January 05, 2009
Five years of the Main Street Line

Christof notes that with the arrival of the new year, the Main Street Line has reached its fifth birthday.

Today, by every measure, the Main Street Line is a huge success:

  • It carries 40,000 people on an average weekday. That's remarkable for a line so short; it's more than the 12-mile line in Minneapolis, the 25-mile system in Pittsburgh, 27-mile system in northern New Jersey, the 30-mile system in Baltimore, or the 42-mile system in San Jose. Only one other light rail system in the United States carries more passengers per mile, and that's Boston's, which had a 100-year head start. Dallas carries less than twice as many passengers on seven times as much track built for $2 billion.

  • It's turned out to serve a lot of trips very well. About half of rail riders have a one-seat ride, compared to only 34% of Houston bus riders.

  • It has attracted new riders to transit. Half of riders have a car available; 40% didn't ride transit before the line opened. It even seems to have attracted people to connecting bus routes: 12% of Houston bus riders weren't riding before rail opened.

  • It's made service faster, more reliable, and more frequent for many existing transit riders.

  • It has proven (again) that Houstonians will walk. 2/3 of light rail trips start on foot.

  • It has attracted a wide range of riders going to a wide range of destinations. Unlike the Park-and-Ride buses, which are full during rush hour but idle during the day, the light rail line is carry lots of people all day, every day. Average weekend ridership is around 15,000, more than any Houston bus route carries on a weekday. Only about half of trips are home-to-work. I've found myself on standing room only trains on every day of the week and nearly any time of day.

  • It's reduced the number of accidents on Main Street. Yes, that's true: there were more car wrecks on Main before rail was built than there are now.

  • It has supported extensive development along the line: new highrises Downtown, new hospitals in the Medical Center, and new apartments in the Museum District: at least 50 significant projects.

Hard to believe it's been five years already. Almost as hard as it is to believe that this is still all we have so far. It's hard to imagine conditions being much more favorable than they are now not just for finishing off the remaining projects from the Metro 2012 referendum, but also for starting the discussion about where we go from here. How shall we expand the system to accommodate more riders and make more of Houston accessible by means other than driving and parking? I plan to do some of that discussing myself in the coming weeks, but in the meantime feel free to leave any ideas or wish list items you may have in the comments.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 05, 2009 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Five years and no other rail lines have been built. Disgraceful.

Posted by: cb on January 5, 2009 5:50 PM
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