Those of you who live in Fort Bend County will soon have a new option for commuting into the Medical Center.
Officials with Fort Bend County's small but expanding public transportation program have set a tentative start date of Aug. 18 for a new service that will take riders from Sugar Land to the Texas Medical Center.
Bus service from Katy and the Missouri City-Stafford area will soon follow, said Paulette Shelton, director of the county's transportation department.
The new bus routes are the latest addition to a program that already features routes to Greenway Plaza and the Galleria.
While officials want to begin the new Medical Center service by Aug. 18, last-minute details or snags could push the start date to Sept. 2, Shelton said Tuesday.
The new route will begin at a University of Houston-Sugar Land parking lot on U.S. 59 with a stop at First Colony Mall. From that point, the bus will continue to the Medical Center along U.S 90A.
Shelton said the first bus will probably depart at 4:30 a.m. to accommodate those who work early-morning hospital shifts.
The last bus will leave Sugar Land about 7:45 a.m. The buses will drop off passengers at five locations in the Medical Center. The service will start up about 4 p.m., and the last riders will step off the bus in Sugar Land about 8:40 p.m.
As many as 14,000 of the 73,600 people who work in the Medical Center live in Fort Bend County, and Shelton said surveys have shown the buses could carry as many as 1,260 riders daily.
Planners believe the actual number of people who take the Sugar Land bus will initially be about 250 a day, Shelton said.
Ridership for the entire program will go up when the routes from Katy and Missouri City-Stafford begin operations.
Fares for the Sugar Land and the Missouri City-Stafford routes will be $3.50 each way. The Katy trip will cost riders $4 each way.
1. It'd be very interesting to get some kind of comparison of the travel times by car and by this bus. It's okay for transit to take longer than driving, since you can do things while on a bus or train that you can't - or at least shouldn't - do while driving, things like read, check your BlackBerry, nap, and so forth. But it has to be in the same ballpark, or people will go back to driving. Is there an HOV lane on US90A? That would give it an advantage over regular traffic, and would make up some of the time lost to the stops. If not, then the times may not compare very well.
2. A rail line along US90A out to Sugar Land and beyond is on Metro's road map - it was part of the 2003 referendum, but it's on the drawing board even if it's not part of the current commuter rail proposal. For a variety of reasons, that would serve a lot more people - more stops, more connections, and all-day service, to name three - but who knows when it will be built. Nonetheless, its future existence means this bus route will surely be a temporary service.
3. If demand for this bus service exceeds expectations, that may serve as a catalyst for the rail project. If not, the US90A line may slip down the priority scale. If you live out that way and want to see that rail line get built some day, it'd be in your best interest to see this bus service succeed.Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 07, 2008 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles