Rail?

So the issue of rail has been on my mind since the stories a few weeks back about Metro ignoring the voters and changing where they are wanting to put the next iteration of rail in Houston.

Back in the day, I voted against Kathy Whitmire’s monorail proposal as a much younger feller and I have generally been hostile to the concept of rail in Houston ever since then.

However, I have been enjoying driving around our fair city for a long time now and I am convinced that the Metro bus system is wholly inadequate as a long-term transportation system. Contemplating the buses for my own use I realized that I just didn’t really want to triple my commute time for the pleasure of a ride and I also wasn’t particularly keen on transferring between lines in Houston summers or downpours.

I also have had colleagues who rode the bus tell me tales of the ride and the random arrival times they experience due to traffic and other issues.

I watched with some trepidation as we built a rail route down main street that seemed to have a primary purpose of creating an attractive presence for the Super Bowl crowd. The destruction Metro created for minimal gains and a route that seems to be so well designed that it primarily gets publicity for smacking into citizens regularly. And the lack of ticket takers makes me think that the ridership numbers are merely justification for delivering more rail along routes we don’t really need.

In a city with the traffic we have parked on 290 every day, I have a hard time conceptualizing why we need another boutique rail line along Westpark Richmond.

It seems to me, in my minimally trained transportation engineer self, that buses are simply inadequate for moving people efficiently in a city of Houston’s size. It also seems to me that Metro pretty much is in the business of doing whatever it wants to do regardless of what the people would like.

I believe we need a comprehensive rail solution but I don’t think the Metro folks are equipped to do it. I think any agency that operates as free of concern for voter opinions as Metro does should be disbanded and a new entity, with far more accountability and less subject to city manipulation should be developed.

My humble suggestion is a multi-county regional operation that is focused on moving people throughout the Houston-Galveston area with the possibility of expansion to other regional areas within an hour or so perimeter of the area be formed and that it develop a plan it will be bound to follow for voter approval throughout the region.

Sooner or later we’re going to have to bite the transportation bullet here. I’d rather get an agency thinking more broadly and with more accountability focused on this problem than our current situation provides.

6 Comments so far

  1. a~lotus (unregistered) on April 10th, 2006 @ 1:56 am

    yeah, i wasn’t too sure about the metrorail system in houston myself.. to me, i didn’t think it was necessary. we still have metro busses and they seem to be doing fine transporting people.

    and i agree. with the metrorail system, we’re creating more traffic than necessary. i’m finding myself every so once in a while taking detours because there had been some accident on the rail system.

    plus, we go through construction work daily!! i think we have better uses of the city’s finances than on metrorails….


  2. a~lotus (unregistered) on April 10th, 2006 @ 1:57 am

    yeah, i wasn’t too sure about the metrorail system in houston myself.. to me, i didn’t think it was necessary. we still have metro busses and they seem to be doing fine transporting people.

    and i agree. with the metrorail system, we’re creating more traffic than necessary. i’m finding myself every so once in a while taking detours because there had been some accident on the rail system.

    plus, we go through construction work daily!! i think we have better uses of the city’s finances than on metrorails….


  3. Deon (unregistered) on April 10th, 2006 @ 7:12 am

    You can thank Lee P. Brown for pushing through his “Toy Train” agenda. The city didn’t need it, didn’t vote for it, but he did it anyway. The idea of a train on the streets of H-town is absurd to say the least! A monorail, or even an elevated train would have been a better idea. It would have cost the city less damage to the streets and there would have been MUCH fewer accidents. The last time I rode the train in Houston there were heavily armed police officers raoming the car demanding, “TICKETS!” They said it just like that, “TICKETS!” And they were very serious like the Gestapo. It was Frightening!

    I remember the Super Bowl in downtown, there were so many people on the streets that the Metrotrain was not only a hazard but also unable to operate. It was unable to perform the very duties it was put in place to do!!!

    When I lived in H-town there were festivals on the streets of Westheimer and Richmond twice a year. Now those festivals have been moved onto the asphalt jungle that is Relian Park. Houston was a fine city at one time. Laid back, relaxed, fun! It seems like they turned it into a Nazi Concentration camp!

    I left Houston shortly after the Superbowl and will never return (to live).


  4. adrian (unregistered) on April 11th, 2006 @ 6:42 pm

    That Deon fella is a little abrasive…

    Yeah, I want public transportation that works. Our bus system doesnt. And I think you’re right, buses may not work at all in Houston. I was in favor of the idea of Light Rail, mainly because its efficient. The execution, however, is questionable. I honestly love the line, I ride on it every single chance I get. But therein lies the problem, I don’t get much of a chance because its not very useful for anyone but Downtown and Med Center employees.

    We had a perfect rail line running alongside I10 that someone thought was a great idea to rip up. Immagine the traffic relief that would have come from a decent rail line along I10. But no, we’ve got to spend money on ripping up the line so we can build a new one later.

    Ugh, anyway. I’m up for anything that will work. I’d support an elevated line.


  5. Eric Scalf (unregistered) on April 13th, 2006 @ 2:15 am

    My top picks for the next metrorail locations, in order…

    1) Down 59 to Sugarland
    2) Out Westpark to Fulshear
    3) Out I-10 to Katy
    4) Out 290 to 1960/hwy6
    5) Out 45 to 1960
    6) Out 45 to Clear Lake

    A line down 59 would help with the SW FWY (provided it stopped at Greenway plaza, and then DT). A line out Westpark (Where there is already space relegated) would help out both the SW Fwy and I-10, although how would you get it to greenway plaza?

    In general, a line out Richmond is really effing pointless/stupid/assinine/idiotic/PEBKAC.

    And for the love of all that is holy and drives, Metro, ELEVATE THE DAMNED THING, THIS TIME!


  6. HouDog (unregistered) on April 13th, 2006 @ 9:31 am

    Metrorail is and ALWAYS has been about business. It has nothing to do with the citizens, their needs, their desires etc. It is about getting tourists to and from the ‘rejuvinated’ downtown area and the Reliant Center area. It was easily the worst placement for commuting needs and any new iteration will also be determined by business.

    You want to change that? Then vote EVERYONE out of office. You can’t just complain when they do something you don’t like and then continue to vote for ‘your guy or girl’ and ‘your party.’ You have to send a message to all of them.

    Write the incumbents and tell them you are voting them out of office. Write the newbies and tell them why you are voting them in. And then, most importantly, after the new folks are in – remind them why they won… because you are sick and tired of big business running the government (local, state, and national) and they have the job because you gave it to them to represent you. Remind them that you can take that job away too.



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