The North Line Bridge Is Up

Reader Heidi Hagen’s photos of construction on the North Line along N. Main St. north of UH-Downtown show the new bridge that’s “popped up outta nowhere” around Hogan St. No, there’s no rainbow at the north end of Downtown, but if you look carefully from the right far vantage point can see the elevated concrete and steel construction that’ll be carrying an extension to the existing rail line over the Union Pacific railroad tracks to further points north: Lindale Park, the Northline Transit Center, and 6 other newly named stations. More bridge pix from earlier in the month:


Photos: Heidi Hagen

21 Comment

  • I wonder how many cars this will actually take off the road. How many workers in the central business district live in the area serviced by this rail line? 10, 50, or a full 100? My guess is that is would be less expensive to send a private cab to those who would use the rain line. 20 bux a ride, vs 100’s of millions to an area of town that has no traffic congestion problem. Oh, except for the road closures due the rail project. What a colossal waste of money, all to become a “world class city.”

  • @jgbiggs, not alot of cars will be taken off of the road right now. But you gotta remember, these lines going in now are sorta “backbones”. 50 years from now when all the “branches” are added, that might take alot of the cars off the road (provided the gov is still in business and not broke, lol.)

  • My anecdotal experience from waiting for the bus downtown for the last couple of years is as follows. The vast majority of people who used mass transit downtown at the bus stop I was at were heading to Katy and the Woodlands. The buses that went to closer in areas were far less frequent and a lot less full. There was a large, full bus every 15 minutes heading to The Woodlans. My inner-city bus only ran every 45 minutes and was half the size and never full.

  • Though all is a matter of opinion, it makes so much more sense to post a thoughtful comment taking into account overall experience rather than one’s own single personal scenario and experience. I’m jus sayin’.

  • The purpose of public transportation is not solely to take cars off the road. The north line will provide a public transit option to a large population that either cannot afford a car or that could save a lot of money by not having to drive to work, the doctor, etc. Also, a lot of people who work downtown do not work regular business hours. A small army of workers come in at night to clean offices, work security and do facilities maintenance. Another small army arrives early in the morning to work the food vendors. And the north line will connect to the medical center, which runs 24/7 and is not a bunch of office workers from Katy and The Woodlands. I agree that the light rail is not the greatest transportation sollution for Houston. But, if the standard is solely taking the cars of white collar workers off the road, Houston would never be able to do any public transit project.

  • I live close in, and just about never use the bus. You never know when it’s going to come, and it generally takes longer than just getting in the car and going.

    I routinely use the light rail, however. It generally takes the same or less time than driving, and it comes by frequently. There’s almost always a good number of people on it, ranging to outright crowded at peak times. I would really love it if the southeast line could be extended to Hobby, sooner rather than later.

    And yes, this is the backbone of what will end up being a much larger system. Other rail transit systems around the country are adding mileage all the time.

  • Love the light rail. Anytime I have to do anything downtown, I use the light rail. I am white collar and I use it all the time. I don’t like getting door dings. I’m from here and I hate the drivers. If I could ride it every day to appointments and meetings, I would. The inner city is getting denser. We can’t widen the roads much more than we already have. We can’t put new freeways in the inner city. There has to be a better way to move people than cars and buses. In fact, I refuse to buy a home that is more than a few blocks from a rail line. More often than not, the rail cars are full of passengers. They are faster, cleaner, and far more efficient than a bus. I can get from my place to a function downtown during evening rush hour in 30 minutes when it would take me at least that long and then have to pay for parking with my car. Put me on a bus and that time frame increases to at least an hour and a half. And I live pretty darn close to downtown. I see a very strong young upwardly mobile migration to the east end as a result of these lines in the very near future. Not just homes, but bars, restaurants, elevated cuisine, more art galleries, etc. Higher quality of life in the inner city brings higher property values. Higher property values bring in more property tax revenue, which benefit the city even further. It makes perfect sense.

  • Alan: That’s why I said it was an anecdotal comment. I stand by it though. I’ve worked downtown for years and the vast majority of people using mass transit down there during peak traffic times are from the suburbs. Draw your own conclusions on what this means for light rail.

  • It’s pretty easy to spot who lives inside the loop & who lives way out in suburbia. I am glad to see the rail on it’s way up & look forward to taking it when rodeo starts back up. It’s so nice being able to avoid that traffic nightmare, not to mention safer.

