April 12, 2006
The right to study

One of the arguments that's being made by opponents of a light rail line on Richmond is that Metro is bound by the 2003 referendum to put that line on Westpark. Christof explains why that's ridiculous. And just in time, too, because Rep. John Culberson, who will be at the big town hall meeting in the Shell Auditorium in Rice University's McNair Hall (6:30 to 8:00 PM) to discuss Metro's plans, has decided that he doesn't need to know how viable the options are, he wants the decision made now to put the line on Westpark, all these public meetings be damned. Click the More link for his letter, and for the CTC's response. Then be there at Rice tonight to support a meaningful process over preemptive dictates.

Meeting details for tonight:

What: Rep. Culberson's Town Hall meeting on Richmond Rail

When: Wed, Apr 12, 2006
neighborhood press rally at 5:30 pm; town hall at 6:30 pm

Where: Rice University, McNair Hall, Shell Auditorium
6100 South Main, enter Rice Blvd entrance 20, Houston, 77005
For campus map and parking

Culberson's letter:

Dear Richmond-Area Home or Business Owner,

This Wednesday, April 12, I am hosting a Town Hall meeting in the Shell Auditorium in Rice University's McNair Hall (6:30 to 8:00 PM) to gauge for myself the level of support or opposition to METRO's proposal to build light rail down Richmond Avenue. I take my job as Representative very seriously, and my job requires me to work on behalf my constituents when they reach a strong consensus on quality of life issues. In the last few months, I have received hundreds of letters, emails, and phone calls opposed to building light rail on Richmond. I also recognize that the ballot used in the referendum in November 2003 clearly spelled out the "Westpark Corridor" as the proposed route, and that there is much more land and room for development along Westpark.

I know that there have been a number of meetings on this issue, and that you are fatigued from all the time this process is consuming. I am grateful for the time and energy you have spent so far, and I am confident we will reach a point this week where all members of the community have been thoroughly educated on the proposals, and have given their final input. At this town hall meeting I will listen to your comments and ideas, and make a decision based on your input. Afterwards, I will inform METRO of my position. It is very important for me to hear from as many Richmond-area residents and business owners as possible so that I can reach a conclusion based on your opinions. I am respectfully asking that you set aside one more night to share your thoughts with me, so that I can best represent you in Washington. Thank you for your patience and your time, and I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday.

John Culberson

Member of Congress

The CTC's response:


Neighborhood groups demand Representative Culberson leave Washington-style politics out of Universities light rail plan

Leaders to call for common sense, facts, and patience during April 12th town hall meeting; keep all options on the table

What: Rep. Culberson's Town Hall meeting on Richmond Rail

When: Wed, Apr 12, 2006
neighborhood press rally at 5:30 pm; town hall at 6:30 pm

Where: Rice University, McNair Hall, Shell Auditorium
6100 South Main, enter Rice Blvd entrance 20, Houston, 77005
For campus map and parking:

(Houston) - Houston Mayor White told a St. Luke's crowd that "we make our best decisions when we listen to each other," and "this won't be the end of the conversation." Houston City Council Members Anne Clutterbuck, Ada Edwards, and Pam Holm have held just 4 out of 8 preliminary METRO forums.

But Congressman John Culberson writes in an email to some constituents, "I am confident we will reach a point this week where all members of the community have been thoroughly educated on the proposals, and have given their final input. At this town hall meeting I will listen to your comments and ideas, and make a decision based on your input. Afterwards, I will inform METRO of my position."

"Why has Culberson come back from Washington to rush this neighborhood process?" asks Mary Needham, a Winlow Place resident. "We need all the facts before we decide where rail should go." The federally-required planning process is scheduled to go through the end of the year. Culberson is politicizing a process that should be based on informed public dialogue and fact-based analysis.

Many organizations are calling for METRO to study all of the options in an open and fair public process, including the Citizens' Transportation Coalition, the Neartown Association, the Menil Foundation, Houston Community College Central Campus, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Museum District Business Alliance (MDBA), RichmondRail.org and others.

Houstonians deserve the best urban transit system we can build, that serves central Houston's businesses, universities, institutions, and neighborhoods. That means looking at all possible choices of where to put rail. Politicians must not prematurely determine a route based on their needs.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 12, 2006 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack


All the pro-urban rail lemmings ignore the CLEAR language set in the City Charter referendum back in 2001. Article II, Section 21 states that METRO must hold a vote before any secment can use that STREET. The METRO "Solutions" scheme specifically STATED, along with a GRAPHIC depiction, WESTPARK!!

All the King's horses, and all the King's men still must follow the City Charter.

Since METRO knows they must have a vote on any street they wish to place boondoggle urban rail on, and any federal funds squandered planning, engineering, and/or constructing a tram line on Richmond should be deemed recoverable (and must be trebled) under the Federal False Claims Act for the abused taxpayers.

Posted by: Tom Bazan on April 12, 2006 9:41 AM

"Lemmings", huh? You're such a silver-tongued devil, Tom. No wonder you've had so much success persuading people to see it your way on rail.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on April 12, 2006 2:07 PM

Crucial factual point:

Article II, section 21 of the city charter never uses the word "street". I link to the full text in my post. It says voters have to approve the "rail system." It never says anything about specific alignments.

Posted by: Christof Spieler on April 12, 2006 3:55 PM

With all due respect, allow me to show you a Houston Chronicle explanation of the City Charter Prop 1, prior to the vote. To most folks, right-of-way is a STREET!

Paper: Houston Chronicle
Date: SUN 10/07/2001
Section: Outlook
Page: 2
Edition: 4 STAR

FOR AND AGAINST / Require vote on rail expansion; don't undo progress


On the Nov. 6 ballot, city of Houston voters will encounter two competing referenda on rail transit. Some voters might be confused, but the relative merits and demerits of the measures can be clearly distinguished.

The first, listed on the ballot as Charter Amendment - Proposition No. 1, would reaffirm the status quo and safeguard voters' right to approve or reject the costly expansion of rail transit in the Houston area. The Chronicle urges Houstonians to vote for this charter amendment.

City Proposition No. 1 (not to be confused with the proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution that will appear on every ballot throughout the state) would require the approval of voters in the Metropolitan Transit Authority's jurisdiction before City Council could grant permission for expanded rail transit using city right of way. The measure, proposed by Mayor Lee Brown, would not affect the light-rail line that Metro is building along the Main Street corridor.

Metro is paying cash for the Main Street project, but expansion of the line to suburban areas or the airports would require the transit agency to issue bonds. State law already requires that Metro get voter approval before issuing bonds, therefore no rail expansion can take place without a vote.

City Proposition No. 1 would force Metro to spell out its long-range transit designs in an election campaign and win approval of the cost. If approved, this measure would expose the lie of some transit opponents who allege that Metro is plotting to spend billions of dollars on a light-rail system without again bringing the issue before voters.

If approved by a higher margin than the other rail referendum on the ballot, Proposition No. 1 would provide the additional benefit of preventing any disruptive change of the city charter for two years, thwarting the efforts of mean-spirited factions to put the city in a financial straitjacket just when the city needs to increase its emergency preparedness and rebuild its infrastructure.

The Chronicle urges Houstonians to vote against the second rail referendum, listed on the city's November ballot as Charter Amendment - Proposition No. 3.

This measure, proposed by a citizens' petition, would amend the city charter to require City Council to hold an election before granting Metro permission to build any part of any rail line within the city. Read literally, Houston taxpayers would have to bear the enormous expense of an election every time Metro needed to install a spur or switch to its transit system.

More troubling, this charter change would require council to hold an election - almost certainly nonbinding and meaningless but for its power to waste and destroy - on whether to revoke the permission it lawfully granted Metro to build its rail line in the Main Street corridor.

Under the amendment, council would not have to hold any election if Metro held an election on rail. But state law bars Metro from holding such an election unless it means to issue bonds, and Metro won't be ready to do that for several years.

