September 18, 2007
Rail on Westheimer?

Rad Sallee points me to this interesting website that makes the case for the Universities line to be built on Westheimer instead of Richmond or Westpark. I'm not sure what the point is of bringing out such a website this late in the game - the DEIS did not take a Westheimer alignment into consideration, which seems a fairly compelling argument against - but let's see what there is to say.

Westheimer is already a poor route for cars, especially where it is only one lane wide due to parking in front of the businesses between Woodhead and Mandell

As I recall, one reason why Westheimer was rejected as a possible alignment was precisely because of its narrowness east of Woodhead. The right-of-way is insufficiently wide to accomodate tracks, stations, and automobiles.

Lightrail is best suited for commercial districts such as Westheimer, not less-dense areas such as Richmond or Westpark, or quiet residential neighborhoods like Wheeler


Richmond advocates say Richmond is where the people are but the density of local commerce is much greater on Westheimer

You'll need to show me some data to convince me that Westheimer is denser than Richmond, because it's not at all clear to me that it is. Richmond serves Greenway Plaza much better than Westheimer. I can't think of anything similar along Westheimer, at least not inside the Loop.

Approval for federal funding hinges upon METRO's ability to present a cost-effective investment. That means the corridor selected will need to yield the highest ridership possible for the dollars invested, and this is achieved only with a direct line through the Galleria area


Traffic around the Galleria is hectic, and getting through the Galleria area on Westheimer will only get worse

I don't disagree with either of these statements, but we've already got the Uptown line planned to serve the Galleria area, and as Christof has shown, there's no reason why a Richmond-route U-Line couldn't serve that are directly as well.

Greenway Plaza is much better served by a regional rail line since many people are commuting from long distances (Katy, Woodlands, Kingwood) not connected by the University Corridor

This makes no sense at all. For one thing, as noted before, Greenway Plaza is on Richmond, so it is a priori better served by a Richmond alignment. For another, if he's attempting to tie in commuter rail somehow, as Sallee notes Metro owns commuter-rail-friendly right of way on Westpark, where the U-Line would end up, not Westheimer. Finally, for what it's worth, the eventual 290 commuter rail line would tie into the system at the Northwest transit center, where the Uptown line would connect to the U-line (or go there directly, if Christof's idea is taken up).

New highrises are currently being constructed on Westheimer at Kirby. The people in these condos may prefer rail to driving, especially if they are elderly

There's also a new condo project being built on Richmond just east of Kirby, and I believe there's another one planned for the former HCC site at Dunlavy.

You get the idea. I'm obviously not convinced by these arguments, but maybe you will be. Not that it will matter, since Westheimer isn't on the table, but there you have it regardless.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 18, 2007 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

One option for Westheimer, regardless of any rail considerations, would be to make it one-way through Montrose, which I believe has been considered briefly in the past. The biggest problem with such a configuration would be choosing which street to run in the opposite direction.

Personally, I think making Westheimer one-way will be the only option we have for future mobility unless we do away with on-street parking and build a parking garage somewhere. A City sponsored parking garage would be a great asset to the Westheimer area and would solve a lot of mobility problems in the area.

Posted by: Ags Win on September 18, 2007 11:39 AM

We did a quick look at a possible Westheimer alignment when this website came out and found that Westheimer has about the same density as Richmond, but definitely not more as is claimed on the website. With the same amount of stations along Westheimer, it actually comes out to almost exactly the same amount of jobs and population within a quarter mile of the stations.

I agree that some day there should be fast transit on Westheimer, but right now we have an opportunity to move forward with a necessary and efficient line on Richmond.

Posted by: Jay on September 18, 2007 11:46 AM