Metro Suspects You Are Annoyed By Tardy Trains

METRO SUSPECTS YOU ARE ANNOYED BY TARDY TRAINS main-street-light-railThough 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 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. [Houston Chronicle; previously on SwamplotPhoto of Main Street light rail: elnina via Swamplot Flickr Pool

22 Comment

  • Not sure train tardiness is keeping me away, but both the Green and Purple lines are horribly slow through downtown–it is faster to take the bus to downtown.

  • I think this is a very real problem. A couple weeks ago I was riding the red line and two trains were heading the same direction only 3-4 blocks apart. The red line literately is the spine of the entire METRO system. These trains need to run every six minutes like clockwork. For as big a company as Siemens is they really messed this up.

  • I think ridership may be low because the trains are dreadfully slow and essentially only beneficial to use for Rodeo/Texans games. We need lines that run to other employment centers and nodes in the city.

  • Fidel,

    Agreed. Lines like the University and Uptown lines, the ones that are so vehemently opposed by those who’d likely most benefit.

  • Considering that the MetroRail is basically a super bus on steel wheels and dedicated right-of-way on most (not all) of its route, these concerns are not surprising. They sound like stuff that’s fixable, though. Also, I would be totally supportive of Bus Rapid Transit to be deployed to finish the rest of the original Metrorail network plan. — like what is happening with the Uptown Line. Obviously the political climate is not favorable for more rail, but if we can get a cheaper alternative on the ground that doesn’t need federal funds to get done, let’s do it.

  • Mike,

    How great would it be to have the functionality to hop the train downtown and ride through Montrose, River Oaks, and the Galleria? I have not followed the opposition, but should the idea to create a one-way artery on Richmond and Westheimer gain steam, the idea should be explored to extend the rail lines as such.

  • It is good to see that Rip Van Winkle has woken up at Metro headquarters and realized that the trains run so slow. I guess they finally looked at their sundial and were able to tell that there was a problem.
    Slow trains certainly can dissuade riders from continuing to ride – and to dissuade prospective ones to begin. If only these were elevated and out of entangling street traffic, they could zoom between stations.

  • I am annoyed sitting in traffic waiting on trains. Such a joy to travel on Lamar and Dallas in downtown these days.

  • @MajorMarket, you mean like the rail system in Miami? You know, a city that’s flat, on a coast, and subject to epic thunderstorms?
    And on the subject of this article, if Mexico City can keep the technology maintained to have 2 minute headways on their trains, surely Houston can somehow manage 10 minute headway without delay or danger.

  • ” These trains need to run every six minutes like clockwork”

    As a driver who is tired of watching mostly-empty trains go by in the mornings and afternoons, I disagree. If there’s a train every six minutes, that means any given intersection is getting screwed up every THREE minutes.

    Try getting into and out of the Medical Center by car, with mostly-empty trains screwing up the stoplights every six minutes. Good luck trying to cross Main, or (hee hee) turn left from the TRAIN lane onto Cambridge. Or get onto Main street Northbound or Southbound from Cambridge, with zero cops directing traffic. Argh.

    Metro says the capacity of each train is about 240. At 6:30 in the morning I typically count 20 or 30 passengers on each northbound or southbound train. What a joke.

    The trains should run every 8 or 10 minutes, but exactly on time, so that you can plan your connections without having to wait in the heat.

  • If METRO were a private enterprise and damages caused by the negligence of a vendor resulted in a financial loss which could be appraised in completely pecuniary terms, then surely there would be some kind of lawsuit. But METRO being a public entity without as clearly-defined a mission and poor political accountability, I wonder what can happen or will happen.
    In the past, I hav suggested that METRO should be legislatively reformed, both to give them full regional responsibility and a full regional tax base, while also making their board members directly accountable to a voting public, the same as the board members of a school district. This would also enable them to spend *more money* per mile on infrastructure in order to rightly remove rail ways from at-grade intersections (because that’s what BRT is for). About rail, I’ve said to spend a lot and do it right or spend nothing and do nothing.
    Over the years, witnessing what we’ve witnessed as the fallout a massive malinvestment in LRT, I have felt increasingly vindicated about this. Every new revelation confirms what I’ve been saying.

  • No Metro, we are annoyed by all of the smelly drunk bums who ride on the train and make the experience unpleasant for the rest of us paying riders. You need to double up on your fare enforcement in order to protect “our” investment. Maybe by keeping the undesirables out, ridership would increase?

  • Ya think. The brain trust @ METRO is the reason the transit system SUCKS !!!

  • @Downtown Funk I wonder if METRO will ever change the platforms to where only PAYING customers can access them? Like a subway in NYC, DC, The L in Chicago, etc.

  • I love me some Swamplot Metrorail comments! That is all :-)

  • I wouldn’t worry about punctuality with the green and purple lines. I never see anyone on them.

  • Yes, at this point, my view is that the trains were made available (for free) to the indigent, by design. Pretty much, it is a disgusting experience. Going to work in the morning, I assume chances are 50/50 that I will be on time / 10 minutes late. Could leave home a bit earlier… hmmm….

  • @slugline – “Obviously the political climate is not favorable for more rail, but if we can get a cheaper alternative on the ground that doesn’t need federal funds to get done, let’s do it.”

    That alternative is known as a bus.

  • @NorhillJoe – Bus Rapid Transit is more than just the buses. We already have those. Dedicated lanes, traffic-signal prioritization, and more-efficient boarding/fare-collection are needed to improve service on our heaviest-traveled corridors.

  • I live on the purple line. Enthusiastically began riding it to work and out on weekends, when it opened. The inconsistency of the trains eventually pushed me to bike to work 100% of the time now. Still ride it to big events when I am not on a tight schedule. Looking forward to the fix to the axle counters. As Metro is well aware, it is a mess with the gates stuck down, traffic backed up, etc. They’re started posting workers permanently at each gate all day to manually override when needed.

  • Metro is an joke. I dont know if I have ever seen any entity so incompetent for so long. I could tell you the DAY they broke ground on the new rail lines they would have problems. Most of downtown they dont even have a dedicated lane and at points have to CROSS TRAFFIC.

  • I ride the red line between Midtown to TMC nearly every weekday. If you had asked me if there was a schedule or an expectation that the train would arrive every X minutes, I would have laughed.
    Regardless, it beats paying $175-$300 per month for parking (plus gas) within a reasonable distance from my building.