Monday, July 25, 2005

History of Metro and rail: Chronicle vs. Lone Star Times

I have to admit, one of my weaknesses as a commentator is that I only really started taking an interest in Houston and urban issues in the last 5 to 10 years, so my knowledge of earlier Houston history is thin and not first hand. So I have to pass along these two editorials on the history of Metro and rail which I found fascinating: the first from the Chronicle and the second a response by the Lone Star Times. Read them both and form your own opinion.

46 Comments:

At 10:05 AM, July 25, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Lone Star Times-aka the newest Dan Patrick rag? You are excused for not being a Houstonian long enough to know about this looney character and his mostly failed career at attempting to stop every positive progressive step the citizens of Houston have overwhelmingly approved. Do yourself a favor: Keep away from all things "Dan Patrick".
thanks,
nmainguy

 
At 10:51 AM, July 25, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Actually, this one was written by Owen Courrèges.

 
At 10:57 AM, July 25, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The carpetbagger from Spring now living in New Orleans?

 
At 12:16 PM, July 25, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes indeed. Extra points awarded for sniffing out a professional blogocrat.

 
At 12:16 PM, July 25, 2005, Anonymous Anne said...

anonymous/nmainguy and anonymous/anonymous are better at attacking the messenger than the facts.

Owen Courreges is a very smart guy who knows his stuff. Once they start rebutting the meat of his argument, they'll look more credible. Maybe.

Speaking of carpetbaggers, look at Metro's leadership. (That's called a non sequitur.)

 
At 12:48 PM, July 25, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anne,

I see the blogocrats have each other's back!

Owen has an interesting version of the facts, that's for sure. I chuckled when I read "that’s why voters turned around and elected an anti-rail mayor" in reference to the 1st Bob Lanier election. Anyone who lived in Houston at that time will remind young Owen that the biggest issue on voters' minds was crime, and that's why incumbent Mayor Whitmire - who had held her own during Houston's economic collapse - fared so poorly. Sylvester Turner was leading in the polls going into about the last week of the election when Wayne Dolcefino ran a very controversial news story about Turner that was later proven false that nevertheless cost Turner the election. Lanier was basically the last person left standing. His position on rail had nothing to do with it.

-anonymous/anonymous

 
At 12:50 PM, July 25, 2005, Anonymous Rusty Shackleford said...

Yeah, Dan Patrick can be a bit of a loon. (I tuned into his radio station once and heard him broadcast about 10 minutes of taking his dog outside to relieve itself. Live. On air.) That doesn't immediately disqualify anything on a site funded by him as crazy. I think Sheila Jackson Lee is as crazy as a bat; that shouldn't make me dismiss everything she says. (Only most things. j/k)

I think that the "adjusted" rail plan is actually a good, prudent step but I think that whenever the Chronicle sinks their teeth into any sort of transportation issue, they make things worse. Their unending, uncritical support of anything and everything METRO has lost them their platform from which to speak.

If the point of any transportation system is to move the most people in an efficient way, I think the BRT is going to be a positive step.

nmainguy: I wouldn't call the METRO plan "overwhelmingly approved". :) It's still very divisive, especially for folks from the suburbs who are paying for something they'll never use. I disagree with their notion, but the sentiment, understandibly, remains.

 
At 1:30 PM, July 25, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Their unending, uncritical support of anything and everything METRO has lost them their platform from which to speak"

Likewise, the knee-jerk pro-highway-lobby limousine libertarian viewpoints of the Lone Star Times has rendered them almost completely incredible (as in not credible). When I want to read Republican talking points I don't need them filtered through a student at a second-tier out-of-state law school.

 
At 1:36 PM, July 25, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops, that should be "viewpoint" (singular). They only have one.

 
At 2:44 PM, July 25, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

tory,
I only said it was a Dan Patrick rag-he's just the publisher. My gues is that nothing gets published in his rag unless he approves. By the way Anne, nice try.

 
At 4:16 PM, July 25, 2005, Anonymous Rusty Shackleford said...

Anonymous, I understand why you mistrust of KSEV and all things Patrick. However, you used a great word in your reply: "likewise". If I want to truly get a handle on Houston Transportation Issues, I'm not going to listen solely to either source. (Although, Rod Sallee (sp?) is doing a much better job with his Metro column than Lucas Wall ever did. The problem is now more with the editorial board of the chron.)

However, in this instance, I think the LST article is much, much more compelling than the chron editorial.