This proposed amendment would require the city to file suit to get the permission of a state district court to invalidate its contract with Metro regarding use of the Main Street right of way. Perhaps a renegade, partisan judge, ruling contrary to law, would be willing to grant such permission, endangering the sanctity of everybody's contracts, but it would be overturned on appeal.

If either council or city voters could terminate the city's contract without repaying Metro and Metro's contractors tens of millions of dollars already expended, every government entity's cost of doing business would rise, presuming contractors were willing to take the risk. The increased cost would be borne by the taxpayers.

The convoluted, barely comprehensible language of Charter Amendment - Proposition No. 3 betrays its intended aim: to be a wrench irresponsibly thrown into the machinery of Metro and the city of Houston.

The proposition probably would not stop the current rail project, but it would cost Metro and Houston taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees for pointless litigation, drive up the cost of future transit projects and discourage interagency cooperation, hobbling the general area mobility.

Houstonians who favor mobility and abhor senseless waste will vote for Charter Amendment - Proposition 1 and against Charter Amendment - Proposition 3.

Should both pass, the proposition with the most votes will take precedence. For the sake of Houston's financial health and safety, the prevailing proposition must be Proposition 1.

A listing of the Chronicle's election recommendations to date can be found at www.houstonchronicle.com/recommends.

Copyright notice: All materials in this archive are copyrighted by Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspapers Partnership, L.P., or its news and feature syndicates and wire services. No materials may be directly or indirectly published, posted to Internet and intranet distribution channels, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed in any medium. Neither these materials nor any portion thereof may be stored in a computer except for personal and non-commercial use.

Posted by: Tom Bazan on April 12, 2006 7:35 PM

The entire text of Article II, Section 21 of the City Charter reads:

Section 21. METRO rail system projects.

City Council shall not hereafter grant any permission, consent or authorization required by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) in connection with the construction, maintenance, or operation of all or part of a rail system unless METRO previously has conducted an election at which a majority of the METRO voters who participated in the election approved construction of the rail system. Such City permission, consent, or authorization shall not be subject to any election under this Charter. The construction, maintenance, or operation of the rail system project described in Ordinance 2000-1028 shall not be subject to any election by the City or METRO under this section or any other section of this Charter.
(Added by amendment November , 2001)

Nowhere does it say anything about streets, rights-of-way or specific alignments.

Mr. Spieler is right and Mr. Bazan is wrong.

Posted by: Urban Rail Lemming on April 13, 2006 1:29 AM

Tom Bazan,
Graphics from Metro are not the deciding factor. What was voted on is.

From the ballot:

**A. UH-Downtown to Northline Mall

B. Northline Mall to Greenspoint

C. Greenspoint to Bush IAH Airport


**A. Downtown/Bagby to Dowling

**B. Dowling to Griggs/610

C. Griggs/610 to Park & Ride in the vicinity of Hobby Airport

D. Sunnyside: Southeast Transit Center to Bellfort

E. Sunnyside: Bellfort to Airport Blvd.


**A. Dowling to Magnolia Transit Center

B. Magnolia Transit Center to Gulfgate Center

C. Gulfgate Center to Telephone Road


**Wheeler Station to Hillcroft Transit Center


Westpark to the Northwest Transit Center


Downtown/Bagby to Northwest Transit Center


Fannin South Park & Ride to Harris County line

So if we use your argument the North Hardy line can only be built on Hardy? But A, B, and C are not on Hardy-infact, there is no North Hardy...
Uptown/West Loop can only be built on the West Loop or is Uptown a loose enough designation to allow it to be built anywhere in Uptown as there is no street named Uptown?
Westpark stops at Kirby. It doesn't extend to Wheeler. Was the ballot lanquage flawed or do you think people aren't bright enough to figure out that the name "Westpark" might have been used in a generic manner-somewhat like "Uptown"?

Posted by: nmainguy on April 13, 2006 6:25 PM

I need to know the proposed stops on the Richmond corridor and the time between trains for a math analysis of the viability of the light rail proposal.

Does anyone have the cost per mile of rail information?

What is the carrying capacity of each train?

Any help?

Daniel S

Posted by: Daniel S on May 4, 2006 12:07 PM