Light Rail Scorecard: 6 Miles Down, 9 To Go, Culberson Blocking Goal

LIGHT RAIL SCORECARD: 6 MILES DOWN, 9 TO GO, CULBERSON BLOCKING GOAL Metro says it’s now laid 6 miles of track for the 3 light-rail lines its working on — the new East End and Southeast Lines and the North Line extension. And construction is now under way on 10 of 24 new stations. All is on track for a 2014 opening date, including $200 million of federal funds for 2 of those lines, approved by a vote in the House of Representatives last Friday. Also approved within the same bill, though: Congressman John Culberson’s ban on federal funding for both the Uptown Line and the long-delayed University Line. A House-Senate conference committee will determine if the funding block remains in the bill’s final version. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Metro

47 Comment

  • Its sad but several road contractors popped a bottle or two on hearing this. #lobbyingpays

  • Why did Tom Delay have to have a protege? Can’t the opposition get him voted out? It would be a result like that of Delay’s demise. The city, the state, and the country would move into the 21st century so much quicker without him.

  • Culberson is representing his district (that doesn’t support wasting METRO money). They have a point. METRO is spending this money to move very few people.

    At a time when spending money we don’t have is a big deal, only delusions of grandeur would justify doing so.

  • Oh yes, because light rail is such a great investment for the city of Houston and Metreaux has done such a fantastic job of managing itself.

  • Culberson sucks.

  • kjb43. Only delusions of grandeur? Or being smart, finally, in this city; and planning for the future. I know from your hundreds of posts that you believe that no matter how big, populated, or crowded Houston may ever become, that the answer will always be adding more lanes to freeways, and perhaps another Ultra Grand Parkway. If people like you and Culberson have your way, I-10W,and 290 will one day be a single 150 lane tollway. Some of us have a different future in mind than spending unlimited billions destroying businesses and entire neighborhoods in the city, so that suburbanites who choose to live 50 miles from their homes can make the commute 9 minutes faster. No need to repeat your diatribe about buses we’ve all heard a dozen times. Frankly, you’re just wrong. 20 years from now, after Culberson – who is not representing his constituents any more than he is the highway building industry that feathers his nest, is hopefully long gone; Houston should have commuter rail lines tying into the metro rail lines allowing people (an extra few million by then) to get to and around the city with relative ease and consistency. Gas will be $10/gal or more by then like it is already in parts of Europe; and we’ll look back in disgust at fools like Culberson, Delay,Lanier, Burge, and Wong who collectively cost Houston 20 plus years of delay and billons of extra dollars to get the system built.

  • Eh,the red lines serves around 40,000 people per day. Let’s assume that each new line adds half of that: that would take daily ridership up to 100,000 people per day, which is about a quarter of the population of the inner loop.

    Obviously any assumption about additional ridership is somewhat arbitrary, but we are talking about relatively large groups of people here. Moreover, the biggest disadvantage of the existing light rail line is that it mostly serves destinations: actual residential neighborhoods are sparse. These new lines will connect large residential neighborhoods the the system as well as two major universities.
    That’s the thing about rail: each additional line actually strengthens the existing line. It creates a system.

  • kjb434,

    I respectively disagree. The commuters to downtown, uptown, greenway plaza, and the med center represent a significant chunk. Not just in size but in density. Not to mention our universities, colleges, stadiums, and museums.

    The problem with you and others is that you can’t see how light rail and Park&Ride can reach the entire metro area. Houston can have a decent transit system if we just decide we want to fund one.

  • I am so tired of the shortsightedness that is an epidemic in this country. Yes, big projects are expensive, but that is NOT the reason to table them; they aren’t ever going to get any cheaper (nor is gasoline–I’m talking to you, suburbanites). We need to plan for the future, and the reality is that Houston will have many more people and so has no choice but to increase in population density. You know, like a city. So we need rail infrastructure to move the citizens of the future. And we need to stop being so beholden to big oil–there are legitimate alternatives. Every time I ride the rail I think how wonderful it is that so many people choose not to drive. And more will, when we connect the major points of interest and commerce in this city. It will draw more skilled workers and tourists (and their money), and will reduce our reliance on gasoline and the resultant smog.

  • It’s anything BUT stupid to have the University and Uptown lines that would be in the most popular and dense part of the city of Houston, and not outlying areas serving only a select group of the populatoin. At the expense of the greater good of a larger part of the city, Culberson is backing a few whiners. Are they whining now that the city of Houston has torn up Richmond to do drainage work, that would have been done with the rail construction? Nope. We will find out that Culberson is as crooked as Delay, and that should be someone’s goal – they should be as relentless as he is in fighting the cause. Mr. Culberson – being the loudest man in the room does not make you the smartest. Mark my word. Rail will get built, and those who back stifling Houston’s growth for their own benefit are the most selfish of all.

