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Houston's Own Grand Central Station-Downtown Transit Hub.


DJ V Lawrence

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So how can I say a few things about the station without "giving too much"

How about answering the most obvious question: With an existing rail line already passing through downtown (on the north side), why are you guys putting the station on a rail line outside of downtown and north of I-10? That makes no sense.

...well, the facility will be much more impressive that we all think it will be. The point--it's been said that this will be the METRO CEO's signature, legacy-type project. Want to see the type of things that happened? Look at EEK's stuff done for New Jersey Transit, which is where Wilson was also a director.

The project would likely be multi-level (almost has to be using the grade-separation at Main/Burnett). It could also include multiple stories of uses above the facility and could include retail/restaurant options. The park-and-ride facility obviously may be in the form of a parking garage.

Finally, look at the price tag of $150 million--isn't that nearly the price of Toyota Center? A third of Reliant Stadium? $50 million less than Houston Pavilions (25% less). Of course, some of that will include the costs of infrastructure (i.e. platforms).

Yes, but you don't want the legacy to be a misplaced white-elephant monument to missed opportunities. The facility sounds fine, it is the location that is the problem. While functionally it would work as a transfer point and mini-TOD, it would have far more potential if located within downtown somewhere on the existing rail line. I can't see planners outside of Houston (and probably most here, if they are being honest and not political) viewing the moving out of the rail line as positive or effective urban planning. Quite the opposite.

This is reminiscent of the 'visionary' idea to replace Penn Station with Madison Square Garden. Or better yet, Boston's original plan to pull the commuter trains back from North Station to transfer points further out. At the time(70's) their planners thought that transfers were no big deal, subway and light-rail were modern, commuter trains were old and passe, and downtown Boston was going to be a slick modern utopia. Luckily the proposal got shot down as the stupid idea that it was, their planners wised up, and now they are trying to extend the commuter trains through downtown. Unfortunately the failure to do this as part of the Big Dig when they had a chance has possibly made it impossible to ever get it done.

Kinda like how Metro failed to commit and get some type of rail incorporated into the Katy Freeway design. They don't have a good track record on visions or decision-making, do they?

Edited by dp2
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Notwithstanding the arguments on whether the place is a good idea and whether the location is optimal, as far as the design goes, I would rather see a brick/stone and window design over a steel and glass structure. As much as I enjoy cutting-edge architecture, the north side of downtown does have a certain feel to it that has been reinforced with the additions of newer landmarks such as the Courthouse complex, Minutmaid Park and the UH Downtown addition. The new intermodal facility should be a landmark that blends in with that theme.

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How about answering the most obvious question: With an existing rail line already passing through downtown (on the north side), why are you guys putting the station on a rail line outside of downtown and north of I-10? That makes no sense.

Kinda like how Metro failed to commit and get some type of rail incorporated into the Katy Freeway design. They don't have a good track record on visions or decision-making, do they?

What rail line passes theough Downtown on the north side? If you are talking about the freight line running under UHD, this is also AmTrak's line, and the station is only on the other side of the bayou from it. Otherwise, where would you put it? Over by the jails? Yum. Farther east? That would be further away from Downtown proper than this proposed site.

BTW, METRO tried extremely hard to get ROW for rail included in the Katy expansion. John Culberson, in his infinite wisdom, shut METRO out. That was not METRO's fault.

FWIW, the site that METRO bought is 315 N. MAIN STREET. It is nowhere near as far north as the Hogan street tunnel. It actually buts up against the I-10 overpass. UHD student parking is on this site currently. It is only 1500 feet from Main and Commerce in Downtown proper. hcad.org or one of the internet maps will show you how close it is.

Here's a link to an article on the land purchase.

http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/stories.../19/story1.html

If the I-10 overpass is moved/removed, this Station would overlook the entire Buffalo Bayou redevelopment. That would make this a destination that some are asking for, though that is not it's purpose. Knowing the exact address of the site makes me like it even more.

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What rail line passes theough Downtown on the north side? If you are talking about the freight line running under UHD, this is also AmTrak's line, and the station is only on the other side of the bayou from it. Otherwise, where would you put it? Over by the jails? Yum. Farther east? That would be further away from Downtown proper than this proposed site.

BTW, METRO tried extremely hard to get ROW for rail included in the Katy expansion. John Culberson, in his infinite wisdom, shut METRO out. That was not METRO's fault.

FWIW, the site that METRO bought is 315 N. MAIN STREET. It is nowhere near as far north as the Hogan street tunnel. It actually buts up against the I-10 overpass. UHD student parking is on this site currently. It is only 1500 feet from Main and Commerce in Downtown proper. hcad.org or one of the internet maps will show you how close it is.

Here's a link to an article on the land purchase.

http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/stories.../19/story1.html

If the I-10 overpass is moved/removed, this Station would overlook the entire Buffalo Bayou redevelopment. That would make this a destination that some are asking for, though that is not it's purpose. Knowing the exact address of the site makes me like it even more.

Red:

From Metro's website: University of Houston/Downtown Campus Station of Red Line to a new Northern Intermodal Facility, located in the vicinity of Burnett Street

http://www.ridemetro.org/motion/solutions/phase2impplan.asp

If you are right about the 315 address, that would be great...might even decrease some of the grousing over it's location.

B)

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The intermodal facility's proposed location was/is influenced, in part, by METRO's desire to also run one of its commuter rail lines from Tomball/Northwest through here. I can't remember if the AMTRAK line would run through here as well or if it would run on the line right by Baker Street jail.

Another consideration for the location is its proximity to the Hardy Yard Project and how the two would, in theory, be a boon to each other. Developers would certainly benefit from this but then again, so would the North End/Near Northside community.

IMO, if you were to do an intermodal facility, you'd want to consider doing one on what's currently the Post Office Distribution center near Susquecentennial Park. You wouldn't need to reroute the AMTRAK line, though the Tomball/Northwest commuter line would need to be redesigned, and the original Washington Avenue LRT line be rekindled.

