February 05, 2008
Bacarisse on Metro

Previously, I had observed that Republican candidate for Harris County Judge Charles Bacarisse had as a plank in his platform the following:

As county judge, I pledge to use every tool at my disposal to demand that METRO either (1) adhere to the clear terms of the 2003 Referendum, or (2) take a revised plan to the voters for their consent.

I wanted to know what exactly he meant by that, so I sent a query to his campaign. Today I received a response, which I'm printing in its entirity. Here it is:


Thanks for your interest in my position and the opportunity to comment.

When I say I want METRO to honor the November 2003 ballot, let me first direct your attention to Page 8, Section 14 of the attached Resolution No. 2003-77 where it states " ... the following agreements will be binding on METRO and will constitute contracts with the voters in accordance with the terms and may not be repealed, altered or rescinded by any succeeding Board without voter approval at a subsequent election."

Now, in light of this clear language, let me then ask you to consider the fact that METRO has changed each of the routes that appear on the 2003 ballot including the North Hardy route, Southeast route, Harrisburg route and the Westpark route. The "Westpark" route, of course, has received the most attention because the word "Richmond" is never mentioned on the ballot -- and now they want to build a significant chunk of the Westpark route going down Richmond. Most reasonable people can and should agree that this is a big enough change or new development to warrant voter approval.

Like many others, I am also deeply concerned that METRO seems intent on building a line that runs down Richmond despite a recently uncovered City of Houston report which warns of serious structural risks to a 66-inch water pipe under the street that services over 2,000,000 Houstonians.

My other concerns include:

  • In Exhibit A of this 2003 resolution, METRO promises 44 new bus routes and a total of 50 percent more bus service. Since 2003, however, METRO has violated this agreement by canceling approximately 30 percent of their bus service.
  • METRO owes City of Houston and Harris County hundreds of millions of dollars in General Mobility Funds. METRO promised to pay contributing Cities and Counties 25 percent of the 1-cent sales tax they collect for street improvements. METRO continues to dance around this financial liability stating that it must pay only when the job is "completed."
  • METRO is required to get federal approval BEFORE they begin construction on all but one of the Light Rail routes. In November of 2007, however, the Federal Transit Administration denied METRO the opportunity for funding on two of their routes.
  • The 2003 resolution states very clearly that METRO can only borrow $640 million in bonds; yet, construction costs have skyrocketed in the past five years -- and like many, I am doubtful that METRO can pay for this construction on 2003 estimates. As if to emphasize my point, DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) has had to cancel a line form Irving to Dallas because DART has just surmised that the 2005 construction estimate of roughly $900 million has doubled to $1.8 billion. Obviously, METRO's construction costs have endured similar increases, but we have yet to have an honest public review of METRO's current constructions costs.
  • I am suspicious as to why METRO is starting to develop strip centers, hotels and condos. They should stick to the transportation business, and leave the real estate ventures to others.
  • Many believe METRO has been reporting false data concerning their ridership. I am troubled that METRO continues to refuse to divulge their fare box, which would be a truer measure of their performance.

To sum it up, Charles, if METRO's agreement with the voters was subject to the same rules as a private contract, it would have been declared null and void some time ago. How can any local leader stand idly by while one provision after another of this "contract with the voters" is ignored or, in some case, outright violated? METRO may have sound reasons for why they have drastically altered the plan from the way it was presented to voters in 2003; but in my view, they must honor their clearly worded agreement and go back and seek voter approval.

Long story short: since METRO went back to the drawing board, they must go back to the voters.

Good luck with the blog!


Charles Bacarisse

So there you have it, and my thanks to Mr. Bacarisse for his response. I'll leave it to you to comment on for now. I'll have something to say about it later.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 05, 2008 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

His base is suburban social conservatives who think that transit is a French, homosexual, and pagan conspiracy. Like bicycling.

He's just tossing the animals some red meat.

Posted by: Peter Wang on February 5, 2008 2:52 PM

Well, OK then. Looks like I'll be supporting Ed Emmett, who actually knows a thing or two about transit, and will not be antagonistic to METRO just to appease the suburbanites.

Posted by: RedScare on February 5, 2008 5:54 PM

Mr. Wang,

Had METREAUX promised a 50% increase in bicycle lanes, you'd likely want them to follow through on that hollow promise.

We are all victims of the Urban Rail Robber Barons who are using our tax money to play Monopoly at the expense of the poor, minority, elderly, and handicapped bus transit dependent riders throughout the service area.

Posted by: Royko on February 5, 2008 5:55 PM

Ed Emmett knows something about transportation? Well, he knows how to use it to raise fees, taxes and personally enrich himself and his family.

Posted by: Emmett=Taxes on February 6, 2008 9:39 AM

While DART is facing significant construction cost increases, with its rail program, Bacarisse's claim that DART had to "cancel" the light rail line to Irving is absolutely false.

Engineering on the line is proceeding as scheduled; in fact DART is holding a public hearing at the end of this month.

Posted by: Thomas on February 8, 2008 5:16 PM