Tag Archives: Texas Public Transit

August 16th: Get Ready For Houston’s New Bus Network

Anyone with a credible amount of theater experience can tell you… whether it’s costumes, staging, learning lines, orchestra cues, piano tuning or scene direction, the work leading up to a show seems like it will never get completely done.  That is, until the seats start filling on opening night.  Eventually, you have to lift the curtain, get on stage and show ’em what you’ve got.

For the city of Houston however, August 16th isn’t just “another show”.  The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) is about to completely transfigure the city’s local bus system, and they’re not going back.  The stage is set, and early on that Sunday morning, over 10,000 “curtains” will be lifted across the METRO service area.


With so much to do, it’s no surprise that METRO is still getting ready.  According to officials, the vast majority of stops have now been replaced and bagged, with the main exception being Downtown Houston.  Anticipating the need for additional staff, the agency has held several job fairs.  And of course, there are still routing adjustments being made.  Here’s more on those last-minute changes from Dug Begley of the Houston Chronicle

Officials spent more than a year discussing and refining the plan, but as opening day for the new system nears, they are still reshaping some of the routes to correct problems riders have identified.

Among those worried about the new network are senior citizens who live east of Texas 288 near Loop 610, who face a long walk to a bus stop, and patients of the Harris Health System’s Thomas Street Health Center, which serves a large number of HIV-positive Houston residents. The clinic, off Main Street near Interstate 45 on Houston’s near north side, essentially loses front-door access under the new system.

For months, Metro officials have said the new bus system will require some to adjust their riding habits, but it will benefit most riders. The new system also is expected to lure more people to the bus system, which has seen ridership remain below 300,000 passengers per weekday for the past six years, after a decade of higher daily averages.

Most can be assured that the issues will continue, but for good or ill the prep work for these is basically done.  If you’re a bus rider, or interested in giving the new network a try,

METRO has a bevy of resources to help you plan new routes on the website.  Chief among them is the new dual trip planner… a side-by-side comparison for old and new bus routes. There are YouTube videos which walk users through alternatives for several routes Or if you just want to focus on new routes, use the updated and much improved interactive service map.  For the tech savvy, ultra-hip patrons the transit agency hopes to attract, there is much to love about the new bus network.

As part of the New Bus Network, Houston METRO will institute drastic changes to local bus service.  Some bus routes, even popular ones like the 81 Westheimer Sharpstown, will be eliminated and replaced.  

But an important question remains… has METRO done all it can to prepare and educate its current ridership about the new system?  As we know, there are many patrons that do not have access to all of these high-tech tools.

To address those patrons and any others riding the system, METRO has just announced that the new print version System Maps will be released to the public next week.  Even in 2015, the system map and route maps truly are the cornerstone information pieces for current riders, and will likely prove critical to a successful transition of the network.

If you haven’t heard yet, METRO is also doing one more thing to help riders learn the new system.  For the week of August 16th through August 22nd, all METRO local bus service will be free for all riders.  It’s an extraordinary step, but again one that is needed. This time frame also happens to be the week before most Houston-area public schools start classes for the fall semester.  Families need at least one week to figure out the particulars of their new transit routes, perhaps even more time.

In just over a week, Houston’s regional transit system will be forever affected by the New Bus Network.  The stage is set, and the nation is watching.  Let’s all hope for a good show.


Dallas: DART Orange Line Rolls Into DFW Airport

August 18th is a truly historic day for Texas public transit advocates, as Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) begins light rail service to Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport. After dreaming of such a connection for decades, Dallas has made it happen. Here’s more from the official DART press release

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport are celebrating the opening of the last Orange Line segment to the new DFW Airport Station. The Aug. 18 opening means the country’s longest light rail system links to the world’s third-busiest airport.

“Connecting DFW Airport by light rail makes Dallas a more competitive, more attractive destination for business and travelers,” said Acting Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan. “It’s part of a sustained partnership over decades that’s bringing billions in investment, more jobs, and a better quality of life to North Texas.


The 5-mile segment links newly renovated Terminal A and Belt Line Station, with continuing service to major regional destinations including Irving-Las Colinas, Dallas Market Center and downtown Dallas. With this opening, DFW Airport becomes the third-largest American airport with a direct rail connection to the city center.

The Orange Line extension was completed four months ahead of schedule and under budget.

Passengers can now travel from DFW airport to Downtown Dallas in approximately 50 minutes, for a cost of $2.50 per trip.  Compared to cab fare between the two destinations, that’s a savings of over $40 dollars!!

For all of the negative press Texas Governor Rick Perry has gotten as of late, he’s still the Governor, and rightly deserves to be applauded for his comments in support DART’s monumental achievement.  On this subject I agree wholeheartedly with Governor Perry… it’s a great day for the state of Texas.

The DART rail system isn’t done expanding either.  More exciting projects are forthcoming, including an extension of the Blue Line set to open next year.  Dallas Area Rapid Transit now operates the largest light rail system in the United States with over 90 miles of track and 62 stations.  As Therese McMillan, Acting Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration writes, North Texas didn’t get to this milestone alone either.  Here’s an excerpt from her opinion column in the Dallas Morning News

There’s no question that communities across America can learn a great deal from North Texas about building a dynamic public transportation network. Among the most important of those lessons is that it takes vision, commitment and partnership at all levels of government.

In 1984, local voters approved a 1-cent sales tax to launch DART. Back then, it must have been difficult to foresee how that initial support would lead to the substantial economic development over the last two decades and widespread access to jobs and opportunities that followed.

Those things exist today not only because of North Texans’ vision, but also because you sought the partnership of a federal government that was willing and able to provide its support. The Federal Transit Administration was at the table in 1993, helping fund the south Oak Cliff light-rail project. And we’ve been at the table, as your partner, ever since.

We’d like to see that partnership continue. That’s why we’ll continue calling on Congress to pass a multiyear transportation bill to fund the transportation infrastructure that the economies of Texas and the nation depend on.

Texas politicians, especially Rick Perry, Dan Patrick and Greg Abbott, have forged their political careers bashing the federal government. But as North Texas is proving today, we need all levels of government at the table to truly bring progress to the Lone Star State.  As the region celebrates today, let’s hope they don’t forget how they got there, and that other Texas metros follow DART’s lead.

(photo credit:  DART