That said, I don't have a major problem with the planned Intermodal facility being incorporated into Hardy Yard as long as people follow through with the basics.

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Downtown.jpg

If you look closely, the site is the parking lot and the sandy area directly north of I-10. It is literally across White Oak Bayou from UHD. It is NOT next to Hardy Yards, but south of it.

Red,

If you have a key map, go to pg.493 and turn it so the pg # is at 6 o'clock [seriously].

It looks like the northern border may be Burnett. It also appears this development is actually on TOP of Hardy Yards and N. Main.

whatcha think?

B)

Edited by nmainguy
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I see what you are saying. This piece of land is a banana shape that begins at the corner of N. Main and the I-10 overpass. It bows out to the west, behind a row of properties that front Main Street on the western side. It then narrows and fronts on Daly Place on the north end. The Daly Place frontage is 147 feet. Currently, the only part of the property fronting N. Main is the southern portion right next to I-10, about 285 feet.

Someone may correct me, but does it look to you like the Hardy Yards development actually CROSSES N. Main at its western tip? If so, the plan could be to place the intermodal along Daly Place, which would move it further North by about 800 feet. It is also likely that METRO could or would take those properties along Main Street by eminent domain, thereby giving them the enire western side of Main Street from the I-10 overpass up to Daly Place.

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Downtown.jpg

Red,

I blew the pic up-that northern border is clearly labeled Burnett. [don't mean to harp on that ;) ]

Yes, the western tip of Hardy Yards does go over N. Main on top of the tunnel, but just barely.

I see what you mean about Daly.

My guess is if they do infact have all this land, they may just treat it as a blank slate, ignoring present streets-except N. Main and some of the existing road beds..

That's an architect's dream site, for sure!

B)

Here's our High Speed train!

Splendid_Stations-4.jpg

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Second, about ten years ago, all of Metro and city government got together and decided that Downtown would be their focus and its redevelopment would make or break this city. From that came the beginnings of something called Midtown, which, in my eyes has so far been a huge disappointment. What little growth has happened in Midtown has also, as I see it, come somewhat at the expense of Downtown, though some of the residential has, in fact, bolstered Downtown's revitalization.

let's see, we had enron, compaq, continental, and anderson (to name a few) go into the pooper. then years of contruction, renovations, and a light-rail system clogging and ripping up our streets. considering the growth we expected to have, yet still be where we are, i think midtown/downtown areas are doing quite well.

rome wasn't built in a day :blink:

in regards to the rail, you can chalk me up as an added "statistic". never rode the bus but have been on the rail numerous times :P

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nmain, are you saying the northern border of Hardy Yards is Burnett? If so, I agree. Hardy yards apparently owns the triangle on the west side of N. Main bordered by Main, Burnett and Daly. The top of the METRO land is across Daly from Hardy Yards.

Now, here's another twist. METRO also bought 1101 and 1115 NAYLOR, on the east side of N. Main. These 2 properties are directly south of Hardy Yards.

Looks like I'll be taking N. Main home today. I need to see this property. :P

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Notwithstanding the arguments on whether the place is a good idea and whether the location is optimal, as far as the design goes, I would rather see a brick/stone and window design over a steel and glass structure. As much as I enjoy cutting-edge architecture, the north side of downtown does have a certain feel to it that has been reinforced with the additions of newer landmarks such as the Courthouse complex, Minutmaid Park and the UH Downtown addition. The new intermodal facility should be a landmark that blends in with that theme.

I agree 100%. As far as design, I hope that the architects consider the impact that the railroad has played in the history of Houston, and that they create a structure that does not drastically contrast with the older buildings along that side of downtown.

Edited by bkjones98
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I agree 100%. As far as design, I hope that the architects consider the impact that the railroad has played in the history of Houston, and that they create a structure that does not drastically contrast with the older buildings along that side of downtown.

I know this is off topic, but everytime I read your posts, I hear them in Lionel Hutz's voice! Damn your avatar! :P

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nmain, are you saying the northern border of Hardy Yards is Burnett? If so, I agree. Hardy yards apparently owns the triangle on the west side of N. Main bordered by Main, Burnett and Daly. The top of the METRO land is across Daly from Hardy Yards.

Now, here's another twist. METRO also bought 1101 and 1115 NAYLOR, on the east side of N. Main. These 2 properties are directly south of Hardy Yards.

Looks like I'll be taking N. Main home today. I need to see this property. :P

Yeah, the north boundery in that lay-over is Burnett. One of the Naylor properties are being leased to Rice according to a newsletter I get. It's just temporary until Rice has their own secure data center contructed.

What ever the layout, ultimatly it looks like Metro has plenty of land to work with. Now if we could just come up with a re-route for I10. I'd have no problem with a tunnel for that short stretch.

B)

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http://www.houstonchronicle.com/disp/story...nt/3599661.html

Should be an interesting project. Curious as to if it will become a reality...

I've read a few peoples' posts that have mentioned that the Greyhound Bus Terminal would be relocated to the intermodal station. Although that would make perfect sense, it wasn't mentioned in the article. Can anybody verify that this is actually going to happen? If it does, that would be a major boon to upper Midtown, as it would relocate many of the vagrants and result in the closing of the several rental car places and the check cashing service. With all that land so close to light rail stops being opened up to developers, and without the vagrants, the area would be set for a big boom. I'd bet Camden would be the first...and perhaps then something would happen with the old Central Square complex. Each of those would have ground-level retail, along with 2016 Main and Post Midtown. Slowly but surely, that neighborhood would start to actually look like one.

Btw, in regards to my earlier post, I don't see what's so wrong about criticizing Metro for putting its administrative offices in a place where 1) they knew would not be the center of their operations in the future and 2) where land prices were so high. They could have easily fulfilled the needs of the DTC's operations using only half a block of land, allowing the other half to be sold back to the private sector (bearing in mind that private owners are taxable owners). With the proceeds of the sale of the half-block, Metro could have then easily continued to lease downtown office space until the intermodal facility were built and located their HQ in the heart of the action. It's not like there's a shortage of CBD office space at the moment, and I don't see how their being located along the southern outskirts of downtown is in any way advantageous over being along the northern outskirts of downtown where there would be an intermodal hub.

