What’s Left of the Burnett Transit Center

Has Metro ever made a more expensive mistake than spending $42 million on a contract with a Spanish rail-car construction firm that violated federal procurement rules? Now that the American subsidiary of Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles has agreed to return $14 million of that money, the answer is yes: That would be the $41 million Houston’s transit agency reports it spent on developing an intermodal terminal at the corner of Main and Burnett streets just north of Downtown. Metro CEO George Greanias confirms the agency has given up on the design (above), which would have included a giant octopus-like dome, bus bays, a commuter rail terminal, a “kiss-and-ride” area, and maybe a Metro RideStore, restrooms, newsstands, food stands, and gift shops. There will still be a Burnett Transit Center station with a North Line rail stop, but Greanias tells the Chronicle‘s Chris Moran the trashed design would have been too expensive to run. Metro may have even killed the bus station part: Greanias says they haven’t decided whether any other modes of transit will connect to the light-rail line at that location.

Image: Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects

25 Comment

  • Say what you will about Metro’s malfeasance, the notion that most great cities have at least one iconic transportation hub and the desire to bring that home is, hopefully, not lost to Houston, only further delayed.

  • We already have a grand transportation hub, called Beltway 8, an apt and grand construction befitting the petro-energy capital of the world. It celebrates the single-rider, air quality be damned, motored goliath, where gasoline price hikes are seen as good for the local economy and oil spills a warning to diversify portfolios til it’s time to snap the petro stocks back up at bargain basement prices. The malfeasance of Metro eclipses the city’s budget shortfall, a pothole that could hold a pothole. These jokers should be paraded out of their shiny headquarters with their walking papers. I guess we know where all the Enron accountants found work after being drummed out of that fiasco. Maybe we should be closing the freeways to just town lanes ofcars and laying track there, no right-of-way, imminent domain or costly land buyouts to worry about, they already go where people want them to.

  • They really should have built the light rail to work with the park and ride system already in place. Have it run along the freeways in its own dedicated “lane” (similar to the HOV lanes) to minimize “encounters” with other modes of transportation, and meet at a central hub in or near downtown where passengers can transfer to a bus to take them to their final destination. Like SL said, no ROW issues and it would actually move people from where they live, to where they work, and back again. But for some reason, I don’t think that is what light rail in Houston was ever about.

  • What a silly looking building.

    I think the notion that Houston need’s some “grand” building to be a focal hub of transit is wrong. What Houston needs are buildings (plural), that work together. Buildings that create neighborhoods and function off of each other.

    We don’t need 1 big blob. We need many smaller buildings that contribute to the sense of place and community. Last I saw, no one particular building ever did that.

  • Besides…Lightrail & Bus don’t really need some giant cluster of a building. They only need to have stops that are within a few minute walk of each other.

  • Another slow clap moment for METRO!
    I would say something about ‘The best laid plans, etc.’, But with a track record like theirs, I really can’t be surprised any more.

    Good luck with your inevitable visit to principal Parker’s office, kids!

  • When did “kiss and ride” enter the lexicon to the point that neither the Chronicle, Houston Press nor Swamplot feels a need to explain? Surely I’m not the only one that had to google that one.

  • Georgie Boy’s comments about not building monuments disturbs me and comes across as lacking creativity and vision.

  • If the wankers responsible for wasting this money were facing possible jail time, we would see less of it. But, they just move on to more lucrative endeavors.

  • TacoTruck ==> From Wikipedia

    Many railway stations and airports feature an area in which cars can discharge and pick up passengers. These “kiss and ride” facilities allow drivers to stop and park temporarily, instead of the longer-term parking associated with park and ride facilities.

    Some high-speed railway stations in Taiwan have signs outside stations reading Kiss and Ride in English, with Chinese characters above the words that read “temporary pick up and drop off zone”. Most people in Taiwan have no idea what the colloquialism means.[5]

    Deutsche Bahn has announced that it will be changing the English expressions for Kiss and Ride, Service Points and Counters to German ones.[6]

    The term first appeared in a January 20, 1956, Associated Press report published in the Los Angeles Times.[7]

  • Georgie Boy? Really?

    I have no problem building landmarks. It seems to be a bit overblown for our current needs. If someone wants to build Penn Station, and all the requisite lines that would require a Penn Station…have at it! However, for 1 light-rail line and 3 or 4 buses…


    I’d rather have a nice neighborhood of quality architecture, than one landmark surrounded by a sea of parking. Like our “landmarks” of late seem to be – Minute Maid, Reliant, well…that’s it.

    Besides, “blob-itecture” doesn’t good architecture make.

