05/23/16 2:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE COULD TRAINS GO THAT BUSES COULDN’T? Trains to Office Buildings“Light-rail transit the way METRO has built it is slow, and actually adds somewhat to congestion by taking up a vehicular lane and messing up traffic flows (i.e. no left turns).  . . . Frankly, buses accomplish the job just about as well, even if they aren’t glamorous to some people. DART built grade-separated rail out to the [Dallas] suburbs and to the airport. It does go faster, since it doesn’t contend with stoplights and traffic. It also doesn’t clog up arterial roads. It was a different approach, but I think that it was the correct one.” [ShadyHeightster, commenting on Feds: Unused Richmond Light-Rail Funding Offer Now Expired, Getting Thrown Out]

05/20/16 1:30pm

Proposed University Light-Rail Line

A letter from the Federal Transit Authority released this morning by the office of long-time light-rail derailer US representative John Culberson announces that the comatose plans for rail construction along Richmond Ave. have now lost eligibility for federal funding due to the project’s lack of major progress, reports Dug Begley for the Houston Chronicle.

Previous plans for the University Line show it running from the Wheeler Red Line station along Richmond to Cummins St., where a turn south would take the line down to Westpark Dr. before continuing out to the Hillcroft Transit Center just past 59 — connecting along the way to the also-stalled Uptown rail-turned-bus-line). The Richmond part of the route includes a 1.7 mile stretch west of S. Shepherd Dr. that falls in Culberson’s district; the rest of the route to Hillcroft falls within 7th district territory as well.

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Use It Or Lose It
05/13/16 10:15am

This week’s video release from hometown country singer Robert Ellis takes viewers on a forlorn wandering tour of Houston’s downtown and surrounding thoroughfares, sans all of those pesky people and cars. Iconic cameos include the AIA’s future headquarters on the corner of Franklin and Commerce streets, the WALD warehouse sign at Live Oak and Rusk streets, and Bad News Bar on Main St.; the video also includes a hike down a dead-empty I-45 and associated entrance ramps, several frantic light-rail stops, and a dramatic reunion on the pedestrian bridge over Memorial Dr. at Sabine St. 

Video: Robert Ellis

Musical Background
04/04/16 10:00am

Hardy Yards sign, Burnett at Main St., Near Northside, Houston, 77026

The recent restoration of the Hardy Yards district sign’s upright stature and youthful good looks appears to have been short-lived — Christopher Andrews found the H sprawled flat on its back over the weekend, with a few of the other letters also looking less than fully vertical in the late-night shot above (peering east down Burnett St. from the corner with N. Main under the light-rail overpass). Metro says it’s on the case, again.

Photo of Hardy Yards signage: Christopher Andrews

N. Main at Burnett
01/12/16 1:15pm

AND NOW, WATCH THE RED LINE RUSH FROM BELL ST. TO BURNETT STATION AND BACK IN 49 SECONDS Take a break from the Downtown bustle, even if its just for a couple of seconds — frequent Swamplot photo contributor Jackson Myers captured this sped-up video of a light-rail ride from Bell St. up to Burnett Station, and even manages to hop in the conductor’s compartment for the return trip. Video: Jackson Myers via Swamplot inbox

12/03/15 2:15pm

Preston St. Station, Main St., Houston, 77002

Downtown light-rail riders: Your patronage of public transit isn’t enough. A giant billboard covering most of the facade of the 2-story building at 312 Main St. now urges passengers emerging from the northbound Preston stop to get rid of their vehicles altogether. The unassuming Houston Site Acquisitions storefront has scrapped its own above-door signage in favor of a story-high ad for Texas Direct Auto, complete with oversized doggie in the window.

Large-scale advertising for businesses not currently in the building is nothing new for this block of Main St.: Just next door, the sky-high neon above perpetually hungover neighbors Dean’s and Notsuoh still heralds the days of credit clothing retail. But the Texas Direct Auto ad incorporates the structure of the building itself, placing the large image of a small dog behind an actual window visible through a cutout in the wrap:

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Sell Your Car! No Money Down!
07/14/15 2:30pm

Burnett St., Near Northside, Houston

With a row of Downtown towers looking on from the south, 2 lanes are being added to Burnett St., along the northern boundary of the 50-acre site formerly known as the Hardy Rail Yards. The thickening runs between N. Main St. and Hardy St. At the western end of that stretch, next to the Burnett Transit Center stop on the Red Line’s northern extension, a new baby intersection has been born at Freeman St. just in front of the rail overpass, just up a ways from the N. Main tunnel:

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Grid Growth
03/26/15 11:00am

LATE MAY OPENINGS FOR SOUTHEAST AND EAST END RAIL LINES Metro Central Station, Main St., Downtown HoustonAn official opening date has finally been set for Houston’s 2 new light-rail lines — and it’ll be later than the expected early-April debut. The East End and Southeast Lines will both open May 23rd, the Metro board announced this morning. [Houston Metro on Twitter; previously on Swamplot] Photo of new Central Station downtown: Metro

02/11/15 2:15pm

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.

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All Approved for August
01/23/15 3:15pm

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

09/25/14 12:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ODE TO THE SOUTHEAST LINE CLEARANCE TESTING REGIMEN Drawing of Light Rail Car, Houston“9:53 pm and I can hear the hollow, electronic train horn from my study window, the sad woot of the empty car. Despite the fact that I cannot ride the Metro train, it runs. Past me on my morning commute, it runs. Stopping traffic for 10 minutes on my way home. Always, it runs.” [crunch, commenting on Why Metro Trains Are Already Rolling Around UH] Illustration: Lulu

09/24/14 10:00am

WHY METRO TRAINS ARE ALREADY ROLLING AROUND UH Map Showing Testing Area for the Southeast Line, HoustonNo, the new light-rail lines won’t be ready to carry passengers anytime this year — if you’re looking for a ride, check again in 2015. But over the next couple of weeks, you may see a Southeast Line train or 2 skirting the western and southern borders of the University of Houston. Starting today, Metro will be shuttling vehicles along the path shown in red on the Purple Line map at left, from the corner of Elgin and Scott Streets through MacGregor Park to the vehicle storage facility just past the Palm Center Transit Center — for safety testing. Map: Metro

09/15/14 12:00pm

Designs for Overpass on Harrisburg Blvd., East End, Houston

Designs for Overpass on Harrisburg Blvd., East End, Houston

Metro has posted the latest designs for the enormous Hughes St. overpass along Harrisburg Blvd. on the far-east segment of the East End rail line. The $27-to-$42-million bridge is meant to carry cars and Green Line passengers over the Union Pacific East Belt freight rail line that runs north-south just west of Hughes St., between the soon-to-open East End line’s between the future Altic and Cesar Chavez stations. The posted design concepts, Metro notes, combine a “garden” wall and a wall noting a few 4-digit numbers important in the history of the neighborhood with a ribbon of white LED lighting above and blue accent lighting underneath and along the columns:

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At the End of the Green Line
08/01/14 3:00pm

Metro Light Rail Train on Capitol St., Downtown HoustonNo, no one’s expecting Metro’s 2 new light-rail lines to open any sooner than late December (as Swamplot reported last week), but some progress toward that goal is now visible on portions of the East End and Southeast lines: “Live wire” or powered testing of the downtown tracks began this week. The photo at right, sent in by a reader, shows a Metro train moving unescorted along the tracks on Capitol St. for the first time.

Photo: Nathan Juett

Power Up
07/21/14 1:30pm

Light Rail Station at Palm Transit Center, Houston

There’s still “some uncertainty” over the exact schedule, but all the pieces needed to allow Metro to open Houston’s second and third light-rail lines won’t be in place until late December, according to reports delivered to a committee of the transportation organization’s board of directors last Friday. Previously, an opening date sometime this fall had been projected for the Southeast and East End lines (though the far eastern end of the East End line won’t come on line until a newly planned overpass is built under over the Union Pacific East Belt freight rail line between the future Altic and Cesar Chavez stations). Delays in the delivery of trains aren’t the sole reason for the late openings, however.

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Waiting for the Trains