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Metro still tweaking its reimagined bus plan

Still a work in progress.

Sweeping changes to Houston’s bus system are on pace for approval later this month, though some features of the new routes and schedules will be a work in progress.

Five so-called “flex zones” planned in areas where ridership is low but service is crucial will undergo further study and another round of public meetings, Metropolitan Transit Authority officials said. A pilot of the zones where riders will call in for transit trips also is planned.

“I have always known that, unlike the bus route restructuring, the flex zones introduce a new thing,” said Metro board member Christof Spieler, chief proponent of proposed route and system changes. “I have always known we would have to dig into those more.”

Metro already has hosted about 20 public meetings and a dozen sessions at local transit centers to roll out the reimagining plan, aimed at improving service so more people will hop aboard Metro buses. More meetings are planned to work through some of the remaining issues, namely the flex zones.

The plan, which officials say uses existing resources without adding operational costs, relies on heavily-traveled routes along major streets to move people around the area. To get folks to and from those frequent routes, buses that come every 30 or 60 minutes will fill in the gaps.

[…]

Flex zones already are in use in other cities, said Nancy Edmonson, one of the consultants working on the redesigned bus system. Edmonson told board members Denver has 24 zones and Dallas maintains nine.

In Denver, the system allows people to call two hours to two weeks in advance of a trip, or book online. During peak commuting times, the bus operates between transit centers and certain spots, like a normal fixed route, meaning no reservations are required.

In Houston’s case, there is some predictable timing built into the plan, despite the flexible timing and some unresolved issues.

“What we are reasonable sure of is the bus is at the transit center every hour and the same time every hour,” Spieler said.

He said other details will be worked out after more public meetings in the neighborhoods affected. Those discussions, however, will come after Metro largely sets itself on a course for the new system.

“We do not feel we need to have the flex zones worked out before we go forward with the system changes,” Spieler said.

Here’s the description and location of the flex zones. There have been some changes made to the overall plan and to the flex zone concept since the original reimagining map was introduced – see here for an updated presentation to the Metro board. Texas Leftist has been following this and had some concerns about the flex zones that Metro has begun to address. Clearly, Metro needs to keep the conversation going with its riders, especially those in these zones. I continue to think the reimagined system has a lot of potential and I’m glad to see Metro incorporate the feedback that it’s been getting. The Highwayman has more.

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One Comment

  1. Forgive the verbosity. My head is spinning and full of questions. There’s one question inparticular to which Mr. Spieler perhaps has an answer.

    Today I’ve been looking at the Revised Reimagining between bouts of actual work at work. The presentation on the revamping contains a lot of reasonable explanations for why certain routes have been re-reimagined, some eliminated, some combined, and some extended. http://transitsystemreimagining.com/web/plan-update-august-2014-board-presentation/

    Having spent my teen years in Cy-Fair, I’m burning with curiosity as to why the communities along Jones Road rejected service outright. My research is coming up empty. The Louetta Road corridor also said no. Both have horrid traffic, especially on weekends (though not as frightful as FM 1960), and plenty of apartment dwellers who might make use of bus service.

    Jones Road from US 290 to Mills Road is already in the Metro service area, and I believe the residents are paying that extra penny of sales tax per dollar. Yet, apart from one bus on FM 1960, it has no bus service to show for it, even to get to the Northwest Freeway Park & Ride.

    I hope this rejection is not for the reasons Pasadena, a city of 150,000, continues to avoid adopting public transit. The official reason is that Pasadena doesn’t have to pay that extra penny, and they like it that way. So you’d think people from all over the region would be flocking to Pasadena Town Square Mall to save a few bucks on Christmas shopping. The unofficial reason, as articulated to me in the 1990s, was that public transit attracts certain minorities that formerly were not welcome in Pasadena after sundown.

    Like Pasadena, the far northwest is low-density, and just getting to the major roads requires a car. Tertiary roads like Cypress-North Houston don’t have sidewalks; riding a bike on them was a death-defying act even 40 years ago. Still, Metro engineers and analysts believed they could and should run a bus down Jones, and the neighborhood responded with what Metro calls “strongly negative feedback.” Why?