  • 1) KJB makes his living off of doing things the way we’ve always done them in Houston.

    2) Culberson’s “district” is part of the problem. What in the hell does the Western Third Ward have in common with Jersey Village? What about Montrose and Piney Point Village? Southampton and unincorporated Cy-Fair?

    The fact of the matter is that common sense should create congressional districts, not party politics. Until that changes, Houston (the city) will continue to be shortchanged.

  • Thanks @doofus (sounds funny!). You are right on. This is all political posturing built on abIlity to manupilate the system and keep tenure in congress.

  • Culberson is an absolute joke. He represents what is wrong with American politics today.

    That is all.

  • Well not that it matters but the voters approved the Westpark line. Not the Richmond line aka the University line. Metro has been a disaster from day one. And continues to be. And forever will be. And I bet half the people who support Metro rarely ride it.

  • The red line we have now has 40,000 riders a day. With the addiotional lines connecting to it; ridership will go through the roof. These polical fools “who are paid off by freeway construction companies” need to shut up.

  • If we really want transit, a Bus Rapid Transit system makes about a million times more sense than light rail. Light rail is a joke.

    40,000 riders a day really means only 20,000 actual people. Most go two ways.

    Most of these folks are actually being inconvenienced by the light rail. They used to be able to take buses from outlying are area directly into the Med Center and Downtown via Main Street. When METRO built the light rail it rearranged all the bus lines so no they terminate at the light rail instead of going down Main Street. Now commuters without cars have to get off the bus and wait for a choo-choo train to get them to their destination. You call that progress?

    The only reason anyone else rides the light rail is the lack of parking in the Med Center. It doesn’t get you there any faster, it’s just that parking there is expensive and insufficient to serve the work force.

    NEITHER of these two dynamics exist for the other proposed light rail routes.

    For the amount of money METRO is spending on this joke of a transit system, we could have 200 miles of BRT, or an East Side park every bit as large and nice as Memorial Park. Either would be a better choice for our city.

    Light rail is backed only by ignorance of the facts or the alternatives.

  • The red line and university line will never directly do me any good. I will never ride them just like I’ve never ridden the line we have now. Roads benefit everyone, they bring us our food and every single other thing we have. Every single thing in my house and every bite of food I’ve ever eaten has been delivered on a road. I use Richmond all the time because it indirectly connects to my house. A train that runs down Richmond is totally useless to me.

    If we need trains to get more density then maybe we just don’t need more density.

  • How do you guys get that I’m against light rail.

    My point was that it’s not worth spending the money now for it nor will the need for it arise for years to come. On top of that METRO has a history of wasting money and CUTTING SERVICE to people who actually need it.

    Light rail will primarily serve people who have the luxury to choose whether to use light rail or car. Buses serve people who actually need it.

    If you look through the ridership reports in the years after the red line started operation, there was a net loss in riders using METRO. METRO killed many bus routes and made commutes longer for many by requiring a section of the red line to be a part of the trip. This caused many transit uses to have to make multiple transfers. All this is from METRO’s own data that they try hide but has to be made public. Internally, they were aligning bus routes to force ridership of the rails higher.

    There is a place for light rail, but METRO is the most incompetent implementer of this technology.

    Put simply, light rail is a toy for elitist and hipsters at the cost of people who need public transit.

    Please grow up. If you actually do read my post (must be a dull life to read my posts), you would understand the concept of a maximum lane limits. In practice, a freeway really can’t expand much past 8-10 lanes because of entrance and exit ramps placement and needs. The inserting of the 4 toll lanes in the Katy Freeway represent the maximum width that freeway can be before diminishing returns on investment. The toll lanes also allow a more flexible and larger volume of commuters than commuter rail or light rail ever could. If you think that people that justify the use of highways believe in constantly expanding freeway forever, then you’ve been sipping a little too much kool-aid.

  • More rail= more freedom from cars and big oil… hmmm, sounds like the total opposite of a town that was built by oil.
    Well, I didn’t build this town, and I would rather it resmeble a real city with a proper and reliable public transportation system, especially rail. Build a line from IAH to Hobby already!

  • Why should federal money go to a local project, exactly?

  • Metro needs to get a shuttle service line doing RED/BLUE bus lines for short commutes across town. NYC and SF both have similar services. Rail lines are tearing up the Galleria and Richmond are a joke.

