I don't quite understand why Rep. John Culberson is bothering to attend any of the town hall meetings on the Universities rail line when he's made it perfectly clear that his mind is made up about it.
Culberson said his impression is that opposition from homeowners and businesses becomes strong west of Mandell Street in the Museum District.
When a resident who lives near Weslayan and Richmond objected to the line, Culberson replied, "I think you folks west of Shepherd ought to rest easy."
"If a majority is opposed, I'm going to be there for them," he told the crowd of about 900 at Rice University.
"Metro has to come through my committee," said Culberson, the only Texan on the House Appropriation Committee's transportation subcommittee.
1. How will you know if a majority is opposed? Counting hands at a hearing, where the audience is not a representative sample of the affected area as a whole, is not valid. And for what it's worth, a friend who attended last night's meeting at Rice told me that she thought the crowd was fairly evenly divided among Richmond supporters and opponents. So what method do you have in mind for determining what the majority wants, sir?
2. If I'm parsing his words correctly, Culberson seems to be in favor of (or at least not yet opposed to) putting the rail line on Richmond from downtown to approximately Shepherd Drive, then jogging south to the Westpark right of way (Westpark itself does not begin until Kirby, so the first quarter mile or so of this will go through a non-road area, including an auto dealership). How exactly do you think the Richmond part of the line should link up with the Westpark part? Running it down Shepherd/Greenbriar? I'm trying to imagine a world in which that would make sense. What's your plan here, sir?
Of course, if we let Metro do its study without any pressure to come to a preapproved solution, then maybe we can find out some answers to questions like these. In the meantime, I'd like to know what answers Rep. Culberson has in mind.
Meanwhile, there's some supplemental coverage of the City Council district meetings from before the Rice town hall. This story from two of the District C meetings shows that some people are not considering the big picture.
Residents who live along Richmond are worried not only about potential right-of-way acquisition, but also about how placing the line on Richmond will affect access to their neighborhoods.
Robert McClain, a business owner on Richmond and a resident of the Colquitt Court neighborhood, said the placement of the line along Richmond would not only place a major burden on business owners, but would have negative long-term effects on the area as well.
"I'm sure developers are excited about the Richmond rail," McClain said. "Rail is a magnet for high-density residential development. This looks like a classic land grab. Real estate interests always trump neighborhood protection."
[Metro president and CEO Frank] Wilson said residential development is going to occur along the University Corridor with or without a rail line.
"You are blessed and cursed by the same thing and that's location," he said. "Two thousand people a week are coming to this city. You're going to get developments and apartment units in your area whether Metro comes or not. But public transportation can help with the traffic and the parking issues that come with that."
Finally, I'll link to this article on a similar meeting in District D to note that Robert McLane/McClain gets himself around, though he needs to do a better job of spelling his name for reporters. Could we maybe get some quotes from other folks, too? Thanks.Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 13, 2006 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack