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How many rail lines to Hobby do we need?

Maybe just one.

Metropolitan Transit Authority board members on Thursday agreed to plan on one light rail line to Hobby Airport, as opposed to the two initially proposed as part of the agency’s long-term transportation plan.

The first draft of the plan, dubbed Metro Moving Forward, included extensions of both the Purple Line and Green Line to Hobby. The proposal had the Purple coming from southeast Houston near MacGregor Park and the Green coming from near Gus Wortham Golf Course. The projects represented roughly $1.8 billion of the $7.5 billion Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to spend on major projects and improvements over the next 40 years.

Both of the light rail extensions enjoy support from local officials and residents along the planned routes to Hobby, but the plan of two routes to the same airport also drew criticism. Each of the routes also had skeptics, who noted the Purple Line would travel a loosely developed industrial area for part of the trip, while the Green Line’s straightest path – along Broadway – would anger some residents and force Metro to rebuild a street that the city spent money sprucing up for the Super Bowl in 2017.

[…]

Metro CEO Tom Lambert said staff will study the options and return to the board with a suggestion of which line to advance. Based on board comments, however, the Green Line had an edge. Terri Morales noted after driving the Purple Line’s proposed route, she felt there were many more clusters along the Green Line that made sense as potential stations and places where people would want to go.

Metro chairwoman Carrin Patman agreed, noting the economic potential of an East End line.

“I do not think the Purple route as currently designed to Hobby makes sense,” Patman said.

The primary selling point of the Purple Line is it would directly connect the University of Houston and Texas Southern University to the airport.

That potential left the Purple Line some life, in one scenario officials will examine. At the pressing of board member Sanjay Ramabhadran, Lambert said officials will also study if there is an intersection point where it makes sense to extend the Green and Purple light rail lines, then have one of the routes continue the trip to Hobby. That way, both neighborhoods have easier access, without the higher cost of two distinct rail lines.

“I want to see if we have that flexibility to make something work,” Ramabhadran said.

Officials have about three months to work out the details of a final plan, with the revised rail proposal, and then seek more public input. The long-range plan is tentatively expected to be approved by Metro’s board on July 29. The latest Metro can place an item on the November ballot is Aug. 19.

See here for the previous update. There’s more ground covered in the story, so go read the rest of it. I like the idea of finding a way to join the Green and Purple lines on the way to Hobby so that both can ultimately go there. Maybe that means extending the Purple line to Broadway to join it up with the extended Green line. Seems like the simplest solution, though whether it would be the best, or even a workable one, is one for Metro to figure out. We’ll know soon enough.

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6 Comments

  1. Ross says:

    The answer is…none. We don’t need more street destroying, neighborhood ruining, overpriced rail lines. Metro should run buses, and that’s it. Metro lacks project management skills, and is not transparent. Besides, the rail we already have is not successful, and screws up traffic.

  2. Jules says:

    Ross, agree 100%

  3. C.L. says:

    We should go back to horses and buggies.

  4. Jules says:

    At grade rail is dumb. An express bus to Hobby would be 4x faster and more than 4x cheaper.

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    Spot on, Ross, and Jules gets it right here, too. Heck, even C.L. gets credit here for being edgy.

    [sniff] [wipes away tear]

    I’m proud of you guys.

  6. Ira Dember says:

    “If God had meant for humans to fly, She would have made it easier to get to the airport.”

    That said, two separate lines *might* make sense for a couple of reasons:

    1. You’ve heard the phrase “purpose-built.” If we’re laying tracks to an airport, presumably it’s to help travelers (duh!) — not the line’s only purpose but a big one. Now consider what travelers do: they schlep luggage, sometimes with kids. (Been there, done that!) If transportation can avoid having travelers lug their stuff onto a transfer platform, wait for a second train, then load their stuff again, just to go the last few minutes to catch their flight… Also, a transfer adds yet another layer of uncertainty when timing is critical, on top of getting your bags checked in and navigating security. Travelers need less uncertainty, hassle and delay — not more.

    2. Yes, the second line would run through less-dense industrial areas, thereby serving fewer riders — for now. But “build it and they will come.” Think long term. A rail line can gradually transform a route. (Ask any developer.) Industrial use will eventually give way to mixed use, growing the city’s tax base. Further, building it now when land use is more sparse, means the line could be built somewhat more easily and perhaps somewhat more cheaply than otherwise.

    On the downside, building rail lines would almost certainly spawn or accelerate gentrification in some traditional neighborhoods. Impacts on home prices and rents could be devastating. Therefore folks in these neighborhoods should have a strong say at the outset, before any plans come remotely close to being a done deal. To many people in Houston, this view may be heresy, but it needs to be said.