Monday, December 14, 2009

New Poll: Voting on Light Rail in Houston

With all of the talk about John Culberson's "Congressional Hold" on Metro's Light Rail expansion plans, and a call for a second election regarding said plans, it makes sense to take a look at the arguments being used for as well as the arguments against holding a second rail-based election.

First, the two main arguments for:

1. Metro's 2003 Solutions plan (Which the 2003 referendum authorized) has been altered from its original form to the point that what Metro is now proposing is unrecognizable from what voters approved. - The key argument against this logic is that Metro Solutions 2003, as with any large program, was meant to be viewed as a framework for future transit and was not "cast in stone" as critics contend. That works out OK except for the fact that there were a few specific proposals in the Solutions plan (a 50% increase in bus service for example) that were key to it gaining support that have been removed from the plan.

2. The East-end support isn't there. - Winning over the East-End Chamber of Commerce (and it's residents) was crucial to Metro winning the 2003 election. Now that the Harrisburg line is promising to be more trouble than it's worth, that support will not be there. This is a dubious case to make about a democratic election. There are many things that are legal, but which do not have widespread public support. If a new election is required to get anything done every time the parameters of a plan change then nothing will ever get done.

Now, the two main arguments against:

1. A majority in the Houston Region support light rail. - We don't know that. What we do know is that in 2009 (for the first time) A good-sized majority of polled respondents supported the addition of a "rail component". We also know that a sizable plurality supports using a mixture of roads, trains & light rail as the best solution for future transit. What the Survey is not able to provide is what mixture said plurality deems to be ideal. It's hard to say, right now, where the Houston Region stands on the revised Metro Solutions plan. Since the major information sources on this issue have deemed it necessary to mis-report the issue (MetroSolutions = Mass Transit) we'll probably never know.

2. We already have buy-in from the 2003 referendum. - As stated above, to MetroRail supporters it doesn't matter that the spec's of the plan have changed, only that Light Rail is being built. This, they feel, was the underlying mission of the 2003 MetroRail referendum. Yes, there are things that could be done better and yes, Metro is not expanding fast enough for them, but all of those complaints are specifically due to a relatively small group of Rail deniers whose object is to rid the County of light-rail altogether, sinking us into the dark ages of bus transit. In some respects, this is true, there is a large portion of the anti-Metro faction whose sole purpose is the moth-balling of the entire Metro Light-rail system. Here's an excerpt from a Barry Klein e-mail that is going around describing the same:
Second is a resolution prepared earlier this year by Buses are Better, a group of activists in Houston who think a bus only system is wiser than bus-and-rail.

Which leads us to the new HCA: "Participating In Social Speaking" poll question of the day.
Should there be a second public referendum regarding Metro Solutions?

The poll will be open until Christmas.


  1. Let's move forward!
    I have never been a fan of Metro's light rail. I made fun of the whole fiasco when the trains were smacking cars at the rate of 1/week. What a mess!
    However, the near northside rail is now under construction (or at least demo) and it will run along real neighborhoods. Lindale Park and the areas will along N Main & Fulton will no longer be isolated from the rest of the world. This line will eventually go the revitalized Northline Mall and even connect to Bush IAH. Amazing!
    Now, I am a realtor. Realtors are always supposed to be for development. However, I live in the Heights. My passion is the funky old houses in turn of the century, or older neighborhoods. So, I'm for responsible development.
    Our recession has stopped the rampant buying of land and putting up crappy cheap townhomes along this new corridor. Maybe this line will benefit the neighborhood and the people who live there. Maybe we will have slower, thoughtful development.
    The Heights (where I live) at one time had it's own trolley line to downtown. It made sense then. Maybe it will make sense for other neighborhoods now with roads filling up..
    Okay, maybe I'm dreaming. I know there will be delays, cost over-runs, politicains and favored people making money. I don't even want to know the actual cost per passenger trip.
    However, this city is going grow at a tremendous rate, whether we like it or not. Let's plan for it. Let's be proactive.

  2. You should see the Swamplot post today on the new 290/Beltway 8 interchange. TxDOT is including an easement ROW for future commuter rail. It's a win/win situation.

  3. Your observation in point #1 says it all - the Metro board does not consider itself bound by the will of the voters. Even a referendum stripping them of what authority they currently possess would be cavalierly disregarded.

  4. "Even a referendum stripping them of what authority they currently possess would be cavalierly disregarded."

    Hey...Maybe someone should try to get that passed?? (You know...for fun!)


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