METRO sets public meetings on bus system

May. 28, 2014Memorial Examiner

Metropolitan Transit Authority has begun a series of public meetings next week to obtain public input on its “reimagined” bus service plan.

METRO’s year-long “System Reimagining” process has produced a grid-like system of simpler, straighter and more frequent bus routes that criss-cross key population and employment centers and adds flex zones to link areas with declining ridership to the more frequent routes.

As proposed, 93 percent of existing customers would be able to use the same bus stop they do now. And the number of riders within a half mile of routes that run every 15 minutes, seven days a week would more more than double, from 534,000 to 1.1 million, particularly in the growing west and southwest portions of the city.

“This is a proposal right now, and there is anticipation it will be tweaked as we move forward,” said METRO board member Burt Ballanfant. “From the day we authorized it, people have known this will be a fully-explored initiative.”

In the Examiner area, the proposed system would eliminate the No. 73 cross-town route and add a new No. 42 Stella Link route with buses running every 30 minutes from near South Main to north of San Felipe and into the Downtown Transit Center, where riders could connect with rail or other bus routes.

The popular frequent service on Bellaire Boulevard and Bissonnet would continue.

Flex zones are proposed in areas with declining ridership in the far north and northeast corners of Houston. Customers in these areas would be able to schedule a ride to connect with the more frequent routes.

“Some service is enhanced and others may find their routes are changed,” Ballanfant said. “The overall belief and extrapolation of these routes is that overall ridership will increase 20 percent.”

Estimated cost to implement the new routes is $7.5 million, but the cost to operate it would be the same as the existing bus system.

METRO officials say that public feedback obtained in the upcoming meetings will help refine the plan. A final draft could reach the board for approval in September, and implementation is proposed beginning in the summer of 2015.

In addition to the public meetings, METRO staff will be visiting regional transit centers in the coming months to share details of the draft plan. Organizations and community groups can request a speaker by emailingReimagining@RideMETRO.org.

There will also be conducting a series of public meetings to share more information and receive feedback on the Draft Reimagined Network Plan. Scheduled meeting locations and dates are shown below. One can also keep an eye out for METRO staff at certain Transit Centers (blue pins on the map) sharing details of the project with riders and the public.

The public meetings will be from 6-8 p.m. as follows:

May 28 — Magnolia Multi-Service Center, 7037 Capitol St.

May 29 —Metropolitan Multi-Service Center, 1475 W. Gray St.

June 3 —Ellis Memorial Church of Christ, 412 Massachusetts St.

June 12 — Trini Menenhall Sosa Community Center, 1414 Wirt Rd.

June 16 — HCC – Northwest College (Spring Branch Campus), 1010 W. Sam Houston Pkwy. N.

June 19 — HCC – Southwest College (Alief Hayes Campus), 2811 Hayes Rd.

June 26 — Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center, 6500 Rookin St.

July 9 — White Oak Conference Center, 7603 Antoine Dr.

July 10 — Hiram Clarke Multi-Service Center, 3810 W. Fuqua St.

July 15 — Westbury Baptist Church, 10425 Hillcroft St.

July 20 — Third Ward Multi-Service Center, 3611 Ennis St.

July 21 — Sunnyside Multi-Service Center, 4605 Wilmington St.

July 22 — Mangum-Howell Center, 2500 Frick Rd.

July 24 — Northeast Multi-Service Center, 9720 Spaulding St.

July 28 — Acres Homes Multi-Service Center, 6719 W. Montgomery Rd.

July 31 — Kashmere Multi-Service Center, 4802 Lockwood Dr.