Tag Archives: Houston Rail transit

Texoblogosphere: Week of May 18th

The Texas Progressive Alliance doesn’t need hindsight to know that invading Iraq was a tragically stupid decision as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff is pleasantly surprised to hear that the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority and US Rep. John Culberson have reached an accord in their longstanding feud over funding for light rail in Houston.

Letters from Texas provides a step-by-step guide to using your hypocrisy to justify your bigotry.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos calls it as she sees it when the U.S. Congress cut Amtrak’s budget within hours of the train wreck outside of Philadelphia last week. Republican Austerity Kills. Literally.

Nonsequiteuse asks you to consider the long game for progressives in Texas, and explains why she’s building progressive infrastructure and working the next generation of leaders through New Leaders Council.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The GOP’s end of session plan for tax cuts is getting near completion, Give It All To Business – The GOP Tax Compromise.

In a roundup of events, Socratic Gadfly says this week in Texas politics was probably even nuttier than normal — a high bar to clear.

Julian Castro is Hllary Clinton’s pick for running mate, according to Henry Cisneros. That suggests a Latino will also be the vice-presidential nominee of the Republicans. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs thinks that might be the most interesting thing that could liven up an otherwise completely predictable 2016 presidential season.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is surprised that a Republican was so honest about tax cuts being just for the business cronies. Who needs roads, schools, or safety inspections. The rich can buy their own. But, the shrinking middle class and the poor must pay for what’s left.

Neil at All People Have Value posted about 11 pictures he keeps in his phone that involve death. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Texas Clean Air Matters examines what Tesla’s Powerwall home energy storage battery means for Texas.

Better Texas Blog names the least worst way to under-invest in schools, college access and health care systems.

Stephanie Wittels Wachs documents her efforts to get the Legislature to require insurance companies to cover the cost of hearing aids for children under 18.

The Lunch Tray calls self-regulation of kids’ food advertising a “doomed effort”.

Paradise in Hell warns us that the anti-gay crowd isn’t going anywhere.

BEYONDBones explains why you should care about endangered species.

The Texas Election Law Blog tracks what has happened to election law-related legislation so far this session.

UPgrade: Rethinking Houston’s Rail Transit

As a resident of Houston, I get it… this city likes its construction projects built fast and CHEAP. So many major projects in Houston have been done with little regard for preservation or aesthetics. It’s definitely not an uncommon modus operandi for all of Texas, but even among the major cities, Houston is still the king of fast and cheap.

But this lack of planning on the forefront creates problems later on. People have known for over a century that the safest way to build rail mass transit is grade separation from a city’s road infrastructure, especially if the train is going to be in a high population area. This is of course why so many cities from London, New York, Chicago and even Dallas have chosen to build their mass transit systems mostly in this way. Grade separation, whether below ground like a subway or above ground like an elevated railway, is always safer than having multiple transport mode interactions at-grade. Unfortunately in Houston’s transit rail plan, safety is taking a backseat to cost. As Clifford Pugh at Culturemap writes, this reality had deadly consequences even this week in Houston…

A woman on a bicycle was killed in a collision with a light rail train in downtown Houston Monday morning, a spokesman for METRO confirmed to KHOU Channel 11.

The incident happened shortly after 8 a.m. on Main street at Walker street. An account by METRO indicates the college student, who has not been identified, exited a northbound train at the Main Street Square station with her bike, walked it to the intersection and immediately got on it at Walker and rode away, crossing the intersection when she was hit by an oncoming southbound train. The train lurched to a stop approximately 20 yards later with the woman’s body pinned underneath.

This week’s accident involved a cyclist, but many have been caused by motorists, and even pedestrians having to interact with the rail line at-grade. The issue is compounded by the fact that Houston is a car-centric city, where drivers are still less likely to be aware of trains, pedestrians, cyclists, or anyone else who need to share the road. This was a big problem in 2004 when the Red Line opened, but the city continues to struggle. Crash incidents peaked again in 2008, and still remain higher than most other metros when compared by transit mile. Though the city has spent millions of dollars to try and better educate all parties on safer road usage, these horrific accidents continue to occur.

The simplest solution to this problem? Building rail lines correctly from the start. Grade separation isn’t cheap… on the front end it’s a more expensive proposition. But, ironically, so is building roads. Of all the freeways that sprawl out across the city and metropolitan area, no one has ever thought to question whether they should be built at-grade. Freeways are always built with grade separation, and we need to hold our rail transit with the same level of import. I agree with the opinion that a full subway, and all of the expensive digging that would have to occur to make it happen, is probably not a good fit for Houston. But elevated rail is a much more reasonable proposition. Houston’s 7.5-mile Red Line was finished in 2004 and cost $394 million dollars. But no one ever asks how much money has had to be spent since then because of all of these accidents. Could we have saved money, time and human lives had we invested properly in rail transit from the start?

Houston’s North Line is set to open late this year. The line is already being constructed with large elevated sections, both of which are required at railroad crossings. This is because railway companies own the right-of-way and will not allow at-grade crossings with other rail vehicles.  Given how much more traffic passes through intersections, this policy should be implemented for major streets, and high activity areas as well. Houston needs to learn from its mistakes and create a safer transit system for all citizens.