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Yeah, the north boundery in that lay-over is Burnett. One of the Naylor properties are being leased to Rice according to a newsletter I get. It's just temporary until Rice has their own secure data center contructed.

What ever the layout, ultimatly it looks like Metro has plenty of land to work with. Now if we could just come up with a re-route for I10. I'd have no problem with a tunnel for that short stretch.

B)

You know, driving around the area, I realized a couple of things. One, the tunnel is actually where Burnett crosses N. Main. So, regardless of where it goes, the tunnel is further north than the station would be.

N. Main at the I-10 overpass is just one block west of San Jacinto and the Warehouse District. The station would tie in with that area pretty easily.

The Buffalo Bayou project proposes a canal running east from N. Main to McKee, parallel to Wood Street. The station would overlook this area, which is planned as a water park of sorts.

I-10 is recessed up to almost San Jacinto, where it rises to an overpass over San Jacinto, Main and White Oak Bayou. If it dropped to a tunnel for about a mile, it could come back up next to I-45, adding several blocks to northern downtown. Alternately, it could be rerouted north of Hardy Yards, preferrably recessed, and accomplish the same goal.

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Btw, in regards to my earlier post, I don't see what's so wrong about criticizing Metro for putting its administrative offices in a place where 1) they knew would not be the center of their operations in the future and 2) where land prices were so high. They could have easily fulfilled the needs of the DTC's operations using only half a block of land, allowing the other half to be sold back to the private sector (bearing in mind that private owners are taxable owners). With the proceeds of the sale of the half-block, Metro could have then easily continued to lease downtown office space until the intermodal facility were built and located their HQ in the heart of the action. It's not like there's a shortage of CBD office space at the moment, and I don't see how their being located along the southern outskirts of downtown is in any way advantageous over being along the northern outskirts of downtown where there would be an intermodal hub.

I understand your concern but the building is for administrative activities. HR, payrole, logistics...many things that could have been out-sourced to India but thankfully not. I think it was a good long-term solution. If things change; if the DT real estate market tightens up; it might serve Metro well to move to less expensive space elsewhere and lease out their prime office space for some real bucks. Just some long-term thinking on my part.

B)

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I've read a few peoples' posts that have mentioned that the Greyhound Bus Terminal would be relocated to the intermodal station. Although that would make perfect sense, it wasn't mentioned in the article. Can anybody verify that this is actually going to happen? If it does, that would be a major boon to upper Midtown, as it would relocate many of the vagrants and result in the closing of the several rental car places and the check cashing service. With all that land so close to light rail stops being opened up to developers, and without the vagrants, the area would be set for a big boom. I'd bet Camden would be the first...and perhaps then something would happen with the old Central Square complex. Each of those would have ground-level retail, along with 2016 Main and Post Midtown. Slowly but surely, that neighborhood would start to actually look like one.

Btw, in regards to my earlier post, I don't see what's so wrong about criticizing Metro for putting its administrative offices in a place where 1) they knew would not be the center of their operations in the future and 2) where land prices were so high. They could have easily fulfilled the needs of the DTC's operations using only half a block of land, allowing the other half to be sold back to the private sector (bearing in mind that private owners are taxable owners). With the proceeds of the sale of the half-block, Metro could have then easily continued to lease downtown office space until the intermodal facility were built and located their HQ in the heart of the action. It's not like there's a shortage of CBD office space at the moment, and I don't see how their being located along the southern outskirts of downtown is in any way advantageous over being along the northern outskirts of downtown where there would be an intermodal hub.

Contenintal's HQ is not in the middle of IAH

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I LOVE this proposal's location.

The simple fact of the matter is in the heart of downtown is NOT an option. The simple cost of trying to acquire enough land would cause a major backlash from all those right wingers that hate spending tax dollars on public projects. Additionally, the headaches of trying to build this facility AND add new commuter and light rail lines would disrupt downtown workers, conventions, and even sporting events. We all remember how John Q Public reacted to just the Main Street line being constructed so just imagine what would happen if we tried to build this right in downtown's heart!

With that said, this site is the best of all the other possible alternatives. METRO already owns the land which will help keep costs down. It is also adjacent to another large-scale proposal (Hardy Yards) which just had their own large news event this past week. Also, as Redscare has noted, this can be integrated into the plans for Buffalo Bayou and may also help determine how I-10 gets redeveloped or maybe even rerouted.

As for those complaining about the distance from downtown; I understand your frustrations on some level. However, having lived in Boston for the past 10 years, I know that most people who use commuter rail, subways, buses, and even ferries for transit here think absolutely NOTHING of walking 10-20 blocks to catch a ride. This mindset will eventually take hold in Houston despite all the nay-sayers who complain about the weather. Trust me, I'd much rather walk 10 blocks in Houston in August than what I had to do today to catch the T to downtown (9 blocks walking in a driving wet snow that fell so fast that my socks were soaked by the time I reached Back Bay/South End Station despite my water-proofed duck boots).

As an aside, I was following much of what you were saying and trying to take you seriously, Dalparadise, but you lost me when you stated that we had a CLEAN slate with the Main Street Line. Since when did a clean slate mean our OWN representatives blocking federal funding and forcing a special election AFTER construction had already begun?

The fact of that matter is I don't know if another city in America would have been able to pull of the Main Street line with the odds that were stacked against us. It's a miracle that it's not only up and running, but running quite successfully DESPITE the fact that idiotic drivers are constantly running into the actual trains!

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I LOVE this proposal's location.

As for those complaining about the distance from downtown; I understand your frustrations on some level. However, having lived in Boston for the past 10 years, I know that most people who use commuter rail, subways, buses, and even ferries for transit here think absolutely NOTHING of walking 10-20 blocks to catch a ride. This mindset will eventually take hold in Houston despite all the nay-sayers who complain about the weather. Trust me, I'd much rather walk 10 blocks in Houston in August than what I had to do today to catch the T to downtown (9 blocks walking in a driving wet snow that fell so fast that my socks were soaked by the time I reached Back Bay/South End Station despite my water-proofed duck boots).

Well, I don't know about 20 blocks, but as mass transit improves and gasoline prices increase, Houstonians will become more accepting of the rigors involved. When gas is cheap and the transit options limited, it is easy for people to say they will NEVER use it. As prices increase and options improve, more will try it.

And one transfer to get closer to your office building? Even going all the way to the Pierce elevated only adds 7 minutes to the trip. That won't be a hindrance. No transit system can get everyone where they need to go without transfers.

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Gasoline prices are already having an affect on transit usage. Care to take a look at the dramatic increase in bus and rail ridership for METRO since June 2005? And it's not just in Houston; the same is happening in Dallas, Denver and Minneapolis.

Of course, transit usage, like all marketabale products, experiences dips and peaks, so it is important to understand the profiles of your users, their needs and what they most want the system to do. In order for the intermodal facility to work longterm, it has be designed with not just future usage as a consideration but current usage as well.

I think the big player in this is the development of commuter rail and how it ties into future rail/bus lines feeding into downtown. If the former comes into fruition and METRO is able to clear the proposed site properly, allowing for a large, efficient transfer center, you might have something. Otherwise, you'll have quite a pink elephant until surrounding development reaches the critical mass required to pick up the slack.

Edited by The Great Hizzy!
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I think the big player in this is the development of commuter rail and how it ties into future rail/bus lines feeding into downtown.

I would love to get most of the buses out of downtown. I'd happily connect at the transit center and take ligh rail into downtown.

Sure, it may slow me down 15 minutes, but the buses are a nuisance in the CDB.

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I think some people who try to envision what Houston's mass transit could be tend to put NY and London style transit in their heads. The fact is Houston can never match what those cities have. Better for us is think of Washington's mass transit system. You can get close to wherever you want to go, but no stop on any of the lines gets you exactly where you want to be. If you're going to the Washington Monument and you're coming from the south side of the city, you can take the yellow line, get off at L'Enfant Plaza, and walk 20 or so blocks, or you can transfer at L'Enfant Plaza to the blue or orange line and get off at the Smithsonian Metro station and walk 10 or so blocks. In either instance there is walking involved, and truth of the matter is walking from L'Enfant Plaza gets you there quicker than having to wait on a transfer.

The same can be envisioned for a intermodal station just north of Downtown. I would love to have a Train or BRT coming from IAH to that station. From there I could either pick up a bus to the Heights area or the light rail into downtown. I would never expect a train to take me from IAH to the front door of my office.

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How about answering the most obvious question: With an existing rail line already passing through downtown (on the north side), why are you guys putting the station on a rail line outside of downtown and north of I-10? That makes no sense.

Yes, but you don't want the legacy to be a misplaced white-elephant monument to missed opportunities. The facility sounds fine, it is the location that is the problem. While functionally it would work as a transfer point and mini-TOD, it would have far more potential if located within downtown somewhere on the existing rail line. I can't see planners outside of Houston (and probably most here, if they are being honest and not political) viewing the moving out of the rail line as positive or effective urban planning. Quite the opposite.

This is reminiscent of the 'visionary' idea to replace Penn Station with Madison Square Garden. Or better yet, Boston's original plan to pull the commuter trains back from North Station to transfer points further out. At the time(70's) their planners thought that transfers were no big deal, subway and light-rail were modern, commuter trains were old and passe, and downtown Boston was going to be a slick modern utopia. Luckily the proposal got shot down as the stupid idea that it was, their planners wised up, and now they are trying to extend the commuter trains through downtown. Unfortunately the failure to do this as part of the Big Dig when they had a chance has possibly made it impossible to ever get it done.

Kinda like how Metro failed to commit and get some type of rail incorporated into the Katy Freeway design. They don't have a good track record on visions or decision-making, do they?

To answer the first question--there has apparently been a drive to get that current AMTRAK/freight rail line basically removed due to the disturbances at UHD as well as the tie-ups at San Jacinto. Also, it seems that UP agrees that this rail segment would be rather simple to lose. Someone else mentioned another part of the reasoning for this location--commuter rail is proposed for that northern rail line out to Cypress. In the grand scheme of things, it makes sense that its cheaper to change the location of the building versus trying to work out extensive realignments of rail infrastructure.

As far as the white elephant comment--I think that the location will do just fine, especially if the Hardy Yards development goes well. If it does, then not only is there the Hardy Yards land that would be developed, but properties north of the station could be developed.

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As an aside, I was following much of what you were saying and trying to take you seriously, Dalparadise, but you lost me when you stated that we had a CLEAN slate with the Main Street Line. Since when did a clean slate mean our OWN representatives blocking federal funding and forcing a special election AFTER construction had already begun?

I hear you, but I was speaking more about the physical barriers along Main, rather than the political ones. Very few had to be displaced to make the Red Line a reality. All along the line was practically deserted, , once it got beyond the Pierce Elevated, aside from the portion running through the Med Center. I just expected a more ingenious execution, with such open territory to exploit. Furthermore, the section at the Dryden station, where left turners use the train tracks is bolderdash (see, I can play by the rules). That specific turn is used for patient drop-offs and in high traffic times, I've witnessed trains waiting for two cycles of the light to try to get through. If any section needs to be elevated, it's this one.

I didn't mean to upset people here and have even offered a PM of peace to nmguy, with whom I believe I reacted too harshly. I did feel like I got some insincere jabs from a few people simply because I posted a dissenting opinion. I don't expect everyone, or sometimes ANYONE to agree with me, but the anger and purposeful misunderstanding of my posts seemed spiteful. Whatever, I guess it was all in good fun until I stepped over the line a little and upset some people.

I apologize for being a bit off-topic, too, which I think initially contributed to the misunderstanding. My complaints were not as much with the Grand Central idea per se, they were with the silly comparison to NYC and Metro's light rail system in general. I think I've lodged my complaints with this system, so I won't re-state them.

I still don't think the Grand Central idea is all that good. I don't think people avoid AmTrak because of the station. They avoid it because you can't go anywhere quickly on it from Houston. Plus, what do they offer, one train per week? Two? It's a non-issue in a Southwest Airlines hub. I don't think anyone aside from crank heads, released prisoners, pimps and teenagers from Lake Charles ever goes to a Greyhound station, nor boards a bus, either. So, I can't see any logic in letting consideration for either of these have anything to do with our plans.

I know...someone will say they've been on Greyhound "numerous times" and claim it invalidates my argument. It's enough to bore me into submission on this argument.

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To answer the first question--there has apparently been a drive to get that current AMTRAK/freight rail line basically removed due to the disturbances at UHD as well as the tie-ups at San Jacinto. Also, it seems that UP agrees that this rail segment would be rather simple to lose. Someone else mentioned another part of the reasoning for this location--commuter rail is proposed for that northern rail line out to Cypress. In the grand scheme of things, it makes sense that its cheaper to change the location of the building versus trying to work out extensive realignments of rail infrastructure.

Except that commuter rail to Cypress is immaterial to the station location, since both the Hardy Yards line and the Post Office/University of Houston Downtown line converge into a single line about a mile to the west. Coming east into downtown from Memorial Park, a single rail line splits into two lines east of Heights Blvd. These two run roughly parallel to where they join again northeast of downtown. So it is just another nonsense excuse thrown out by Metro to justify another one of their half-assed decisions, on the assumption that most people don't know the details and won't be able to spot the weak points and red herrings. And of course the Chronicle will print that polar bears are polka-dotted if Metro tells them so.

Using the Hardy Street route would require a new long bridge over the bayou and I-10/45 (the current one is only single-tracked.) A fairly simple grade separation could solve the San Jacinto problem on the Post Office Route, and perhaps a short relocation and a couple of short bayou bridges to the east if rerouting around where the want to put the new bayou cutoff and related development (condo and cafe type stuff.) In fact a grade separation at San Jacinto might not even be needed, as any commuter rail agreement with the tenent freight railroad will almost certainly involve upgrading other freight lines so as to reroute freight traffic from downtown. The freight trains run very slowly and can block the crossing for 5-10 minutes, but if removed from the route then the remaining commuter trains would only block it for about 30-45 seconds at a time. That is less time than a street stoplight and pretty much removes the problem. So in reality there really isn't a significantly higher cost for using the downtown line, as Metro could sell the Hardy location to a TOD developer while buying the rail property behind the Post Office as part of the deal to reroute freight trains and implement commuter rail. They are going to do the latter anyway

Someone else claimed that Metro would have had a rail line in the I-10 rebuild but for Culberson and DeLay. While they are the copout excuse some blame for every problem, they weren't the reason in this case. Metro couldn't make up their minds whether they were going with a bus or rail option in that corridor, kept dragging their feet on giving TXDOT an answer, and TXDOT finally said screw it, the rebuild is starting, making the choice for Metro (bus in HOT lanes.) Remember that this was back when Metro was still in a pie-in-the-sky mode, telling the public it planned to extend $40 million per mile LRT to far-flung suburbs instead of $5-10 million/mile commuter rail (before the 2025 plan vote.) When they were still led by ethically-challenged Shirley DeLibero. Before the FTA finally told them to get real and come back to reality, that most of what they were planning wouldn't meet basic requirements for Federal funding (under $25 cost per new passenger on each line.) Metro now claims that they still can build rail in the I-10 corridor, but last I read that plan was contingent on converting HOT lanes to rail (ain't going to happen.) Metro says a lot, and only occassional tells the full truth. Not any different than a transit CEO faking their resume, I guess.

But bottom line, it all comes down to choosing 1 of 2 fairly equal cost options: A Hardy Yards station on that line or a station behind the Post Office on the dowtown line. One is outside of downtown and within walking distance of maybe a couple of thousand jobs 20 years from now, if things go well. The other is within walking distance of nearly 100,000 jobs today. I'm not an urban planner, but it does seem that one location is clearly superior to the other, if transit and development are the primary goals. Since this is a legacy project, shouldn't we maximize the station's utility and synergy with downtown? And any talk of somehow Hardy Yards one day being a part of downtown if I-10 is buried or moved is just wishful dreaming and rationalizing. It isn't going to happen for decades, too many other priorities and needs.

As far as the white elephant comment--I think that the location will do just fine, especially if the Hardy Yards development goes well. If it does, then not only is there the Hardy Yards land that would be developed, but properties north of the station could be developed.

Well yes, it will work, but it is a missed opportunity. Just putting in some paths and steps along Buffalo Bayou is an improvement, but developing and implementing the bayou master plan is good planning that creates a much, much better synergistic amenity for downtown. An intermodal station north of downtown is an improvement, a more central one actually integrated into downtown and its fabric is a vast improvement that is not only realistic and almost as easily attainable, but also such a golden opportunity as to be inexcusable if blundered. Hasn't Metro learned from the Main Street line that half-assing it just immortalizes them and Houston (once again) as an example of what not to do in planning circles and textbooks? What is the central tenet of urban redevelopment? Isn't it walkability? Isn't that accomplished primarily by proper location, adjacency, density and synergy?

The more I think about it, the more stupid this proposed location appears. My guess is that Metro is up to their usual games. If they place the station within downtown and walking distance of many jobs, then several commuter rail lines (more than the 2 planned) can be added without really needing an east-west downtown LRT line. But if they move the station north of downtown out of walking distance, at some point the Main Street LRT line will probably reach capacity. Thus they can push for the east-west LRT line much earlier as needed to feed commuter rail passengers from the west and southeast. Or perhaps argue that instead of commuter rail, more of the lines to the suburbs should be the more expensive LRT since it will go downtown while commuter rail doesn't. A bit conspiracy theory, but after years and years of watching Metro, I've learned that they are about the most dishonest public agency I've ever seen in this area. Was hoping Shirley's replacement, Mayor White, and the FTA slapdown would change that. Perhaps, but this station seems like such a big mistake that I'm not sure what to think.

