Post Oak Strip Centers Versus the Uptown Light Rail Plan: The Gathering Storm

At a meeting last week at Kenny & Ziggy’s Deli organized by Jim “Mattress Mack” MacIngvale, owners of businesses located along Post Oak Blvd.’s vast double phalanx of front-loading strip centers — and representatives of a few of their landlords — groused about Metro’s design for the new Uptown Line and prepared for possible battle. The Examiner Newspapers’ Michael Reed first brought attention to a few quirks of the latest design for the Post Oak stretch of the light-rail line late last year: It features 7 stations, 5 gated crossings, and in all close to 2 dozen traffic signals along the 1.7-mile path from Richmond Ave. to the 610 West Loop. It also blocks all instances of that staple of sprawl-style shopping-center development: the non-intersection left turn.

Had Metro been communicating its plans to the property owners? Had the property owners been relaying any information they received from the transit agency to their tenants?

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In response to [Reed's] December article, a Metro spokeswoman said, “Metro worked closely with the Uptown Management District and area property owners and in further discussion with the city of Houston to determine the best possible placement of driveway locations to maintain access along the length of Post Oak …”

However, the Examiner found few merchants along Post Oak who said they had been approached about the rail plan by anyone, including their landlords.

“Nobody said anything to me,” said McIngvale, at the time. “It sounds like another mess.”

His Gallery Furniture location at 2411 Post Oak, had just opened in March.

Photo: Isiah Carey

70 Comment

  • Hopefully, these interested parties are approaching this situation using a pure cost/benefit analysis. This would include the cost of losing a nominal amount of land, unmitigated automobile access and accruing significant legal fees versus the benefit of a mass transportation that has the potential to reduce traffice, encourage urban development and bring consumers to their doorsteps.

  • Who are you and what have you done with Landed Gent? Clearly mass transit should be barred from the Galleria area in an attempt to deter the riff-raff no?

  • I don’t see how this rail line will beneficial to the Uptown/Galleria area. Only 5% of Metro’s budget is paid by ridership fares; 95% is subsidized by sales taxes and federal government grants.

    “Bring in more customers”? Exactly how many patrons to Mo’s Steakhouse, RDG, Nieman Marcus, and Tiffany’s will be riding the light rail to get there?

    How does increasing the number of traffic lights from 9 to 24 decrease congestion?

    If you need to save money by riding mass transit, should you be shopping at Uptown Park or the Galleria?

  • The masses already frequent the Galleria area as they are ever-so-willing to put a new Gucci purse or Hermes scarf on their already over-burdened credit cards. Besides an occasional business dinner at Capitol Grill or visit to the Men’s Club I generally avoid the area. Additionally, I have only worn bespoke suits for some time, which allows me to avoid the trash sold at Neiman’s or Sak’s.

  • It also blocks all instances of that staple of sprawl-style shopping-center development: the non-intersection left turn.

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    Unbelievable. And no doubt the “new” board to be appointed by Annise Parker will only make things worse since most will be “campaign contributors and supporters” rather than individuals with any common sense. Although common sense is something that has never prevailed at Metro.

    Metro seems to be intent on putting people out of business as quite a few who thought the Main Street line would help their business found out. Even those who use the Main Street line still have to walk blocks in some cases to reach a business that in many cases is simply no longer in business. And driving is no better since, well, you can’t turn left except at certain intersection with lights. Unless of course you want to be sneaky and ruin the landscaping in the median.

    Hopefully there’s some common sense in Washington and Washington will finally say NO to rail which the majority of Houstonians at this point wish they had.

  • are there any traffic studies showing what percentage of the uptown area’s traffic will now be directly linked to the area thanks to these rails (along with survey’s of who could/would actually use the rail in place of a car). if you’re not linking more people to the area through mass transit i don’t see how you can expect to reduce car congestion which is the whole point of building the rail.

    houston is a car town, and we have to remember that with the push for more mass transit that how long it takes you to get on the freeway in your car has a direct impact on your quality of living in this city (stress, time, etc.)

  • I agree with you Landed Gent in that way too many people buy stuff that they don’t need to their detriment. Should we use our sales taxes and federal transportation grants to make such consumption easier?

    Metro likes to brag about how many daily riders they have; we pay 90% of the cost of each rider through sales taxes and federal grants. I’m ok with the current size of Metro’s domain, but do we really want it to increase greatly in size, when it’s more likely than not that federal subsidies will be reduced in the future? We don’t need to be adding a lot public infrastructure projects that don’t come close to paying for themselves.

    I really don’t want Metro to cut down all the trees along Post Oak; do we really need to make this city uglier?

    Do we really need to be taking on new infrastructure projects when we can’t maintain everything we currently have?

  • Joel, there are probably some workers in the Galleria area that would benefit from the light rail line. My concern is – at what cost? If the result from all this is that we’re subsidizing employee commuting costs to the tune of 90%+, doesn’t it make more sense to have the employers move their offices out to suburbs, like they’ve already done along the energy corridor?

    I think that Metro’s planning staff fell in love with light rail a long time ago, regardless of whether it makes economic sense or not.

  • As someone who works in the area under discussion, I am most certainly not looking forward to the proposed Post Oak rail line.

    First, construction is going to be a complete and total mess.

    Second, the rail line is going to significantly screw up traffic patterns in the surrounding area.

    Third, there are simply way too many proposed traffic lights. The City of Houston can’t even get the existing traffic lights on Post Oak to sync up properly; how are they ever going to do when there are even more lights to deal with?

