Metro Ponders How To Spend a Light Rail Surplus

METRO PONDERS HOW TO SPEND A LIGHT RAIL SURPLUS Burnett Station, North Line Extension, HoustonWhat should Metro do with the extra $39.9 million it’ll end up with after the Southeast and East End rail lines open in April (on the 11th, it now looks like)? If the money isn’t spent, it’ll have to go back to the Federal Transit Administration, reports Dug Begley. $24.9 million of that would have to be spent on projects related to the year-plus-old North Line extension (the Red line), and $14.5 million would be restricted to use on the Southeast Line (aka the Purple Line). Among the proposals: building an elevated walkway between the bus transit center and the rail line at Northline; putting in extra parking at Palm Center, at the end of the Purple Line; shelters for bus stops near stations; an additional station on the Purple Line between Elgin and Leeland; safety or operational improvements, such as a restroom for train operators at a station; a crossing arm on Texas Ave. near Chartres St. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of Burnett Station: Skyline Art Services

39 Comment


  • so stupid – we saved money during construction so now we have to waste it on something we don’t really need

  • I’m sure that the people in the East End may have some suggestions… (Harrisburg Underpass, anyone?) For the Red Line, while I’m sure the train operators would appreciate their own, multi-million dollar potty, the biggest issue is the disconnect with the SE line. It would be great to make the two lines better connected, perhaps even allowing through-running of trains. However, this being Houston, I’m sure that Jon Culberson has already filed a bill to force METRO to give the funding back.

  • “Metro’s capital projects committee on Thursday also approved adding six speed bumps along English Street between Fulton and Irvington, along with speed limit signs, at a cost of $122,000.”

    $122K for 6 speed bumps with speed limit signs? Wow. There’s a real problem here.

  • @Jesse: We don’t have to waste it. We could give it back so it could be spent on something useful. Or wasted by someone else.

  • Red Line $24 million, needs to be spent on
    1- Upgraded Northline TC (Re-imagining Will have 9 buses 2 of them Frequent Routes…The current TC only has 4 bays).
    2- At least 1000 spaces of the new HCC parking garage (talks with Harris County could bring that number up)
    3 – Better connection from Burnett TC to HCC Shea St building

    Purple Line $15 million
    1-Station at McGowen
    2- Build A 1000 space Garage in conjunction with UH and the constantly forgotten TSU at Palm Center and a skywalk connecting the garage with the station.

  • How about give it to all the businesses that have lost money or gone out of business because of the rail?

  • Typical scenario where the budget period ends and there is a scramble to spend any remainder because the accountants will make your next project/budget smaller by that same amount next year. Never understood how rational, thinking human beings create this pickle repeatedly in all tyoes of organizations (not just govt).

  • Uh, put it towards the University Line or the East End underpass or even the damn Central Station you were originally suppose to build downtown. All canceled projects you claimed you didn’t have enough money for! Ugh! I’m all for light rail but Metro has got to be the most incompetent mass transportation system in the US. smh*

  • Please, no pedestrian bridges. People can walk. I would still want the central station, but they can’t destroy what they built for the station, now, to do that. Basically, give most of the money back to show we know how to handle the peoples money, but only give it back to other people that are using it to build more rail like we want to do so to make it more likely we get money coming back to us to do that.

  • A couple of ideas come to mind:
    1. Build a spur on Elgin from the tracks on Scott to the underused Metro bus station on Lockwood @ the Gulf Fwy. Commuter bus lines from communities adjacent to I-45 South from Galveston to Houston would have an easy connection to all Metro light rail lines.
    2. Build a few Park and Ride lots alongside the Green and Purple Lines for those of us who live too far to walk or bike to the nearest station.
    Ideally, the surplus should go toward funding the University Line. Given Metro’s record of mismanagement, that probably won’t happen.. Forget the underpass on Harrisburg — too much money, time and effort have been wasted on that project.

  • I would like to see it put to use on shelters for bus stops and sidewalks (if it’s allowed) to create a better overall transit experience.

