.5 million are outside the city limits, or just under 2/3 of the entire population of our area is outside the city limits.  I'm afraid you can't just wave that away and ignore it as a factor in our transportation problems.  And since the city limits encompass such a large area, residents of the COH are also using the freeways to get around.  Solve the in and out on weekdays and you've solved most of our transportation problems.  Since Metro runs the P&R service they are already involved in this.  Making the HOV connectivity work would go a long way towards solving the real problem we have.  I'm sure we could engineer a few HOV lanes at complicated junctions if full expansion wasn't feasible.

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6 minutes ago, paul2834 said:

I don't know what to make of moving the BRT to Beltway 8. People were thinking the I-10 BRT didn't make sense because there isn't too much along that path, but what they were missing is that it provides a fast connection between Uptown and Downtown. This is especially true if the bus keeps going beyond the NWTC and you don't have to transfer to get into Uptown. The two endpoints are major hubs for work, dining, entertainment, shopping, etc. that people need to get to.

 

So what about the Beltway 8 line? Apart from City Center, I don't get the impression anything on that line is walkable. So now you're having to make multiple transfers to get where you need to go. Also, does beltway 8 get that congested? I only ever hear complaining about 610, 59, 290, 45, and I-10.

 

Beltway 8 bisects Chinatown on Bellaire.   There's plenty of interest if they were to put a station next to Dun Huang Plaza.  Also, there are a lot of towers right on the Beltway north of Westheimer.  A Westheimer and Beltway 8 station could serve some of that and connect to the buses running on Westheimer which go past plenty more restaurants and shopping.

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19 minutes ago, august948 said:

 

Beltway 8 bisects Chinatown on Bellaire.   There's plenty of interest if they were to put a station next to Dun Huang Plaza.  Also, there are a lot of towers right on the Beltway north of Westheimer.  A Westheimer and Beltway 8 station could serve some of that and connect to the buses running on Westheimer which go past plenty more restaurants and shopping.

 

A quick trip to Chinatown from Midtown/Downtown is what really interest me.  Hopefully the Boost line is able to make this a reality.

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50 minutes ago, BeerNut said:

 

A quick trip to Chinatown from Midtown/Downtown is what really interest me.  Hopefully the Boost line is able to make this a reality.

 

I've never taken this particular route, but can't you take the red line to the tmc transit center and then hop on the quickline to chinatown?

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5 minutes ago, august948 said:

 

I've never taken this particular route, but can't you take the red line to the tmc transit center and then hop on the quickline to chinatown?

 

Hmm never considered that route but would still probably be over a hour

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55 minutes ago, BeerNut said:

 

Hmm never considered that route but would still probably be over a hour

 

Looking at the quickline schedule, it's listed as 35 mins from tmc to the end at chinatown.  Not too bad for that stretch of road.  Red line is about 16 mins McGowen to tmc.  With layover at tmc probably just under an hour.

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Problem is the Quickline only runs between 5 am and 6 pm on weekdays.  Not great for going out to dinner or going there for lunch on a saturday.  Also, there's no bus lane on Holcombe, so I imagine that it gets delayed by congestion between Main and Kirby

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On 9/30/2019 at 3:25 PM, august948 said:

 

I would say that this documents a specific instance in Brussels and that each city has it's own unique layout and bottlenecks, but you don't really need this article at all.  Drive the highways of Houston at 10pm and see how it flows vs 5pm.  There's a considerable reduction in cars on the highway since it's not rush hour.  Traffic flows fairly freely unless there's construction or an accident.

 

As I've been saying all along, our primary transit issue is getting people into the city on weekday mornings and out of the city on weekday afternoons.  I'd love to say that all we have to do is build commuter rail and that will magically solve the problem, but will it really?

 

if the end result is that 10% or higher of the people commuting use that commuter rail, then yes.

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2 hours ago, samagon said:

 

if the end result is that 10% or higher of the people commuting use that commuter rail, then yes.

 

Ok.   So how many people in total commute each day? 

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19 hours ago, samagon said:

 

if the end result is that 10% or higher of the people commuting use that commuter rail, then yes.

 

That's sort of like saying "if it's successful, it will be successful."  Will a commuter rail system get 10% or higher of commuters?  How much of a commuter rail system do we need in order to have a realistic shot at achieving that number?  And at what cost?

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17 hours ago, august948 said:

 

Ok.   So how many people in total commute each day? 

 

Total employment in the Houston metro area is approximately 3 million. Around 3 - 5% work from home.

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On 10/3/2019 at 9:53 AM, Houston19514 said:

 

That's sort of like saying "if it's successful, it will be successful."  Will a commuter rail system get 10% or higher of commuters?  How much of a commuter rail system do we need in order to have a realistic shot at achieving that number?  And at what cost?

 

On 10/3/2019 at 9:57 AM, Houston19514 said:

 

Total employment in the Houston metro area is approximately 3 million. Around 3 - 5% work from home.

 

this is a possible solution as well, why doesn't the government consider 'spending' some of that money on subsidies for companies that are willing to encourage work from home 3-4 days a week?

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On 10/8/2019 at 10:21 AM, samagon said:

 

 

this is a possible solution as well, why doesn't the government consider 'spending' some of that money on subsidies for companies that are willing to encourage work from home 3-4 days a week?

There's no need to do that. Companies are slowly but steadily moving in that direction with or without government incentives. Plus, I'm not sure how this completely works because most companies are now mixing in office 360 work stations and working from home. Basically, somedays a person is required to come into the office for certain meetings and presentations, and they'll simply pick an open desk that they can plug their laptop into while other days they can work from home.

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I agree, there's no reason to subside something a lot of private employers are already taking advantage of.

 

Instead, the best government benefit to take advantage of, would be to take advantage of Section 132 of the IRS code regarding qualified transportation fringe benefits. Specifically, use pre-tax dollars to pay for a monthly Metro pass, which would lower the gross income of the taxpayer, and lower the payroll tax of the employer, and potentially boost ridership. 

 

In NYC, employers are required to offer the pre tax benefit to employees. https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dca/about/commuter-benefits-FAQs.page

Here, in Chicago there's no requirement, but a lot of employers, sign up voluntarily. https://www.ventrachicago.com/transitbenefits/

 

Unfortunately, for some reason Metro does not offer a similar system for employers (at least I'm unware of Metro offering one). Maybe someone can shed light on why? If there's something that prevents Metro from doing it in its Charter, then even more reason to scrap Metro and start from scratch. 

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I know some companies offer a Q-card, but I'm not sure if that's the same thing?  And the way it works isn't a monthly pass, just a normal Q-card that is refilled by your company/pre-tax income instead of you later.  Metro offering a monthly pass to those companies could help boost ridership - why pay for a garage permit when you can have a monthly transit pass?

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18 minutes ago, cspwal said:

I know some companies offer a Q-card, but I'm not sure if that's the same thing?  And the way it works isn't a monthly pass, just a normal Q-card that is refilled by your company/pre-tax income instead of you later.  Metro offering a monthly pass to those companies could help boost ridership - why pay for a garage permit when you can have a monthly transit pass?

 

Okay. Yeah that sounds right. Cool, glad Metro offers that then.

 

I vaguely remember that Metro STAR (those private/metro Van pools) can be paid on a pre-tax basis, but I didn't know Metro's regular bus/light rail was setup that way too. 

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Again, it's not really metro offering it - at least when I had one way back in 2008, it was just a Q-card that got refilled by Rice as opposed to me.  I think back then I had to bring it to them to refill, but I'm sure now its hooked up to a corporate bank account somehow, just as if you had it hooked up to your credit card

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9 minutes ago, cspwal said:

Again, it's not really metro offering it - at least when I had one way back in 2008, it was just a Q-card that got refilled by Rice as opposed to me.  I think back then I had to bring it to them to refill, but I'm sure now its hooked up to a corporate bank account somehow, just as if you had it hooked up to your credit card

 

Okay, yeah, i think we're talking about the same thing. I'm talking about a "401(k)" transit benefit. Or an employer sponsored health plan for transit. You pay for the transit benefit via your pre tax dollars, then your employer processes the payment with the transit agency, the benefit is then refilled to your transit card, or here a Metro Q Card.

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We've been able to do that forever.  It's even easier now that there's a phone app.

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4 hours ago, 102IAHexpress said:

 

 

Unfortunately, for some reason Metro does not offer a similar system for employers (at least I'm unware of Metro offering one). Maybe someone can shed light on why? If there's something that prevents Metro from doing it in its Charter, then even more reason to scrap Metro and start from scratch. 

People I work with who are in van pools can have pre tax money taken out of their checks for the monthly charges.

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On 10/10/2019 at 5:25 PM, mollusk said:

We've been able to do that forever.  It's even easier now that there's a phone app.

 

The apps...kinda suck. Its not built for phones in a compelling way and its not easy to use.

 

Now the idea about the texting of bus station numbers and getting upcoming departure times...now that has been a great idea. Very effective and its immediate info.

Edited by Luminare
phrasing

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57 minutes ago, Luminare said:

The apps...kinda suck. Its not built for phones in a compelling way and its not easy to use.

 

They rebuilt the iPhone version a couple months ago.  It's a noticeable improvement - then again, I learned on steam powered computers so YMMV.*

 

*(a more polite way of saying "get off my lawn") :ph34r:

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