    Fourth, I question who is really going to use a rail line down Post Oak. Workers? Perhaps…but aside from the 5:00-5:45 afternoon office exodus, Post Oak isn’t really all that crowded with cars now, so I don’t see any potential reduction in congestion. Shoppers? Hardly…

    I can only hope that I’ll be able to bail on my current job before this disaster hits.

  • Bottom line, there is no way to justify at grade rail in Houston. It’s just a bunch of Utopians hell bent on instituting a moronically expensive method of mass transit they believe can help Houston to be whirled class. In their eyes, clean diesel-electric hybrid buses are just not sexy enough for the Utopians.

  • Sorry Cosmo, but your view for Houston is a joke and has already been attempted. The result was suburban sprawl and the likes of Greenspoint. Move businesses to the burbs? Why, so when I stop working for one employer, I have to pickup my family and move to the other side of town for the next job? How about we just keep moving businesses further out and building out into the country? Maybe we’ll one day bump into San Antonio, and I-10 will be littered with dilapidated properties that used to be prime suburban housing? NO, Park n Ride to Downtown is a much better alternative for people in the burbs.

    Also, pretty much any large infrastructure project around the world is subsidized by taxes and not pure profit from ridership. If you don’t like government money being used for transportation, then maybe you should stop riding on toll-free highways as well. They cost a lot, we pay for them in taxes, and we don’t charge anyone to use them.

  • let’s be honest, does anyone REALLY believe the METRO light rail will EVER make economic sense? even in cities where the people actually USE a mass transit rail transit system en-mass, it constantly bleeds money. the real question is: will developing our light rail system more-as METRO clearly plans to do-contribute to the overall quality of life in the bayou city?

  • How long has it been public knowledge that Metro planned to bring rail down Post Oak? If Mattress Mack had knowldege of the rail coming before he opened his store in March then it is too late to complain now. Did he not see all those put out of business when rail was placed down Main?

    I am heartened by Landed Gent’s magnanimous support of light rail to bring the great unwashed to the Galleria. Who would have surmised he had empathy for the common man?

  • Houston is full of self serving idiots. What happened to being a visionary City that did things like build the ship channel, the Astrodome, and the Texas Medical Center? If any of those projects tried to get off the ground today, they’d never make it because today’s average Houstonian can’t see further than the 2 feet of hot air they exhale.

    Sure, building a transit system is going to cause temporary headaches, increased traffic, and maybe even a few failed businesses in strip malls. But, at the end of the day, Houston will BE BETTER for having a transit system.

    And, as for the Cosmo resident, how many trees were torn down for your building? How is it that your building, with it’s massive parking garage, beautifies the area? Weren’t people inconvenienced along Post Oak during the construction of your tower?

    Going further, there are plenty of people that ride the rail that can afford to drive. I am one of them. I own a house that costs probably $$$$$ times as much as your generic Randall Davis crap-o-la of a condo and I actually own several cars. But, you know what? I choose to ride the rail daily for work. So, stop being such a snob and shut the hell up!

    Rant over.

  • ah, now a FREE parking area…that is a SWEET thing here.

  • How naive can some of you be? Metreaux has been deleting routes left and right that had been serving the segments of Houston society that actually depend on mass transit, while boosting an idiotic at grade rail system that will never serve the average Houstonian’s transportation needs. At grade rail will never accomplish the supposed goal of decreasing traffic congestion and increasing available mass transit. It hasn’t done it on S. Main. If people want to live in far out suburban neighborhoods, so be it. It’s not the job of government to shape the lifestyle of Americans. Of course, some of you Utopians think that government is the end all be all. At grade rail will never function in Houston effectively serving all the various areas of the communities that make up our great city. Eco-friendly buses can easily accomplish that goal in ever changing and evolving ways that static rail systems will never be able to. The cost differential between the two methods of transportation allow for dramatically differing types of buses catering to all segments of society that either choose to utilize mass transit, or are forced to depend on it for various socio-economic reasons.

    Dumping billions of dollars on the wrong mass transit scheme because a minute, but vocal percentage of the population “wants” to be able to travel to and from work on a whirled class rail car instead of a generic-for-the-masses bus, or even a boutique specialty bus, is the type of fiscal foolishness that put places like Greece and California in the fiscal pickle they are in now.

    Oh, and citing crime riddled areas like Gunspoint and the “example” of how suburban areas are around Houston is BS. What about all of the successes like Katy, Ft. Bend county and The Woodlands?

  • Metreaux has been deleting routes left and right that had been serving the segments of Houston society that actually depend on mass transit, while boosting an idiotic at grade rail system that will never serve the average Houstonian’s transportation needs.
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    But there are some like “doofus” who find the rail quite nice despite not having to use it and that of course, I guess, makes them feel good about it all. They can ride the rail like the common folk. What they need to do is take a “different route” and use the bus. And see how wonderful they think Metro is after they do so. Metro is serving less and less of the population that needs mass transit and will continue to serve less and less as it forges right ahead into its version of the 21st Century and builds these choo-choo trains to nowhere. They’re fine if you live close to them. Totally useless if you don’t.

    But then the people who really need rapid transit are poor. And we know poor people don’t matter.

  • “How naive can some of you be? …If people want to live in far out suburban neighborhoods, so be it. It’s not the job of government to shape the lifestyle of Americans. Of course, some of you Utopians think that government is the end all be all.”

    ——

    CK, I know this wasn’t the focus of your comment. But if you think sprawl is some sort of “natural condition” and denser, transit-oriented development is only possible with government “interference,” you’re ignoring some huge factors. The government is a big force behind sprawl: Without the mortgage interest tax credit, without the interstate highway system, without a whole range of pro-sprawl government policies (that I’m sure others will be able to fill in), we’d have a very different landscape.

