Carolyn Feibel discusses the Mayoral candidates’ plans for transportation and mobility.
Two candidates, City Controller Annise Parker and Councilman Peter Brown, disagree on what Metro’s main focus should be. While supporting light rail, Parker said buses should remain the “heart” of the transit system.
“I have been increasingly concerned that in their efforts to build out the light-rail lines, which I support, that they are neglecting the current bus system,” Parker said. “When we cut back our routes, when we run the fares up, we’re hurting people that have no other choice.”
Brown said, “You can’t serve a low-density city like Houston with a bus system.” He did not specify what he wants Metro to focus on instead, but called for the bus and rail systems to be “integrated.”
“We’ve got to have a rationalized plan for rail, and bus to feed the rail,” Brown said. “We’ve got to encourage people to live closer to where they work.”
Former city attorney Gene Locke knows Metro well. Until January, he worked as special outside counsel for the agency, defending it from litigation and consulting on a number of projects. He helped draft the language of the 2003 voter referendum to build new light-rail routes.Locke said Metro should expand express bus service along major corridors and consider putting a circulating trolley or bus through downtown and retail areas like the Galleria. He also proposed a pilot program to eliminate fares at special times, such as during sporting events or festivals.
Acknowledging that finding money for new services could be a problem during a recession, Locke said Metro will need to “consider programs in the context of budget.”
All three candidates — Brown, Locke and Parker — said they would work closely with city engineers to make sure the rail construction goes smoothly as city streets are torn up and repaved.
Brown, who says he’ll give the Metro board a complete makeover, and Locke have detailed plans on their websites; Parker does not have an Issues page specific to this. I’ve asked every candidate I’ve interviewed about Metro and where they should go from here, and you’ll hear more about that from the Mayoral candidates in my interviews with them next week.
As for poor ol’ Roy Morales, there’s a reason why he doesn’t get to sit at the grownups’ table:
Morales also distinguished himself from the other three candidates by not knowing the answer to the question “What is the Transportation Policy Council?” Houston’s mayor gets two appointments to the 24-member regional body, which decides how to spend millions in federal transportation funds throughout the eight-county metropolitan area.
Pop quiz: Who are those two representatives from the city of Houston on the TPC? Answer here, if you don’t already know. Poor Roy.