Houston is home to the most successful modern light rail line in the nation in terms of ridership per mile of rail. Metro’s Main Street line connects two of our seven major downtowns, a key component of the strategy. Instead of developing transit as a hub and spoke system, as Dallas and others have done, Houston is looking at where the most people, jobs, schools, and activities are, and connecting those first.
This is why our 7 miles of light rail get around 34,600 boardings a day, but Dallas’ entire 72 miles of light rail get around 75,000 boardings a day. Once the North, East, and Southeast lines are running in 2014, Houston should have more daily boardings than Dallas with only 21.7 miles of rail. This means efficient use of taxpayer funds.
At the same time, Houston’s Park and Ride HOV system is one of the best modern commuter transit systems in the nation – for those working downtown and living near a Park and Ride. Our extensive HOV lane assets allow Metro buses to carry people to downtown jobs many times faster than driving in traffic. Houston should expand this strategy and implement a system of Park and Ride HOV buses that go to all seven of our major job centers – each one with more jobs than downtown San Diego or Miami.
The Houston Transit Strategy can be a model for the nation. If we fully fund transit now, we will be competing with Los Angeles to lead the nation in providing efficient transit options to a large modern metropolitan region.
With the loss of $2.7 billion in transit funding for our region, these two innovative elements have suffered, along with our local bus service. Fully funding transit will mean a major emphasis on making our local bus system the best it can be. Across the region, we should develop more local bus lines into high quality transit service, as we have today on Westheimer, where you generally can expect a bus to be there within 7 minutes. Places ripe for this type of high quality service include Kirby, Hillcroft, outer Richmond, Studemont, or Tidwell.
Houston Tomorrow has worked with various transit planners, dreamers, and riders to develop a vision for maximizing the benefits of the Houston Transit Strategy. This work has culminated in the 4th issue of TOMORROW Magazine that includes a vision for a transit system worthy of the people of Houston.