    For the last 60 years, under every political administration local and national, the government *has* seen “shaping the lifestyle of Americans” as its job. The programs that accomplish this have proven extremely popular. And in large part, sprawl is the result. Complaining about “interference” when a government body occasionally tries to tip the scales in a different direction, as if it were an isolated event, is a bit rich.

  • My guess is that the majority of people riding the METRO train on Post Oak will be employees in all of the offices and retail stores along that strip. It is these employees, not shoppers, who create the massive traffic jam that is the Richmond to 610 gridlock-a-palooza every day. Those businesses have been trying for years to find ways to reduce traffic flow along Post Oak – they’ll find a way to make rail work for their employees.

    Clear out the commuters, and shoppers will have more room to drive. Don’t forget, too, the hordes of tourists staying in the massive hotels in & around the Galleria.

    Meanwhile, the employees in Transco (pardon me, Williams Tower) will suddenly be able to patronize many more businesses along Post Oak during their lunch & coffee breaks – they won’t have to get in their cars, but can train it down for crab cakes & cupcakes at Uptown Park, for example, while leaving the parking spaces for those of us who aren’t coming from a location on the rail line.

  • MetroRail will never work for the simple reason that for the VAST majority of people who need to get around this city, it will never be:

    1. the fastest way to get somewhere;
    2. the cheapest way to get somewhere; or
    3. the only way to get somewhere.

    99% of Metro riders use Metro because they simply have no other options. A handful of others use Metro because it provides HOV access during rush hour or parking fee avoidance downtown or in the Med Center.

    For the rest of us (meaning almost everyone), driving a car will always be the fastest, most convenient, and most enjoyable way to get from one place to another within our great city. The LAST thing Metro needs to be doing is removing street lanes and blocking intersections to lay tracks for the tiny minority who might soemhow benefit from rail.

    For every person that benefits from MetroRail, there will be 1,000 who are harmed. Not a good trade off.

    Mass transit sucks. I’ll take the freedom of my own car any day of the week. That’s one thing that makes Houston so great. Let’s no fuck it up by ripping up all our streets to make way for trains.

  • Elevate the rail. Its moronic to even attempt to coincide cars and rail on the same road anywhere, let alone the galleria.

  • Andrea gets it.

    Light rail isn’t the end all be all. It’s a PART of the solution. And yes, the people who work in the kitchens or in retail or cleaning up the office towers and hotels will largely be the ones riding the system and I can damn well guarantee you that they’ll prefer the rail over the current bus system.

    As for Matt, you can SUCK IT. Where is METRO expanding the current light rail system by in large? To the Near North, 3rd Ward, East side, and even out to Gulfton. These aren’t well-to-do areas and the poor that live there are going to LOVE having a reliable and on-time alternative to the bus system. Trains run on a set schedule. They don’t get caught in local traffic and have drivers that frequently run red lights, refuse to stop at certain stops, or even idle while they go get lunch somewhere while you’re stuck sitting on the bus (all things that have happened to me).

    You see, I don’t just ride the rail, but I also used to frequent the bus. I LOVE that I don’t have to now. The light rail is 1000000000 times better than the bus and it will be even better when new lines are opened.

  • Mass transit sucks. I’ll take the freedom of my own car any day of the week. That’s one thing that makes Houston so great.

    Ah, Houstonians. Sometimes you make living here very painful.

  • Where is METRO expanding the current light rail system by in large? To the Near North, 3rd Ward, East side, and even out to Gulfton.
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    The lines you mention will serve existing and planned development. Chi-chi development. That needs a choo-choo train. The problem with the concept is it didn’t work too well with the Main Street line. The chi-chi choo-choo really isn’t so chi-chi.

    If you think rail is the answer to not only mass transit but reducing gridlock and thereby somehow addressing the problem of pollution, I would suggest you are simply delusional. It serves developers and development. Nothing more.

  • Anyone with marginal intelligence can ascertain that any more of these absurd at grade level trains DO NOTHING to relieve congestion. So let’s figure this out using a for instance. I have a big ass house in Swamplot’s favorite neighborhood of Southampton and I decide that I want to ride the train to Mo’s to pick up some Tanglewood divorcee with new teeth, boobs and Gucci purse. First of all,that isn’t the train she thought she’d be riding on later. Second, I’ll drive my BMW 7 Series to a parking lot along Richmond to catch the first leg of the train wait for it to show up. Then change trains later. then wait for the return train, then change trains, then get in my car with Tanya Ta-Ta then pull in my driveway. Hell,even my Cialis won’t last that long and NOBODY will be happy.

    Seriously, elevate tha damned thing, save the trees and reduce the stops–after all all you mass transit/bicycle enthusiasts can stand a little 95 degree weather with full humidity.

    Run the freakin’ trains to the suburbs and the airports and at least pretend that you are doing it to curb air pollution.

  • Run the freakin’ trains to the suburbs and the airports and at least pretend that you are doing it to curb air pollution.
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    Common sense would dictate that rail be used to alleviate congestion on our freeways by offering an option to outlying areas aka the suburbs. Apparently the only politician who had any common sense was Tom De Lay. Drives everyone quite mad when I point that out. Truth hurts.

    That’s my favorite way to liven up a Democratic dinner table. My favorite to liven up a Republican dinner table is to ask why god gave all the oil to the Muslims. Although that livens up some Democratic dinner tables as well.

  • I know plenty of well-to-do middle class and upper middle class folks who use the current rail and bus system to get around town, especially when out at night. Granted most all of them live in the urban grid of Houston and most all of them are transplants from NE, West Coast, or overseas.

    The idea, car is the only form of transportation for Houston is antiquated. Rail is part of the solution, but not the final answer. I am tired of having my taxes diverted to pay for suburban roads and infrastructure so people can move out even further. For once, this city is doing something that will be good for Houston in the long run, so go rail! Uptown line is sorely needed in this city. A fixed transport comprehensive NETWORK is successful everywhere in the world including the US.

    Mattress Mac bought the location and moved his Highland Village store over to Post Oak knowing the rail route through Post oak. Heck, he even want to extend the North line Light rail from Northline mall to Gallery furniture on 45. Of course, he knew the exact route. He is not stupid.

    As for other strip malls on Post Oak, either you change with time or you will be made obsolete.

  • Clearly Cosmo Resident is confused. She will be using that new light rail line to get the Galleria Mall for shopping on weekends and the madness of the Holidays MORE THAN THE REST OF US COMBINED. She are her ugly tower are the very reason the rail line is being put on Post Oak (high-density, multiple locations/stops). Well, her, and all the folks from 59 and I-10 who will now be able park-n-ride it at the ends of the line and commute in (avoiding parking problems inside Uptown area itself).

    No one thinks light-rail will solve traffic problems, but without a doubt it will reduce/offset it (as Doofus and Andrea have noted already).

    I live 3 blocks away from Post Oak, and will have to endure all the construction chaos, but it will be worth it when it’s over (as all construction projects are). I just wish I was closer, so I could walk to the rail line easier. The rest of you who live in the burbs, feel free to stay there; we don’t need all your cars crowding our Uptown neigbhorhood anyway (I don’t drive in your area of town/burbs, so stay out of mine.) … that’s a joke obviously; point is inner-city will always be were the action is of any metro area; suburbs are a drain on society in general (guess what, Sharpstown was the burbs long ago, sprawl continued, now it’s the ghetto; 30 years from now it will be a revitalized urbanized pocket (because living out past Grandparkway will be deemed insane eventually by many) and Sugarland mall will be the replacement ghetto; that’s the beauty of sprawl: what’s new now is crap soon enough).

    While it’s pretty easy to consider Matt Mystery a goof-ball ignoramous (come on, just read his posts), he’s right about one thing: the rail should make it’s way to the airports; at least then it would shut-up everyone who uses that as an excuse to not like rail … well, until they invent other somewhat true but mostly lame excuses.

    Oh, and Mattress Mack is a unbelievably dumb business man (as are all of the retailers who are like him) if he/they haven’t yet engaged directly with Metro on this line (who WAITS to be invited to a discussion that directly affects your business? This thing has been in the works for YEARS). I’m just a resident, and I have met with Metro many times to learn what they are planning and I feel (no one can prove me wrong) that I had a HUGE influence on metro deciding to put a stop at Uptown Park (believe it our not, their original plans for the line did not include that station.) These retailers are too little too late if they think getting involved NOW is smart when shovels are going to dick in less than a few months; they should’ve been having those discussions like I did years ago with METRO. It’s not hard: you have an idea on how to make the line better/easier/less of hassle, and they try their best to accomodate (METRO wants folks on their side, despite popular belief they do listen to intelligent arguments. … but not when it’s too late and millions of dollars have already been spent.)

  • What is stupid is the staggering costs of re-routing utilities, repaving streets, replacing landscape along with the millions of dollars that existing businesses will lose
    during construction to turn around and subsidize in perpetuity a basic boondoggle. Ironically, I am not against mass transit–Dallas, for instance, uses existing right of ways and has elevated and separated much of its lines in order to not create the asinine mess that Metro craves to create here. If there is a such a great demand to cruise Post Oak Blvd from end to end, then why aren’t the buses filled to capacity and why hasn’t Metro created a small trolley to ferret all those Galleria office workers and Randall Davis denizens to Best Buy on one end and The Tasting Room on the other? Seems like a bunch of passenger vans could circulate in the entire Uptown Management District more efficiently and serve a greater portion of the office complexes than a train on the street creating havoc with the east/westbound vehicle traffic.

  • While it’s pretty easy to consider Matt Mystery a goof-ball ignoramous (come on, just read his posts)…
    _________________________

    You just don’t appreciate tongue-in-cheek. Maybe because your head is up your….

  • Look at how many downtown Metro trains are colliding with cars… any attempt at grade level rail along Post Oak is a nightmare waiting to happen. I’m all for mass transit, but it needs to be elevated in an area like this. Maybe they can turn those shiny hovering circular intersection street signs on end and run the train through them like giant hula hoops. That would be awesome.

  • “No one thinks light-rail will solve traffic problems, but without a doubt it will reduce/offset it”

    The reality is that rail won’t even offset future traffic. At-grade rail NEVER reduces traffic. I have posted extensively about this here before. I even gave references to college transportation textbooks that detail this information.

    No engineer with a background in transportation can make a statement about trains helping traffic without lying.

  • JT: They DID have a trolley that cruised up & down Post Oak from Galleria to Uptown. It was mostly empty. I took it once with my young daughter – we were the only passengers – at lunchtime! Heading north from California Pizza Kitchen we got to Uptown, where the driver promptly took a 20 minute smoking break with us sitting in the trolley (at this point I was nervous about getting off, as he seemed to be the only trolley and who knew how long we might have to wait to get back down Post Oak?) Once we got back to San Felipe/Post Oak we got off, walked back across Post Oak to the car, and completed the rest of our shopping excursion that way. A sad disappointment. Metro seems determined to prove that trolleys & buses don’t work by providing execrable service, then saying we customers are the problem.