  • Once upon a time, Metro had a huge design competition for Central Station a project that would’ve visually improved Downtown Houston. Even with funds contributed for the 2.1 million dollar project from the Downtown Management District, Metro decided to shelve Snøhetta’s winning design in favor of a standard 1.05 million canopy because they mismanaged the budget on the project.

    Now they a $39.9 million dollar surplus they stand to lose out if they don’t do anything with? Here’s an idea: Take that surplus, stuff it into one of those shiney new CAF trains, then take that money train and go screw yourself with it, Metro. Of course, you’ll somehow mismanage that too.

  • To everybody that is suggesting that they should build additional track, remember that if they’ve got approximately $40 million, that won’t go very far. That buys approximately 0.2 miles of light rail and no station or a station and no light rail. To give you an idea, how far 0.2 miles it, that’s about the same distance as going under I-45 from Elgin onto Lockwood. Stations are typically spaced at intervals further than 0.2 miles because studies indicate that people are usually willing to walk up to 0.25 miles from a station. Expanding the system is not really an option unless they provide significant additional financing themselves, and their financial position isn’t strong enough to do so right now…unless they significantly curtail services elsewhere in their jurisdiction. That should not be viewed as a palatable trade-off.

    I would propose that the money would be best spent on installing better sidewalks and pedestrian infrastructure that lead from neighborhoods toward stations or that facilitate the desirability and pace of development of land near transit infrastructure. The Harrisburg underpass is worthy of consideration under that umbrella, but simply installing/repairing sidewalks and planting trees may go a lot further over a wider area.

  • How about spending the extra money to fast track the project and open for the Rodeo. Leave it to metro to miss an opportunity to make some revenue.

  • At the very least, a better Android app.

  • I would like to see metro use the money on more bureaucrats.

  • Of course I know $40 million falls far short of enough for the University Line, Niche. But I will never pass up an opportunity to tell METRO to get off their duffs, make the necessary compromises, and get the damned line built!

  • What? I haven’t seen a single person recommend dog buses or dog parks at each rail stop or dog crap bags provided free of charge at every bus stop. What gives???

  • Metro Surplus of money??? Nooo way???

  • Give it back, multiply this across the country and it’s not hard to see why we rack up so much debt. No one rides the light rail anyways. It was wasteful to begin with.

  • HA! Metro, what a JOKE! Anybody remember that guy on the Board of Directors who got busted with porn on his company computer a few years back? This is why this Wild West of City will never get it right! Yes, the Snoetta building should have been built, so should the Main Street station designs that were proposed in an invited competition that never saw the light of day…

    Look Houston, here is the deal. This City is cronyism of the highest order. I just got back from Las Vegas and guess what. They have a monorail system above grade that goes to the Convention Center and back along the strip. This is what should have been built here to get the trains off of grade and allow for future utilities repair/replacement (underground). It would resolve many of the ADA issues of our curb and gutter streets with utility poles in the middle of the ramp (pretty third world).

    METRO, the County and Council could get it right if they chose to, but they don’t. They pad thier pockets and the pockets of their benefactors (I know I am assuming). How about this, $6.1b yes BILLION people, in Permit Fees last fiscal year. that is over $2.225Mil a day going through the CoH permit office. It is a bank, not a City Office. If Vegas can get it right, surely we CAN.

    Jus sayin…

  • I would love to see them spend the money on real traffic engineers that can time the lights surrounding the light rail.

  • @Kineticd, you sound like a kid on his first trip to Vegas. I’ve been there dozens of times and nobody rides the damn monorail, it’s old, dirty and it’s much easier to grab a cab.

    *Facepalm* The $6 billion in permits refferrs to the Value of the construction projects reported NOT what they collect in fees, the entire City of Houston runs on an annual budget of about $5 Billion.

  • The smartest thing that METRO can (and will not) do is to spend that money retrofitting stations to where only paying riders can board the train. That ship may have sailed when they put them in the middle of the street. This way they can raise more money and we may get a rapid transit system on the westside sometime before 2050.

