Metro's backward Solutions

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This story in the Katy Times is (unintentionally) enlightening about the widening gulf between what Metro officials want vs. what Metro customers/taxpayers need:

On Monday, Metro opened its 222 Grand Parkway Park and Ride in the Cinemark Movie Theater parking lot.

The facility’s impact was immediate.

We had 392 boardings, which was our second highest first day boardings,” Rosie Torres, Metro spokeswoman said.

Only the Cypress park-and-ride had more first day boardings, 478, when it opened in January 2007.

The park-and-ride can be found in a designated area at the Cinemark Movie theater lot, 1030 W. Grand Parkway North. Metro has a long-term lease on 500 spaces in the theater’s lot. Torres said additional spaces could be added should the need arise.

The need for the new facility stems from a word commonly heard in Katy – growth.

“The park-and-ride at Kingsland seems to get filled-up all the time,” Torres said. Torres said the new lot also helps Metro fulfil its mission to reduce traffic congestion along the areas major arteries.

The new lot will provide direct service between the Grand Parkway and downtown Houston. Buses will depart every 15 minutes between 5:30 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. and return every 15 minutes between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

For patrons transferring, a one block connection to Metro’s light rail will be available from a stop adjacent to the Downtown Transit Center in the mornings and afternoons. “This makes it easy for people traveling to the medical center and other places along the light rail,” Torres said.

Talk about illustrating the need for commuter rail. Instead, Metro has focused on creating a heavily subsidized, world-class, inner-loop taxi service. So now Metro has had to open new Park and Ride lots (that use buses!!) in areas that should be getting commuter rail lines. The very last quote is the most ridiculous of all when the Metro spokeswoman says transfers to light rail will be easy for all those stops along the 7.5 miles of light rail. Wow! That was surely a half billion dollars well-spent.

As we’ve suggested before, Metro did this whole thing backwards: Commuter rail should have been built first, ending at a transit center near downtown, where customers could then catch buses to their final destinations. Buses have much greater flexibility to get customers closer to where they need to go, but Metro and rail supporters frown on buses, and buses aren’t as cool as light rail trains.

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Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.