Re-Imagining: METRO’s new phrase for failing to achieve bus service improvements promised in 2003 referendum

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METRO’s downtown station procurement fiasco was the big story around Thanksgiving, but the METRO board made another significant decision in November that didn’t attract as much attention.

Board member Christof Spieler, who is ramrodding NEW METRO’s “re-imagining” of itself, pushed through a change in policy, so that NEW METRO (which has long devoted roughly 50% of resources to ridership, and 50% of resources to coverage) will shift to devoting roughly 80% of resources to ridership, and only 20% of resources to coverage.

The move will almost certainly hurt poorer, transit-dependent areas of Harris County — effectively creating Transit Deserts.*

The proposed changes received some coverage from the Chronicle. The change itself was picked up by KUHF, Guidry News, and Houtopian advocates of the change (among others).

We have yet to see any source identify what is driving what will likely be significant cuts in service to transit-dependent areas, which is the fact that METRO is financially strapped, thanks to years of poor management and years of a light-rail build-out that has been MUCH more expensive than what was promised in the 2003 referendum (and less extensive).

Speaking of broken referendum promises, the 2003 referendum also promised a 50% increase in bus service.

Instead, proponents of that referendum made promises METRO hasn’t kept, not unlike the President’s “if you like your insurance you can keep it” snow job.

Hence the need for Christof Spieler, whose lack of budgeting acumen was on display early in the downtown station procurement failure, to “re-imagine” service cuts.

The Houtopian “re-imagining” sounds much better than admitting voters were misled on promised improvements to bus service.

* We first heard the phrase “transit desert” used by local METRO watchdog Paul Magaziner. Since local media frequently obsess (almost nonsensically) about “food deserts,” we’re surprised they are not interested in this related concept.

Kevin Whited
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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX