The headline wasn’t subtle: “Stop Metro from coming to Spring.”
The article,published July 15 on the website Spring Happenings, warned that bus service would “give criminals an easy way in and out” of the north Harris County suburb.
A range of experts I interviewed this week agreed that little evidence supports the “buses lead to crime” idea. (This is also true of its cousin, “Low-income housing leads to crime,” the subject of a column I wrote last year.)Yet the perception persists that mass transit is the first step in the ruination of a community. It’s an attitude that could complicate the challenge of meeting the mobility needs of the vast, rapidly growing Houston region.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority is holding public meetings to gather input on a new regional transit plan. Metro officials say the plan is needed to prioritize options for adding bus and rail service, along with van pools and potentially bus-only lanes or high-occupancy toll lanes.
More than 300 people showed up Tuesday night at a Metro meeting in Spring. My colleague Dug Begley, who attended, said many residents expressed the same concerns as those reflected in the Spring Happenings article.
Notwithstanding the concern on the near north side, suburbs are where opposition to mass transit seems to find its fullest expression. Transit researcher Todd Litman has an idea about why this is the case.
“Automobile dependency has been used for generations as a moat to keep poor people away from certain areas,” said Litman, the founder and executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, an independent research organization.
Crimes involving vehicles – car thefts, vandalism, road-rage violence – are far more common than those associated with public transportation, Litman said. Imagine the reception a campaign to keep cars out of a neighborhood would receive in Houston.
Nonsequieteuse says what needs to be said about this. I’ll just add one thing, which is that if the people of Spring are that concerned about evildoers coming in from the outside world and defiling their pristine community, then they’re not thinking big enough. If they really want to defend their borders, they’ll need to petition TxDOT and HCTRA to tear up the exits to Spring from I-45, the Hardy Toll Road, and the Grand Parkway. I mean, that’s how everyone gets around in these parts, and that includes the bad guys as well as they good guys. If Spring wants to isolate itself, then let it isolate itself. Just as long as there are no half measures employed, that’s all I’m saying.