Houston’s Next Light Rail Lines Delayed Until 2014

Those trains from Spain that gave the feds cause to complain yesterday are gonna delay the completion of all three light-rail lines now under construction, Metro announced today. The transit agency backed off its earlier ETA for the North, Southeast, and East End lines, saying that meeting the previously announced October 2013 completion date is no longer feasible. The problem: getting at $900 million in grant money from the Federal Transit Administration, which Metro had been expecting to arrive soon. The FTA is now requiring a promise from the transit agency to rebid the railcar contract before it’ll continue considering the application for the bulk of those funds. Sez Metro: “A delay of up to one year is anticipated.”

Drawing of future Southeast Corridor light rail line on MLK near Madalyn Ln.: Metro

20 Comment

  • Sigh….. If light rail was a sport, we’d have already built it a retractable roof so we could be a “world class city”.

  • If METRO was a competent organization this wouldn’t have ever happened.

  • Sigh….. If light rail was a sport, we’d have already built it a retractable roof so we could be a “world class city”.



  • Thinking rail transportation makes you “world class” means you likely don’t know much about this city.

    Houston is already world class. Just because a few in certain circles don’t think so doesn’t take that away.

  • At least we will get world class shrubs with our world class rail. It gives me something to look at while I wait 10 minutes for the traffic light to change.

  • I still don’t see any circumstance where I would ride the rail, neither would anyone I know for that matter. I do not think it has any more or less use than the buses currently are. With Houston’s employment centers decentralizing it would still make more sense and more convenient to drive cars for at least the next 30 years.

  • @Commonsense…and how do you think the freeways are going to handle even more traffic over the next 30 years? By expanding to thirty lanes or more? More tollways? And just because you or no one you know rides or will ride the future rail lines doesn’t mean no one else does.

  • Edwin,

    When the freeways get jammed, the same thing will happen when the freeways were jammed in the early 80s: jobs and housing will develop on the fringes. No big deal unless you are misguided enough to think sprawl is the end of the world.

  • kjb434,

    I disagree with your comment on Houston already being “world class.” We don’t even have a theme park, and one of our main attractions is a mall. Having a good light rail system won’t automatically make our city world class, but it would help. Another thing we need to improve on to be world class is walkability, which is hard to achieve without a good transit system. Houston is not world class. Just because a few in certain cities (Houston) think otherwise doesn’t make it so. Do you really think the majority of the US thinks Houston is world class? Do you think Phoenix is world class? That’s a very similar city to Houston.
    The inner loop is getting denser, this is not the 80s, no matter how much more sprawl we get there will still be more people living in the inner loop. I do not think sprawl is the end of the world, but I do think it is undesirable. Studies have shown that people generally have less stress in walkable cities. By your comments, you seem to prefer sprawl to a more walkable environment. May I ask why? I like walkable environments more because I don’t have to get in a car to go everywhere, and I’m sure lots of people feel the same way.
    Hello, I am mfastx. Congratulations. You now know someone who rides light rail. :)
    As for METRO, it’s a shame that they tried to cut corners like this. Hopefully the new leadership will preform better, and we can get these lines built. I think these lines are importnat to Houston, so people can see the benefits of a reliable transit system.

  • Houston is a world class city in a sense. Hell, we are the 4th largest in the union. We do have the most advanced freeway system in the free world as of last year. However, our mass transit infrastructure is pitiful. If you’re not an inner looper, the bus system isn’t even worth your time, energy, or money. The gotcha behind that is that affordable housing inside the loop is quickly becoming a thing of the past as the yuppies re-develop and gentrify the regions. We are a world class suburban sprawl leader though. You gotta give us that. Our suburbs are a force to be reckoned with :p

    Last, we are getting a world class theme park very soon. A half billion dollar theme park resort that looks quite promising. It has already broken ground but is about 40 miles North of downtown though near New Caney. I don’t care who you are, you can’t plop a 500 acre major theme park and resort into a city center and deem it cost effective. Therefore, I have no complaints on its location. At least we are getting something…finally. Here’s the link to the website for the new resort. Looks great.