  • @ Alan: Actually, jgriff’s anecdotes are supported by a transportation study conducted by the Downtown Houston Management District, which found that people working downtown and living within five miles of it are quite a bit more likely to commute by private automobile.

    @ OldSchool: If the goal is to make poor people more mobile (which absolutely DOES help them to rise out of poverty), then we should just buy them all Tata Nanos. I know it seems flippant to say, but cars are just less expensive than mass transit…when one abandons the whole “keeping up with the Jones'” routine.

  • ditto on the SE line to Hobby comment made earlier. I don’t know why they didn’t just go for the whole enchilada and extend it the last few miles to Hobby. I would love that, I work downtown, live in Midtown and travel half the month for work. Hopping on the rail to Hobby would be genius for all the corporate travel that happens out of downtown. I wonder if that is on their long term horizon or if they will offer a direct bus from the end of the SE line to Hobby, kind of like DC does on the green line to Baltimore’s BWI airport.

  • jay,

    My understanding is that Metro does intend to run the SE line out to Hobby eventually, there’s just only so many dollars to go around.

  • How about Metro quits wasting money on these stupid trains, and does something to improve bus service? I hate the trains – they are an expensive option that does nothing to improve the overall transportation scenario in Houston while destroying perfectly good streets and blocking cross traffic.

    Another billion plus dollars down the Metro rathole. Morons, utter morons.

  • I look forward to the rail line connecting the entire city. I want to see a line run down Houston Avenue to downtown!

  • Is the Southeast line eventually going to Hobby or the East End line? The 50 bus now goes from downtown to Hobby via Harrisburg to Broadway. That seems like the more logical way of extending rail to the airport. Just sayin’.

  • Niche, I work downtown and live within 2 miles and I take to train to work. My car is 2 years old and it’s only got 7000 miles. I kind of like that. Plus, I’m too cheap to pay $100+/mo. for parking.

    Got an appt. in the TMC? No problem, hop on the train.

  • I love rail. I think it’s a great way to move around a city. When I lived in DC, I used MetroRail every day. But the way Houston is setting up light rail is just plain stupid. My main beef is that they take traffic lanes from existing streets and use them only for the trains. Other light rail systems ( see MUNI Metro in San Francisco) have the trains share the traffic lane with vehicles. Others, like DART in Dallas have a separated grade system which results in faster travel, and less congestion. Without grade separation, the Metro trains stop for red lights too.
    For the money Metro spends on these lines, it would be better served to use the $$$ to purchase more buses, hire more drivers, and buy more diesel so that the inner city bus lines would run every 10 minutes, which transit studies show is the time interval where people will just step out to a bus stop without worrying about the schedule. Then spend the big bucks, lay down track on the HOV lanes and run heavy rail down the center of the freeway, like Chicago, to the suburban park and rides ( and the airports).

  • Do people not even look at the plans for the rail? Do people not understand how systems work?

    So we have basically have all of our park and ride system feeding into the Houston’s 4 largest/densest employment centers which in itself will be connected to the light rail. Folks, this is how a system is eventually built, with different modes of transit working together. In this eventual system (if the University and Uptown lines are built) you will have suburban commuters and inner loopers able to navigate our largest employment and activity centers without automobiles.

    Yes in a perfect world, where we didn’t have an imbalance of funding towards roads and highways, then we could expand our bus system and LRT. But alas we aren’t in a perfect world.

  • So yes our 4 largest and densest employment centers (Uptown, Greenway, Downtown, and TMC) and activity centers (UH, Rice, St Thomas, HCC, UHD, museums, Memorial Park, Hermann Park, sports stadiums, etc.) will all be along rail and could potentially be served by park&ride.

    But hey, I’m sure everyone will just want to drive their car and park it to reach all those destinations.

  • Now if they will just connect the dang bike trail to downtown right by the bridge, we’ll be rockin and rollin

  • The arguement “cars are cheaper than mass transit” is a stupid one. WHat kind of cars are you driving? AND did you factor in maintenance costs, gasoline, insurance, parking, etc?

    @GotDebt – I noticed they poured another stetch of slab heading into downtown – cement was still roped off and looked damp when I was riding the trail last saturday. SO, it’s coming.