In April 2015, the East End and Southeast MetroRail lines are due to open here in Houston. In August, after decades of small, incremental adjustments, the whole network of bus routes will change dramatically. This fall I plan to ride every single bus route and blog about the experience.
I have ridden Houston's Metro buses almost as long as Metro has existed. In 1970, years before the birth of Metro, I remember a few times paying a dime to ride the 82 Westheimer with a friend from St. John's School to somewhere near Woodlake Square. In 1983, I remember taking the new Park & Ride service from Seton Lake to Downtown, transferring to a bus to the Medical Center.
These days I seldom use a personal motor vehicle, opting to avoid traffic and parking hassles by riding buses or MetroRail. Sometimes I go multi-modal, with the help of the bike racks on the fronts of all local buses and special accommodations on the rail cars.
Since 1979, Metro has grown and evolved in some interesting ways, not always good ways. Due to legal and financial constraints, our transit authority has not been able to focus properly on its main mission of getting people to their destinations quickly and conveniently. Its hands have been tied by operating in a city that has traditionally been hostile to public transit. People of means perceive that local buses are just for minorities, the poor, and people with profound mental problems. The news has trumpeted tales of mismanagement by directors and board members using the agency as their personal cash cow, or violating federal law by procuring rail cars made outside the US.
Despite the difficulties, Metro provides local bus rides for a basic fare of $1.25, far less than other cities. Students and seniors can ride for 50 cents. That fare hasn't increased since 2005. Now that gasoline is less than two dollars a gallon, it's less of a bargain, and people have gone back to driving their gas-guzzlers.
Houston Access to Urban Sustainability (HAUS) is the housing cooperative in which I have dwelt for the past two years and five months. Co-op living, in and of itself, is more ecologically sustainable than living alone, with a housemate, or in a nuclear family. But we take it further with gardening, composting, recycling, reduced water and electricity use per person, and living inside Loop 610 near almost everything we need. We have space to accommodate 26 resident members in two large, refurbished houses in Old Third Ward. Rosalie HAUS is in what we now call Midtown, and uRth HAUS (where I live) is on Ruth Street in Museum Park. (Yes, we currently have some vacancies too!)
Yesterday I posted the following in the News section of hausproject.org; this morning I determined that it was worth reposting here, with some adjustments, rather than just linking to it.
True, it has already been possible for quite some time to ride the 11 Almeda/Nance bus from one HAUS house to the other. The ride takes about five minutes and costs $1.25 each way—not too steep, but hardly worth it to go a mile. There is a bit of walking at the Rosalie end: Rosalites need to walk four blocks over to Fannin Street to catch the southbound bus to Wheeler Avenue or Blodgett Street. Northbound uRthlings walk a little less after they get off at San Jacinto and Elgin or Tuam.
Also, the bus comes every 50 minutes on Sundays, when members of both houses dine together and the houses take turns hosting dinner. If you’re a minute late for the bus, you must be prepared to wait 50, or you can walk there in 20.
As of August 2015, however, the redesigned 11 Almeda/Lyons bus will travel past Rosalie HAUS on LaBranch (southbound) or Crawford (northbound), the streets at either end of the block.
More importantly, service will be more frequent, especially on weekends. The new route will run buses no more than 30 minutes apart.
Just last week, the almighty Houston Metro Board of Directors approved the Transit Reimagining route plan. Shepherded by Board member and wonk extraordinaire Christof Spieler, this new plan has been two years in the making. The process of implementing the plan included:
- examining the effectiveness of each individual route
- soliciting feedback and suggestions from riders, local merchants, and other stakeholders, both online and in neighborhood meetings
- determining whether to improve and increase service on the most used bus lines or expand service (stakeholders opted for the former) and how to go about it
- modifying routes based on studies of where people need to go for work, shopping, or recreation
- working within the guidelines of not having funds for the new University and Uptown MetroRail lines and not increasing operating costs.
The reimagined 25 Richmond will terminate at Eastwood Transit Center, with easy connections to Hobby Airport.It will also make it much easier to get from Museum Park to Montrose, Greenway Plaza, Uptown, and points west. Rosalites can take the 9 Gulfton/Holman to Eastwood or out the Westpark corridor toward Sharpstown.
Spieler has been quite candid in acknowledging how inconvenient and outdated Metro’s current bus network is. Passengers wait longer than they should; missed transfers result in horrible delays; some routes don’t run on weekends, and some run on Saturday but not Sunday; there’s too much emphasis on getting Downtown when hundreds of thousands work in Uptown, Greenway, TMC, Westchase, Greenspoint, and other commercial districts. This plan should solve most or all of that, and can be adjusted to fix additional old or new problems.
When HAUS Project members retreat to the country next weekend for their Annual General Meeting, I will deliver a 15-minute presentation on how HAUSers can make their lives less carbon-intensive by riding public transit.