 
At 6:50 PM, July 25, 2005, Blogger Owen said...

anonymous,

The carpetbagger from Spring now living in New Orleans?

Carpetbagger?! I resent that. I've never lived in the North, and have only visited there twice.

I was born in New Orleans, moved back to Houston at age three (the city where both my parents were born -- and all my grandparents were born in Texas). I'm now attending law school at Tulane in New Orleans after going to undergrad at Rice. To my knowledge, I don't even have any northern ancestors. It doesn't get much more southern than me, boy. I'm not a carpetbagger.

Owen has an interesting version of the facts, that's for sure. I chuckled when I read "that’s why voters turned around and elected an anti-rail mayor" in reference to the 1st Bob Lanier election. Anyone who lived in Houston at that time will remind young Owen that the biggest issue on voters' minds was crime, and that's why incumbent Mayor Whitmire - who had held her own during Houston's economic collapse - fared so poorly.

I'll let the Chronicle field this one:

Paper: Houston Chronicle
Date: SUN 11/12/00
Section: A
Page: 35 Metfront
Edition: 4 STAR

Light rail system could face funding ruts: Past raid son reserves may derail future plans

By RAD SALLEE

"Lanier's victory was viewed by some as a sort of referendum on a $1.2 billion rail plan that Whitmire had supported. Lanier, who says the proposed system was a bad investment with inflated ridership projections, began spending Metro's reserves on other needs."

I was arguing against the Chronicle. Even they admit that a popular view of Lanier's election was a referendum on rail.

When I want to read Republican talking points I don't need them filtered through a student at a second-tier out-of-state law school.

Actually, Tulane Law is ranked 41st by US News and World Report, making it a first tier law school. Virtually every other ranking system agrees, placing Tulane Law in the top 50. And it isn't exactly far away -- many Tulane law students end up practicing in Texas.

 
At 7:28 PM, July 25, 2005, Blogger Pseudo-intellectual lunatic said...

how do you rank your rail
in atlanta we have marta...it doesn't take you far enough though

 
At 7:59 PM, July 25, 2005, Anonymous Alyndan said...

"Lanier's victory was viewed by some as a sort of referendum on a $1.2 billion rail plan that Whitmire had supported."

"Viewed by some," i.e. not all, people. I remember the 1991 mayoral election pretty well, and I think most voters would have agreed with the earlier poster's assertion that crime, not rail, was the overriding topic of the campaign. (Let's not forget that this was back when Fox 26 news devoted half of their newscast to sensationalist "city under siege" coverage.) Whitmire's own length in office (as you may remember, term limits were also approved in the 1991 election) was also an issue.

Lanier did campaign against Whitmire's monorail - he suggested that METRO study commuter rail as a possible alternative - but I think it is a bit of a stretch to say that his opposition to rail was the major reason why he was voted into office.

 
At 8:14 PM, July 25, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I've always been curious about Atlanta's rail (MARTA). I never hear anything about it. Doesn't seem that successful from what I can tell. I would guess because most of Atlanta's jobs sprawl over the burbs - they're not downtown - very similar to Houston.

Houston's existing rail is 7.5 miles of light rail at street level in the core, not heavy commuter rail like MARTA. It's really more like San Francisco's or New Orleans' street cars in terms of mobility. It moves a lot of people compared to similar lines (mainly because all the bus routes tie into it, but also because it ties together a lot of key areas in Houston), but it also has a *lot* of accidents with cars.

 
At 9:00 PM, July 25, 2005, Anonymous Tom Bazan said...

There were a number of issues in the 1991 campaign.

Lanier was faced with the remnants of the FDIC/RTC shakeout. Property taxes were declining, and so he looted the METRO loot to keep them from building a boondoggle, and gave the cash to HPD.

You can look this up at the downtown public library, just don't depend on the tram getting you there.

Our own Mayor Bob said it best: (Houston Metropolitan Magazine,
November 1990, page 49) about one year after he resigned as Chairman
of the METRO Board:

"First they [rail's supporters] say, `It's cheaper.' When you show it
costs more, they say, ` It's faster.' When you show it's slower, they
say, `It serves more riders.' When you show there are fewer riders,
they say, `It brings economic development.' When you show no economic
development, they say, `It helps the image.' When you say you don't
want to spend that much money on image, they say, `It will solve the
pollution problem.' When you show it won't help pollution, they say,
finally, `It will take time for rail to do some good.'

 
At 10:01 PM, July 25, 2005, Blogger Owen said...

alyndan,

"Viewed by some," i.e. not all, people. I remember the 1991 mayoral election pretty well, and I think most voters would have agreed with the earlier poster's assertion that crime, not rail, was the overriding topic of the campaign.

That's a matter for debate. However, even if you're correct, it doesn't change the fact that Lanier's anti-rail position was generally seen as an asset in the campaign rather than a liability, due in part to Metro's subterfuge in refusing to mention rail on the ballot. My overall point stands regardless.

 
At 11:03 PM, July 25, 2005, Anonymous RJ said...

Bazan - an interesting final line to your Lanier piece might be about Lanier himself: "you say you don't support it, and then you support it." Lanier ended up coming out in favor of the Main Street light rail line. Life's little ironies... But you are exactly right - Lanier proceeded to loot Metro.

Owen - Rad Sallee's characterization of the '91 mayoral election was a big stretch. (I won't say downright incorrect, but he's not far from it). That election was all about crime and, ultimately, Sylvester Turner getting screwed. It seemed that nowhere was safe at that time - not even the burbs. One incident that sticks out in my mind was a grizzly execution-style triple homicide at a fast food restaurant at Greenbriar and Holcombe near Rice (the building has since been removed). I nearly got killed twice while I was at Rice during that time, and I know several others who had similar experiences.

As I look back on it, I have to give Turner a great deal of credit for how he handled himself. That was a fairly tense period in the city's history and things could have gotten ugly, but Turner never let it get to that. A lesser man could have fanned the flames of voter anger and sparked protests, and who knows where that would have led. If you want some interesting reading as you prep for law school, check out the case of Turner v. KTRK Television, Inc., which was ultimately decided in the Texas Supreme Court.

 
At 11:45 PM, July 25, 2005, Anonymous Tom Bazan said...

rj,

I spoke with Mayor Bob twice after I faxed him the copy of the "Secret Memo" I downloaded in November of 2002. (see link)

It is my speculation that Mayor Bob pragmatically cut a deal with Bill White so that his legacy would not be destroyed by the local PRAVDA, and that his loved ones not be disparaged publically.


http://www.bloghouston.net/item/7

 
At 6:16 AM, July 26, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"To my knowledge, I don't even have any northern ancestors."

Sorry, fool, but compared to someone who *actually* grew up in Houston, you ARE the North.

It's just funny that Tory refrains from blogging on this topic because he "only" has 5-10 yrs experience dealing with Houston issues and ends up linking to a twentysomething carpetbagger at a second-rate law school who, at most, has lived in Houston for 4 years and most likely has never paid taxes in Houston.

Girl, you've never lived in Houston so stop pretending. Stay in New Orleans where whiners like you belong.

 
At 7:37 AM, July 26, 2005, Blogger Kevin said...

Just a suggestion, Tory --

You realize you're under no obligation to allow ad-hominem and personal attacks in your comments, right?

This is a really smart blog about policy, and it draws mostly excellent commenters. I'd hate to see trolls drive away the good commenters.

 
At 7:55 AM, July 26, 2005, Blogger Owen said...

anonymous,

You've just done a great job at discrediting yourself.

 
At 8:10 AM, July 26, 2005, Anonymous Anne said...

And anonymous is so brave, he hides behind anonymous while he attacks others.

 
At 8:28 AM, July 26, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous -

Tulane is a mighty fine school (and frankly, it shouldn't matter even if it's not), and using a term like carpetbagger without giving some back-up is flat wrong. Owen's online record is a mile long, and there's plenty for you to choose from (such as when he refers to Whole Foods as a cult, or raises the question of whether his alma mater trains terrorists).

You're giving those of us who would rather remain anonymous a bad name!

-"anonymous/anonymous" not to be confused with "anonymous/nmainguy" or just plain old "anonymous"

 
At 9:38 AM, July 26, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I would greatly appreciate it if all debate on this blog were focused on issues and arguments, not personalities. The debates have been fairly mature to date, and I'd like to keep it that way. I'd hate to have to turn on the more restrictive commenting options, or even turn them off altogether.

Thanks guys.

 
At 10:23 AM, July 26, 2005, Anonymous Thomas said...

I'd probably swallow a razor blade before I agreed with Owen Courreges about anything, but the insults are indeed childish and unecessary.

The recollections of some previous commenters with regard to the 1991 mayoral race comport with my own (somewhat hazy) memories, in that the monorail was not the primary issue. It might have been a secondary issue, but the overwhelming topic of the time was the city's crime rate. Lanier, as I recall, had specific plans to deal with the problem, such as the addition of 655 police officers and a neighborhood-oriented policing approach. Whitmire's approach was to "keep doing what we're doing," which clearly wasn't working.

