(Response to “King: Metro Vote Means End of Light Rail Project,” Houston Chronicle, November 8, 2012)
Bill King may be right about one thing – voter approval of the METRO referendum effectively kills light rail transit expansion for the foreseeable future. But King is dead wrong about the essential role of rail transit in making Houston competitive in the global economy. With severe traffic congestion and air pollution, in a very low density city (LA is 2.6 times as dense), an “all-highway-and-bus system” just won’t work. A recent national report cited Houston as among the top 10 most expensive cities, with about the highest transportation costs (32% of household income) in the nation. Then there is the tax base issue – $100 million invested in rail transit typically yields $1.5-2.0 billion in new real estate development. It is obvious why over 40 U.S. cities, competing for hi-tech jobs, businesses, and residents, are expanding rail transit. Probably a lot of the YES voters were folks thinking they were supporting rail transit, rather than defeating it. Let’s find a way to compete and complete the MetroSolutions plan approved by the voters in 2003. Our economy, the environment, and our quality of urban life depend on it.
Peter H. Brown AKA “Pedestrian Pete,” Director, BetterHouston