Got Any Big Ideas for Metro’s Future?

GOT ANY BIG IDEAS FOR METRO’S FUTURE? You know you’ve thought about Metro. And it just so happens that Metro has been thinking about you: Officials plan to spend the next year and a half imagineering a revamped transit system, almost as though from scratch, and they’ve set up a 15- to 20-minute survey to solicit feedback from folks who actually ride the things. Metro’s Christof Spieler explains to KUHF: “You can’t bring in an expert and get the right answer because there’s no one right answer to [the] question. So the first stage of this, which is what we’re getting public input on right now, is actually what should our goals be. What kind of system are we trying to operate? What is the purpose of that system?” If you wanna chip in and take the survey, click here. [KUHF; Transit System Reimagining; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Allyn West

52 Comment

  • This was my idea posted to Metro.

    I would like to see Metro build a new Intermodal Transit Center at the old city Post Office site, currently up for sale. Amtrak could easily move since the current train station is a few hundred feet west of the site. Greyhound & MegaBus could also house operations here as this site offered quick access to 2 major freeways. MetroRail’s Southeast line could connect to the site by turning up Bagby at Bayou Place. And the site would be away from any neighborhoods, possibly reducing crime as experienced by the Midtown Greyhound Bus Station. If Metro were to tie in this location as a hub for local bus service, this venue would essentially unify local bus & rail service with national bus & rail service …all under one roof Downtown. And the the city may be able to complete such a project with a land swap of the Post Office site with the Hardy Yards site. Then connect the Southeast line with Hobby and the North line with Bush and you have a system that connects it’s citizens with all forms of transportation, both local and national.

  • metro train needs to go to both hobby and bush airports. It would be nice to take it to airport and not pay $15 a day terminal parking while you are gone. it would be easier to get dropped off downtown by a family member or friend.

  • Dismantle metro. No one rides it anyway.

  • Lots of Ideas. But…connect Downtown with Uptown, two ways with Rail. Go Forward with the University Line to Post Oak..all the way down Richmond! And, connect with the Line ending in the Theater District with an express line down Memorial, through Memorial Park connecting to Post Oak. The second connection would be a very rapid and beautiful way to move poeple between the two centers while the other takes a slower more commericial route.

  • Get rid of the free riders and beggars on the platforms. If more people feel safer, more will use it and be interested in its expansion.

  • keep in mind we only built this thing to lure a superbowl here

  • Amen, John. Amen.

  • @Historical Bulldozer: Houston, like every other major city in the U.S., has an issue with homelessness. If homeless people frighten you, move to Katy. You’ll be more comfortable there. Clearly, you aren’t cut out for urban living.

  • Well it worked and now we’re getting another SuperBowl. Seriously, the new lines show that Light Rail was hardly a gimmick. I agree the rail needs to connect the airports and I’d love to see it run down Memorial thru the park. I also agree that all the vagrants and free riders needs to be addressed, no one wants to ride next to someone who hasn’t bathed since the Luv Ya Blue, is talking to themselves and is riding for free. I’m a supporter of Light Rail and can’t wait until it extends to the Westside.

  • Benny…don’t be rediculous. Houston has been working a hell of a lot longer on rail than that. However, it is probably true that we would not have be awarded the 2004 Super Bowl bid if we didn’t have the line.

  • Get rid of the silly toy train, pull up all the rails, make the buses run on time and try not to make them smell like a urinal. That’ll be a good start.

  • We need people to support Light Rail, especially the conservative affluent Westside. It doesn’t help the cause to tell someone who might actually come around on light rail, that they’re not fit for urban living and should move to Katy simply because they felt unsafe on the platforms and feel free ridership should be addressed, presonnally I feel those concerns are valid and should certainly be addressed not dismissed out of hand.

  • @Joe You’re wrong. That’s a fact. Metro had 59,904,986 boardings from Oct 2012 – June 2013. Got anything better?

  • Build a real subway system that takes real people to real places they want and need to go to.

    Leave the toy train on the streets to give the tourists something to ride.

    Ever seen a world class city without a subway system? Me neither.

  • @Al I agree that we’d be better served by a subway. Anytime you put rail at-grade, you lose a bunch of the advantages by making it compete with cars.

    I agree with what I think you mean in regards to having it go from major suburban population centers into major employment centers, which should help reduce congestion (or at least slow the growth of it, which inevitably happens when population grows).

    I don’t agree with you deciding that all the people, especially inner loopers, that use the current train aren’t “real people” or that places like downtown, the museum district, the med center and Rice U aren’t “real places.”

  • Metro should continue the purple or green line down Washington or Center St.

  • Chicago is a world class city in every reguard…and guess what ….no subway. It’s not credible to equate a subway with being the ticket to World Class. Granted all great cities have great public transportation. Light rail will do the same as a subway, cheaper and uh, are you aware of the Houston water table and how much it rains here?

