CRIMINAL COMPLAINT FILED ON BEHALF OF COSMO RESIDENTS OVER POST OAK BUS LANE LAND PURCHASES Former ABC13 investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino, representing residents of the Cosmopolitan condo tower on Post Oak Blvd., filed a criminal complaint with the Harris County district attorney last week over the way the Uptown Development Authority has gone about acquiring land for the dedicated bus lanes planned along Post Oak. The complaint asserts that officials of that group and the Uptown TIRZ may have violated Texas conflict of interest law, as well as the Open Meetings Act. Nancy Sarnoff writes that Dolcefino’s complaint also calls out Uptown’s purchase-agreement-less purchase of a piece of land at San Felipe and Post Oak, from an associate of Dinerstein (which is preemptively suing the Cosmo residents over a tower planned at the same intersection). Uptown District president John Breeding tells Sarnoff that it’s not unusual for public entities to buy land without a formal sales agreement, and that details of the transactions will be available after they’re complete . The Uptown group either has bought or is working on buying about 80 percent of the land needed for the project; the city council voted in December that eminent domain could be used to acquire the rest, if necessary. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of proposed dedicated bus lane on Post Oak Blvd.: Uptown District
WOODLAND HEIGHTS BUS MAPPERS TO METRO: YOUR NEW ROUTE PLAN MISSES THE TARGET Metro says it’ll be ready to go with its new bus network on August 16, but that hasn’t prevented various groups from petitioning the transit agency to make late adjustments to its route map. One group of Woodland Heights residents is trying to get the new 30 route, which late in the process was shifted east to parallel the new 44 route down Houston Ave into Downtown, shifted west to Watson, Taylor, and Sawyer streets between Pecore and Memorial Dr. before entering Downtown from the west. The current proposed alignment leaves the Sawyer Heights shopping center and its . [Not of It] Target without a bus stop Diagram: Philip Teague
METRO KEEPING NEW BUS ROUTES UNDER WRAPS UNTIL AUGUST 16 Every route sign at every bus stop in Metro’s service area should now have a . Printed on those bags: the same old bus route numbers that’ve always been there, along with a couple of helpful phone numbers. Info on how the route will be changed come late summer should appear on vertical plastic bag over its head, the transit agency says add-on signs lower on each pole. The great citywide bus-stop-sign unbagging (revealing the sign makeovers hidden underneath) is scheduled to take place just before August 16, the day Metro’s revamped route network debuts. [Metro; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Metro
THE MCCONAUGHEY IS STRONG IN THIS ONE VIDEOA mere 6 months after Jim Carrey, Metro is out with its own riff on last year’s series of commercials for the Lincoln MKC emceed by a dusk-cruising Matthew McConaughey. But there’s no Texas Longhorn blocking the road for Metro’s version (above), meant to uh . . . re-introduce the transit agency’s newly reimagined bus service, scheduled to kick off in 4 months. Mixed into the atmospherics is a bus driver’s subtle diss of folks’ reliance on some of the old, less popular routes axed in the bus-map redo: “Where’re you really going on the road less traveled? Probably nowhere really great.” [Metro] Video: Metro
After a year and a half of redrawing, presenting, and tweaking, Metro’s “reimagined” transit plan was approved by the transportation agency’s board today. The interactive map above shows the whole system in all its reconfigured glory, including the new rail lines currently scheduled to begin running in April. Bus routes will switch over to the above route system in August.
CONTINUE READING THIS STORY
All Approved for August
METRO ADJUSTS ITS REIMAGINED BUS ROUTES So the reviews of the proposed “ System Reimagining” of Metro bus routes are in and . . . generally positive, but a big bunch of letter-writers hated what the new layout might or might not do to public transit along Weslayan, Jones Rd. and Jersey Village, and the Louetta and Vintage Lakes area. So the newly revised map, which Metro unveiled at its board meeting yesterday, recommends some adjustments to proposed service changes in those areas. The new 48 line, for example, which formerly was planned to run straight down Weslayan to the South Loop, would now connect the Northwest Transit Center to Greenway Plaza, the Rice Village, and the Med Center; the new 10 route down Kirby Dr. would now extend further south to S. Main St. Don’t like these changes to the changes? A few alternative route adjustments were presented as well. If the new plans are approved at next month’s meeting, the new bus routes and schedules should go into effect next June. Here’s the whole revised reimagined network map in one big PDF. [Metro; previously on Swamplot; all plan materials]
FEDERAL MONEY ROLLS IN FOR UPTOWN’S POST OAK BRT One of the last few items on Uptown’s to-do list was crossed off Friday: The Houston-Galveston Area Council voted to allocate about $62 million in federal scratch to help pay for the construction of bus rapid transit along Post Oak Blvd. This money, along with continued revenue from Uptown’s recently enlarged tax zone, will fund the estimated $177 million project that, like light rail, will run 60-ft. buses in dedicated lanes between 2 transit centers. Uptown Management prez John Breeding tells the Highwayman that construction could begin as early as 2015. But one notable dissenter, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, doesn’t seem convinced this whole public-transportation thing is gonna work out: “ I am afraid we are going to look up in 10 years and say ‘What did we do that for?’ I think I know Houstonians enough to know they are going to want to drive.” [The Highwayman; previously on Swamplot] Rendering: Uptown Management District
POST OAK BRT THAT MUCH CLOSER TO GETTING ITS MONEY After a month’s delay to take a longer look at the project, the transportation arm of the Houston-Galveston Area Council finally decided to go ahead and recommend that Uptown receive $62 million in federal funds to pay for the proposed Post Oak Blvd. bus rapid transit system. This is just a provisional step, of course, since 2 actual approvals, not mere recommendations, are needed — but it does move things along. Through tax revenue, Uptown is already paying for about half the estimated $148 million project. The Houston Chronicle’s Dug Begley is reporting that this federal money would help buy up $30 million of land so Post Oak could be widened for the bus lanes. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Drawing: Uptown Management District
METRO’S NEW TRIP-PLANNING APP You can now download T.R.I.P., a trip-planning app that’s all Metro’s own. The Write on Metro blog first mentioned the app in October 2011, reporting that a launch was expected later that winter. Of course, that delay isn’t mentioned in today’s press release announcing that the Transit Route Information and Planning app, a screenshot of which is shown here, is up and running, ready to provide schedule and route information based on the user’s location, predict “to within 3 minutes” arrivals of the next bus or train, and generate routes. And it’s free. [ Write on Metro; Ride Metro]
The driving force of a project that Uptown Houston District has proposed to the city to transform Post Oak Blvd.? Big beautiful buses. With both residential and commercial developments like Skanska’s 20-story office building popping up along the major transit corridor and METRO’s Uptown/Gold Line nowhere in sight, the District has developed a $177-million project featuring light rail-like BRT to update Post Oak — a street “that has long outlived its original use,” says John Breeding, the District’s president.
CONTINUE READING THIS STORY
“This must have been quite a fearsome impact,” reports ever-vigilant blogger Slampo, who files these photos of what had until the wee hours of Wednesday morning been the No. 4 inbound bus shelter on Beechnut just east of Hillcroft, directly in front of the Foodarama parking lot. “There’s one of those concrete-lined garbage containers somewhere in there under the former shelter’s roof.” These photos were taken a few hours later.
CONTINUE READING THIS STORY
Two Bellaire City Council members are CROSSING THAT THIN BABY BLUE LINE upset about a very long, baby blue line Metro painted along Bellaire Blvd. last month: “‘We work hard in Bellaire to improve the look of our community, the planning commission is working hard on a comprehensive plan, and then some outside entity decides to paint a stripe down our street, and I don’t like it,’ said Councilmember Peggy Faulk at Monday night’s council meeting. ‘We are continually plagued by visual pollution,’ said Councilmember Pat McLaughlan, who also challenged signs posted at-will by government jurisdictions through Bellaire. Metro painted the blue line along the entire route of its ” [Bellaire Examiner] Quickline Signature express service, which offers high-tech hybrid buses at peak hours down Bellaire/Holcombe Boulevard from west Houston to the Texas Medical Center.