LAND PURCHASES BEGINNING ALONG PROPOSED HOUSTON-TO-DALLAS BULLET TRAIN ROUTE Texas Central Railway’s CEO tells Realty News Report’s Ralph Bivins that owners of some properties in the projected path of the planned Houston-to-Dallas 200mph rail line have already agreed to sell their land to the company, which is hoping to get started on construction of the 90-minute route next year. Tim B. Keith says he’s “encouraged with the progress” of what he refers to as the project’s “ voluntary land purchase program.” He notes that “Texas’ Constitution and state statutes have long granted eminent domain authority to railroads such as Texas Central, as well as pipeline companies, electric power companies and other industries,” but calls eminent domain “a last resort.” The line’s Houston station is now planned for “the area along the 610 Loop between 290 and I-10″ after a Federal Railroad Administration review rejected the idea of a Downtown stop because of projected high costs and environmental impacts. [Realty News Report; Houston Public Media; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Tokaido Shinkansen Tokyo-Osaka line:
Texas Central Railway
METRO SUSPECTS YOU ARE ANNOYED BY TARDY TRAINS Though they don’t have the numbers to prove it, Metro officials are concerned that regularly late trains may be driving away riders, writes Dug Begley this week; even Metro board member Christof Spieler reportedly called the train’s recent timing stats “abysmal.” Begley writes that the timing problems in the last few years stem mainly from a set of sensors that count the axles of passing trains to help determine when they can be cleared to cross signaled intersections; problems with the devices (which are compounded by heat, humidity, and downtown traffic signal timing) can cause cascading delays through the rest of the train schedule. Siemens, which makes the devices, is still working on a fix at no cost to Metro. Begley notes that the trains haven’t been measured as meeting Metro’s monthly [Houston Chronicle; 95-percent on-time benchmark for acceptable performance since late 2013 (before the Red Line expansion opened); punctuality has dropped below 80 percent during at least 4 months in the last 2 years. previously on Swamplot] Photo of Main Street light rail: elnina via Swamplot Flickr Pool
Meanwhile, in CHINESE COMPANY PREPARING TO TEST 1400-PASSENGER TRAFFIC-STRADDLING TUNNEL BUS Changzhou: Engineer Song Youzhou tells that the first full-scale model of the road-straddling Xinhua News Transit Explore Bus may be ready for testing by July or August. The developers say the 2-rail “land airbus” system could pick up as many as 1,400 passengers Song’s version of the tunnel-train concept was first introduced in lowered in through the top from a series of elevator-equipped station platforms; the vehicle could drive straight over traffic jams (assuming those jams are less than 7 ft tall) without having to slow down. 2010 but reappeared at this month’s Beijing Intel High Tech Expo with more solid plans for development. Funder TBS Shipping’s animated 3-D concept video can be viewed here. [Xinhua, CityLab]
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
SAVING UPTOWN, HOUSTON’S MASTERPIECE, FROM THE SCOURGE OF DEDICATED BUS LANES The Uptown Property and Business Owners Coalition is out today with a new website (portrayed here) meant to drum up opposition to the Uptown District and Metro’s plans to install dedicated bus lanes down Post Oak Blvd. The lanes, the last vestige of what was once a plan for an Uptown light rail line, would run from dedicated bus lanes linking to the Northwest Transit Center all the way to the proposed Bellaire/Uptown Transit Center near U.S. 59 and Westpark, where they might someday intersect with a University Line traveling eastward from that point. But the team behind the website wants none of it: “ Uptown is a ” reads the copy on the home page. Meanwhile, an Houston masterpiece. Why do they want to ruin it? introductory blog post on the site encourages readers to attend a friendly “town hall” meeting, tomorrow night at the Uptown Hilton, in the company of “hundreds of angry business owners and Uptown area residents.” [Save Uptown; previously on Swamplot]
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
LATE MAY OPENINGS FOR SOUTHEAST AND EAST END RAIL LINES An 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 , the Metro board announced this morning. [Houston Metro on Twitter; East End and Southeast Lines will both open May 23rd previously on Swamplot] Photo of new Central Station downtown: 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.
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All Approved for August
TXDOT LIKELY TO CUT FUNDING FOR WEST LOOP BUS LANES, SHIP MONEY SOUTH In a move that could spell doom for the Post Oak Bus Rapid Transit project, TxDOT’s planning director said Thursday that his agency is now recommending it . The plan called for ax a $25 million commitment to expanding connecting bus service along the West Loop elevated bus lanes running along 610 from Post Oak Blvd. to the Northwest Transit Center near the Katy Fwy. and 610. The agency now claims that the $25 million would be better spent on an improved Texas 288–Beltway 8 interchange. [The Highwayman, previously on Swamplot] Rendering:
COMMENT OF THE DAY: TURNING HOUSTON INSIDE OUT “It might be that the best outcome for Houston is for the Inner Loop to have an exurban quality of life. Send commuter rail out to the suburbs — not for the suburbanites to commute to downtown — but for the Inner Loopers to commute outbound in the mornings to densely clustered (out of necessity) suburban tall office towers surrounding the stations, and then back into town in the evenings.
This is more viable than the traditional idea of New Urbanist suburbs with transit connecting them to a downtown core since politically none of Houston’s suburbs are on board with cultivating a small town ambience, but are ok with letting office builders do their thing.
To be sure, suburbanites would still commute to downtown but it will be seen as an aberration. Downtown will still have things to do after dark, but other areas of the Inner Loop, connected by LRT/buses/cars/bikes/sidewalks, will do a much better job of providing the QOL aspiring exurbanites may crave.
Suburbanites will, of course, still commute to a large extent to the office towers in their suburb. But they will do so by car, and won’t care about the urbanist quality of life (in other words, nothing will change for them).” [ anon22, commenting on Here’s the Freshest Satellite Photo of Downtown Houston You’ll See All Day] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: ODE TO THE SOUTHEAST LINE CLEARANCE TESTING REGIMEN “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
WHY METRO TRAINS ARE ALREADY ROLLING AROUND UH No, 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
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]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: NAVIGATING HOUSTON’S HEAVILY CONGESTED FUTURE “I’m for better transit (I won’t be mode-specific here), but it should never be sold as making the streets less congested for you to drive around on. While it may take some cars off the streets, Houston’s congestion is likely to be massive enough that you’d never notice. Do NYC and LA have uncongested streets? Obviously not, even though both cities have much much better transit than Houston — meaning they have better alternatives to being in congestion and having to find parking. Congestion and difficult parking are our future (I wager even with self-driving cars, if they’re all personally owned) — everyone needs to be at peace with that.” [ Local Planner, commenting on Killing Any Chance of Later Rail Conversion on the New Post Oak Bus Lanes; The Bedbugs of Beverly Hill] Illustration: Lulu