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There is no longer a ban on federal funds for rail on Richmond

This is about as bittersweet as it gets.

Rep. Lizzie Fletcher

There are no plans to build light rail on Richmond, but for the first time in a long time there is nothing stopping Metro from asking for federal funds to help pay for it.

The federal spending bill signed Friday by President Donald Trump, averting a government shutdown, lacks a provision in previous funding plans barring the Federal Transit Administration from funding any part of light rail on Richmond or Post Oak.

The provision was added at least eight years ago by former Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, a fervent opponent of rail plans in the 7th District. Culberson, a member of the House Appropriations Committee that set up the spending bills, added language forbidding use of federal money to “advance in any way a new light or heavy rail project … if the proposed capital project is constructed on or planned to be constructed on Richmond Avenue west of South Shepherd Drive or on Post Oak Boulevard north of Richmond Avenue.”

He was defeated in November by Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, who said last month she aimed to be an advocate for transit.

Friday, she said in a statement she worked with lawmakers “to remove language in the bill that created unnecessary barriers and limited federal funding from coming to Houston for much-needed transportation improvements. Removal of this language will put the power to make decisions about our transit back in the hands of Houstonians.”

This is great, and it’s quite an achievement for Rep. Fletcher to get this done in only her second month in office. It’s just that in a more fair and just universe, we’d already have the Universities line built and would maybe be talking about extending it as part of the 2019 MetroNext referendum, while eagerly looking forward to the forthcoming Uptown BRT line as the completion of the original system. I know, it’s fashionable now to say that we should be wary about investing large sums of money into fixed infrastructure projects like this because driverless cars are coming and will solve all of our problems. My point is we could be celebrating the ten-year anniversary of this line – the Main Street line just turned 15 years old, in case you forgot to send it a birthday card – with millions of passengers having ridden it over that span. People often talk about how the time to have built rail in Houston was years ago. Well, we were on the verge of doing just that following the 2003 election, but politics, shortsightedness, NIMBYism, and the incompetence and mismanagement of the Metro CEO and Board following that election killed this key part of it off. I salute and thank Rep. Fletcher for keeping her word. I just mourn that it comes too late to deliver what had once been promised to us.

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19 Comments

  1. Joel says:

    It could be worse. You could be in Austin.

  2. voter_worker says:

    I’m skeptical about driverless cars catching on in Houston specifically and Texas in general. Problem #1 is that they will be programmed to strictly obey all laws governing vehicular traffic. We all know how popular it is in Harris County to scrupulously avoid exceeding the posted speed limit. As for Richmond Avenue, the condition of the street along the proposed rail route is abominable so it doesn’t seem out of bounds to consider re-building it with the rail line included, and preferably elevated. Linking the Galleria, Afton Oaks, Greenway Plaza, Upper Kirby and Montrose to the rest of the network seems like a no-brainer to me even more so than when originally proposed.

  3. Jules says:

    At grade rail is dumb. They are talking about a rail line from downtown to Hobby that will turn a 20 minute drive into an hour long train ride. I guess it will serve people along the way. They may already have express bus service between downtown and Hobby, that is the way to go.

  4. David Fagan says:

    Didn’t someone already spend a lot of tax dollars on a bus express route through post oak?

  5. Joel says:

    “I’m skeptical about driverless cars catching on in Houston specifically and Texas in general.”

    this would actually be a good thing, voter_worker.

    the idea that adding more cars to the road without anyone in them would REDUCE traffic is facially absurd. consider: if every car has one person in it, is that more or less traffic than if every car had two people in it? so would going from 1 to zero people in cars REDUCE the number of cars or increase it? ADDING driverless cars as a plan to reduce traffic is laughable.

  6. Jules says:

    Lol Joel, I guess if a driverless car is going to pick someone up it would be empty, but the point would be to carry people around, not just aimlessly drive. Think of it more like if your Uber driver weren’t in your car, she’s not going to the concert with you, she’s just driving you.

  7. Bill Daniels says:

    Jules,

    Let’s say I get in my car and drive downtown and back. OK, now let’s say I get a driverless car, Uber, whatever. That vehicle has to drive to my house to pick me up, deliver me downtown, and then drive BACK to downtown to pick me back up and deliver me home, and then the car finds itself outside my house, waiting for a new person to pick up that probably won’t be next door to me. The car will have to drive to the new location for the pickup.

    Just with my one round trip, there have been more road miles driven than if I simply drove myself.

    If your point is to try and get people to give up their privately owned cars, maybe that’s an option. If your goal is to take cars off the road and unclog the freeways, it won’t work.

  8. Jules says:

    Shut up Bill.

  9. Thomas says:

    Not to mention all the driverless delivery vehicles that will be deployed. Automation will allow retailers to eliminate the middleman of UPS or FedEx and send merchandise directly to your house. Just wait until Forever 21 or Old Navy start dispatching fleets of “mobile dressing rooms” that allow people to try on clothes in their very own driveway…

  10. Jules says:

    Yes, the lack of driverless vehicles is the only thing keeping people from trying on clothes in their driveways. Let’s hope it’s like hover cars and never happens.

