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Endorsement watch: For the Metro bond

All of the candidate endorsements have been done by the Chron, but there remain the endorsements for ballot propositions. Which is to say, the Metro referendum and the constitutional amendments. I’ll address the latter tomorrow, but for now here’s the Chron recommending a Yes vote on the Metro bond.

Houston Metro is asking voters’ permission to borrow a busload of bucks to add a robust bus rapid transit network, new rail service to Hobby airport and badly needed bus improvements.

It’s a big ask, and if voters agree, the agency will add up to $3.5 billion in debt to its balance sheet.

But Houston needs a better set of transit options. Metro has promised to add the borrowed billions to a giant plan for the future, dubbed MetroNext, and all together the $7.5 billion spending plan is an enormous step forward for the agency and for the city. We strongly urge Houston voters to support this first step, by voting yes on the ballot proposition to give Metro permission to issue the bonds it needs.

Voters should know that the proposal won’t add a dime to the taxes all of us already pay for Metro. Our penny in sales tax is already committed, and the additional borrowing won’t change that. Metro simply wants to sell bonds so it can leverage its future sales taxes to pay for projects right now, rather than wait for the accumulation of annual revenues to grow large enough to finally pay for them. By pooling future revenues, it can fast-track improvements for which users in Houston would otherwise have to wait years, or even decades.

It’s a reasonable argument — so long as the plan to spend the money is sound. We’ve looked at the details of the proposal and heard from those who support it and from those who loathe it. On balance, we think voters should readily support it.

See here for more details about the referendum, and give a listen if you haven’t already to my interview with Carrin Patman, in which we explored many aspects of the plan as well as broader transit topics. You know that I’m all in on this, and the one piece of polling data we have looks good. Either we want more and better transportation choices in the greater Houston area, or we want everyone to be stuck in traffic forever. Your call.

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  1. Andrew Lynch says:

    The bond is not necessary. Improving the bus system at a fraction of the cost of lightrail is a better financial path to mass transit for Houston. Dallas DART lightrail is a textbook example of a boondoggle. Houston should be careful not to repeat the failures of Dallas.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    “Houston should be careful not to repeat the failures of Dallas.”

    Too late! We already did!

  3. Adoile Turner III says:

    To all METROs naysayers. Our Metro system is the only other major bus system in the US gaining ridership along with Seattle. Our BUS system is envy of several cities for its efficiency. Our Rail system has some of the highest per mile ridership in the nation. Our one redline carries about 2/3 of all of dallas lines combined! This plan makes sense heavy investments in BUS. Considering houston’s size and the efficiency of a bus by cost and flexibility it only makes sense to but the bus first we should have a bus system like Curitiba, Brazil or Bogota, Columbia. I’m especially pleased that they made the West Corridor use Beltway. The appeal to outer lying commuters is definitely there with a huge expansion of the HOV commuter system.