I like what I’m hearing from new Metro Board Chair Carrin Patman.
A regional transportation plan is critical, Patman said, because it allows everyone to establish what transit and transportation officials should be doing. Everyone, including counties and cities not part of Metro today, needs to be part of the dialogue and outline needs from new roads to new transit offerings, she said.
“You have to have their input into the transportation plan,” Patman said of the suburban communities. “That’s the only way you are going to develop something broader.”
Part of having that regional conversation is to chart a course for improving transit and possibly adding to it. Though construction is a long way off, Patman said the 2003 referendum approved by voters remains the playbook.
And yes, that includes a Westpark corridor, whatever that may entail. The University Line light rail project is the biggest sticking point between transit skeptics, notably U.S. Rep. John Culberson who represents western Houston and supporters of light rail expansion.
“We definitely need a link between downtown and the Galleria,” Patman said. “We will look at any means we can get that connectivity and any route we can get there.”
The Uptown dedicated bus lanes, which Patman also supports, could be a catalyst for making that connection, and show off an alternative to light rail that could be considered with frequent, dedicated buses.
“We are going to look at all sources of funding,” Patman said, noting her personal interest in possibly expanding public-private partnerships. “But my best prediction is, yes, we will have to go back to the voters and ask for more bonding authority.”
I swear to you, I am still working on a set of posts outlining my own vision for Metro and where I’d like to see it go over the next few years. With all the other stuff going on, it’s been hard to carve out the time to do this writing, but I’ll get there. Some of the things Patman discusses in this story are on my list as well, especially the shift to a broader, more regional approach to transit and transportation. It’s also good to see rail expansion being brought up, but I see that as being a little farther out. If there’s one thing I hope we’ve all learned from past Metro experience, it’s that lack of communication from them is a killer. They need to constantly engage with a wide range of stakeholders or anything they want to do becomes much harder to achieve. The Gilbert Garcia board got a lot done, and along the way repaired a lot of relationships with other agencies, various government entities, and the public. One of Patman’s jobs is to build on that so the rest of what she envisions becomes possible. I wish her all the best. KUHF and Write On Metro have more.