Anyway, if it is this obvious, surely someone with authority will start questioning and speak out about it.

Edited by dp2
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OK, now I remember about the alternate potential commuter rail route west from downtown, that indeed does only serve the Hardy Yards location. It is abandoned, but runs parallel to the north of the route I had referenced, with both lines joining north of Memorial Park north of I-10. So the idea is probably to run the commuter rail on the north route, and the eventual east-west downtown LRT line on the current UP rail line, once the freights are rerouted. Which makes more sense, (and would save money versus routing LRT down Washington.)

But even with that the Hardy Yard location is still very inferior for all the other reasons cited. And there are still problems with the northern line proposed for commuter rail. It would require restarting service on a narrow corridor through residential neighborhoods (off of Heights Blvd north of I-10 and southwest of the I-10/I-45 interchange), and I can understand people becoming NIMBY's since (IIRC) the line has been abandoned for years. It is also a narrow right of way over much of its length, which would require taking many (quickly appreciating) homes to expand beyond 2 tracks, which might be required as commuter rail expands and high-speed rail is implemented. Also some tight curves and many grade crossings that would keep speeds slow. So actually the route is better suited for LRT, which accelerates faster, is quieter, and more compatible with tight neighborhoods and multiple crossings than commuter rail, while the UP line is fast, straight, and much more easily grade-separated, perfect for a commuter rail and high-speed corridor. But the northern route for LRT would miss all the Washington redevelopment.

All things considered, I still think a Post Office station is a no-brainer.

Edited by dp2
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All things considered, I still think a Post Office station is a no-brainer.

There clearly will be no Post Office station. In fact, there's a healthy chance the post office will no longer be there. This possibility would result in an expansion of the bayou redevelopment plans. If there is going to be an intermodal, it will be in the Hardy Yard vicinity. No one in this thread has come up with a viable location that would accomodate all the transportational modes involved-without billions of dollars being spent.

B)

Edited by nmainguy
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Is dp2, dalparadise's backup account?

No.

thats a perfect example of why some react harshly to your posts, dal. its a comment that was not necessary to validate your points.

just my $0.02

Balderdash.

But, I thank you for your opinion. It's pretty lame when someone can't even express an emotion as benign ad boredom without upsetting princesses on this matress.

ps -- I dig the MMP avatar.

Edited by dalparadise
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A little off topic but in the movie Jason's Lyric there was some place in Downtown Houston that Jason took Lyric on a date to. I think it was some old transit station. Where is this at? Or does it even exist? Does anyone know what I am talking about.

Edited by citykid09
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There clearly will be no Post Office station. In fact, there's a healty chance the post office will no longer be there. This possibility would result in an expansion of the bayou redevelopment plans. If there is going to be an intermodal, it will be in the Hardy Yard vicinity. No one in this thread has come up with a viable location that would accomodate all the transportational modes involved-without billions of dollars being spent.

B)

Actually I did earlier on this page, twice. The viable location is behind the post office. Also explained how the overall cost would be about the same, not 'billions' more. A station on the railroad land behind the PO could easily be incorporated into a redevelopment of the PO and the bayou redevelpment plan (as noted earlier.) In fact putting the station there would improve and strengthen the bayou plan. There have been several mixed used station plans in Europe that spurred onsite office, retail, and residential development. That is exactly what is being proposed in San Francisco. In fact aren't they also trying to move their trains from a further out station into downtown?

And I guess you missed this in the original article:

"It is still in the conceptual stage and may not become a reality, and the location could change, Wolff said."

Is dp2, dalparadise's backup account?

No, but a bit of an unfortunate choice of initials, eh?

Actually I think Metro's transit center at the south end of downtown is one of their success stories!

Edited by dp2
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Is there any other way for METRO to serve Katy via commuter rail?

Not really. The closest they could get is putting tracks in the 50' right of way they wisely reserved along the Westpark Tollway, and the next closest railroad line is along Hwy 290. No other existing or abandoned railway lines or wide powerline corridors. Actually they might could run a branch north from the Westpark tollway, cutting across the reservior and using a powerline corridor that runs a mile or two east of the Grand Parkway, but that goes through tons of backyards and is probably a nonstarter.

So that leaves freeway corridors, which will require elevation along much or all of the length. Elevation for rail generally adds at least $50 million per mile above the usual construction costs, regardless of mode. I can't see Katy rail anytime in the near future, since there are so many other corridors that need it right now and are cheaper to implement.

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Someone else claimed that Metro would have had a rail line in the I-10 rebuild but for Culberson and DeLay. While they are the copout excuse some blame for every problem, they weren't the reason in this case.

Umm...if I remember correctly, certain House members refused to allow METRO to have ANY federal money to build rail. Without federal assistance, METRO could only build the starter line downtown. They stalled while they tried to get the Houston area House members to get federal money for Houston transit. Eventually, TxDOT moved on, in part because Houston area House members told them to.

Now, about this wonderful Post Office location. I drive by it on Washington twice a day. I never realized it was so centrally located. Aside from being across the street from a statue of former President Bush, what is it close to? The closest office building to the post office site is more than 2000 feet away. In contrast, several office buildings are within 2000 feet of the N. Main site, including the entire Courthouse and Jail complex.

Additionally, the Main Street rail line runs in front of the N. Main site, but is 2000 feet or more from the post office site. Since the Main Street line runs through the entire downtown area, I don't know why an intermodal station would ignore it. If you run an additional line to Main Street, commuters would have TWO transfers to get to their office. Not sure why that is preferable to Hardy Yards.

