Uptown’s Not Waiting for Light Rail, Planning Bus System Along Post Oak Instead

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.

***

The map above shows densely packed Uptown. The district includes 23 million sq. ft. of commercial office space, 5 million sq. ft. of retail, and more than 7,000 hotel rooms. In the next 2 years, almost 3,000 residential units will be added, says Breeding. Congestion can be so bad that even off-duty traffic cops can’t ease it. Though METRO has plans for the Uptown/Gold Line, Breeding says that that could take up to 20 years. Instead, the District sees BRT as a solution. A cross section of the new Post Oak, with bus lanes in the center of the road, might look like this:

If that reminds you of drawings METRO has done for light rail, it’s not an accident. This BRT service would work similarly, ferrying people up and down Post Oak while protected by candlestick barriers. (And, Breeding says, the street could later be adapted for rail, should that become necessary.)

The BRT system, though, is just one part of the proposed project; the District’s also working with TxDOT to build HOV access lanes to Loop 610 and U.S. 59., which the buses would take to get to and from two proposed transit centers. Breeding says Uptown is underserved by current METRO routes, as this map suggests:

A close-up of the proposed Post Oak BRT and new transit centers:

Breeding says the the Uptown District will hear back from the city about this proposal in the next month or two.

Images: Uptown Management District

33 Comment

  • This should have been the entire Houston light rail solution – super buses along dedicated routes.

    Too late for that; but this idea is a bad idea. Nobody in the GA will take a bus, ever.

    PRINT IT

  • This seems very practical. The political process cannot be trusted with regards to LRT.

    This is also a chance to implement a true BRT system in Houston so there is a reference point should the idea come up again in the future elsewhere in the city.

  • This will be fantastic if it’s actually done. I live on Post Oak, and have been livid with what’s been happening with the light rail. I’ve been wanting it for years. I think this is a great semi-permanent solution. It widens the road and puts it mass transit-specific lanes, meaning we get the transit now, and for the future most of the work for future light rail construction is done. If and when the Uptown line finally gets built, it’s a simple matter of putting tracks on the bus lanes. Cuts out the single most costly, time-consuming, and irritating step of light rail construction: the road widening. Great solution all around, I think.
    Now if the transit center that this line down Post Oak connects to could have a relatively direct (preferably non-stop) service to a light rail station, that is a great way to connect Uptown to the rail network in the mean time while we wait for an actual rail line to be built out to us.

  • I actually like it

  • BRT is politically dead because it contains the word ‘bus’. Mass transit fanatics insist on rail. Don’t you understand? It has to be RAIL! It has to go CHOO CHOO! Real cities have rail!

  • Just built an underground subway that connects to the transit center on I-10 /I-610. As simple as that. Post oaks traffic lanes are too saturated with traffic already. Adding ugly buses lanes that nobody uses in Galleria will create more traffic. Plus how many times Post Oak blvd has to be rebuilt?? What a waste of money. Why do we have the most dumb city planners in the world?? JUST BUILT A SUBWAY like other cities do!!

  • I love it: John Breeding says the area is underserved by METRO…..well, folks – I see the empty buses driving past me every day… Maybe it’s just that there’s no RIDERSHIP to be served in the area…..after all, METRO has routes in areas where there is demand…. P.S. if the area is underserved, Breeding should know….He’s held his position for almost 25 years!!!

  • All well and good, but people really don’t like buses. Wonder what kind of schedules they are envisioning?

  • Wow, won’t it look sleek to have buses moving along our toniest commercial boulevard? Thank goodness they put a stop to that pie-in-the-sky toy train light rail! No thank you, federal funding, we’re going to have BUSES

  • Looks ghetto and cheap looking! Way to go Uptown!

  • Those of you against this: are you saying that the 85,000 workers in Uptown shouldn’t have access to a similar commuter park-and-ride service that Downtown has? That’s the main point of this project.

  • This project is kind of cheap for a “upscale” area…

  • Why is it that people who would love to see more rail wouldn’t be caught dead on a bus? This dichotomy is both nearly universal and completely illogical. I suffer from it myself when traveling abroad.
    Is it because, deep down inside, we never REALLY know where the bus is going, but we need only look at the system map to be sure that the train will get us close to our destination?

  • I work in the Galleria area. I would gladly ride the bus to spare myself fuel expenses, rush hour stress, aggressive drivers, door dents in garages, and contributing to poor air quality.

  • To the one’s complaining about any mass transit option: I swear, there is literally nothing that will make you happy. If you’ve been in uptown at rush hour, SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE. Either busses or rail. While I’d love to see rail built, I commend the Uptown District for addressing this issue proactively rather than wait around on Metro.

    Concerning the rail v. bus bias. I don’t care what kind of vehicle carries me, as long as it has a dedicated right of way. My issue with the average city bus is that it is subject to the same bad traffic as single occupant vehicles.

  • Angostura, you are so right. I feel the same way. I look at a bus and think “Gross”, but rail seems cool… Hmm… I’m sure if its something in this area they won’t have cheap looking buses, they’ll probably be just as nice. Would Metro keep service they already have? Who would operate this?

  • I haven’t heard of this phenomenon…

  • I think that they should put a monorail on Post Oak with elevated walkways over to the shopping centers and offices. That way it can be just as ugly and even more expensive.

  • Tracked vehicles (i.e., rail cars) generally don’t have to deal with potholes. Buses, on the other hand, beat the living dickens out of the streets (though that wouldn’t be a problem if the roadbed were adequate – a number of train-type systems actually ride on rubber tires; for example, some lines of the Paris Metro).

  • I like this idea. My husband works in the Galleria AND takes the park and ride (gasp) to/from Kingsland, (double gasp) which I believe is a newly introduced route. It’s been a wonderful alternative to driving for him. His only complaint, as always, is the increasingly massive congestion in the Galleria that will only get worse. If there were HOV access lanes and more bus routes, Galleria traffic would not have nearly the congestion it does today and encourage more people to take public transportation.

  • I believe it’s primarily a question of population density (PD) and not so much of lack of public transport. We just don’t have enough PD yet in uptown or in downtown. Consider cities like Rio, Buenos Aires, NYC, and Madrid where the PD is high and you see public transportation options, including taxis, everywhere. Correlation doesn’t imply causality but in this case there is a link IMHO. Another factor which is beginning to be addressed is the homeless situation in the city, the root cause of which is quite complex I’m sure. In my opinion, it is a sad reality but this perceived security issue tends to have the effect on people to opt for driving to the businesses instead of walking or taking local transport options. Once in a car, it is then very easy not to go to a local business but to a more distant one. Lastly, the issue of street parking needs to be considered. We tend to have extremely wide streets in downtown with limited or no street parking though $10 per car parking lots are commonplace. To be sure, it’s a complex problem but ultimately not an intractable one.

  • Well for park and ride users, a route that directly connects into a BRT line would be better than LRT since it would be one less transfer than riding in on the bus and then waiting for a LRT.

    So the real question is who the line is ideally for — people in to shop from other places closer to town, or suburbanites who work in the area?

  • People need to get over their “OMG, it’s not a train” nonsense.

    On my last trip to Boston I used the Silver Line, the BRT (Yes! Boston has BRT! Right in the center of the city by the waterfront!) that goes through my old ‘hood (built after I left). It was a fast, efficient, and pleasant way to get from the airport to the waterfront to catch a boat out to Cape Cod. Really well done.

    I work in Uptown. This is needed. The place is a traffic choked nightmare all day.

  • ugh – METRO should issue special passes to all the car-haters….It would really boost ridership (which has been on a steady decline for years!) All the Mass-Transiteers could be required to conduct 100% of their life’s activities using PUBLIC TRANSIT ONLY……Try going to Sam’s/Costco without your car one day……or getting to school when your kid’s sick in the middle of the day……We’re not talking about the occasional trip to the Galleria or Rodeo as a convenience….

  • As MJ noted above, the main issue a lot of people have with buses is that it is subject to the same congestion as single occupant vehicles, and they are slowed down even more by that congestion with frequent stops and increased difficulty navigating a vehicle of that size.

    I could see healthy ridership of BRT since it gets a dedicated lane, meaning it doesn’t fight through the congestion regular buses do. My personal opinion is I don’t care whether the vehicle is called a train or a bus, as long as it provides an ATTRACTIVE alternative to current options (regular buses or personal cars).

  • If people don’t like to ride buses, why not just make these look like rail cars? Seating style, outward appearance, the whole 9 yards. Just cover up the tires. Most folks will be too busy to tell the difference.

  • I may be mistaken but isn’t most of the T in Boston effectively made up of buses running underground? The problem with the existing light rail in Houston is that it is damn slow and makes too many stops….

  • Yeah there were some BRT proposals a while back. The problem is that they ended up looking nothing like BRT…if I recall correctly they even took away the dedicated lane advantage. I hope that doesn’t happen here.

  • what about charging to drive in the Uptown/Galleria area (i.e., like London)? That would certainly encourage people to use public transportation to and from the Galleria (of course it may also kill business).

  • @charlie – no, most of the T is plain old subway-style trains. The oldest line (Green Line) uses the same trolley-style cars that you see on SF’s Muni, because outside the central city it IS a light rail system. However the red, orange, and blue lines are plain old subways. The Silver line, the new BRT, does run underground in parts.

  • I think this is a fantastic idea to help ease congestion in the area. It’s a much cheaper option than light rail. I come from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles where they built a right of way busway and it real beautified the areas surrounding the busway. The buses were designed very well, modern, sleek, and spacious. The project was considered a success. Check out the article from LA Times regarding its success http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jun/27/local/la-me-orange-line-20120628

  • I have lived in various parts of Houston for most of my life, most recently I lived a short time in Curitiba, the city that pioneered this type of bus transportation. This is a fantastic idea with great potential to impact the mobility of citizens in our city. Those who remain skeptical to ride a bus due to the socio-economic stigma that bus-riding draws, guilty of this myself before living abroad, would quickly learn that the BRT is much more akin to a subway – a subway with a much better view of the world around you. Check out the system in Curitiba! It’s great.