  • Make the University Line actually connect Universities. Finish the Richmond section, like John said, but don’t stop it at Post Oak. Run it all the way out to HBU. (Has anyone seen HBU’s Ten Pillars Master plan? Worthy of a light rail terminus in my book)
    Decentralize the system. Dense areas with lots of bus boardings should have direct, express buses to other dense areas with lots of bus de-boardings. The bus routes shouldn’t all go through Downtown.
    Re-think suburban bus routes. Why should METRO run buses for people who don’t want them? How about the big master-planned communities set up their own shuttle services in to the city? METRO could work out a deal to credit them back some money for doing it. Or they can choose not to do it and METRO keeps the money.
    Build commuter rail to major suburban cities. I envision two big commuter rail lines. The Woodlands – Houston – Galveston with stops at IAH and Hobby. And Sugar Land – Houston – Baytown. (The latter would incorporate the Route 90/A trains they’ve got planned)

  • Stop building rail at grade, and spend the bucks to build future rail lines on their own guideways. Extend the East End line from the theater district up through the Washington Avenue corridor and connect with NW Transit Center. Put commuter rail down the 290 corridor as part of the build out of Hempstead Highway as a toll road and plug that into the NW Transit Center. Run a dedicated higher speed line from IAH to downtown. If Denver can build rail all the way out to DIA, we can get to Bush. Finally, try to avoid the coming gridlock created by 5000+ apartment units being built in 77006,77027, 77019 and 77098 by putting in some decent bus routes through the area with 10 or 15 minute headways.

  • Expand the commuter busses like the woodlands one which has been a success. Offer a ‘late bus’ every night that heads back at 9. So if people wanna stay downtown for happy hour or dinner they can get a ride back. You could even charge more for it. It would be worth it for most people and many of their company’s have the bill anyways.

  • I just recently used rail for 2 1/2 weeks while my mom was @ Med Ctr On time and very effective way to get in and out of Med Ctr. And there ridiculous parking garage charges. Houston needs to get with the program. Not everybody has a car or in some cases don’t want a car. The streets of Houston will destroy it anyway.My only concern is thousands and thousands of people who still ride for free. Gotta figure out a way to make Everybody Pay to Ride. May cost $$$ upfront but hopefully make back over time.

  • Heightsguy, welcome to the cat fight. I take this rail several times a week. I’m often the only loser paying when I get on. You don’t get on the Chicago L or NYC Subway, or Paris RTP or London Tube or what-have-you without paying. Now imagine some lithe young lady seeking to dodge the soapless talkatative freeriders – she’ll be in Katy or the Heights, which is what you want, right?

  • Stop wasting money on choo-choo trains that hardly anyone rides. METRO’s own studies show that rail WILL NOT decrease traffic congestion at all.

    Spent the money improving the bus system to point where people decide it’s a viable alternative to cars. Lots more buses. Better buses. Better routes. Make the bus system awesome.

  • Houston want’s more rail. That would have been clear if they made the ballot clear last election. Anyone remember how confusing that was? I thought I voted to say I want metro to use their tax funds to build more rails but I apparently did the opposite. They purposely made it confusing. A holes. We are the 4th largest city in the country, we need more rail. Rail to both airports and rail memorial park and the galleria. Come on. A bit more ambitious – I’d like to see rail to Galveston. Galveston could build rail lines in town and the Houston line could tap into it. Thinking from downtown Houston, stopping along the way to Galveston at places like hobby airport, kemah, NASA, historic Galveston, sea wall.

  • Shannon, re: Chicago-the parts of the CTA Blue and Red lines through the loop and near north side are subways. The rest of the system is at surface or elevated.

  • DJ Hoke- the parking shortage in the Med Center is a real, but very local, problem. Spending billion on a train to solve it, it an awful solution, which doesn’t translate at all to the res of the City.

  • Using LRT to connect pre-existing dense areas works. Using LRT to induce development probably works.

    Place a moratorium on all new LRT lines and replace them with an actual subway, now that we know people are willing to ride large-scale transit and that it is able to attract the amenities which benefit its riders.

  • What’s with all the “No one rides rail” comments? I don’t know the economics enough to measure the true pros/cons but I do know that plenty of people ride rail. I for one take it all the time. I walk to the station and jump on to go to downtown, or med center, or the park, or the stadium, etc.
    I think it’s great.

  • Speaking anecdotally, my experience is that the people I hear claiming that “nobody rides the rail” don’t ever, ever ride it themselves – some of them because it goes nowhere near their far suburban echo chamber that they never leave. Also anecdotally, it seems to be pretty well ridden any time I’ve been on it. While I’m a downtown regular and therefore have a pretty thick shell, I also don’t see a whole lot of the alleged freeloading bums others complain of – certainly no more than in any other major city’s transit system.
    As far as the “it doesn’t go anywhere” argument – true, it’s not a massive system that sprung fresh from the ground full grown like a mushroom. In a few months it will go many more places than it does now. In a few years, more than that (I hope). Crikey, they just got around to extending BART out to SFO within the last few years, and it’s been a work in progress since the ’60s.

