Thursday, March 5, 2009

Years & Years

It would be a shame if Houston had to ditch its plans for a crosstown line that would connect downtown with two other major job centers. My guess is that it won't happen since its a major connector and an important link. But my first question is why does it take so long to engineer and build a line? I have been blogging about this line for over 4 years now (my previous blog in Austin discussed this line as well) and the FTA still hasn't approved the environmental document?

Previous projections had put a price tag on the 10-mile University line of about $750 million, roughly in line with the $73 million per mile cost Metro estimated for the North, East, Southeast and Uptown lines.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority will look to the Federal Transit Administration for help funding the University line. The FTA has yet to approve Metro’s environmental impact study for the line, a key element in moving the project forward. “I’m feeling the frustration of a lot of people in this organization who are trying to get through this process,” Metro spokesman George Smalley said Thursday.

This is why things are so messed up. It takes so long to get to environmental studies, no wonder nothing has been getting done. This will change because it has to change. No longer can roads that fuel sprawl be built for future capacity. The federal transportation bill allows cities to use flex money for transit projects. However only a few regions take advantage of this and places like Houston need a bit more nudging. The money is out there, we just have our priorities towards an unsustainable method of moving ourselves.

4 comments:

Robert said...

I would just be so unsurprised if Metro never built the University line.

Transit agencies never have a stomach for a fight. With regard to light rail, transit agencies seem so inclined to just run up the mileage -- to just get as much service online, regardless of where it goes.

This is why there are light rail lines along old freight corridors. Of course the location of these lines are typically unsuitable, situated far from walkable communities as they straddle some warehouses. But they get built there because its a quick job to string up the overheads and there are no NIMBYs to fight.

The University line is really the only one Houston is building that has been difficult to get through due to some NIMBYs. In fact, it could have been the best route that Metro would build, through some very dense job centers and neighborhoods. Due to this, it will be very difficult for Metro to obtain federal funding, because:

The route is severely severely compromised to suit the NIMBYs, with Metro having abandoned routing through dense neighborhoods and job centers on Richmond in favor of running along the Southwest Freeway's ROW on Westpark, as it makes its way out to Post Oak and the Hillcroft Transit Center from Greenway Plaza. Running the University line along this is an absolute waste of light rail -- this will be nothing more than a through section as there is no O/D to be had here and there is no room for TOD.

Additionally, it is still so totally and completely unclear to me why the NIMBYs on Richmond didn't want this running in front of their houses. The property values along that span of Richmond would have shot through the roof.

I do seem to remember something about protecting historic trees currently on the median, but it was more likely that this just happened to be where Congressman John Culberson wanted to make his stand against transit.

Morgan Wick said...

Alternately, we never change even well after it's too late and the consequences are obvious. Oh wait, that's what's already happened. Oh well, I guess we'll just see if the global-warming implications are more obvious than the last batch.

Shouldn't people here be pressing the transit agencies? Shouldn't you be e-mailing the MTA about your little proposal?

Christof Spieler said...

"Metro having abandoned routing through dense neighborhoods and job centers on Richmond in favor of running along the Southwest Freeway's ROW on Westpark, as it makes its way out to Post Oak and the Hillcroft Transit Center from Greenway Plaza. Running the University line along this is an absolute waste of light rail -- this will be nothing more than a through section as there is no O/D to be had here and there is no room for TOD."

Actually, METRO abandoned an alignment through a low density residential neighborhood on Richmond in favor of an alignment past office buildings and apartments on Westpark. That actually served more people, nto less. The dense part of Richmond -- from Main to Greenway plaza -- still gets rail. And the outer part of Westpark is actually denser than the outer part of Richmond. In fact, it's the densest place in Houston.

The Chron article is simply reporting what's been the plan along along -- the University Line is behind the other lines in the process. But it is moving. Design is progressing, and the feds and METRO are working on finalizing the FEIS.

Matt Fisher said...

Aaaaaaaah, there's been more than enough fuckin' EIS studies already on LRT. I've had enough. Just get the damn thing goin' on.

If the University LRT in Houston is not going to be built, this will be like a big "screw you". It will appease John Culberson, who hates LRT just as much as the crooked Tom DeLay.