Metro Rail Gets Back on Track Tomorrow

Has it really been 10 whole years since any new tracks have been laid for any Houston light-rail lines? Not exactly. It’s been 9 years and 11 months. To celebrate the occasion, Metro is holding a small ceremony tomorrow to place the concrete base for the very first tracks on the new Southeast, or “Purple” line. Tomorrow’s morning pour will take place at 2979 McKinney St. near Ennis in East Downtown, but the 6.6-mile Southeast Line will run all the way from a new station on Smith St. to the Palm Center, with stops at Fannin (change here for the existing “Red” line), Crawford (baseball, anyone?), Bastrop (soccer?), Leeland, Elgin then Scott St. (both at the western edge of UH, crossing the path of the proposed University Line), Wheeler and MLK (on the other side of campus), and MacGregor Park along the way:


Metro expects to finish the route in the middle of 2014, and predicts 9,500 people will ride it a day by the following year.

Map: Go MetroRail

66 Comment

  • Here we go! Things are moving right along with the the east and north rails.

  • complaints from people out in the ‘burbs start in 3..2..1…

  • Just watch out for random gunfire and copper theives. :)

    Glad all the affluent population centers (not getting rail) are subsidizing all the poor areas that are…..following the obama restribution model that is working obviously working so well.

  • So, will that increase or decrease the murder rate in that area?

  • @Another Houstonian:
    Sort of how urbanites have been subsidizing suburban development for decades?

  • Yeah, why is it that the major arteries of Houston (commercial, retail, etc), where the ridership would be higher, the need greater, and traffic a major concern, are not the priority for the rail? Typical of this city’s runners and their disjointed efforts.

  • Russell Weil:

    Probably because all the NIMBY folks throw a fit every time somebody mentions rail being placed near their neighborhood. The University Line and Uptown Line, which would have connected the Bellaire/Galleria/Memorial areas to downtown, are now pretty much dead because of this.

  • @Another Houstonian – Ask yourself who accounts for the majority of ridership for Metro? – It makes perfect sense to serve your base customer. The folks in the ‘affluent’ areas see these trains as toys anyways, and maybe they might ‘slum’ it one day to the office, but unless you have a city-wide transformation of consciousness about transportation, I wouldn’t expect much out of those folks.

    @commonsense – Has there been an increase in murders in Midtown since the rail was completed?

  • @Russell Weil:

    I don’t understand your complaint. The new rails are supposed to run along areas that would alleviate traffic issues and support several commercial centers. The line mentioned in this post will connect all of Houston’s major (and under construction) stadiums along with our Universities. Beyond that, the proposed uptown line would link the Galleria to Memorial Park and Hillcroft. Are these not major commercial, retail and entertainment centers?

    I have to ask whether you have even bothered to ride the line we currently have. What are your alternate suggestions? What is it that the “city’s runners and their disjointed efforts” have missed? Did you attend any of the meetings for the public to present their suggestions and complaints?

  • Judging by the location of the rail lines, METRO seems not to be in the business of actually moving people from where they are to where they want to be. Looks like it will be best used as a “cooling station” for those in areas no A/C. Or better yet, move them to downtown where they can beg for money and get a free bath in the fancy fountain at 1000 Main. Maybe for their 2nd act they could put free wifi on the trains, I am sure George would love that.

  • @Northsider, I was referring to the recent news of the huge spike in murders in the area SE of Downtown.

    I lived in Houston over 20 years and thinking back to all the places I lived and all the places I worked, I couldn’t find a single example where I would possibly use the rail. The rail is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

  • @jgbiggs… Do you work for Tom Delay?? It’s people like you that have held Houston back from rail so long in the first place.

    The University of Houston has a student population of 38,000 presently. Texas Southern University is 10,000 students. So when you add faculty and staff from both institutions, that is well over 60,000 people that this rail line can connect to downtown, HCC and the Medical Center. If 60k doesn’t form a major employment and business center, I really don’t know what does.

    BTW… don’t be racist.

  • @commonsense – looks like a lot less murder in the South Central Patrol Division in 2011 vs 2010 overall, not sure about July, stats aren’t available yet.

    Riding public transit is a lifestyle choice for those of us who can afford cars, and a necessity for those who cannot.

  • @Commonsense
    I have lived in Houston over 18 years, and I cannot think of a single example of why I would need to use highway 290. Yet, my tax dollars are subsidizing its $3+ billion expansion.

  • @wayne2k33 … The question that has been asked from the beginning and still remain unanswered…. Why would those people need to travel between all the places you mentioned? They need to travel FROM those places to suburbs or other residential areas that the rail does not serve.

  • @mfastx
    290 services tens if not hundreds of thousands of people every day… The rail will serve only a few hundred crackheads per day, talk about an epic waste of money. Back when they built the Downtown to Med Center line, they calculated that if you divide the cost of construction and operation by the number of riders it services, it would be cheaper to buy each rider a Ferrari.

  • commonsense, why the ugly language and generalities about our fellow Houstonians?

  • @commonsense,
    Well maybe if we put as many billions of dollars into our public transit system as we do our freeways, maybe more people would ride it? If you divide the total cost of 290, and divide it by how many people drive on it per day, it would be cheaper to buy each rider a Ferrari. You have lost all creditability to me, calling METRORail riders “crackheads.” I ride METRORail. Are you calling me a crackhead?

  • 290 serves a few hundred thousand riders a day. You can look up AADT traffic counts yourself, but I know that I-10 has about 300,000 cars/day. Now, the cost of the I-10 expansion was around $3,000,000,000. Divide, those, and you get $10,000 PER RIDER. Keeping in mind that we are IGNORING original construction costs, and maintenance costs. So…. yea.. not your best argument “crackhead.”

  • @commonsense:

    Per wikipeda

    “With an approximate daily ridership of 34,155, the METRORail ranks as the fourteenth most-traveled light rail system in the United States, with the second highest ridership per track mile.”

    That’s a whole lot of crackheads…

    Also, let me repeat “second highest ridership per track mile.”

  • I have lived here since the days when the Tomball Parkway was still called FM 149, and I never set eyes (or wheels) on it until last week.
    How dare they built a highway with my money when I have no intention of using it!

  • @Mel, such language is for dramatic effect not necessarily a hardcore insult :)
    Why should we put billions of dollars in public transport vs expanding freeways? I haven’t heard a single logical argument to date to do so. You’re not making sense, the whole point is that 290 IS somewhat cost effective whereas the rail is not.

  • Wow, what’s with all the hatefulness? Houston is at least 100 years behind most cities this size and smaller. The rail line is not full of crack heads, every day a hell of a lot of emloyees at TMC and people that work in downtown use the light rail line. Its sad to see that people stoop so low as to generalize everyone. That clearly is the mentality that has held Houston back. At least some progress is going on!

  • Surely gas/electric buses would be cheaper than the metrorail and be much more flexible in their service. The light rail is a Yankee’s dream, not a practical Houston solution. Fix the roads, clean and expand the bus services and you’ll spend less money than building more light rail fantasies.

  • Those in the burbs that want rail can wait. This is an urban transit system. Not a rapid transit commuter system like Dart that serves the suburbs. Houston is doing it another way. Connecting the city first, than worry about the suburbs. The people in the inner city paid their money for you to get back to your comfy suburb. Now the tables have turned.

  • what everyone is seeming to miss here is the real point, that we opened our light rail line 100 years after new york opened their first subway line. that’s enough with NY-HOU comparisons. i agree with one writer that said this does connect major centers. on all the freeways, you have reliable park and ride service. every time i pass a bus, i see many empty seats, zooming by 600 times faster than you sitting in traffic. houston is entirely way to spread out to reach everyone. if the idiots back in the day didn’t take out the streetcar lines and we actually had decent zoning and built vertically instead of horizontally and got out of your stupid car you would see public transit will work. I HATE CARS.

  • Hey matt, you sound like you live in the wrong city for you. Embrace the diversity of our nations metropolitan areas. I love Houston, faults and all. But if I had my way with light rail, it would be first connecting the airports to downtown…commuters could ride it, an this might help Houston become a more attractive business destination and bring in more $$$

  • i wish they would have connected the airports. that SE purple line comes close to hobby, just make go a few more miles please :)

  • @commonsense,
    Says who? Highway 290 has an average daily traffic of 230,000 vehicles a day. The 290 project is expected to cost around $3 billion, give or take a few hundred million dollars. Thats over 13,000 per vehicle. Thats cost effective? And that’s IGNORING actual construction cost, which is billions more.

  • The sad thing is that it has taken 10 years to lay a piece of track.

  • @Lost_In_Translation,
    We already have gas/electric buses. We are buiding core light rail lines, why would they need to be “flexible?” Is downtown all of the sudden going to move? Maybe you should actually ride METRO’s bus service, maybe then you’ll realize how much better rail service actually is. A yankee’s dream? What do you mean by that exactly? Buses aren’t a more practical solution, they are a cheaper, more inefficient, and lower quality solution. We have tried a bus-only transit system for ~25 years, and it has resulted in one of the lowest transit riderships in the country, certainly the lowest of most, if not all, major cities. So you think that just keepign the buses and “cleaning them up” (how exactly?) will magically result in higher transit ridership? Light rail fantasies? You mean the fantasy that we are actually building? The real fantasy here is that some people seem to think that we can seriously improve our transit system without building any core rail system. A fantasy is that buses are cheaper in the long run than rail, when really, rail is MORE efficient than buses (for example, guess how much you pay everytime someone boards a bus in Houston? ~$4. Now, how much do you pay everytime someone boards a light rail train in Houston? ~$1) and cheaper in the long run. Light rail has more capacity, better service, is actually able to hold a schedule, and faster than buses.

  • will light rail increase the property values along its routes? Yes? I’ve heard yes. So, the landlords will sell their properties for higher valu, and denser houses to be close to the light rail. Some people going to be displaced! Come on! stick to where it is needed, like the AIRPORTS and the GALLERIA! Houston is not densely populated enough to justify spending that kind of money where the rails will serve.

  • Oh that we could only see the IP addresses of where these wonderful comments originate from…(I mean that for both sides of the argument.)

    Saying it again, George. Nice apology but when are you gonna bring home the bacon–err $900M for the University line???

    Hopefully before I get fed up and decide to follow Continental north to Chicago.

  • Just a little reminder to the racists on this and every other thread on Swamplot; it’s 2011.

  • doofus, is it racist or post-racial-racist if someone pops off only for dramatic effect?

  • I do not think the ‘crackhead’ comments here are racist, they are just plain broad-brushed ignorance. It is amazing how little back lash comes from building dedicated bike trails here, which are quickly becoming some of the best in the state, and if you divide cost/riders, you could buy everyone in the city a pretty sweet cruiser. The point is that rail infrastructure as well as bike trails, park and ride, revamped bus system, etc will all benefit this city in the long run, there is no escaping the fact that our population is exploding, and double-decker I10’s ain’t gonna cut it folks.

  • Some say the media creates a negative image of the black community. But when I’m at the ATM, It’s not Dan Rather I’m watching over my back for!
    Is that racist? hehe
    P.S. Before you jump all over me, some of you may recognize that joke from Dave Chappelle.

  • I think it’s great – UH, TSU, and connections to downtown, future rail lines, and numerous Metro bus transfers.
    It’s also a nice start to something heading toward Hobby. As far as folks’ comments about the area, that’s typical “ooh I just drove through the intersection of MLK and Griggs…skeeeeeeery!” type thing without any knowledge of the surrounding neighborhoods beyond the surface.

  • I ride a Metro bus everyday. I can’t think of any reason why a train would be any better. I don’t think we’ll get a train down Memorial drive anytime soon so it really doesn’t matter anyway. I stand at a bus stop downtown everyday waiting to go home. I see bus after bus pass the stop because they are completely full of white people from the suburbs. My inner-city bus is usually half empty.

    You can’t make a dollar for dollar comparison of 290 vs. light rail. Light rail only moves people. 290 moves cars, metro buses and huge amounts of cargo that keep Houston from starving to death. We can and did survive without light rail for decades. If the freeways were suddenly gone we’d be in anarchy within a few hours.

    Please notice I didn’t say that I was for or against light rail in any of the above statements before you call me a racist, conservative or nut case. Just stating a few facts.

  • jgriff,
    I can think of many reasons why rail is better than buses. 1)Higher capacity, which means more people can ride public transit on a rail corridor than a bus corridor 2)Higher ridership (rail attracts more riders due to factors such as reliability) 3)More efficient operating cost. Rail is cheaper to operate than buses (less taxpayer subsidy per rider). Those are all facts.

    I believe that rail down Memorial (or Allen Parkway, don’t quite remember) is in METRO’s long term plans (which basically means it won’t get built, lol). Those park and ride buses you speak of carry about 30,000 riders daily. To put things in perspective, our one METRORail line carries more than our whole Park and Ride system combined.

