In response to Culberson's request, addressed to board chairman David Wolff, the Metropolitan Transit Authority issued a statement saying that the 2003 referendum, in which voters narrowly approved light rail expansions, "called on Metro to seek federal funding to help pay the costs and we'll continue following the federal process so as to secure these funds."
The statement added that Metro "remains committed to open dialogue and communication with all points of view" and to "balancing competing needs to improve mobility for the city and region."
Opponents note that the referendum ballot specified a Westpark rail line and did not mention Richmond.
Metro contends the ballot language referred to corridors in which it can choose a specific route based on ridership, cost and other factors.
Although the federal funding process will continue through 2007, Metro staff expects to recommend a route for more detailed study by Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Chron gives Culberson the backhand he deserves.
It's fitting that Rep. John Culberson chose a Montrose area hot dog eatery as the site to declare his opposition to the use of any part of Richmond for the westside portion of the light rail University corridor. Instead of providing responsible leadership, the 7th District GOP official is attempting to score political points with a highly vocal anti-rail minority at the expense of everyone else.
Last year Culberson joined then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land and Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in supporting the Metropolitan Transit Authority's successful bid for federal funding for a regional transit plan that included westside rail. But old political habits die hard, and Culberson now seems to be reverting to his past political stance as a knee-jerk opponent to all things rail.
In letters to Mayor Bill White and Metro chairman David Wolff, Culberson makes the factually unsupported claim that 97 percent of the people who live, work or own property on Richmond strongly oppose Metro's plans. Since the transit agency is considering a number of options for either putting rail along all of Richmond or utilizing crossover routes at various points to Westpark, one wonders what crystal ball the congressman was using to come up with those numbers.
Since more than 700 residents have signed petitions supporting rail and the operators of Greenway Plaza and other major businesses on Richmond have welcomed it, Culberson's 97 percent figure is nothing more than political wishful thinking. Culberson's clout on the congressional committee that apportions federal transit dollars has given him his power to hold the region's entire mobility plan hostage to his own political agenda. In his letter to the mayor he singled out White and himself "as the two elected officials with primary responsibility for mass transit funding in Houston to protect our constituents and to ensure that their nearly unanimous decision is honored." The congressman has got it wrong. Only Mayor White is responsible for the city's needs as a whole and near unanimity has never been a requirement for civic progress.
In any major public works project, there will be opposition from some homeowners and businesses. As Metro supporters note, Culberson had no problem with supporting the condemnation of hundreds of properties in the expansion of the Katy Freeway.
Culberson's Democratic opponent in the November elections, Jim Henley, believes that this is a local issue and "we should follow the leadership of the mayor, Metro and City Council."
Finally, RichmondRail.org has some information on an interesting pro-Richmond advocate. Click the More link to read about him. Hey, Culberson, did you count this guy in your bogus 97% statistic?
Jason Hose has muscular dystrophy. He depends on his wheelchair and METRO to get to work everyday. Jason says, "I ride the #25 Richmond bus and the Metro Rail line and I see Houstonians from all backgrounds – rich, poor, young, old – riding to work and school. I talk to them about the rail line that’s planned, and I am shocked how many people don’t realize how much better rail service will be!"
Light rail service will be vastly superior to the bus service on Richmond today: more frequent service, more comfortable vehicles, faster boarding, wider sidewalks, and safer stations that are accessible to all of us – even people in chairs like Jason.
In fact, the low floors on the train make it possible for people with wheelchairs, strollers, or bicycles to roll directly into the train. That makes boarding faster and easier for everyone!
Jason says, "So many Houstonians cannot get to the meetings and don't know how the new rail line will help them. I feel I have a duty to my fellow riders to help get them the facts and dispel the myths. I know that one in five Texas adults cannot drive. Rail on Richmond is about bringing urban mobility for all of us -- including the disabilities community."
"The people who oppose rail on Richmond don't even use METRO. They have no idea where we need transit to go. It's time for Houston to hear from the people who really matter -- current users of METRO –- the people who the Richmond rail line will really serve."
You can catch Jason in action during rush hour Wednesday evening
What: Jason Hose picketing on Richmond to raise support for rail
When: Wednesday, August 2 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Where: 4900 block of Richmond, north side sidewalk, just inside the loop, between Guiton Street and the 610 frontage road. Free parking is available at the shopping center west of NTB.
To coordinate with Jason or schedule an alternate time, please email [email protected] or call (512) 217-7317.