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Mattress Mack’s Uptown rant

There’s a lot missing from Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale’s screed in the Sunday op-ed pages.

When you get right down to it, the recent announcement that the Uptown Houston Management District wants to spend $177.5 million to “redesign and widen” Post Oak Boulevard and build a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system through the heart of the Galleria area tells you everything you need to know.

What does it say?

It tells you that here in the fourth-largest city in America, our Metropolitan Transit Authority is so tarnished by corruption and scandal, so riddled with $1.3 billion in debt, and generally so ineffective that they now must rely on a local taxing district to do their job.

So one “rogue” organization, as Mayor Annise Parker referred to Metro back when she was running for office, is passing the baton of an incredibly expensive and very ineffective transportation program to an even less transparent organization – the Uptown District.

Folks, this is not progress. It’s government at its worst.

First, if the Uptown District wants Metro to provide bus service up and down Post Oak, they could do that right now without spending an additional dime. But this isn’t about buses.

It’s about paving the way for light rail and helping the contractors and developers who live off city contracts and make generous campaign contributions.

I wish I could quote the whole thing, because it’s a masterpiece of unfocused anger, buzzwords, and vague accusations. It could easily have been a transcript from a talk radio segment. But let’s discuss some of the things that aren’t in this piece.

First, McIngvale’s antipathy to the Uptown Line goes back at least three years, when he and some other Galleria-area businesses, aided by one of the anti-rail-on-Richmond agitators, threw a fit about a design for the Uptown Line that had come to light a few months before. It’s curious that he spends as much time as he does raging about Metro and Mayor Parker and Washington, DC (?!?) since the main driver of the BRT effort, as well as the earlier Uptown Line design, is the Uptown Management District. Management districts are government-created entities, and there are certainly issues about the powers being granted to these unelected bodies, but all that escapes Mack’s wrath.

Second, Mack misses the point about bus service in the Galleria area. The idea here is to provide a dedicated right of way to the BRT buses, as is the case elsewhere with light rail and would be/would have been the case with the Uptown Line, so that they are not stuck in the awful traffic that currently snarls mobility in the region. A lot of people live and work in Uptown, and of course a lot of other people come into Uptown to shop or do business. Some number of the trips they take during the say is from one Uptown destination to another. Ideally, the Uptown BRT line would provide a viable alternative to them to driving from point A to point B, which in turn would help un-snarl things a little more. A BRT line could make such a trip quicker than driving, factoring in walking and waiting on the one hand and navigating a parking structure on the other. A bus line using the same streets as your car cannot.

Third, remember that part of the Uptown plan includes tying the Uptown district into Metro’s park and ride system, which Mack never mentions in his jeremiad. While it’s not clear (at least to me) how this will be done, it should be obvious why this is a good thing. Having the BRT line in place so that one isn’t stranded during the say will make using the park and ride service that much more attractive. Add bike sharing to the mix, and you can make non-car transit into and out of the Uptown area, and around it for those who live there, viable in a way that it just isn’t right now. How can this not help with mobility?

Finally, and not to put too fine a point on it, the voters did approve the Metro 2012 Solutions plan, which included a light rail line in Uptown, back in 2003. We’re not going to get exactly that with the Uptown BRT line, though we may yet someday, but as is so often the case with opposition to this and to the University Line, those expressing that opposition simply ignore that electoral result. This is the vision people voted for. For a variety of reasons, some of which can be blamed on Metro and some of which cannot, that vision still isn’t and may never be completely fulfilled. But that vote mattered, and the default direction should towards its fulfillment, not away from it.

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8 Comments

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    I buy all of my furniture from Mack. Easiest store to shop in. However, when an insider is complaining about the inside deal, well I just seem to be moved by his argument. I personally don’t like tears. (get it) named tears because the tax payers are crying about the rip off.

  2. Paul Kubosh says:

    to early in the morning. should be “don’t seem”

  3. Thomas says:

    “Post Oak and the Galleria area are the greatest shopping destinations in Texas. But how many people do you know shop the Galleria by bus? Years ago, the Uptown District offered a bus service for area residents and shoppers for free – and they discontinued the program for lack of riders.”

    That service only ran during lunch, if I recall correctly. (Can’t help but notice that he doesn’t mention the 33 Post Oak and its 5,000 boardings/day.)

    And the BRT isn’t intended for shoppers. It’s intended for the people who actually work along Post Oak. By giving the buses their own lane, they become faster, more reliable and more attractive for commuters.

    And to answer your question, Kuff, these bus lanes would be connected to the toll/HOV lanes on 290, 10 and 59 by direct connector ramps at the existing Northwest Transit Center and planned South Rice Transit Center. METRO, TxDOT, Uptown and H-GAC are trying to work that out right now.

  4. Carl Lazlo says:

    I fear dying in the Galleria area from red-light runners. It was a much safer place before morons fought to remove the red light cameras.

  5. Karen says:

    Many folks are uninformed about the particulars of this BRT plan. It will NOT be a bus lane which operates as an HOV equivalent. The buses will stop at each and every red light in their very own lane right next to the idling cars. They will stop to pick up passengers – it is not an “Express” route. When these points are considered it seems pointless to spend millions to simply move existing bus service from the curb to the middle of Post Oak. Moving the existing service will require removing hundreds of mature live oaks, the decorative steel arches, the landscaped medians and relocating water and sewer lines. That’s what makes it a bad idea.

  6. Karen says:

    btw, the sewer and water lines will be moved because this is “paving the way” for conversions to rail…

  7. Sionainn says:

    This idea is hideous. Yes people, put buses down the most most exclusive business address in Houston and give the ghetto light rail. To tear up Post Oak (what a mess!, this will take forever) for this abomination. Look, either do light rail or forget it! and have Metro pay for it!

  8. […] Wulfe never mentions Mattress Mack or his recent diatribe in the Chron about the proposed Uptown/Memorial Park TIRZ, but his op-ed in the Chron is clearly aimed at […]

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