    Sure I can. So are you saying that light rail doesn’t have an impact on the city other than carrying people? It doesn’t spur development, doesn’t raise land values, etc.? Rail doesn’t “just move people” it’s impact is greater than that. So if we didn’t have 290, we would starve to death? And you’re calling this a fact? What did we do before we built all the freeways then? Did we starve to death before the 1940’s? Have you ever heard of freight rail? That carries far more cargo than any freeway. We can and did survive without freeways for decades. Of course if they were suddenly gone we would be in anarchy. We have built our whole city around them. That’s just like saying “If New York City’s subway system was gone, there would be anarchy within a few hours.” Well duh!

    I read your whole post, and I don’t think there is one “fact” in there. Yes, I am in favor of the 290 expansion, that’s not why I brought it up. I brought it up to show that infrastructure is expensive, and it doesn’t matter if its freeways, or rail, or airports. All of these modes of transportation are heavily subsidized.

    If METRO was shut down (all of the buses and light rail) all of the sudden, there would be anarchy too.

  • @ Mel.. your “dramatic effect” just makes you look foolish/ignorant/racist. I would say people “popping off” is a common way true prejudice (of many forms) is shown. You aren’t dave chappelle.

    I drive downtown everyday, and my wife hops on the rail to go to the medical center. The light rail allows us to drive one vehicle a total of 3 miles each way. If there wasn’t a rail, she would have to drive 7 miles each way. That is a net total of 30 miles driven a week instead of 100. The rail is full every morning and afternoon when she rides it, with several other medical professionals and business types (as well as some bums). I’m very much looking forward to more rail lines.

  • Light rail is happening AND freeway expansion is happening whether we all agree with it or not. I take strong exception with the “crackhead” remark–ignorant and hateful. When I ride the bus or train (which I have done off and on over the years in several cities including Houston), what I see are hardworking people going to and from work.

    That said, I wish more thought would be given to BRT (bus rapid transit). This is a kind of bus system pioneered in Brazil. It involves making bus stops a little more like train stations (and designed for rapid entry/exit from the bus) that have off-bus fare collection (like trains). Also like trains, portions of the routes will be grade separated–lanes for buses only. In short, the idea is to provide train-like service for a lower capital cost (which would allow for a bigger system).

    And just because we have a existing light rail plan doesn’t mean we can’t also institute BRT.

    But in general, I’d like to see improvements in bus travel, even if it doesn’t go all the way to the level of BRT. For example, so many bus stops in Houston have no benches or covering. Let me tell you how fun it is to stand in the rain waiting for the bus. No wonder many people don’t see it as an option. More routes would be nice, too.

  • Caneco, please re-read the string (specifically #s 16, 17, 20, 22, 34, 35 and 37). I accept your apology in advance.

  • I am excited, this new line is near my office! I can’t wait to take the train at lunch. I wish I could take it to and from work.

  • Trains are fun… trains are neat… trains make me toot… tweet tweet tweet..


  • Robert Boyd, much agreed. wasn’t that the original backlash to this whole thing? that metro thrusting themselves into bankruptcy to get these lines built would drastically limit their options in the future and would inevitably result in major cutbacks to areas outside of the loop, exactly where lower-income families are moving to in greater numbers.

    i’m addressing that element in here that the spammers have been trying to get at with their usual drivel, metro is supported by sales taxes. if you’re not specifically servicing low-income families, then why is metro funded through taxpayers money? if you want rail, fine, but it’s not metro’s place as far as i’m concerned. the land will be drastically undervalued and those lucky to work in downtown/uptown secors will get subsidised transportation through everyone else. why should that be funded through tax dollars?

    everything i read and hear about similar lightrail projects does not lean favorably on them. i still think rail is a waste of money and resources unless we’re using them to replace highway lanes, not neighborhood streets.

  • I have to agree with Magic on this one. His/her knowledge of tooting in trains is uncanny.

  • In the almost 10 years since the last stick of rail was laid in Houston, how many miles have been constructed in D/FW? 40-50 miles?

  • I am old enough to remember when Metro was established and the promise was a billion dollars or so and we’d have commuter rail to unclog our freeways and reduce pollution. That was shelved. Then it was monorail. That was shelved. Now we have the streetcars.

