May 08, 2007
No commuter rail from Intermodal Terminal?

Looks like the new Metro intermodal center won't have a commuter rail component at this time.

A Union Pacific Railroad official says the Metropolitan Transit Authority's plans to run commuter trains between the suburbs and a large intermodal terminal planned for the Near Northside probably won't work.

"We feel it is not feasible to operate commuter rail at this location," Joe Adams told the regional Transportation Policy Council last week. "We have made this clear in discussions with Metro."

Adams, who represents UP board chairman Jim Young in the Houston area, spoke after Metro executive vice president John Sedlak had completed a presentation about the project, which also would receive light-rail trains and buses.


East-west tracks, which pass through the proposed terminal site between Burnett and Naylor, and the north-south tracks, which run east of the site on Hardy and Elysian, each carry 25-30 trains a day, Adams said.

There also are a number of industries and warehouses in the vicinity and its approaches, he said.

UP spokesman Joe Arbona said higher fuel prices and congested roads have brought a boom to the freight rail industry, so the railroad may need unused space on its current right of way for future track.

Adams said UP has no problem with Metro running light rail on Main at the terminal, and said at least one proposed commuter route may be doable.

"We would be happy to work with Metro" on a future line in the Hempstead Highway/U.S. 290 corridor, Adams said. "It doesn't present the degree of challenges that operating around the Hardy Yards presents."

However, Adams said bringing such a line past the West Loop and into downtown would conflict with freight operations. As an alternative, he said, Metro could switch commuters onto its light rail system at the Northwest Transit Center, off the West Loop near U.S. 290, and take a less direct route to downtown.

I've more or less come around to the Tory Gattis viewpoint that HOV lane/commuter bus combination that we have now is a sufficient and cost-efficient substitute for commuter rail. Maybe there's still a case for a line along 290, if it can be implemented cheaply, but if the idea is to transfer people to light rail lines from there, then I'd hope someone is paying attention to Christof's suggestions on how to minimize such transfers.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 08, 2007 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

My bet is that what we're seeing here is neogtiations in public. UP is right -- there isn't enough track capacity -- but there are ways to fix that. The question comes down, as usual, to money. There will surely be more discussions behind the scenes; this isn't sorted out yet.

Posted by: Christof Spieler on May 8, 2007 8:12 AM