February 10, 2006
No FTA funds for Metro

This is unfortunate.

The future of the Metro Solution's Plan has always depended on federal money.

It's a planned 50/50 match to move the bells and whistles beyond downtown and the Med Center to the north and southeast sides.

But Houston's two planned lines approved for preliminary engineering didn't make the cut this year.

In all, the Federal Transit Administration recommended $1.5 billion worth of projects in 2007.

There were five new ones added to the list: Denver, Salt Lake City, two in Portland, OR and in Dallas.

There are 15 projects at the same point of the process that are Houston's two requests, five of them received funding this year.

This does not mean Houston's plan is out of the running forever.

The FTA says ratings for the projects not yet recommended should not be construed as a statement about the ultimate merits of the project, but rather as an assessment of the project's current strengths and weaknesses."

Metro officials say now they did not necessarily think they would receive funding this year. But last year at this same time when the Houston projects did not receive funding, officials said they hoped it would come this year.

Like I said, it's unfortunate, but it's not fatal. The story doesn't say which of Metro's expansion projects was left unfunded by the FTA - in his comments, Tory thinks it was the north and southeast BRT lines.

Of more immediate concern appears to be the east-west Blue light rail line, which goes from UH/TSU to the Galleria area. Tory in that same post above prints a letter from the CTC which shows that Rep. John Culberson and State Rep. Martha Wong are siding with a group called “Richmond Area Residents and Businesses for Rail" that's pressuring Metro to put that line on Westpark instead of Richmond. These folks have been pushing for that for awhile now, and with those two legislators on their side they're going to get heard. As Christof argues, though, there's a very good case to be made for keeping the line on Richmond as currently envisioned. If you feel you have a stake in this, you need to start making your opinion known now, before any decisions get made.

Finally, on a tangential topic, Christof continues his look at the proposed Intermodal Transit Center. Check it out.

UPDATE Changed "originally envisioned" to "currently envisioned" after reading feedback in the comments from Kevin and Laurence.

UPDATE: Robin makes an important point about the fuss over where this line will go:

Many Houstonians support a Richmond alignment. Many support a Westpark alignment. Some support a combination thereof, and many have not yet made up their minds. Now is not the time to decide. Instead, we must agree that a thorough technical analysis is a prerequisite to making the right decision. We must evaluate our transit future with facts and rigorous analysis, and not close off options in reaction to fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Rep. Wong is scheduled to appear at the Thu Feb 16 METRO board meeting at 1:00 pm with many of her supporters. I expect her to present the above letter of opposition from Rep. Culberson, demand that METRO take Richmond off the table now, and call for a new referendum.

I hope that theirs will not be the only voices heard. It is time for everyone who supports more and better transit for Houston to speak up. We must keep all options on the table and we cannot allow a political process to take one off prematurely. METRO must be allowed to complete the federally-required planning process and fairly evaluate all of the alternatives.


Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 10, 2006 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

I live on Westpark. The route they have on Westpark doesn't even run on Sundays, and barely runs capacity on its lame schedule.

It would be a horrible waste to have it run on Westpark. Richmond has several routes on it already, so demand is there.

Yes, METRO promised the rail on Westpark when they presented it to the voters. Further proof that the voters around here don't quite know what they're asking for or need, METRO doesn't quite know what the voters need, and the representatives are just NIMBY rubber stamps.

Posted by: Laurence Simon on February 10, 2006 11:04 AM

originally envisioned.

Originally envisioned?

I don't recall Richmond being pitched to voters.

Maybe "intermediately envisioned" is a bit more on the mark. :)

Posted by: kevin whited on February 10, 2006 11:09 AM

(1) METRO has posted a clarification to the KHOU report.

(2) It's important to note that Wong's people are not just pressuring METRO for a Westpark alignment instead of a Richmond alignment: they're trying to block METRO from EVEN STUDYING a Richmond alignment.

(3) Richmond has been a potential route for this line all along. The METRO referendum identified corridors, not specific alignments.

Posted by: Christof Spieler on February 10, 2006 11:21 AM

What seems to be the problem? If public needs to be transported get some buses out there.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on February 10, 2006 1:32 PM

>> What seems to be the problem? If public needs to be transported get some buses out there.

The problem is that if we want a transit system that's good enough to be a legitimate and serious alternative to driving for a significant number of commuters, regular bus service isn't going to do that.

Posted by: Tim on February 10, 2006 5:04 PM

>>The problem is that if we want a transit system that's good enough to be a legitimate and serious alternative to driving for a significant number of commuters, regular bus service isn't going to do that.>>

Has anyone proved that using our existing rail system? Has anyone compared our rail vs. bus taxpayers cost per passenger-mile?

I don't know, just asking, because I keep hearing hyperbole without the numbers to compare the two, and we have had rail long enough to generate a history to justify how intelligent we truly are.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on February 11, 2006 2:14 PM

Anyway, get the buses out there. If the ridership justifies rail, build it.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on February 11, 2006 2:28 PM

Can someone direct me to the maps for the possible routes for the light rail going from downtown to the Galleria?
I live off near Richmond and Shepherd and in general support the light rail route down Richmond. I would think that for the route to be effective, it would have to be able to transport people to at least the Greeway Plaza area where alot of people work. The possiblity of diverting from Richmond to Westpark after Greenway Plaza could be a good alternative to avoid going through Afton Oaks but that would drop people off further from the Galleria area.

The area on Richmond between downtown and Shepherd is in need of futher development and if having light rail on Richmond in that area spurs development, I am for it.

Posted by: Bob on February 16, 2006 11:08 AM


See here for some maps. I agree that Richmond east of Shepherd is ripe for some good development, and I too think that having the rail line there will help spur it.

Posted by: kuff on February 16, 2006 11:20 AM

I have done a two part story, As a reporter in Houston, I find it interesting that utilty work has already begun on Richmond. I spoke with David Wolfe and his media rep. According to them, they are doing everything federally mandated to aquire the best route. IE:public hearings....The study seems to already be done, and Metro along with other developers agree that Richmond is WAY better than Westpark, residents and small business oweners be damn. Keeping an eye out, I'll let ya'll know more as this builds. A possible injunction is in the works...Apparently Metro is using eminent domain as a way to approve construction, as written in legislation back in the 70's

Posted by: Smiley Maddox on February 18, 2006 4:01 PM

As usual, Metro will do as they please and steal property from the rightful owners for a Cho Cho that will not justify the cost. And guess who foots the bill... BTW Federal Funding is still OUR MONEY since it comes from those who actually pay taxes.

Posted by: Boon Doggle on February 19, 2006 3:20 PM