January 23, 2006
Grand Central Station Houston

Via Houstonist, Metro has requested a preliminary design on an intermodal transit center north of downtown.

The board agreed to a $1.6 million contract with New York-based Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects to provide a preliminary design for a massive transit station north of the University of Houston-Downtown and Interstate 10.

"The issue is if we are going to do this, we want to enhance the community and make a real landmark," Metro board chairman David Wolff said.

Metro officials envision the station becoming the hub for many of Metro's services, serving as the starting and ending point for bus routes, rail lines, bus rapid-transit lines and commuter rail. Riders could transfer and catch a bus or train to their ultimate destination.

The project's estimated cost is about $150 million, and the building would not be completed until 2011 or 2012, Wolff said. Metro officials said federal money would be sought.

If it winds up being located on or near North Main Street, it could provide the cornerstone for some much-needed revitalization of that area. As with Washington Avenue, North Main (which, as the name implies, is the continuation of Main Street north of I-10) should really be some prime real estate for its proximity to downtown. The real estate speculators will have a field day with this one if it becomes a reality there.

Christof provides a wealth of additional data on this proposed transit center. One point of interest:

The ITC is also the heir of a vision Downtown groups have been pushing since at least 2003: a new transit center where light rail, commuter rail, Amtrak, local buses, and long-distance buses come together. This would solve several problems:

* the Greyhound station, which Midtown interests feel discourages development, would be removed.
* the Amtrak station and its rail line, which stand in the way of redeveloping the Downtown post office and the Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s plan for a new bayou channel , could be removed.
* local buses could be rerouted from downtown streets.
* The Houston Airport System could address congestion at the airport by building a sattelite temrinal with parking, transit access, and baggage check-in counters, connected to the airport by shuttle bus.

The ITC is also a redevelopment opportunity. The adjacent Hardy Yards, once a major Southern Pacific Railroad locomotive maintanance facility, has been sold to private developers. So have the Missouri-Kansas-Texas yards on the other side of Main Street.

It certainly would be an improvement to the area if that ugly relic of a Greyhound station disappeared. I can already hear the applause from everyone who lives in Midtown.

I think there's a lot to like about this, though there are some concerns, as Tory points out. His argument about putting it where people want to go instead of where it's convenient to build is a cogent one. We'll see how it develops.

The CTC has a forum topic devoted to the ITC if you're interested in discussing it further.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 23, 2006 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

I've long thought that Houston needed something like that as well as some more major transfer centers for buses.

Of course, I'd also be thrilled if the buses ran on time. But I like to dream.

Posted by: Sue on January 23, 2006 7:30 AM

One thing I didn't make clear in my post - while the Downtown people would love to have all the local buses go the the Intermodal Center instead of Downtown, I don't get the sense METRO is interested in that. I also think it would be a bad idea, since Downtown functions quite well as a bus transfer center and since many of the riders on those buses are actually going to or from Downtown. I also have not heard anyone suggest moving commuter buses out of Downtown.

Posted by: Christof Spieler on January 23, 2006 8:23 AM

I hope North Side residents - meaning- the multi-generational families that have homes in the area - are not driven out for more shotgun mansions that are sure to surround the new development. Revitalization at what expense? Higher property taxes that homeowners are unable to pay?

Posted by: Marie on January 23, 2006 9:54 AM