It appears though, that your main argument for the post office is that it is somehow closer to downtown offices. That being the case, please explain just how far you think most commuters will walk, and which office buildings are within that walking radius. Because I work in northern downtown, walk every day down there, and I think the post office is in the boonies. The Amtrak station is even further. For your information, downtown blocks are 300 feet long, and the streets are generally 75 feet wide.

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Not really. The closest they could get is putting tracks in the 50' right of way they wisely reserved along the Westpark Tollway, and the next closest railroad line is along Hwy 290. No other existing or abandoned railway lines or wide powerline corridors. Actually they might could run a branch north from the Westpark tollway, cutting across the reservior and using a powerline corridor that runs a mile or two east of the Grand Parkway, but that goes through tons of backyards and is probably a nonstarter.

So that leaves freeway corridors, which will require elevation along much or all of the length. Elevation for rail generally adds at least $50 million per mile above the usual construction costs, regardless of mode. I can't see Katy rail anytime in the near future, since there are so many other corridors that need it right now and are cheaper to implement.

The Supreme Court just ruled that a company is allowed to use eminent domain, right? Why can't METRO do that to get what it wants?

EDIT: Of course, number 3 sounds even better. Just choose the cheapest way to number 3 and build it ASAP.

Also, what about Airport service? METRO should make Downtown-IAH-Kingwood and have a Hobby Shuttle from the Clear Lake/Galveston route. Also, the state should merge Galveston's agency into METRO.

Edited by VicMan
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Also, what about Airport service? METRO should make Downtown-IAH-Kingwood and have a Hobby Shuttle from the Clear Lake/Galveston route. Also, the state should merge Galveston's agency into METRO.

IAH wants an airport shuttle from the station. METRO has had discussions with IAH about having an airport baggage check-in, with a shuttle to the airport. Passengers would only have to carry their carry-on luggage with them. The checked baggage would be checked at the station. It is part of the plan.

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IAH wants an airport shuttle from the station. METRO has had discussions with IAH about having an airport baggage check-in, with a shuttle to the airport. Passengers would only have to carry their carry-on luggage with them. The checked baggage would be checked at the station. It is part of the plan.

Cool :)

Brazoria County should get light rail too.

I also have another idea regarding this..

I want to have Houston ISD cover all of the city of Houston, and METRO could come into play in an interesting way. HISD and METRO can team up to get kids across town who are enrolled at other magnet programs; the two can offer dicount prices to students on free and reduced lunch plans. This can reduce potential stress on HISD's school bus system. After all, New York City doesn't provide school buses to anyone over the sixth grade. THAT wouldn't work in HISD, but something similar could be done to alleviate possible busing issues.

E.G. lets say Tim lives in the Third Ward but wants to go to.. Kingwood Park High School (KPHS, which will open next year, is currently Humble ISD). Tim would take the bus to the Central Intermodal Station, commuter rail over to Kingwood, then take a bus route specifically aimed at transporting high school students from the Kingwood station to Kingwood Park High School.

And yes, there are kids willing to do this every day if they feel like this will improve their education!

Edited by VicMan
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If at all possible they need to make the station AT the airport. Why does this city buck all these trends that established cities and transit systems have shown work. There is no way people will want to lug their carry-ons (and luggage on the return trip) from a shuttle to the train. Metro needs to do it right or just don't do it. I'd wish they would hire some planners with a clue. In fact I think all decisions on future routes (and maybe fixing the problems of the current route) should be made by a panel of transit experts from around the country and maybe the world. Don't let the politicians or people have a say, they just screw everything up.

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Umm...if I remember correctly, certain House members refused to allow METRO to have ANY federal money to build rail. Without federal assistance, METRO could only build the starter line downtown. They stalled while they tried to get the Houston area House members to get federal money for Houston transit. Eventually, TxDOT moved on, in part because Houston area House members told them to.

The federal money was immaterial, because it wasn't about building rail in the Katy corridor now, but simply having TXDOT reserve right-of-way for the future. They were willing to reserve ROW for either rail or bus, but not both. Metro at some point may still be able to cobble a rail ROW together, but it will require major amounts of elevation, far more than if they had settled on rail before the design was finalized. So instead of ramps configured to avoid what would have been a grade separated set of tracks, the tracks will have to find ways to avoid the ramps, probably shift some lanes, etc. And TXDOT couldn't sit around around forever waiting for Metro to make up its mind. Also bear in mind that DeLay was pissed because Metro had tried to backdoor rail by using a loophole to avoid first putting it to the voters, despite earlier promising to let voters decide before building rail. His opposition was really a mix of: 1) nonbelief in the need and cost-effectiveness of rail transit, 2) a belief that a majority of the public didn't support rail, and 3) complete distrust of Metro's top brass. I disagreed with him on the former two but agreed with him on the latter. Things do seem to be better since Mayor White came in and the board shuffle, and the voters spoke in favor, so DeLay backed down. Culberson is a bit of a different story, which I won't get into here. Suffice it to say that if Metro doesn't go back to the worst of their old ways, there is no way he can stop solid new transit proposals and getting them to a vote. Nor would he really try, if it is a good proposal and put forth in the right way. Too many GOP voters and reps on the transit bandwagon now, which wasn't the case even a few years ago.

Now, about this wonderful Post Office location. I drive by it on Washington twice a day. I never realized it was so centrally located. Aside from being across the street from a statue of former President Bush, what is it close to? The closest office building to the post office site is more than 2000 feet away. In contrast, several office buildings are within 2000 feet of the N. Main site, including the entire Courthouse and Jail complex.

Well it is close to many areas that will be redeveloped as part of the bayou and downtown 2025 plans, and your math is off a good bit. Here's terraserver maps, you can zoom in closer than with Google, and I measured things off just to make sure:

http://terraserver-usa.com

The east end of the platforms of a station behind the PO would be in between the PO and U of H Downtown (once the throat tracks from the tunnel widen out), between Louisiana and Milam where they connect with the freeway. From there it is just 3 and 4 blocks to the first skyscrapers, 8-11 blocks to the heart of downtown. According to Metro, DART, the T, and other transit agencies, transit users are generally willing to walk 1/2 mile (up significantly from the traditional thought of 1/4 mile.) 1/2 mile gets to a block south Penzoil Plaza (or whatever it is called these days.)