  • Light Rail = “Stuff White People Like”.

  • Light rail is only for hip elitists? And buses are the only mode that serves people that need transit the most?

    That’s a pretty big claim there kjb434, any facts to back that up?

  • “For the amount of money METRO is spending on this joke of a transit system, we could have 200 miles of BRT, or an East Side park every bit as large and nice as Memorial Park. Either would be a better choice for our city.”

    Better in what ways, specifically? There are pros and cons with both BRT and light rail. What type of BRT are you suggesting and where should it be used? BRT covers a lot of possibilities that vary in capacity, cost, environmental impact, etc. If you want to talk ignorant, it’s ignorant to assume that BRT is some sort of transit panacea.

  • Honestly I wouldn’t be so against freeway expansion if the majority of vehicles were electric. The pollution is my main qualm against them but I still believe we should have a comprehensive metro system with both rail, buses, and freeway. Anyone who is against infrastructure is clearly a republican suburbanite who’s never left the confines of Katy. I’ve been to REAL cities like Madrid, Barcelona, London, Chicago, New York, and one thing they all have in common is their ability to move their people from point a to point b without having to own an expensive vehicle.

  • Culberson is my rep., and I want rail on Richmond.

  • @Robert

    So all we need to be a “real” city is light rail? It doesn’t get any “realer” than the Tine bud.

    Yuppies zipping around on a silly train instead of taking their cars to the MFAH or Dynamo games does not a real city make.

  • I have been on the light rail a number of times. Each time, it was very clear that I was the only hip elitist on the train.

  • does anyone here seriously think richmond is even a good place to have rail? why force Metro to go broke building a rail line that will inhibit our ability to build anything more for the next 20yrs. it’s a horrible location that doesn’t even run along the more retail-focused areas.

    can anyone tell me, is the intent of rail in Houston to get people to actually ditch their cars or is just to maximize the efficieny of moving workers around during rush hour? i honestly don’t even know and can’t tell by the planned routes. again, let’s not rush to go broke folks, there’s people that actually do depend on Metro for their livelihood and the rail lines have already impacted the budget for bus routes in this city time and time again.

  • Good luck with freeway expansion, the pierce elevated has been antiquated for 30+ years. I’m all for rail expansion, but I wonder what the west rail going through the theater district and across babgy/the bayou is hoping to accomplish; where as Richmond to the Galleria makes perfect sense unless you’re a nimby type.

  • Maybe im not getting it but I do not understand why anyone would disapprove the Uptown Line and the University Line. I thought Uptown Houston is the most dense area in the state and where in the state I think it would make sense to construct a line there. Also where in Texas can you find a “cluster” of universites so close together like you have in Houston. I’ve also noticed that most of the people who are on the board of Metro and other transportation agencies in Houston have little to no experience in urban development or transportation which I think thats why this city far behind with a rail system to began with. I relly love Houston just wish that we can “move foward”.

  • I work in Uptown and yeah, you can walk a few places, but transit will make it an infinitely better place to live & work. Our office is near tons of great restaurants and shopping but nobody wants to step out of the office and take advantage of them because traffic’s such a nightmare.

    People complaining about elitist hipsters on light rail don’t ride it much.

  • “The only reason anyone else rides the light rail is the lack of parking in the Med Center. It doesn’t get you there any faster, it’s just that parking there is expensive and insufficient to serve the work force.”

    Not to be rude but… Duh. Transit is only good if there’s ample free parking and people take it anyway? The Med Center is dense and parking is at a premium. So, it’s an excellent place to serve with transit.

    I mean… that’s the point.

  • Joel,

    Any proof that building the University line would force METRO to go broke? Do you realize that it would be a federally funded line? Richmond near montrose is a spectacular location for rail and it would undoubtedly be the most utilized line in the system. Yes, there are some people that depend on METRO for their lively hood, and I guarantee you the majority are in favor of rail.

  • Our existing light rail averages 14 mph (30 min to cover 7 miles). Buses and cars could average maybe 25 mph over that route except that they can’t BECAUSE THE LIGHT RAIL HAS SCREWED UP TRAFFIC.

  • A Richmond rail line wouldn’t convince me to leave my car at home. Walk 3 blocks to the pickup, stand there in the heat, then get off and walk 8 more blocks on tree-less concrete heat-radiating sidewalks to get to the office. In Houston’s climate I’d be a sweaty mess when I got to the office. Rather take the car.

  • etherist,

    Any facts to back that up?

    Cause most bus routes average roughly the same speed on the light rail even though they don’t go anywhere near the existing rail line.

  • Every major/mature city in the world has a rail network. It is essential for a city which is increasing in density as is Houston. The METRO rail network, which will soon include a line to Missouri City/Stafford, along with (hopefully) an extension of the SE and E line from the Theater District down Washington Ave to Memorial Park and the I-10 Transit Center, needs the University Line and the Uptown Line to complete the network. With its completion will come a network connecting all stadiums in Houston, the major parks, the museums, most of the major employment centers, the major universities, and a wide residential population. Culberson is stuck in the past and probably in the pockets of the interests who profited by building I-10 and removing the rail right of way. But “the little guy” will win out in the end, and Houston WILL have multi-modal transportation, thanks to the progressive folks who are working hard here to achieve a modern city.

  • One very interesting upshot to delaying Uptown and University is that it heads the “LRT is elitist” argument off at the pass. If you open the E, SE, and N lines without Uptown and University then you’ve just created an LRT system that predominantly serves black and hispanic neighborhoods. Possibly the first such new-start system ever built in North America.

    Opposition to the “white man’s train,” whether it takes a grassroots, Los Angeles Bus Rider’s Union form, or whether it’s simply a talking point for people who will always think rail is a “boondoggle”, is thus impossible. Considering that H-town will be minority-majority by the 2020 census, I think it’s kinda cool. And I’m an elitist white dude.

  • I should clarify that in the previous post, “North America” means “the US and Canada.” Obviously, any new rail system built in Mexico will serve a primarily Hispanic population. :facepalm:

  • “leave my car at home. Walk 3 blocks to the pickup, stand there in the heat, then get off and walk 8 more blocks on tree-less concrete heat-radiating sidewalks to get to the office.”
    As a fat ass who thinks metro wastes more resources than they put to use: Man we have a bunch of lazy fat asses in this city.

  • letter to Mr. Culberson, It is a shame that you are against transportation progress for the City of Houston. The Uptown and University are investments in our city which would exponentially provide growth for our city not mention LESS TRAFFIC CONGESTION for locals and vistors. Since the Main Line was finished the downtown, midtown, medical, and Reliant arena area have greatly benefitted from the line. The beautification of area in especially in midtown is remarkable. Some of the areas in midtown were down right scary before the rail was built in the area.

  • @mfastx:
    Turns out you are right about most buses averaging the same speed. When I look at the bus schedules of say, the #34 bus, it covers 6.2 miles passing through medical center in 29-32 minutes. The bus is handicapped, because it makes more stops than the metrorail, BTW. But the bus didn’t cost $30 million per mile to install! And by private motorcoach (my car) it takes me about 8 minutes to drive 5 miles from Greenway Plaza to my medical center employer. + 3 minutes to reach my parking spot. + 3 minutes if I am delayed by a half-empty metrorail train and I miss my left turn slot. Driving home is 10-20 minutes depending on departure time.

    This same trip takes about 15-20 minutes by bus + 10 minutes by train + 10 minutes of walking to/from bus stops, plus a fudge factor because I CANNOT be late to work if a bus I scheduled at say, 6:15 decides to come by at 6:13. It’s also nice not to arrive at work sweaty or sodden.

  • Auto-driving cars have got to cost less than this. A dozen robot cars and a few sensors placed along a special lane along each train route, and we’re done. Like a HOV lane down Main Street (etc), except filled with robocars.

  • mfastx, i’m of course over-exaggerating the finances, but do you really think building rail on a route already serviced by mass transit will significantly reduce the number of cars on our roads? could we not reduce more cars on the road by opening up additional mass transit options to new areas? have we exhausted all our traffic studies to determine the best use of precious tax dollars?

    i have nothing against rail, i just don’t like having to pay taxes to build it as living in Vermont Commons and commuting long distance like the vast majority of houstonians, it’s completely useless to me aside from creating additional wait times, more intersections and surface traffic on alternate routes.

    if we want to build it and then sell it off to HCTRA to turn it into a profit-making machine to benefit all of houston then i’m all for it. rail promoters haven’t done a good job of explaining how rail benefits the vast majority of houston and tax-payers.

  • It boggles my mind how one person can hobble a city as large as Houston in the area of mass transit. Pandering to a minority of voters, Rep Culberson, is trying to single handedly decide what is in the best interest for Houston. He cries about destroying the “quality of life” if this rail line is built. Give me a break. It won’t effect him in any way but will open up commerce to those of us that don’t want to deal with traffic congestion.

    He is holding Houston mobility hostage to appease “my constituents on these two streets”. Does this sound rational? Hell no.