Good catch by the commenter who remembered that Whitmire's length of office was also an issue. That, in fact, is one of the reasons why I voted against her: she had simply been mayor for too long and it was time for somebody else's turn. However, like the monorail, it was secondary to the main issue on voters' minds, which was crime.

And yeah, Sylvester Turner got streamrollered by Wayne Dolcefino. I wasn't complaining at the time, because I wanted Lanier to win, but in retrospect it was dirty journalism.

By the way, Tory, I really enjoy this blog. I appreciate the way you try to present both sides of an issue, whether it be transportation or any other topic facing the city. Keep up the good work.

Thomas

 
At 10:51 AM, July 26, 2005, Blogger Owen said...

thomas,

The recollections of some previous commenters with regard to the 1991 mayoral race comport with my own (somewhat hazy) memories, in that the monorail was not the primary issue. It might have been a secondary issue, but the overwhelming topic of the time was the city's crime rate.

You may be correct. I seriously doubt that rail wasn't an issue of note, but at the same time it appears that it didn't dominate the way that the crime issue did (remember, I was 10 or 11 years old at the time, and understandably not politically active). I still think, however, that there's reason to believe that Lanier's anti-rail stance gave him an added boost at the polls. Whitmire took some flak for her support of Metro.

 
At 2:03 PM, July 26, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And anonymous is so brave, he hides behind anonymous while he attacks others."

I agree with the other commenters -- can we avoid the ad homs from here on out? In the future, see if you can disagree with people's opinions, not their usernames.

 
At 2:06 PM, July 26, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You've just done a great job at discrediting yourself."

Hey, turnabout's fair play. Anytime you want to respond to rational, thoughtful points with detritus like "it doesn't get more southern than me, boy" you need to post that on Lone Star Times, not on the comments section here.

 
At 4:29 PM, July 26, 2005, Blogger Owen said...

anonymous,

Hey, turnabout's fair play. Anytime you want to respond to rational, thoughtful points with detritus like "it doesn't get more southern than me, boy" you need to post that on Lone Star Times, not on the comments section here.

I was being tongue-in-cheek with that line, but my argument was entirely civil. Yours was insulting and rude. Big difference.

 
At 6:19 PM, July 26, 2005, Anonymous nmainguy said...

Well, this Metro Rail/Lone Star Times subject with the sub-text of who is a REAL Texan and who is not has gotten completly out of hand! I still stand by my original statement "Keep away from all things 'Dan Patrick'", but I also see no need for ad-hominem attacks. (I plead quilty in calling Patrick "looney"-that won't happen again.)
Now, back to the issues raised.

1. Kathy Whitmire had been Mayor for 5 terms and quite frankly people were tired of her. But more-so it really was the crime issue that cost her re-election. The whole Lanier/Turner/Dolcefino/monorail thing was just a side show.

2.Tory is correct. The ROW is already there through Woodland Heights. A solution similar to what was done on the SW Freeway between Shephard and Main would more than make me happy. A couple of cool bridges (N. Main, North St., Quitman)would be a great selling point as well. TXDOT needs better PR people. As far as north of N. Main, I think additional ROW could be negotiated if TXDOT would just be more accomodating to the people/tax payers who will be most affected.

3. Anytime some one references a Dan Patrick organ you are bound to get all kinds of rabble-rousing. He is a very divisive character and rarely has his facts straight-or is very selective in using the facts. He's not reliable and his career history speaks for itself.

4. And lastly: I am a real Texan born at St. Joes of a mother who was a Native of Houston Heights and a father who was born in Boston. He eventually came to his senses and became more Texan than most native Texans (even though he could never stop miss-pronouncing Cuba "Cuber"). So, it's all a state of mind.

Lets keep moving forward with the Metro we have and the strong voices that can affect change or as my daddy would say, "I'll turn this caa around right now!!!"

By the way, I don't choose to be anonymous here..I just don't have a blog or web page.

[Keep it going Tory-you're one of the good guys]

 
At 7:27 PM, July 26, 2005, Blogger Owen said...

nmainguy,

Anytime some one references a Dan Patrick organ you are bound to get all kinds of rabble-rousing. He is a very divisive character and rarely has his facts straight-or is very selective in using the facts. He's not reliable and his career history speaks for itself.