    I am not against rail per se, I think we need multiple forms of transportation. I just think we could be getting more bang for the buck. For instance, the vast majority of riders on the existing Red Line are simply going from a remote parking garage to the Med Center a few blocks away. This is what Metro figures in the rider counts. It would have been far more cost effective to have shuttle buses. I also think it’s really stupid to have these trains traveling down existing streets. Most of all, they need dedicated corridors. Metro Rail is SLOW.

  • “complaints from people out in the ‘burbs start in 3..2..1…”

    Here’s a complaint. The NW suburbs have been paying the Metro sales tax for 30 odd years. We were sold on Metro due to the promise of commuter rail. Billions of sales tax dollars later we have one lone bus running along FM 1960. Since the 1 million+ people in the NW ‘burbs effectively get no service from Metro, I think they have a valid complaint.

    How many millions of dollars has Metro wasted over the past 30 years on “studies” (awarded to connected buddies) and expensive advertising? I bet if they had used that money on rail instead of graft for their connected buddies we could have had actual commuter rail running from the NW burbs. The tracks and right-of-way are already there (along 249 and 290) but all we got for the money were streetcars that travel at a snail’s pace for just one tiny section of town.

  • Show me one form of transportation in this country that ISN’T subsidized by tax dollars. Why is it that whenever the conversation is about rail, the tea party folks come out of the woodwork but they are nowhere to be found when it’s I-10, 290, Kirby, Grand Parkway, etc…being bandied about?

  • @Robert Boyd, regarding the lack of shelter and seating at the Metro bus stops… I can’t speak for all of them, of course, but a number of the stops in my area (Montrose/Upper Kirby) used to have both shelter and seating. The shelters were repeatedly vandalized, and the seating was used as sleeping platforms for the homeless.

    I have seen a certain stop evolve from bench plus large roof, to bench plus small roof, to bench with rails to prevent sleeping, to four small single-seat benches, to no bench at all. It doesn’t help; the drug dealers, prostitutes, and homeless are still hanging around that same stop. Eventually I think Metro gave up and rebuilt the stop in the bench-with-rails configuration.

    That’s not to say that I don’t ride the bus. I do; usually the 82 (sorry, Metro, it will always be the 82 to me) or 25 or 78. I’d ride the 78 more often if it were more reliable and came by more often than every 40 minutes. If you get to the stop and don’t see the bus, you don’t know whether you’re going to wait 5 minutes or 45. And *that’s* my biggest complaint about Metro.

  • How many tea people live inside the loop? Perhaps they’ll “get on board” once the line reaches the weekly Conroe gun show.

  • I am not a tea partisan, but the last time we had a rail line, it cost us $30 per millimeter to install. Prepare to pay $60 per millimeter this time around.

    I grew up riding the public buses in L.A., and I have no problem riding them now. BRT sounds awesome.

  • etherist,
    Sorry, but arguments like that are useless. Transportation is expensive, for example, to expand I-10, it cost around $2.8 billion, to expand around 20-ish miles of freeway. That’s about $140 million per mile, $26,515 per foot, and $2,209 per inch. Light rail is cheap compared to urban freeway construction.

    Well some of us who actually ride METRO would prefer more reliable and better service. I am assuming you are in favor of more people riding public transportation? We are not going to increase our transit ridership substantially with just buses.

    BRT does sound awesome, and it would work well in many corridors (Westheimer comes to mind), but rail has proven to work better as the core of a transit system.

  • Lou Minatti,
    I am in favor of commuter rail as well, and I agree that it’s too bad that METRO has not gotten the ball rolling on this. But I would like to have BOTH inner-city light rail as well as commuter rail, but if forced to choose, I think light rail would make a greater improvement in the city’s public transportation as a whole.

  • GoogleMaster–Good point about shelters being used as–well–shelter by street people. Clearly that is going to be an issue in certain parts of town–parts of town that already have a lot of street people. But a lot of parts of town served by Metro are not where such people congregate. I sometimes ride the 70 down Memorial, and I think there are vast stretches that would benefit from a bench and/or small shelter. (It seems that a couple of homeowners have put their own benches up at Memorial stops, which is damn decent of ’em.) In fact, it seems to me that the further from the center of town you go, the less likely you are to find a bench or shelter.

    I guess I sound like the prototypical suburbanite complaining about Metro. But I think some small improvements to service would go a long way to making Metro more appealing to suburbanites. Right now, almost no one rides the bus unless they absolutely have to. It doesn’t feel like a viable choice for a large constituency. But that’s what it should be.

  • Mel, i’ve lived in houston my whole life and supported metro through sales taxes for an equal amount of time. however, not once have i ever had a valid reason to use a metro bus. perhaps i’m in the minority in that regard, but i strongly doubt it.

    i work in the energy belt which metro will never service with mass transit from the inner loop (and due to cost/income patterns it’d admittedly be a waste of taxpayers money like light rail is).

    the issue is how do you convince people like me, who will have to deal with increased pollution/congestion on neighboring streets on a daily basis due to displaced car traffic from the rails, that rail is a valid use of my money and will help create economic growth to justify it’s expense? if rail had the potential to eliminate the need for cars within houston i’d be all for it, but that isn’t the case and it’s generally taking people from parking lot to parking lot. this will have little/to no impact on the amount of cars on our roads and will only increase congestion. if we had the density/need to support the reduction of vehicular traffic in the inner-city then certainly light-rail would be a step in that direction, but we are a long long ways from that point and my kid is getting dumber and dumber thanks to our state’s failing education curriculum.

    perhaps rail supporters just have different priorities, but to those of us stressing out about raising our families in economically troubled times it’s a cruel joke. it will have no impact on my available transit options but will still negatively impact my transit in the area.

  • If it wasn’t for politicians like Tom DeLay and John Culberson, Metro would have more miles of track down right now. The NIMBYs didn’t help either. Can’t really put all the blame on Metro for how little rail has progressed in the past ten years, though they didn’t help themselves. It’s too bad Houston voters shot down a heavy rail proposal in the 80s, that would have been similar to the system in Atlanta. It’d be widely used by now and connect the airports with the Inner Loop and Westside.

  • [referring to my comment that the current light rail cost $30/millimeter]

    “Sorry, but arguments like that are useless. Transportation is expensive, for example, to expand I-10, it cost around $2.8 billion, to expand around 20-ish miles of freeway. That’s about $140 million per mile, $26,515 per foot, and $2,209 per inch. Light rail is cheap compared to urban freeway construction.”

    You are quoting a price of about $90/millimeter for freeway expansion. I bet that for that price, we got a lot more capacity to move people than for the equivalent money spent on rail.

    And why are buses not a workable option other than “people don’t want to ride them?” What about express buses or dedicated busways?

  • joel,
    Not sure if you are in the minority, but it’s understandable. Our transit system isn’t extensive or reliable enough, and part of the reason for that is because we haven’t built a core rail system. Part of your METRO tax goes to building roads, which is one of the main reasons why it’s so hard for METRO to afford building a decent transit system (rail). But being in your location, you can’t expect to be able to use public transit for your commute. Usually public transit is best served in the inner city, where it is needed and more practical.

    How come do you think light rail is a waste of taxpayers money? I pay gasoline tax even though my daily commute doesn’t involve driving on a freeway. But I still pay for freeways. So, by that logic, are freeways a waste of taxpayers money? Just because YOU don’t use something, doesn’t make it a waste of taxpayers money. Tens of thousands of people ride METRORail daily, I’m sure they don’t think its a waste of taxpayers money. And while those people are riding METRORail every day, they are paying for $3+ billion freeway expansions. Point is, your tax money sometimes goes to something you might not need, but others need. I guarantee you that much more of your tax money goes to building freeways than pubic transit.

    What displaced car traffic? From what I understand, no lanes will be taken away along the rail corridors, have you heard otherwise?

    How do you convince someone like me, who lives in the inner city, that paying billions and billions of dollars for freeway widening in the suburbs? It’s the exact same argument. As of now, highway 290 works. It sucks, but it works. Just like current bus service. It works, but it sucks, why shouldn’t we improve it?

  • etherist,
    You sure about that? If we spent that much money on a rail system, it would probably be enough to pay for a heavy rail system. You get what you pay for. If you put in about three times as much money (proportionally) in to one mode of transportation as you do the other of course it will be more useful. But you have to consider that that $2.8 billion was the cost to REBUILD the freeway, this is ignoring the original construction cost, etc. So we have spent FAR MORE than $90 per millimeter (which I still think is a useless way to look at things, but whatever). I’m not against freeway expansion, though, I have no problem with spending $90 per millimeter on a freeway. I just think that it would improve the city (and my commute) if we spent some serious money on public transit. The Katy Freeway and 290 expansions cost $2.8 billion, and $3+ billion, respectively. That is just a small portion of our city’s freeways. I would be satisfied with just a few billion dollars spent on public transit here. That would vastly improve our public transit.

    They are a workable option, and they always will be an option. They just don’t carry enough people though. And they are less efficient at moving people (cost wise). Having dedicated busways would be good, but to have them as your core inner-city transit system wouldn’t work, they just don’t have the capacity that rail has.

  • displaced traffic occurs from a variety of factors not directly related to lanes available on the thoroughfare. increased stoplight times for crossing roads, increased number of stoplights, turning restrictions and etc. that all impact vehicular traffic negatively. one of the positives of the rail is that it moves quicker, but that does come at an expense to surrounding traffic.

    as for freeways, it’s not the same at all. highways are not built just for commuter transit and an efficient highway system is absolutely essential for any american economy. i would never drive on 290, but it’d be ridiculous to say that the flow of traffic on 290 has absolutely no impact on houston’s employment numbers and income (that’s something that directly affects all of our incomes whether you want to believe or it not). those trucks going up and down the highways at all hours of the day/night provide income and jobs to the city. there’s a lot of manufacturing and commecial businesses off of 290 that cannot grow if they can’t get in and out of their businesses effectively. the rail is a completely different concept, it’s commuter and not commercial transport.

    again, the reason against it is very simple. we’re borrowing from our future to build it and our future looks very bleak at this moment in time. my kid already has to pay for my parent’s retirement income despite the fact they don’t need it and every outlook points to him earning less than the previous generation and i’d rather he didn’t have to pay for a train that could be better planned and more cost effective at an appropriate point in time.

  • Mel,
    My comment was addressed to you (responding to your question), but meant for commonsense.

  • joel,
    While I agree that traffic patterns may be slightly affected, I think you might be exaggerating the effect of a light rail line. Can you give me an example of this happening in another city?

    And I agree with you on highways. But I don’t think a city needs as many highways as Houston does. If we had a better transit system, all of these 14 lane highways wouldn’t be needed. Basically my argument is that if we build a good transit system that moves the majority of commuters, then we won’t need as many highway lanes, and we won’t need to be spending as much money on highways.

    Many people will argue that METRO doesn’t have enough money to pay for the light rail lines, but to be honest, TxDOT doesn’t have enough money to pay for all of these highways either. The government is giving TxDOT massive amounts of money to build all of these highways. Texas is billions of dollars in debt based on highway construction alone.

    If you do some research, you’ll find that METRO is in better financial position to pay for construction than TxDOT is. It’s just that TxDOT receives government subsidies no questions asked (and the government is giving TxDOT money that it doesn’t have). I would be more worried about raising the gas tax, since that only covers 50% of highway construction. The rest is payed for by general income taxes. Your children will be paying much more for current freeway construction, than light rail construction.

    I think that light rail would improve the city, and I think it’s past time that we had some type of core rail system. The city will be better off with better public transit IMO, and I think people will realize it once the lines are actually built.

  • I am a student at the University of Houston. On a day to day basis my fellow students and I have to scout for parking. This is an unnecessary waste of time and valuable dollars (except for my suburban colleages whose parents have enough money to support ignorance and education: oxymoron. So is living in a city with 6 million people and not having adequate transportation options). Having a rail system that covered the entire city would be ideal, but reading some of the comments on the posting I can see why Houston, and a few Houstonians, is and are lacking a few assets that a major metropolis should have (Brains…just kidding[?]).
    1. A rail system that serves the entire area
    2. People who think in a progressive future oriented mind frame.
    The first is a refernce to other major cities like New York and Chicago, who have developed beautiful transit systems…and they have crack heads; Frankfurt au Main in Germany also has created an expansive rail system, and we know the composition of their complexions…but I won’t dignify bigotry and prejudice (reference to number two).
    So, maybe we can skip the SUB-urban areas and make the Houston basin a beacon to be reckoned with, after all are we not Texans? The most rebellious, fight to the finish group ever to embrace this planet.
    p.s. I cannot wait for the racism to hopefully die down in Houston, it is a real hindrance.
    -Unnecessary destrucitve attitudes…that do not need to inhibit future generations.