    BTW, if they’d just paint the Metro trains bright yellow instead of concrete gray that blends in with the pavement color, I guarantee there would be FAR fewer accidents. “Battleship” gray ensures invisibility – that’s why they paint the battleships that color, Metro!

  • 2 dozen traffic signals along the 1.7-mile path from
    ========
    That’s silly. Why deny what’s going to happen to this stretch. Just close the street off if you’re going to do this.

    Or better yet. Don’t build the invasive train line.

  • Claiming that light rail reduces congestion is lying only in the same way that claiming freeway expansion reduces congestion is lying. Anybody with an internet connection can find numerous examples of academic studies that prove both assertions to be true and both assertions to be false. And yet we still seem to be able to find money for freeway expansion and feeder expansion far more easily than we do for any other transit solution. At the end of the day a City cannot keep growing at the rate Houston is and sustain a transit policy based almost purely on the automobile. It is is just not sustainable in the long term.

  • Jimbo,

    You can’t talk sustainability and mass transit together since they are polar opposites. Rail mass transit is the most unsustainable way to move people. Bus mass transit moves you closer to being more sustainable.

    Houston has currently one of the most effective commuter systems in the country with the park-n-ride busses. The upgrade of the Katy Freeway HOV system has made that leg of the Park-n-ride system extremely efficient and quick. US 290 will receive the same system (although placed along Hempstead Highway). The North Freeway will likely see changes to the HOV system in the way when TxDOT’s next major project after US 290 gets moving. I-45 from the North Belt to I-10 will be rebuilt with the HOV system moved to the Hardy Toll Road which will have it’s extention into downtown completed where the Elysian Viaduct terminates south of Buffalo Bayou.

  • Well a lot of people seem to want this light rail line. Things that I wish the proponents would consider:

    1) Putting in 20+ intersections will turn Post Oak into an economic dead zone. Why?
    a) No money for commercial buildings; note Blvd Place and many others. Cheap spec money for commercial buildings might return in the future, but more likely national fiscal concerns will soak up excess cash for a long time to come.
    b) Who will drive to the retail in this area when it takes longer than ever to get anywhere? Oh, right, the fall off in retail customers will be more than made up by all the willing shoppers that will take a bus to a transit center and then ride the rail line to the Galleria.

    2) $60 million+ to tear up Post Oak and install the rail line; my bet is that the construction estimate is to the low side.

    3) If there is so much demand for this rail line, why aren’t there more busses currently going between the two transit stations? Metro route 33 currently runs a bus every twenty minutes between the transit stations; other than rush hour, these busses are never close to being half full.

    Sounds like Metro is spending $60 million to ‘fix’ a million dollar problem.

  • As KJB mentioned we have a very effective HOV system/Park&Ride system. Among a few purposes, the LRT will serve as the upgraded last leg of the journey. The Uptown Line has two transit centers at both ends, which will feed commuters to Uptown. It will give more workers in Uptown an option of how to get to work. Will it be perfect? Of course not. But it is certainly a step in the right direction.

  • If this money must be wasted on this disaster in the making, just elevate the damn thing.

    As Cosmo Resident has mentioned Dom, a bus runs every 20 minutes between the two transit station with very few riders. How will a train magically make more people use mass transit.

  • Cosmo and KJB, you all need to stop being so inaccurate on your views of our current rail. I live in Midtown, use the rail, and find that having at grade rail in my neighborhood makes transit even more efficient.
    1. I spend less time waiting for the rail than I do at other stop lights where there is no rail. It comes up, light turns red, it passes, light turns green. How is that confusing? Traffic flows easily where it crosses. Not sure why spending a ton more money on an elevated system would make sense when the current one works great.
    2. The rail runs every 7 mins… so your bus idea is ridiculous (wait 20 mins for the next bus?)! Plus, I can look down the line and see where the rail is at.
    3. The rail is easy for anyone to use. I see people on it from out of town (and other countries) riding from Downtown to the Museums… and they seem to prefer it because it’s so easy to understand. Forget figuring out a bus schedule or renting a car if you’re a foreigner. People from the burbs can barely figure out how to drive around the city to begin with!
    —The fact is that LRT is simple, quick, and predictable when it comes to getting between places most people care about. Sorry if rail isn’t going to be coming to your front door… but it will be connecting places and people… and will provide for an efficient and safe way to get around the Houston of TOMORROW.

  • Brian,

    You completely missed the point of my post (and I may assume Cosmo’s).

    Just because the system is easy to use doesn’t mean it’s better choice for our city.

    No one in their right mind believes the service should go to there front door. The reason most people don’t use mass transit is not because of whether it’s easy or not. They don’t use it because it’s not convenient. And convenience doesn’t have as much to do with time as many pro mass transit people think. A host of other factors play into the convenience category.

    On top of that, a major objection to the LRT in Uptown is from the businesses as noted in the the blog posting above. Main St locations (particularly in Midtown) became a death sentence for businesses. A flower shop in the museum district that saw it’s business fall off because of the Main St line construction and never return after construction was finished.

    I for one will never go to anything along Post Oak when construction starts and after the line is in operation. I’ll gladly drive somewhere else to avoid the aggravation. Richmond Ave will be the same way. There are lot of restaurants and business along there I like, but I’ll look for alternative else where (and they do exist). That’s what business know. They have competition and the rail will make it that much harder to compete because customers will go elsewhere.

  • I agree with dom that the light rail line would be a better option for a commuter than the busses that currently run between the transit centers, but then we’re not going to increase ridership dramatically. Those who are riding mass transit due to economics are already doing so, all that we’ll pick up is the rider that will ride on train, but not on a bus (which doesn’t make much sense because there’s very limited parking at the transit stations, so one had to ride a bus to get there in the first place).

    If you do the math, Metro is only making $450k max on the 33 route annually in rider’s fares, so spending $60 million plus before operating expenses doesn’t make economic sense whatsoever for the light rail line.

    Therefore, if Metro really wants a rail line and cost is not the issue, why doesn’t Metro triple the cost and build a monorail on the Uptown route?

    1) There wouldn’t be a need to install 14 more traffic lights.
    2) Cars could make a left turn on Post Oak Blvd.
    3) Metro could have the monorail actually put stations in the Galleria, office buildings, and hotels. More riders would use it because you didn’t get soaked walking in the rain.
    4) It would look cool; might even become a minor tourist attraction.

  • Bottom line, building at grade rail is phenomenally more expensive (and economically disastrous to the areas it’s being installed in) than providing bus and shuttle service. Bus routes can be changed to wherever the market demands. Try doing that with a fixed rail line. For a minute fraction of the bucks we are about to spend on more dangertrains, we could have THE coolest shuttles and buses catering to every nook and cranny of the metropolitan area, not just a few ares where construction ruined all of the businesses adjacent to the rail line. It amazes me how short sighted some people are.

  • For a minute fraction of the bucks we are about to spend on more dangertrains, we could have THE coolest shuttles and buses catering to every nook and cranny of the metropolitan area, not just a few ares where construction ruined all of the businesses adjacent to the rail line.
    ___________________________

    But then the City Hall insiders wouldn’t be able to get rich off the construction of the rail lines. Which they do. And of course who pays to tear up Post Oak again? The taxpayers. Metro should. But the taxpayers will.

    If Tom De Lay is laughing at everyone, do you blame him?

  • “And of course who pays to tear up Post oak again? The taxpayers. Metro should. but taxpayers will”.

    uhhh….Metro should….who funds Metro? THE TAXPAYERS. That 1% added to our sales tax
    or if the feds give grant money that comes from the taxpayers as well. This is unmitigated rape plain and simple.

  • Another thing….. just because you think rail transportation is cool in other countries and they tax the $hit out of their citizens to pay for the money pits, doesn’t mean it makes sense to dump money into a bottomless rail pit of our own around here. “Ohhhh, but it’s so whirled class!!!”

    I love this one…..
    “You see, I don’t just ride the rail, but I also used to frequent the bus. I LOVE that I don’t have to now. The light rail is 1000000000 times better than the bus and it will be even better when new lines are opened.”
    Stupid is as stupid does Momma.
    In fact, if you think that’s the cat’s meow, I have this swampland in East TX I wanna show you.
    This is why places like Greece and California are so undeniably screwed by now. Never mind that funding these moronic, wasteful expenditures breaks any sensible budget. WE WANT IT, SO THERE! That means we’ll borrow the money even if we don’t have the means to pay for it, because we’re naive and some pandering group of politicians says we can do it. Never mind that we can’t afford to fund the underfunded pension liabilities of municipal workers in Houston.

  • KJB and Cosmos:

    I’m not seeing any facts showing how few riders use the Post Oak bus, just “a bus runs every 20 minutes between the two transit station with very few riders.”

    I think you are thinking too short term. Downtown, Uptown, Greenway, and TMC are the densest and largest employment centers in the city. They deserve to be connected by LRT to themselves and the Park&Ride system. We aren’t building this rail for 10-15 years of use, but for the long term. Houston and the inner loop are going to keep sprawling and densfying so there needs to be options for transportation pure and simple.

    It is shortsighted to suggest that we shouldn’t build the rail to please some business owners. How long does the average retail and/or restuarant last in Houston anyhow? Why should we base our decision on these businesses when METRO has stated it wouldn’t use the same means of construction that were used on the Red Line?

  • Until whatever solution is in place, build a pedestrian overpass bridge at Westheimer & Post Oak, and issue a fleet of communal pogo sticks for every office & retail establishment along Post Oak for lunchtime use.

  • Why are people so snippy?

    I use the bus or train all the time.

    It’s much easier than driving and finding a place to park.

  • Busses make more sense? That’s true.

    The problem is Houston light rail is not about mobility, it’s about increasing Metro’s budget and circle of power. As others mentioned, riders don’t pay their fair share so the economic arguments against a “light rail line to nowhere” are lost on those growing fat on our taxes.

  • Dom couldn’t have said it any better. I don’t see why it’s so hard to think 20 years out (instead of 2). With the amount of extra people this city will be adding in the future, clogging our streets with even more buses is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
    KJB, Cosmo, CK, and all other rail haters…keep in mind that the vision you have for Houston has already happened elsewhere in this country… it’s called Los Angeles, and it SUCKS to get anywhere in that city.

  • Dom,

    Rail for long term? Maybe you should learn your history.

    Houston had an extensive street car line that connected it and other small towns to to downtown Houston. Heights, Harrisburg, Montrose, 3rd Ward and even Galveston were connected. These lines allow the those suburbs to get into Houston. They lines were completely private ventures that made money because people didn’t have the option to drive a car. The advent of cars and buses made street cars unprofitable (and they never became profitable again). The couldn’t afford to subsidize the lines and the buses and private vehicles took charge.

    You an other pro-rail types fail to explain why the majority of people taxed within the METRO service area should pay for a small minority to ride a train when a bus does the same job.

    Why do you think you have the right to waste my money on a non-existent problem.

    Houston’s natural development pattern will increase density, but still no where to the level that rail transit will work effectively. The myth that transit increased dense development is just that: A BIG MYTH.

    Cities with transit oriented development in the US gave massive subsidies, grants, and tax breaks to big developers to develop dense urban locations near rail stops. Luckily in Houston we have common sense not to throw money away in this fashion. Development happens as needed. The inner loop is still quite suburban like with little density.

    Transit in cities like Portland, Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, Southeast Florida, and San Diego have proven to be ineffective nightmares. They may be cool when you visit, but they are major problem for the cities. People don’t want to ride these systems in the numbers “planners” said they would.

  • There are several posts where the author expresses support for light rail because they use it and find it to be fast and convenient. That would be true if you are in situation where, for example, you live in midtown and work downtown and/or the medical center. The primary objective of mass transit should be to provide transportation to those who cannot afford private transportation. These are the individuals who are dependent on mass transportation for work and everyday activities. They do not have an option like doofus who owns “a house that costs probably $$$$$ times as much as your generic Randall Davis crap-o-la of a condo and I actually own several cars”. Metro has cut bus service in an attempt to show increased ridership of light rail. This negatively affects those who need mass transportation the most, those without a private automobile. I am surprised that a city that elects a “progressive” mayor for two terms allows Metro to divert funds from those most in need to an elitist light rail policy.

  • NorhillJoe nails several valid points that I never got around to mentioning.

    “and all other rail haters” … we don’t “hate” rail, it just is a waste of money that our city DOES NOT HAVE. We can’t afford to fund municipal pensions and are borrowing borrowed money to fund them now, thanks to Brown and White.

    “I think you are thinking too short term. Downtown, Uptown, Greenway, and TMC are the densest and largest employment centers in the city. They deserve to be connected by LRT to themselves and the Park&Ride system.” …. way to go with that entitlement attitude there bud.

    Rail does not do a better job with providing mass transit than buses, yet multiplies the cost to provide such mass transit, yet with vastly lesser flexibility and assures massive disruption of peoples’ lives. What a great concept.

    Displaying common sense is not being a “hater”. Grow up people.

  • KJB,

    Don’t be condescending with your history lessons. It was short sighted for them to tear up the trolley system plain and simple. Furthermore, I NEVER said the rail system would be used infinitely. Of course a quantum leap in transportation technology will happen someday. Based on your flawed argument we shouldn’t build rail because some day in the distant future we may just teleport or whatever everywhere.

    Everyone else,
    The crutch of most of your arguments is that tax payer money will be spent on something that a large majority won’t used. With that logic why should I be for building highways on the otherside of town that I won’t used? Parks on the Eastside I will never visit? We should just get rid of METRO since only a small fraction of the Houston metro uses it, why waste that money of such a small fraction? I could on and on. Fact of the matter is that we are building LRT through our densest employment centers/activity centers (Uptown, Greenway, ST Thomas, Downtown, TMC, UH, TSU, Rice, etc.). It’s not like we are building this in the energy corridor or Westchase. These inner employment centers are where LRT should be started.

    Furthermore, how is continuing using buses ever going to change anything? Are buses going to be able to make this city any better? How does buses help anything really? They are less predictable, slower, and carry a negative stigma.

  • Dom,

    Your response is way more flawed than you claim my argument is.

    A highway doesn’t only move people, it serves as a vital freight link between cities (especially smaller cities than can’t accept freight rail). Highways will always be here. So much so that Europe is paving highways all across it because they are better at moving good and helping people than the freight and passenger rail they relied on for so long. You can now have good shipped from Greece to Spain by freight truck cheaper than putting it on a ship or utilizing the freight rail system. That benefits everyone.

    Highways serve purpose that make them exponentially more valuable to a community than a glorified trolley for urban hipsters. And if METRO lowers fares to nothing, then those hip trains become mobile bum shelters.

    Buses “carry a negative stigma”. This part of the argument that says we need rail? How silly! So some chic urbanites that want mass transit won’t utilize what is there because it doesn’t look good for them. How conceited.

  • KJB, do you really think buses are best? They are a pain to share the road with already, and I honestly can’t imagine what it would be like if you exponentially increased that amount (along with all the other cars that will be coming to our streets soon).
    Here in the city, a lot of the roads are already as wide as we can get them (especially in some of the neighborhoods the LRT will go to). For example, they have to drive in both lanes when going down Westheimer.

  • Kjb,

    Buses do not just carry a stigma with “chic urbanites”, but many Americans. Yes, it’s stupid, but it’s true.

    By the way, do you also post on chron.com? You’d fit in really well there.

  • I wouldn’t waste any of my time on the sorry excuse for a newspaper.

    I think my dog is way too qualified to use it to defecate.

    Generally, posts on this site are of a higher caliber not to mention to good topics to start with.

  • Dom, here’s my problem with the expansion of light rail: it’s purely economic. Read the Metro financial statements at http://www.ridemetro.org/AboutUs/Publications/AnnualReport.aspx, they’ll show you that the fares only pay for 10% of the cost of transporting people ($53.5 million). In the past, Metro has taken in more money in the 1% sales tax than it needed so it gave a substantial amount back to the city of Houston for street repairs. As Metro increases it’s infrastructure, it gives back less to the city. Meanwhile Federal grants for mass transit and pollution abatement have declined (a change of -16 million between 07 and 08). The current level of Federal grants (85 million) will probably decrease as the government gets into more and more fiscal trouble. Therefore the day will probably come soon that Metro’s budget can’t be maintained by just the 1% sales tax, and an increase in the sales tax will be in order.

