Breaking news: Editorial LiveJournalists in favor of Richmond line

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You’re surprised, no doubt, that the Chron‘s editorial board has decided that the study compiled by Metro staff and consultants should be the final say in the University Line debate.

So, there you go. No more discussion needed. The higher-ups at the Chronicle find Metro’s study convincing, and anyone with a dissenting opinion should just shut up.

PREVIOUSLY: Houston Chronicle “Rail Memo” Mirror

Here’s the editorial:

Way to go
Comparison of proposed light rail line options shows a partial route down Richmond is the best.

In the long-running debate over where to place the east-west extension of Metro’s light rail, heated rhetoric has often drowned out reason. It’s time to let the figures do the talking.

The newly issued draft of an environmental impact study for the University line, compiled by Metro staff and consultants, demonstrates why two compromise options for the project’s west side are far superior to a third favored by U.S. Rep. John Culberson and others opposed to any rail on Richmond. Although the final selection will not be made until after public input, the numbers are unambiguous.

Having the rail run from Main along Richmond and then across to Westpark by way of Cummins or Greenway Plaza offers the most ridership with the least cost and disruption of neighborhoods. Both of these routes would bypass Afton Oaks, a stronghold of anti-rail sentiment, connect with the Galleria and draw Houstonians beyond the West Loop into the system.

The study also indicates that on the portion of the route east of Main, a route down Wheeler to Texas Southern University, then jogging north to Elgin and on to the University of Houston, would be preferable. Although some neighborhood groups have favored running the line down Elgin or West Alabama, Wheeler would be the cheapest and most rider-friendly route.

The study undercuts many of the arguments made against rail on Richmond. It found the competing route, along the Southwest Freeway to Westpark and championed by Culberson, would displace more residents and businesses, cost more to build and carry fewer riders.

Building on Richmond would be less disruptive of traffic than constructing support pillars along the freeway and removing a lane from frontage roads. Worse, that would require the removal of the outside shoulder of the southbound freeway. Texas Department of Transportation officials state this would violate freeway safety standards.

Perhaps the most spurious argument against rail on Richmond is that the public referendum approving expanded rail called for it to run in the Westpark Corridor. A line running from Richmond onto Westpark matches the ballot description as closely as one running along the Southwest Freeway to Westpark.

What is striking about all the Metro options is how few properties would be affected, unlike the Katy Freeway expansion and the proposed widening of Highway 290, projects that many rail opponents embraced. For some politicians, it would appear that when it comes to road and rail, there are different standards for what is acceptable inconvenience for the public.

With the quickening pace of construction and traffic congestion in Houston, the city needs an integrated mass transit system soon. Employing double standards and playing semantics do us all a disservice.

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Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.