  • T|Put it toward funding the promised underpass at Harrisburg

  • Just get the buses they have to run on time. Maybe buy themselves some watches

  • They should pay their summer interns.

  • @Dana-X

    ““Metro’s capital projects committee on Thursday also approved adding six speed bumps along English Street between Fulton and Irvington, along with speed limit signs, at a cost of $122,000.”

    $122K for 6 speed bumps with speed limit signs? Wow. There’s a real problem here.”

    I live in Lindale Pare and I can tell you that there was indeed a problem there. After rail construction, English is the only street between Cavalcade and the North Loop that crosses Fulton, where it becomes Link and continues to the I-45 feeder. People from east of Irvington have been using English as a cut-through and driving like it’s a drag strip.

  • You can bet they’ll find something to waste it on.

  • Spend the Red Line money to extend tracks from Northline TC to Fulton @ Tidwell. This gets it a mile closer to Intercontinental. It also lets Metro run 15-minute bus service on Tidwell straight through to Mesa TC, doubling frequency to Trinity Gardens.

    If $24.9mm doesn’t quite fund the full extension, it can be tossed into utility relocation, signal improvements, and partial trackbed construction.

  • How about bringing existing bus stops up to par by offering seats and shelters as a minimum standard – a little respect goes a long way.

  • I agree with MIchael, Metro should put a bench if not a proper shelter at every bus stop that is presently just a sign on a pole. Where lines intersect, we should have larger lighted shelters with security cameras. What angers me most about Houston’s sprawl, is that comes at the expense of enormous gaps in the city’s infrastructure; all of the new highways and suburban roads are paid for by deferring maintenance and construction, of roads, sidewalks, you name it. You may never ride the train, and I may never take the highway up to your house in BFE, but can we please agree to spend the money needed to fix, upgrade and complete the full extent of our city’s infrastructure? Can we agree to do it for the benefit of drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists, whether they be residents, businesses, commuters, and tourists, alike? No amount of decamping to a master-planned community, or wealthy urban enclave, can erase the fact that regardless of what small fraction of its area we inhabit, we all share this city, and should all be ashamed of the poor condition that it’s in.

  • On a lark on a weekend, I took the Red Line from the Medical Center to the Northline Transit Center. Man, that train is SO slow. I can only imagine my frustration if I was actually trying to get somewhere on time.
    That being said, can they use the $40 million to make the trains go faster? You could sequence the lights so that the darn thing only had to stop at the stations. Let’s give the train some speed!
    Another idea: METRO could install actual gates so that only paying customers would be admitted. Then, the train could only stop at stations with paying customers at it (or if someone on board signaled a desire to stop). I’ll bet that would mean only 3 or 4 stops at that point.
    If we could use that cash on other “general mobility” projects, I’d say throw that $40 million on fixing some of our broken-down streets. But, given the low-wattage brain power at METRO, they would probably fix Kirby (again) needlessly without adding any more capacity (again).

  • How about to find additional Wave buses to get people to/from the rail lines so more people can use them. Like spokes to their hubs. And trust me, TheWave can make that money go REALLY far!

  • I think there are only 2 options, either: a)Build the Harrisburg Line underpass or b) provide a bench and shelter at all bus stops in Houston. I vote for the underpass.

  • It’s sad that half of the commenters here didn’t even read the linked article–the money must be spent on the red line extension and the purple line. Green line improvements aren’t in consideration. Neither is the University line. Didn’t even have to read the linked article really–just the paragraph above. Half the folks couldn’t even read that. Takes what a minute? C’mon, man!

  • Send the money back so it could possibly be re -allocated to another deserving project . Though with METRO’s questionable track record, I dare say one of those projects would be under its domain.

  • For the love of g-d, please let Metro build bus shelters at the Near Northside and Cavalcade station (corner of North Main at Quitman and Fulton at Cavalcade, respectively), where people transfer from the rail line to bus routes to the Heights. It’s brutal to transfer in the summer sun.