July 19, 2006
Report from Metro's meeting on the Universities line

The first of the three Metro open house meetings on the route for the Universities rail line was last night. Here's the story, about which I'll have more in a minute. Tory discusses some of the highlights, and I hope Christof will chime in as well.

Now, a couple of points from the story. The main thrust of the piece was that Metro unveiled a plan (which they had alluded to before the meeting) to switch the line over from Richmond to Westpark at Edloe, which would mean it would stay out of the Afton Oaks neighborhood.

Some of the most adamant opposition to rail on Richmond has come from the Afton Oaks subdivision, which borders Richmond just inside the West Loop. Metro board chairman David Wolff said at a news conference Tuesday that Metro will poll Afton Oaks residents to see how widespread the opposition there is.

"I'm perfectly happy to run this down through Greenway Plaza," he said. "It's really up to the folks in Afton Oaks."

Some of them were among more than 100 people who attended the first of the meetings Metro has scheduled in coming days to discuss the options for the University Line and get comments from residents.

Attendees milled around tables with plans depicting the line, asking questions of Metro officials.

The agency appeared to win few converts.

"I'm absolutely against this," said Beverly Stone, a 27-year resident of Afton Oaks. "It will significantly reduce the value of our homes."

Stone, a member of the Afton Oaks civic organization, said the rail line would be like a knife in the heart of her neighborhood.

If the plan is to avoid Afton Oaks, then I confess I don't understand this objection. I mean, Edloe is farther away from Afton Oaks (which is between 610 and the railroad tracks) than Westpark is. What, specifically, does Ms. Stone think having it on Richmond east of Edloe will do to her neighborhood? I'd have thought this formal recognition of the desire to not put the line in Afton Oaks would be a victory for her. What am I missing?

(And before anyone suggests it, concerns about the potential effects of the line and its construction east of Kirby don't count, since Richmond east of Kirby is not in her neighborhood. If that is her concern, then I want to hear her say that.)

U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, whose support is crucial to Metro obtaining federal money for the line, did not express an opinion on the revised plans.

Culberson said Metro officials told him Thursday that "they needed two weeks to make their case to the people on Richmond, and I agreed to wait two weeks before publicly expressing what my position would be.

"Metro does not need to sell this plan to me, but to the people I represent who will be most affected - people whose homes or businesses and properties are on Richmond," he said.

Let's just say that I don't have a whole lot of faith in Culberson's professed open-mindedness on this and move along.

The new University Line maps show stations at Montrose, Dunlavy, Shepherd, Kirby, Buffalo Speedway or Greenway Plaza, Weslayan, South Rice and Hillcroft.

Wilson said the stations would be similar to those on the Main Street line but would be spaced wider to avoid restricting turns.

I can understand that logic, but for what it's worth and especially if the western portion of the line does run down Westpark, I think there ought to be a station at Newcastle. There's several apartment complexes very close to the Westpark/Newcastle intersection, and if there were a parking lot nearby (for which I believe space exists or could be made), then this would make the line more easily accessible to a lot of folks in the inner loop portion of Bellaire. Just my opinion.

UPDATE: So we're clear, Metro proposed a number of possible routes, some of which did include staying on Richmond through Afton Oaks. You can see the map here. Perhaps that's what Ms. Stone's comment was about. That I can understand, but it's still not clear to me why she didn't at least note the alternative. Maybe that's the fault of the way the story is written and not what Ms. Stone said, I can't say for sure.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 19, 2006 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack

RE: The Newcastle observation... It's also in my opinion.

Based on METRO's behavior with the Main Street line, they WILL cut back service along the rail's route. This means the 9 goes away at Newcastle and Westpark.

Residents of the Newcastle-Westpark area will be totally without METRO service. This includes the apartments on Westpark, the businesses on the other side of Wild Indigo, the businesses on the south side of Westpark, and the apartment blocks behind the Home Depot on the feeder.

They will have to walk all the way to South Rice (Bubba's) or over to Weslayan (over the big train overpass).

Drive or walk the proposed route. Then explore.

You'll see for yourself how horrifically bad it and the proposed stations for the Westpark part of it are.

Posted by: Laurence Simon on July 19, 2006 7:10 PM

So we're clear, Metro proposed a number of possible routes, some of which did include staying on Richmond through Afton Oaks. You can see the map here. Perhaps that's what Ms. Stone's comment was about.

Yes, I would think that's what Ms. Stone's comment was about. And since David Wolff told the Chronicle editorial board his preference is Richmond, I don't think Ms. Stone's comments or concerns are that misplaced, or puzzling.

Posted by: kevin whited on July 20, 2006 6:34 AM

I would like to take on the claim that the light rail line will reduce their property values. I would wager $100 to anyone that having a transit rail stop near their neighborhood INCREASES the property value, not decreases it.

Afton Oaks opposed the Galleria in the very beginning and they just want to be left alone from the uncertainty of the future (in the best light) or fear the "undesireables" they think come with transit (in a less flattering light to this anglo subdivision).

The ability to travel to downtown, to the museums, and to the universities on rail should be a huge boon to their neighborhood, and if they want to move out because they just plain hate rail, I will bet any of them $100 they will make lots of money on their house sale.

This isnt a highway that is supposed to take people through a neighborhood, it is a transit rail, something which the rest of the nation's urban area realizes enhances the value of a neighborhood.

In my view, they have little reason to object to the Richmond route, except that it will be an inconvenience for the period of months that construction is going on directly in their area. That was the heart of the Main Street line's opposition, and you don't hear them complaining any more.

Posted by: Drew on July 20, 2006 2:29 PM