  • Theme park = world class?

  • There are some nice things about Houston, but anyone who has lived in other areas around the country or has extensive contacts outside of this immediate region would know that Houston is not really considered a “top tier” city. Watch national news broadcasts and Houston, more often than not, is ignored almost completely. Even with the BP oil disaster, you would think that Houston would get some attention (even if negative) because it is home to the BP’s American headquarters and almost certainly the place where the horrendous decisions that lead to this disaster where made. But even then Houston is largely ignored.

    Park of the problem is simply marketing. Houston does a TERRIBLE job marketing itself to the outside world. I went to graduate school outside of Texas (and outside of the region) and I still remember the reaction from many people when I told them I was accepting a position in Houston. To most people the word “Houston” brings to mind oil derricks, corrupt good-ole-boy oil tycoons, no-zoning nightmares and Enron.

    Anyway, Houston needs to work to present a better, more modern image of itself. But it needs to develop a better infrastructure system. I mean, I live in what is considered an urban area within the loop and there are whole blocks without sidewalks and open air pits serving as storm drains. This is something that happens in the third-world, not in a “world class” city in the modern United States.

  • People that think that Houston is a “world class” city more then likely moved here from some shit hole in Louisiana or Alabama and are shocked by all the tall buildings and people with more then two teeth. I moved here from Midland, which some people also considered a world class city for some reason. Those people moved to Midland from Hobbs, so to them, Midland must be world class.

    Here are some world class cities. Compare/contrast to Houston.
    New York. Chicago. London. Rome. Barcelona. Paris. Tokyo.

  • What exactly qualifies a city as being “World-Class”? The difference between the cities mentioned above and Houston is that they’re historically older cities situated in condensed geographic areas causing them to have astronomically high urban property values, crime rates and pollution all due to the higher density and lack of room to grow. If a city built like a sardine can so that the pretentious greenie-weenies can walk from one Starbucks to the next is what quantifies a city as being “World Class”, then I’ll stick to my SUB-urban roots.

    One other question, since you cant walk around Venice, does that disqualify it from being World-Class?

  • @Aaron – world class equals expensive with poor middle class standard of living? Or density? Perception? That’s it. It’s perception.

    I like Chicago just fine, but I’m at a loss to figure out what makes Chicago world class.

    The whole world class debate is stupid because what does that even mean? I do think Houston fits the description of a global city, though.

  • Wow some people here can’t handle the fact that Houston isn’t world class lol. HOUSTON IS NOT WORLD CLASS. Do I love Houston? Yes. But Houston is not world class plain and simple. Look at our train station. Look at our transit system. Look at the condition of our roads/sidewalks. Look just a few block from downtown where there are open fields and broken down houses. Look at the anit-development attitude (NIMBYism) of our citizens. We are still building suburban style development minutes away from downtown (see Heights WallMart).
    Now some people are perfectly satisfied the way Houston is right now, and I respect your opinion. But I have been to most other major cities in the country and I liked nearly all of them better than Houston. (Except St. Louis, Orlando, Dallas and San Antonio)
    Look at Los Angeles. They are a world class city. Why? Because they’re investing heavily in their transit system, the people of LA aren’t afraid to spend as much money on a transit system as their highways. The quality of their streets are better. (In all of their gutters they have a bar in the middle to prevent trash from going in, I’ve never seen that in Houston) It’s the little things like that. Look at their rail system, which is mostly grade seperated/faster. Look at the amount of walkable neighborhoods in the central area of the city. Look at the area around their highways, there’s no endless sea of car dealerships, there’s no feeder roads. They haven’t converted their old train station into a baseball field. They don’t have the massive amounts of parking lots downtown, because they don’t tear down their old buildings, they re-use them. Houston would have every bit of an estabilshed-east coast feel if that were the case here.
    I think it’s ridiculous that here in the 4th largest city in the nation, people are agianst a highrise going up minutes from downtown. They think that these areas in the central region of the city will remain suburban forever. Heaven forbid if a highrise goes up in in my neighborhood in the middle of the largest city in Texas! Houston is making great strides, but we still have a ways to go. We have world class stadiums and a world class highway system, but that’s about it.
    One last thing. If you respond to this post, pleas read my whole post, dont just cherry pick quotes of mine. It annoys me when people take one mistake I made in my comment and attack it, without acknowledging my other worthy points.