In contrast, a 1/2 mile walk from the Hardy Yards tracks down Main Street just gets one to Commerce, so only U of H and a jail building are within that distance (plus whatever develops north of the bayou and jail in the bayou and downtown 2025 plans.) In fact the east end of a PO rear station is twice as close to that Commerce and Main intersection as the Hardy Yards station, and thus twice as close to the courthouse jobs you cite. And don't forget that many jobs are 3 blocks west of the Main Street line, add in the north/south blocks needed to cross to reach a station, and even using LRT there's a good bit of walking.

So clearly the station site I suggest is closer to a high concentration of jobs.

Additionally, the Main Street rail line runs in front of the N. Main site, but is 2000 feet or more from the post office site. Since the Main Street line runs through the entire downtown area, I don't know why an intermodal station would ignore it. If you run an additional line to Main Street, commuters would have TWO transfers to get to their office. Not sure why that is preferable to Hardy Yards.

Hmmm, another wrong guesstimate. Actually an integrated pedestrian connection from the platforms through, across, or in front of UH-D would only be about 2 and 1/2 blocks long. I went and dug up info on New York's Grand Central station, and that would be shorter than the pedestrian connection from the commuter rail platforms to the subway stations that serve Grand Central. So connecting to the LRT line here would be no big deal, and no different than in many other cities.

It appears though, that your main argument for the post office is that it is somehow closer to downtown offices. That being the case, please explain just how far you think most commuters will walk, and which office buildings are within that walking radius. Because I work in northern downtown, walk every day down there, and I think the post office is in the boonies. The Amtrak station is even further. For your information, downtown blocks are 300 feet long, and the streets are generally 75 feet wide.

Again, about 1/2 mile, less in heat, maybe more once they get to the tunnels. But it isn't just walking. The location is also better for utilizing limited shuttle bus routes. Perhaps a single route up and down Louisiana and Milam would well serve most of the rest who don't walk or connect to the LRT. Spread it out and no one mode gets overwhelmed or is overwhelming of the street. Used to be there were too many buses, and at some point if you keep increasing frequency you can end up with too many LRT trains. Fort Worth's train station is only about 2 blocks closer to its core than the PO site would be. I once had a conversation with a rep for the T and TRE who said that most of the TRE passengers detraining there walked to their destinations, despite a plethora of shuttle buses at trackside. So don't discout how many will walk a moderate distance. The problem with Hardy Yards is that you add a more than 1/2 mile walk on top of that, or overload the single LRT line, and buses would also have to run down Main Street, which starts to get pretty crowded between the 2 modes and autos.

Seriously, take a look at this picture, put a station exit in the gap between UH-D and the northeast corner of the PO, and look at the proximity to all those high-rises as opposed to the Hardy Yard tracks where they cross Main Street. There's no comparison.

Downtown.jpg

Anyway, I'm getting tired head, and if this is as obvious as I think it is, some Houstonians will raise the issues and maybe things will change.

Edited by dp2
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Yes, it is physically closer. BUT, it wouldn't be connected to a light rail line. I would tend to think a lot more people would like to use commuter rail to the North Main Station and then hop a light rail that will get you to within a few blocks of anywhere you might want to go in DOWNTOWN, MIDTOWN, MUSEUM DISTRICT, MED CENTER, RELIANT PARK via one simple tranfer from heavy to light rail!

In order for them to do the same at the post office, they'd either have to hoof it to the Main Street line by crossing over the bayou, dealing with elevated roadways and then walking multiple blocks or hop on a shuttle bus. The last thind downtown proper needs is more buses on the roadways.

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Actually I did earlier on this page, twice. The viable location is behind the post office. Also explained how the overall cost would be about the same, not 'billions' more. A station on the railroad land behind the PO could easily be incorporated into a redevelopment of the PO and the bayou redevelpment plan (as noted earlier.) In fact putting the station there would improve and strengthen the bayou plan. There have been several mixed used station plans in Europe that spurred onsite office, retail, and residential development. That is exactly what is being proposed in San Francisco. In fact aren't they also trying to move their trains from a further out station into downtown?

And I guess you missed this in the original article:

"It is still in the conceptual stage and may not become a reality, and the location could change, Wolff said."

Of course I read the article. That's why I said "If there is going to be an intermodal, it will be in the Hardy Yard vicinity."

B)

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:blink:

Placing an intermodal station at the confluence of Amtrak and light rail lines is also efficient.

Amtrak is not relevent to Houston in any fashion at all. It should, but current survice is a joke. Most trains are many hours late. The current train 2 Sunset Limited is estimated to arrive Houston tommorrow 27 Jan at 8:41 am, some 3 hours later than the scheduled time. How many folks do you think will get on or off that train?

If one wants to take Amtrak to Chicago, a major rail center of the US, you are first put on a bus for 4.5 hour trip to Longview Texas. You are scheduled to arrive some 19 hours later in Chicago. By the way that train, 22 Texas Eagle is running 3 hrs 40 min late.

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Amtrak is not relevent to Houston in any fashion at all. It should, but current survice is a joke. Most trains are many hours late. The current train 2 Sunset Limited is estimated to arrive Houston tommorrow 27 Jan at 8:41 am, some 3 hours later than the scheduled time. How many folks do you think will get on or off that train?

If one wants to take Amtrak to Chicago, a major rail center of the US, you are first put on a bus for 4.5 hour trip to Longview Texas. You are scheduled to arrive some 19 hours later in Chicago. By the way that train, 22 Texas Eagle is running 3 hrs 40 min late.

I think the idea is to make Amtrak "relevent [sic] to Houston." The fact that "current survice [sic] is a joke" is probably due to the fact that there is no station like the one being planned.

Not to torpedo you, but I think sometimes people get too carried away with complaining on this site and miss looking at the big picture.

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