    The question is not whether to provide some form of mass transit, but how much do want to subsidize? God forbid that Houston ever suffer a downturn like it did in the late 1980′s, but future budgets must be prudent, one can’t assume that we’ll always have constant growth. All it would take is for Texas to adopt a state income tax and this city’s growth would come to a complete halt.

  • kjb

    shows how much you use public transport. i’ve lost count of the times I’ve given up waiting for a bus and walked out of sheer frustration. never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a train.

  • “Therefore the day will probably come soon that Metro’s budget can’t be maintained by just the 1% sales tax, and an increase in the sales tax will be in order.”

    And considering that most of the people that get to vote on this tax increase never use METRO in any way, it would not likely pass.

  • I avoid public transport when traveling by car is faster. That only leaves me utilizing public transport in Washington, D.C. and a few other cities.

    I rented a car in Atlanta even though MARTA had stops near all my places I needed to go. I did this because the last time I was in Atlanta, I used only MARTA and the experience was not something I preferred.

    In Houston, funding for public transport should be there for only those who truly needed it. That was what METRO has done in the past. Recently, METRO had decided to screw over the needy with pretty trains and cutting bus service. Bus service can be great, it’s just that METRO is too incompetent to provide it.

    Many local private bus systems have popped up in the region and even Harris County has some that provide better targeted buses.

    My objection to light rail is also based upon my background in transportation which is part of my degree. Common sense and logic says light rail is a waste with very little benefit.

  • KGB:

    As to your personal assumption that “light rail is a waste with little benefit”…you might want to explain that with some reasons. Evedently it’s not as common sense as you would like to make it.

    I have tried to use the bus system and concluded that it’s just attrocious in every way, not to mention slllloooooooow. Metrorail on the other hand has been extremely reliable…can’t wait for the expansion, so I can stop driving my car around.

  • METROrail reliable? Well, 3 inches of water at the Fannin underpass at Holcombe shuts the entire line down. The myriad of accidents from incompetent drivers shuts the system down.

    Taking the current line from the south terminus to downtown is slower than if you use a car or bus during rush hour (tried that experiment personally). The reason I tried that is because the southern proposed commuter rail from Fort Bend County would terminate there. This means that commuters would have to use commuter rail and then spend 30-45 min on the light rail train to downtown. That’ll be longer than using your own car.

    I admit the buses are horrible, but METRO does a horrible job of running them. Many of the bus routes could utilized a bus half the size of the standard bus. These shorter buses wouldn’t not hold up traffic as much as the larger slower buses. It would save on gas. It would be more nimble. Also, METRO utilizes a horrible system of long line buses routes. They could make the system more efficient by utilizing local circulator buses that tie into signature lines. This could be done much cheaper and more efficiently that the current bus system. It would also decrease wait times too. Variations of this system are utilized in China in many of the metros. It is also utilized in Singapore, Bangkok, and Thailand. Lima utilizes this too. Many of these cities are disjointed metros like Houston that don’t have a single employment center and spread out populace. many of these systems also have separate companies that the local circulator service that ties into the larger connecting service run by a local government authority. Many neighborhoods in METRO service area want to have a local circulators that can tie into a METRO signature line. This will alow faster trips by concentrating riders in set locations and the signature line will have limited stops.

  • KJB:

    I will overlook your highway comments because I am going to assume my point went over your head due to this being an online conversation. I am fully aware of highways function and vitality.

    “In Houston, funding for public transport should be there for only those who truly needed it. That was what METRO has done in the past,” you said earler.

    So only people who don’t own cars should have the luxary to use METRO? Can you elaborate on your sentiments? It certainly does show why believe the things you do.

  • What I said was the funding should be directed to the people who truly “need” public transport. A light rail line running down Post Oak doesn’t seem like it’s filling a big need and reading the study documents from METRO backs that up.

    Building a line out on Harrisburg purely meant to redevelop that end of the city (check the statements made by Wolfe and Wilson from METRO) is a massive waste of funding. Why not just provide local bus service that taps into a long range limited stop signature bus line? METRO has changed is mission from providing public transport to becoming a developer. Why do think they have the power to condemn any and all property near a light rail station after it’s built. They knock the mom and pop shops to build development for higher income people versus existing lower income in the neighborhood. METRO has also pushed forward with the condemnation powers so they can seize property and pay a low price and turn around and sell it to developers at a higher price. That’s the reason the east end line, north main street extension, and the southeast lines are being built.

  • This thread is an awesome exchange of ideas and opinions!
    I’d like to remind: Great cities do have Mass Transit.
    In Europe, where trains set the historical standard, some roadways may do better today at meeting certain needs…
    In the US, where cars took over transportation (through political machinations, don’t forget) some train-solutions are best.
    As a youngish city, Houston has the benefit of so much urban history to help make the best decision re:transportation.

  • When you look at what Metro is doing as a whole for the trains, it isn’t about moving people rapidly. All of these spokes essentially go nowhere–sorry but Harrisburg, Northline and the University line
    are simply bus replacements. And connecting the Northwest Transit center via Post Oak is only giving those that MUST use public transportation an alternative (or replacement). The idea that anyone in Rice area would do all of the legwork to get to the train to go to Post Oak and have it take three times as long is insane. So if Metro were serious about reducing congestion, piollution and getting people from one point to another rapidly, then trains would be going from Katy, SugarLand, The Woodlands, Clear Lake into the Galleria or Downtown or Greenway Plaza.

  • JT, isn’t that what Park N’ Ride/The Woodlands Express/and HOV Lanes are for? Building rail that far out would be even more expensive. I’m sure Metro would love to do it, but even they can’t afford that right now. I think focusing on our urban core before it gets too condensed makes the most sense.