  11. Jason Hochman says:

    Jules, Bill is correct. There was a study (and a Rice professor is one of the authors) that shows how these Uber and jitney cars increase traffic, congestion, and accidents. Driver-less cars will have the same effect. Where is that guy who always posts about taxi medallions?

    Another problem with the driver-less car is that soon a hacker or terrorist will commandeer all of them. They will lock their doors, and head off cliffs or into the ocean, or all crash into each other. Stephen King presaged this with a story called “Trucks,” and he later expanded it into a movie, “Maximum Overdrive.” The vehicles took on a life of their own and turned on the people.

  12. Jules says:

    Jason, I would not even get into a driverless car much less ride in one and am not an advocate but I’m pretty sure that the people talking about driverless cars making traffic better are thinking that people would own and “drive” a driverless car instead of a regular car. I don’t think they are thinking driverless cars are “in addition to.” Their thinking is, I believe, that the driverless cars would drive more efficiently and thus faster.

    Also, I would like to ask that you not mention my name alongside Bill’s again. I would prefer not to acknowledge the murder advocate. Thanks!

  13. C.L. says:

    I think I’d prefer to ride the roads with the majority of the other vehicles being driverless – no driver = (theoretically) no speeding or romping on the brakes ‘too late’, no herky jerky lane changes, blinkers actually used, no one riding my ass in the ‘slow’ lane, etc.

    Bring it on !

  14. Jules says:

    Closing unnecessary gaps may be one of the things that would make driverless cars more efficient traffic wise. Dunno if that would be ass riding close though.

  15. Bill Daniels says:

    Jules,

    Sorry getting curb stomped by logic and facts hurt your fee-fees. Really.

    Now, speaking of murder, shouldn’t you be celebrating Vermont trying to become another infanticide legal state? Baby crowning? I don’t think so. Kill it!!!!!

    https://legislature.vermont.gov/Documents/2020/Docs/BILLS/H-0057/H-0057%20As%20Introduced.pdf

  16. Ross says:

    @Bill, that’s not what the bill says. Do you have a reading comprehension problem, or are you being a drama queen? Why are you in favor of murdering people on the border, but want to force women to carry a non-viable fetus to term? Are you going to propose that all cases of miscarriage be investigated to make sure that it was due to natural causes? What business is it of yours what medical procedure a woman and her doctor decide is appropriate?

  17. Bill Daniels says:

    Ross,

    I’m for abortion. I just like pointing out the inconsistent logic by some posters here.

    (b) No State or local law enforcement shall prosecute any individual for

    7 inducing, performing, or attempting to induce or perform the individual’s own abortion.

    Hey, go ahead and stab your crowning baby with forceps! No prosecution is allowed!

    “BILL AS INTRODUCED H.572019Page 5of 6VT LEG #335334 v.7(B) any municipality, or any agency, department, office, or other 1 subdivision of municipal government, or any elective or appointive officer or 2 employee within municipal government.3 §9497.ABORTION; RESTRICTING ACCESS PROHIBITED 4A public entity shall not: 5(1) deprive a consenting individual of the choice of terminating the 6 individual’s pregnancy; 7(2) interfere with or restrict, in the regulation or provision of benefits, 8 facilities, services, or information, the choice of a consenting individual to 9 terminate the individual’s pregnancy;10(3) prohibit a health care provider, acting within the scope of the health 11 care provider’s license, from terminating or assisting in the termination of a 12patient’s pregnancy; or13(4) interfere with or restrict, in the regulation or provision of benefits, 14facilities, services, or information, the choice of a health care provider acting 15within the scope of the health care provider’s license to terminate or assist in16the termination of a patient’s pregnancy”

    Ross, read it. That’s what it says. No state or local enforcement. Sound a lot like sanctuary cities and states?

    I mean, why should the women of Vermont have less rights to off their child than women in New York? There’s an issue of fairness.

  18. ROBERT says:

    omg, how did a rail post turn into abortion?? And guys having such a strong opinion on what females do….wtf??

    @Jules “Shut up Bill” priceless…..

    although I don’t live in Houston anymore, I come for the comments 😉 of course for Kuff’s wise insights as well !

  19. Bill Daniels says:

    Hey Jules!

    https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/terence-p-jeffrey/177-house-members-vote-against-bill-makes-killing-born-baby-murder

    “Among the members who voted against this bill that would clarify that it is an act of murder to kill a baby who survives an abortion were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D.-Fla.), Rep. Jackie Speier (D.-Calif.), and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D.-N.Y.)”

    Oops! Baby born alive despite doing your best to kill it? Kill it when it’s on the table, after it’s been born!

    We got this.