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Commuter Rail to Missouri City Now Metro Priority

Culberson Deal Also Helps Bus

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Connecting Missouri City to the Texas Medical Center with some kind of rail service is now one of Metro’s top priorities following a deal between Representative John Culberson and Metro Chair Gilbert Garcia, according to the Houston Public Media.

Various entities have conducted studies on the idea of Commuter rail service on 90A:
Harris County: Harris County Commuter Rail Analysis
Houston - Galveston Area Council: US 90A Corridor Rail Feasibility Study (pdf), Executive Summary (pdf)
Houston - Galveston Area Council: Regional Commuter Rail Connectivity Study (pdf)

A 2010 look at the problems with low ridership on commuter rail proposals by Christof Spieler appeared in CITE Magazine, before Spieler was a member of the Metro Board.

The highest potential ridership on a 90A rail line, according to any of these reports, is the 10,899 potential ridership of developing 90A as an extension of the existing Main Street Light Rail Line without a need to transfer. For comparison sake, the 12.8 miles of the existing Red Line has 45,300 daily ridership and the proposed University Line Light Rail Line is expected to have daily ridership of 49,000 (pdf).

At an expected capital cost of $1,563,070,000, the University Light Rail Line would have an expected cost per rider of $31,899. At an expected capital cost of $756,328,672, the highest projected ridership scenario for 90A would have an expected capital cost per rider of $63,394.

As shown in the main story image, taken from the Harris County Commuter Rail Analysis, the proposed 90A Commuter Rail Line narrowly misses the densely populated corridor along US59. We are not aware of any studies looking at the potential ridership of a light rail or bus rapid transit line that follows the density of people and jobs on US 59 out to Missouri City.

Metro officials stated that they do not expect a referendum to occur this year on the question of building the University Light Rail Line. Also, they indicated that new plans for 90A and the University Line will include some amount of returning to the drawing board, including possible new scenarios to make the numbers on 90A much better. One of the major issues to overcome with 90A is the success of the existing Red Line, which is mostly at capacity at rush hour. An alternative strategy for 90A might involve meeting the Red line perpendicularly in the Medical Center and providing some cross connectivity inside the Med Center. A Bus Rapid Transit line from the Wheeler Station reaching all the density along 59 out to Sugar Land might integrate well with the Red Line and 90A.

The deal between Metro and Representative Culberson also includes a push for additional funding for local and commuter bus.

Houston Tomorrow published a 2011 issue of TOMORROW Magazine examining the Houston transit strategy of providing transit to the most people, schools, and jobs.

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