  • Yes, but that was Northern California, I’m sure years of Seismic Studies and the least impact of the environment etc, Houston of course will just build it over whatever, whenever, so it should get out to the airports quicker. The subway is a no go, too expensive in relation to Light Rail. Metro must! make people pay to ride and you must get the line to the Westside and the airports, then out to Katy, The Woodlands and Sugar Land. Light Rail is the future, just expanding buses is a non starter, we’re trying to use less fuel not more! Light Rail is the future Flat Earther’s, just embrace it and save yourself the stress. I agree most that are stridently against it have never ridden the line in the first place. I’ve ridden it many times (I pay) and support it.

  • Some ideas.

    1. Run a rail down Westheimer starting at Elgin and ending way out there where Westheimer finally ends.

    2. Paint or wrap them something other than the color of the pavement! It’s confusing to the eye to have the train the same color as the street. Use Metro’s red/white/blue motif and less people will run into them or walk in front of them.

    3. Stop building “Ghetto Rails” to parts of Houston that do not need them simply because it makes people feel good. Who is going to ride the Harrisburg or Navigation rail? It’s going to be a nightmare for any commuter.

    4. Downtown is not the center of the Universe or even the center of Houston. Where do people really go? A rail needs to run beside I10 West along the right of way of the old railroad track. People would jump a freight car to avoid 10.

    5. Somehow and I’m not sure how – 290.

  • Just my opinion, but someone overlooked the opportunity to run a spur track down Elgin from the light rail line by UH on Scott to the Eastwood Transit Center. The distance is under a mile and would be an ideal way to connect light rail with existing bus routes — and perhaps an express bus to Hobby Airport.

  • Connect Rail to BOTH Airports.

  • Darogr,

    Although for a while I also questioned why light rail lines are being run through these less-than-nice areas, light rail needs to run through “the hood” in order to make it out to the airports in a cost effective manner. It’s financially prohibitive to build a subway all the way to the airports to hide the blighted areas or to surround them by expanding west and following BW8.

    That being said, the East End is really not the bad, it’s probably the least bad of Houston’s ghetto’s, and is already being gentrified, so I don’t see it getting any worse. The Third Ward is more rough, but will likely follow the same fate sooner or later.

  • They had to promise to run rail to the north and east areas of town to get the votes to get rail uh first place and to get Federal Money, I agree all the lines should have gone west, southwest, and northwest, ironic that none of the lines are going west..but we all know why that is.

  • Step Two – the difference between light rail and heavy rail.

    Light rail is essentially the “local” – something that one picks up for shorter distances, with accordingly more stops.

    Heavy rail is the “express” – fewer stops, more people, longer distances. We are in effect doing that with the park and ride buses, originally supplied by Continental Trailways.

    Ideally, light rail and buses complement one another, and feed into the heavy rail.

    To put it differently, heavy rail would work nicely to pick up and drop off people in Conroe, The Whitelands, IAH, downtown, UH/TSU, Hobby, Clear Lake, and maybe eventually Galveston, with other modes feeding into it at those various points.

    I cannot guarantee that the income levels or bathing habits of those riding any of those transportation methods will meet universal approval, any more than I can guarantee that perhaps those of the person beside you on the road (albeit in a different car) is not perhaps a bit…other than yours.

  • Metro ridership continues to decline. LRT ridership numbers were achieved only by funneling bus riders to LRT stops and discontinuing the bus service….sort of a captive audience. LRT in Houston is slow and creates traffic congestion.the new lines are also at grade and serve low density area. Metro sees itself as a real estate developer not a transit provider. They should focus on providing efficient transportation and maybe they could get ridership penetration back up to where it was in the 1950s. Perhaps they could start by posting bus schedules at their bus stops but that would actually serve the public and might provide some accountability for timeliness.

  • Dismantle rail. Spend the money to develop self-driving jitneys.

  • At grade rail is/was a bad choice. Remember the Kathy Whitmire era monorail push? That is really looking good right now. Car traffic capacity should not be sacrificed for rail purposes, especially on our main throughofares plus the safety issue which should be obvious to all at this point.

  • Really, how many people ride free on light rail? Transit police occasionally check for tickets or recently used transit cards; they get on the train or wait at the station & ensure that everybody has paid. Occasionally, I’ll see one guy or a couple being ticketed for “riding free.” I’ve never noticed a large group of people being penalized.

    People in the “ghetto neighborhoods” often have jobs. And they use Metro–a lot.

    If you want to see how many people use light rail–check at rush hour. Not in the middle of the day.

    I would like more light rail & improved bus service. Heavy rail for the distant commuters? Sure, if it can be paid for. I hope the Sugar Land transit fans aren’t the ones who kept re-electing DeLay–who delayed Houston’s rail system for years….

  • So how many of the commenters on here actually took the survey versus those who just came here to troll the comments section?

  • I took the survey.

    One thing no one has brought up yet is the possibility of fully-featured BRT connecting up with existing LRT lines.

    It would look and feel a lot like LRT but at a certain point the BRT buses can leave the BRT line and function as direct express buses to IAH during specific hours.

    LRT to IAH on the other hand would be a lot of money, for very little time saved, serving a very small amount of people.

  • I took the survey, too. And on it I did mention BRT.
    But I wonder if BRT at some level isn’t just a poor man’s LRT. The rapidly gentrifying East End and the already upscale Medical center and Museum Districts get LRT. Poor old Sharpstown gets BRT (the Quickline). Not that I’m complaining – BRT is better than regular buses. But I still dream of LRT coming out to Sharpstown.

  • I wouldn’t consider that BRT.

    Serious BRT done right is actually about as expensive as LRT to build.

    But in this particular case – a special route to IAH taking freeways/HOV upon leaving the BRT route – it would save money by not requiring track to be laid down and would already have grade separation, ROW etc. taken care of.

    I definitely haven’t thought it all out but ultimately the fact is I just want to see the effect on real estate of serious BRT done right vs. LRT.

  • Good point, Anon. If the Quickline in Sharpstown were true BRT, like Boston’s Silver Line, I’d probably feel better about it. But it could best be called “BRT Lite;” really a nicely upgraded express bus; not true BRT.
    Again, don’t get me wrong – The Quickline is way better than a regular bus.

  • I’ll admit not being familiar with the Quickline, since I just don’t get out that way very often…still, if it’s “way better than a regular bus” it begs the question of why, followed by asking whether some or all of its special attributes can be applied to the regular buses.

  • Mollusk: as I see it there are multiple things that make the Quickline better than regular buses (in order from least to most important)
    1: upgraded buses; upgraded stops.
    2: “next bus” countdown timers at the stops.
    3: faster service.
    But still, we don’t have separated lanes for it, we don’t have train-like stations for it, where you step directly off the platform and onto the bus without a step up, (Boston’s Silver Line BRT has both), and it doesn’t get the glory if LRT.

  • Looking at pictures of it, I also wouldn’t say Boston’s Silver Line is an example of serious BRT done right.

  • The Silver Line is meh. In fairness, they ran out of $ to complete it as envisioned, but honestly, I don’t know anyone in Boston who wouldn’t prefer a train to the bus. AND YES, I have ridden it multiple times. The T is better.

  • Los Angeles probably has the best BRT lines in the US. The one that goes down Av. Insurgentes Sur in Mexico City is probably what ZAW is envisioning. It has dedicated raised platforms, long articulated buses, and even ticket machines at the boarding areas so you don’t wait for 20 people ahead of you to pay as they board the bus. They are also given signal priority at cross streets.

  • I own a house on the rail line, and take it every day to my office. It’s great. It’s also actually quite fast, and almost never stuck at a red light. People who claim otherwise are delusional or never use it. No, it’s not grade separated, but think of the cost and destructive side effects of elevated guideways.

    LRT is fantastic, and I’m glad that Houston is building an urban rail network before commuter rail. But both are necessary for a fully functioning system — see BART’s new push towards increasing service core SF/Oak/Berkeley areas. As an aside, I’m always amused that BART is classified as a heavy rail system when BART cars are actually lighter (~75 feet, 56000lbs) than the Siemens S70 LRVs used here (~80ft, 97000lbs)

    If I was staying in Houston, the Richmond line (as proposed) would be enough to do almost all of my normal activities.

  • One of the main factors in using this train system is how quickly it can get people from downtown to points where auto congestion delays are creating an overwheliming burden on people’s time and energy. Only a rail system, possibly parallel to the feeder roads on all our highways, connecting from the suburbs to a downtown hub at the Hardy Rail Yard and a hub south of the Galleria can eleviate our traffic congestion. Please forget about tying in a Greyhound bus station or any other bus transport system for homeless, poverty stricken people who simply add to their suffering and to those around them and destroy the environment they find themselves in. The fact is , if you want a successful commuter rail, it must serve a market that can maintain a level of civility and trust, not an urban area of crime, homelessness and thugs who loiter around the rail and bus stations. If you want a Detroit, a Stockton, an Oakland, move there and enjoy the negativity but don’t keep building an inefficient rail system that just connects one impoverished area of Houston to another and that can be easily and less expensively be serviced with bus service.