Mayor says Houston needs to focus on transit costs

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Mayor says Houston needs to focus on transit costs

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Mayor says Houston needs to focus on transit costs
HOUSTON - Metro should consider abandoning light rail for another transit mode if it could provide better service or cost less, Houston's mayor said Thursday at the second day of a forum examining 11 alternative systems, according to the Houston Chronicle.
"If it doesn't meet one of those two criteria, then strike it off the list," said Mayor Bill White, who supported the Metropolitan Transit Authority's successful referendum last year authorizing 65 more miles of light rail by 2025.

White gave a speech at Thursday's gathering, where Metro officials, a panel of 11 transportation experts and other interested parties heard presentations from eight firms touting the benefits of their technology. Modes discussed Thursday included existing services such as high-speed commuter rail as well as conceptual designs for systems that would run through elevated tubes or move people in personal capsules gliding along beams.

The mayor told an audience of about 80 that if any city can develop a new and better transit mode, it's Houston.

"We are a new city that is willing to innovate and entertain new ideas," he said.

After his talk, White said Metro needs to focus on "getting the most mobility value out of the taxpayers' dollars" and ensure whatever system it selects "gets people as quickly as we can from place to place."

He praised the authority for reducing the number of train-vehicle collisions along the Main Street light rail line, which opened Jan. 1 and is likely to set national records for such incidents this year. Crashes have dropped from a high of 11 in March to three in September, although the number of trains has doubled.

"The public is learning to live next door to a train," White said. "The trend is in the right direction."

Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, speaking to traffic reporters at an unrelated luncheon later Thursday, said it's clear Metro must come up with another transit mode for its future corridors.

"I am opposed to taking the same system, the same technology that runs down the middle of streets, throughout the region," Eckels said. "We've learned it's a mistake to have the trains in the middle of the streets. They need to get out of the lanes of the roadway and into grade-separated corridors."

(This item appeared in the Houston Chronicle Oct. 22, 2004)

October 22, 2004
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