  • Maybe I’m part Taiwanese?? I too had no idea what the colloquialism means.

  • Wowsers. I am all for public transportation, even that silly light rail (its a start). But 42 mil to “develop” an intermodal transit center? Did they even buy the land and do remediation, or did they just flush 42 mil down the design consultant toilet?

    If Houston had such a thing as an investigative journalist, they would take a long hard look at the relationship between this project and the once upon a time Hardy Yards mixed use project. I bet the selling point on the tranist center was its proximity to Hardy Yards, and the selling point on Hardy Yards was the transit center. But, I don’t think the Hardy Yards developers have dropped 42 mil, and they actually bought the land.

  • Light rail is an absolute fucking joke. For ONE TENTH of the price of light rail we can build a Bus Rapid Transit System that works EXACTLY like a train without the rails. There are examples already in use elsewhere that prove is feasibility.

  • What Houston really needs is something like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_rapid_transit

    Build an elevated grid of these over the existing city streets and people will flock to them. Automated cars take you right where you want to go with no stopping and no transfers. You just kick back in air conditioned comfort and enjoy the ride.

    Houston is simply too spread out for light rail to ever work. It will rarely ever go to the places you want to get to. This solves that problem because it is so much cheaper that you can build a whole lot more of it.

  • Bernard, I’m right there with you about rail. It’s a bunch of senseless nonsense. Rail has absolutely no advantages over a bus…put some electric & natural gas powered busses out there. Rail is so damn expensive…those people are just fools. Y’all need to take that money and put it where it makes a diffence. Man, every time I’ve been on that rail, people just walk on in and don’t pay. Thank you-Freddie J

  • METRO = LOSERS. These people are animals.

  • Kiss-and-ride means a place where an automobile driver pulls up and drops off a passenger to get on public transportation. The assumption is that they are usually a married couple, hence a kiss before they part.

  • $5 gas…

    Without Lanier and his “land in the sticks”
    developer buddies, we’d already have a multi-modal transit system, and would have been paying it off for years.

    Never elect a former chair of the Texas HIGHWAY Commission mayor.

    Rail haters, enjoy the Middle East re-alignment and the attendant impact on oil and gas futures; it may entice me to snag light rail lifts from TMC–>Downtown.
    Too bad the Lanier gang(and others) wiped out/stalled 4-5 other areas from offering the same alternative to “gas sticker shock” commuters. Sit in gridlock and watch your gas gauge droop…

    They put in pretty roses, though.

  • I’ve heard the touch of Metro’s Chairman can cure cancer and make the blind see.

  • Well…

    I heard he’s 8 feet tall and he can shoot lightning balls from his arse, and firebolts from his eyes!

  • A true rail system that runs it’s own ROW not in the way of cars like WMATA in DC or CTA in Chicago is better than any type of rapid Bus system. An efficient bus system does not match an efficient rail system. But it sucks that this LRT system is nothing more than a streetcar system. Scrap it and start over. The idea of BRT is good but an efficient LRT system is better.

  • The North Intermodal Terminal never had enough rail capacity to create the ridership that justifies such a grand building.

    Two platforms serving three tracks? Hell, that’s about what the current Amtrak station has now.

    If you want a station building as glamorous as 30th Street or LAUPT, you need infrastructure as beefy as 30th Street (16 tracks) or LAUPT (10 tracks).

    With the glass dome out of the way, commuter rail will just have to get built incrementally. Start with the Amtrak station. Next, add a couple platforms. Once you’ve outgrown the space, raze the Barbara Jordan PO and put a new train station there. I hear the Southern Pacific thought it was a good location back in the day, what with being walking distance to downtown and all.

    Come to think of it, that’s what we should’ve been doing all along.

  • Its funny how everyone here says that buses are the only way to go. Rail systems have more capacity and will have more ridership. Period. Just look at official ridership statistics: http://www.apta.com/resources/statistics/Documents/Ridership/2010_q4_ridership_APTA.pdf

    Notice how Houston’s transit system has a ridership of ony about 280,000. Now how do we get more ridership? Thats the whole point of improving public transit isn’t it? To get more ridership? So we can stop pouring money into re-doing our highways? OK so assuming we want to get more ridership, let’s look at every public transit system in the US with more ridership than us, shall we? Lookie there! Notice how all of these superior systems with more ridership than METRO all have rail systems! Bravo!
    Build the rails, and ridership will go up.

  • So bro, I got it. No wild transit center located at that rail stop. But still, it is a rail stop. It sits at the top of the bridge that goes over Piss Tunnel. So, how do the people that Metro wanted to get either on or off at this station do that? This really makes the “bridge to nowhere” nothing. Can you speak to this??