Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pro-mass transit word play

It's an interesting game they're playing.....

Metro Chairman Proposes Freezing Mobility Payments, Renee C. Lee, Chron.com

"I appreciate the difficult position they're in, but it (the mobility payments) still takes a significant amount of money from valuable, needed projects and basically puts off completion of the light rail system," Barnum said. "What we want is Metro tax dollars for transit and I think that's what we should be doing."
The pro-light rail faction has chosen to attempt to redefine "transit" as "mass transit" ignoring the fact that roads, cars, sidewalks and the other improvements are transit related.  Just not the type of transit that the smarts desire.

It's also horribly confined to areas inside Loop 610, which renders it useless to much of the area from which Metro is drawing funds.  Again, light-rail activists will call this argument a red-herring, but it's very important to the local communities surrounding Houston who are basically being asked to bankroll a service for which they will receive no benefit.  Ironically, this is almost the same argument, in reverse, that some InterLeft bloggers have made regarding City of Houston residents inside the Loop paying Harris County taxes.  For some reason that is bad, while asking others to sacrifice on a level that they're not willing.

Such is the surreal logic being used in Houston's transit debate.

It has to be understood that there are always going to be players in this debate such as Houston Tomorrow who forward the theory that the solution for Houston's future is to shoe-horn a majority of area residents into a very small geographical area with insufficient infrastructure.  There are also going to be developers whose solution is to build out in ever-wider circles ignoring potential for infill development.  It should also be understood that both of these camps should be summarily dismissed as serious players in future transit discussions.  What's needed is a future vision of Houston that accomodates all transit needs, from light rail (it's here, we might as well find a way to use it) robust bus service and automobile transit.  The debate doesn't have to be one of Inner vs. Outer Loop, or toy train vs. dirty car.  It should be about what is the best way to make all of these work seamlessly together and improve overall transit in the region.

Given the current state of vision possessed by Houston's leadership, the prospects for a real multi-modal transit system that moves people where they need to go is rapidly diminishing.  In fact, this November ballot initiative could be the last, best chance to inject some sanity back into the debate, and get Houston on the path to true mobility.

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