  • @mfastx:

    One of the few things I must nitpick with you on is this: “Look at the anit-development attitude (NIMBYism) of our citizens. We are still building suburban style development minutes away from downtown (see Heights WallMart).”

    Why is some NIMBYism ok and others not?

    Houston’s got issues. We wouldn’t be reading swamplot if we weren’t at least somewhat aware of that. But many of the things you talk about are superficial. Are empty lots and car dealerships ugly? YES! But what is it about the lack of those things that contributes to a city being “world class”? Why would an “established-east coast feel” make Houston intrinsically better?

    I’ve only lived here 5 years, so I must admit I don’t know as much as those that have been here longer. But one thing I’ve noticed about Houston compared to other cities I’ve lived is that Houston, for better or worse, doesn’t hide its problems. Chicago has issues, but they all remain in the south side. This keeps Chicago’s “world class” reputation intact because affluent white residents and out of towners never have to see the blight. Houston lacks the “good sense” to put their public/affordable housing out of site. To think! Visitors will come to midtown or east downtown and see poor minorities. That’s no way for a world class city to behave. Now if only we could follow the Chicago model and force our undesirables to one side of town that we’ll never have to visit.

  • Chris,
    I believe you misunderstood my post about NIMBYism. I am 100% for the WalMart, I just think it’s sad that the mindset of most developers is that they are in Sugar Land. The WalMart developers have plenty of money, they have to be able to come up with a better design than that. A world class city not only functions well, but it looks good. World class cities care about their aesthetics, Houston does not. The reason an “established east-coast feel” would benefit Houston is because established cities are all walkable, which is a trait of all great cities. I am using the word “established” to represent built up, walkable, and vibrant. That does not have to be an east coast feel to be walkable, Los Angeles is walkable for the most part, and they have a west coast feel. But Houston’s old architecture style has an east coast feel, so that is why I mentioned that.
    To be honest, I don’t really think Chicago is really world class. It’s teetering on the edge of being world class, though. To me, world class cities in the US are New York, Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Something all those cities have in common: they all have good transit systems (even LA, you would be surprised how many riders they have) anchored by heavy rail and light rail systems. They are also all walkable, and historically have not torn down buildings just because they are “not up to code.” Instead, they renovate the old buildings and re use them. There’s so many old buildings downtown that we’ve torn down (mostly 2-3 story buildings) in favor of parking lots, something that doesn’t happen in the cities I’ve listed.
    About the car dealerships… I believe in order to be world class, we should pattern ourselves after other world class cities. Massive amounts of parking lots is not something you would see in world class cities, but you might see them in cities like Phoenix, AZ. Sadly, that is probably the most similar city to Houston in the country.
    My favorite car dealership in Houston is the one on Richmond near Kirby, because its goes vertical, not horizontal. That is what car dealerships are like in other cities. They are more visually appealing IMO.
    My favorite freeway stretch in Houston is US59 between Shepard and 288, because there are no feeder roads, therefore no ugly dealerships/strip malls, you just see houses, while maintaining the urban grid.
    No I know there’s no way we are ever going to tear up the feeder roads, or force the car dealerships to move (no zoning). But that’s what I like about Houston, you can build whatever you want. What I dont like is a couple of wealthy neighborhoods opposing projects that would benefit the city as a whole (see Richmond rail). That very same attitude is the reason California has yet to build their high speed rail system, because of a few neighborhoods around San Jose. People need to put their own special interests aside and to what is best for the country/region as a whole.

  • It’s unfortunate that the lightrail lines will be delayed because I think, like some others, that infrastructure development is what is holding Houston back as a potential World Class City.
    Lets get a few things straight. I’m a transplant, originally from New York. Been here for almost two years. I’ve lived in DC and ATL, and I’ve visited a few world class cities, Paris, Amsterdam, London and Shanghai. And from my perspective Houston isn’t a world class city. But I do like Houston. Houston is great for what it is, but its got so much potential to be a better more functional city. When you look at what qualifies as a major city, you think economics, culture/quality of life and infrastructure.
    Houston has the economics. There is no debate here. Second only to NY in corporate headquarters, port of Houston #1 in waterbourne cargo in the country, energy corridor oil and gas. Medical center, highest concentration of medical research institutions. Houston according to the polls is also one of the better job markets in the country right now. So Houston seems to be fine in this area.
    Houston has the culture. Houston’s got the second largest theater district in the country. major sports teams a world class football stadium, Houston rodeo, Museum district, one of the largest municipal parks in the country. Houston has a great quality of life in terms of affordability and cost of living. Lets not forget the world class medical center! Houston even has world class skyscrapers and a tunnel system. Some would argue that Houston has no native culture, and it may not; but thats fine Houston is a diverse city, with folks from all over the country and world bringing their own cultural traditions with them and adding to the local flavor.
    The one area where Houston falters is in infrastructure; from lack of zoning to lack of transportation options to flooding.
    I think the problem starts on a state level to certain extent. For example, If I’m in NY and I want to go to DC, I have several options from low cost $20 and 3 hours on a bus to amtrak which is more money and a bit quicker to a quick flight. Last time I checked it didn’t seem like Texans had as many options when traveling between the major cities of Texas. The flights seemed on point thanks to Southwest but the more affordable options like the bus and train seemed more expensive and longer than the equivalent trip from NYC to DC. In order to be world class I think Houston needs those intra state transportation options.
    Houston does have public transportation but the infrastructure just isn’t robust enough to attract the majority of suburbanites to utilize it as a primary option. Imagine a sophisticated train system linking the medical center to the airports, or ANY train system linking to any airports. Thats what world class cities have. You live in sugarland, you live in katy; cool. Hop on the train and be downtown in 30 minutes, take a nap, read the paper, relax. I just don’t understand why folks would rather sit in traffic for the sake of their personal space instead of getting on public transportation which is easier and more efficient. World class cities have transportation options; viable efficient, utilized options; and Houston just doesn’t have that right now.
    I also think that some limited zoning might help Houston as well. I look at areas like the Washington ave corridor and Rice Military and just doesn’t make sense to me. Everyone has a car here, not many walk, not many take the bus. So why would I buy a house in densely built up area like rice military with little to no parking? If someone comes to visit, where do they park, in the ditch out front? What ever happened to sidewalks, and street parking and proper drainage pipes and sewers? I understand that some older areas of Houston historically had ditches but c’mon people Houston has a flooding problem. There is no excuse for folks not putting a vast majority of energy around fixing this problem and giving Houston a world class flood control system like in the Netherlands. Or maybe we’re just fine having ditches serve as a catchall for sidewalk, parking and sewer?

    While I do walk around Houston, I’m always looked at as strange for doing so. What’s wrong with walking people? I enjoying discovering things about my city in an organic manner; taking it all in block by block on foot. That doesn’t really work here in Houston. I understand that in the suburbs you get manicured lawns and sidewalks and master planed communities and thats cool if you like that. But to me, when you consider the impact on transportation, the suburbs isn’t really an option. My wife and I live under 15 minutes of where we work, I’m downtown she in the galleria. However, if we knew we could get to work in 20 to 30 mins from the suburbs, maybe that would be an option. I like my car, but I don’t wanna live in it.

    Overall I like Houston, but not it’s transportation infrastructure. At times I wish that all my folks from up north could experience Houston; I think alot of ’em would want to stay. I agree with MARTIN above, Houston has a marketing problem too, No one back home has any idea what Houston is like. There are alot of things to like about Houston but infrastructure, specifically transportation, is the thorn in the side of Houston’s development into world class city status.