Look, I don't care what you think of Dan, but I'm not him. I don't always agree with him, either (ex. his initial fondness for Safe Clear, and his recent opposition to Senator Kyle Janek). I was a blogger for years before I joined Lone Star Times. If you don't like my arguments, by all means challenge them. But don't simply disregard what I have to say due to some misguided animus you have against Dan Patrick.

 
At 8:15 PM, July 26, 2005, Anonymous Tom Bazan said...

NMAINGUY,

---snip---
Lets keep moving forward with the Metro we have and the strong voices that can affect change or as my daddy would say, "I'll turn this caa around right now!!!"

--------
In regard to METRO, I wish to echo the infamous words of Fred Hill and urge any former pro-METRO lemmings:
"the time to kill the snake is when you have the hoe in your hand!"

 
At 10:22 PM, July 30, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

shut down Metro? mmm-kay. why stop there. let's close the city, county, HCC... gotta get all those looters outta yer pocket.

 
At 4:41 PM, July 31, 2005, Anonymous Tom Bazan said...

Anonymous,

The recent State mandated audit findings indicate METRO is deficient and derelict in every measure - except sales tax revenue, which it has no control over.

METRORail is a voratious resource "alligator" and is harming the transit dependent.

All four Harris County Commissioners currently operate growing bus services now. Why not shut down METRO, let the County run the bus service and assign the rest to the Toll Road Authority.

The city discontinued the tram once, and it is just a matter of time when the tram will be discontinued again.

Instead of flushing more taxpayer cash down the toilet, discontinue the boondoggle sooner than later, and preserve more of our resources not less.

 
At 9:47 PM, July 31, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just curious if anyone else thinks shutting down the Main Street train it a good idea, because I think people all around the world would be laughing their butts off at us if we did.

 
At 9:27 AM, August 01, 2005, Anonymous nmainguy said...

tram (tram), n 1. Also tram'car', Brit. street-car. 2. a truck or car on which loads are carried in coal mines.
Now, that was the definition of "tram' as used by Mr. Bazan.
If you want to be taken seriously, cease the bait and switch. Call it what it is: LRT. Last I saw, we have no coal mines in the Houston area.

 
At 2:09 PM, August 02, 2005, Anonymous Tom Bazan said...

NMAINGUY,

I don't have to make it up.
************

The History of Tramways and Evolution of Light Rail



by Michael Taplin,
Vice-President and Immediate Past Chairman
of the
Light Rail Transit Association

© M.R.Taplin and LRTA, 1998.

The evolution of electric trams around the world:

-snip-
Mainland Europe:


Light rail was first created in mainland Europe, as street tramways were upgraded with new rolling stock and segregated alignments.

-snip

America:


The revival of the streetcar or tram in North America (usually in the guise of light rail) has been just as remarkable as in Europe.

 
At 3:57 PM, August 02, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the issue of whether it's a tram or a light rail is less important than this guy's statement of wanting to shut the whole thing down.

**another anonymous

 
At 8:34 PM, August 02, 2005, Anonymous Tom Bazan said...

It will come down to just how long the Plutocracy tolerates Transit backbone "alligator."

The TVM revenue is nominal, and the system is subject to any number of interruptions and is a terrorist magnet that can not be defended in the current configuration.

With the system now recognized by the public as unsafe at grade, unreliable for those who are not tourists, and underutilized even during the rush hours, many associate the METRORail service as they do the post office.

If you have to get somewhere at a certain time, the tram is not the mode of choice.

Suburbanites will not abandon the utility and safety of their SUV's.

Other than a few yuppies, guppies, and panhandlers wishing to escape the subtropical climate by enjoying a free ride, there are few other loyal riders.

It is not a question of if the tram will eventually be discontinued, it is merely a matter of when.

 
At 9:40 PM, August 02, 2005, Anonymous RJ said...

RE: It will come down to just how long the Plutocracy tolerates Transit backbone "alligator."

...and he's just getting started, folks...

RE: the system is... a terrorist magnet

That's a complete BS argument, especially coming from someone who "ran" for Congress. Any terrorist could blow up a plane, fly it into a building, blow up a freight train tanker full of dangerous chemicals near a residential area, send anthrax in the mail, blow up an 18 wheeler full of ammonia on a crowded freeway, blow up a building, poison the water supply, set off bombs at our refineries... everything is vulnerable. To say we shouldn't have a light rail line because it's a terrorist target is absolutely bush. I doubt you'd say we shouldn't have freeways or refineries or airplanes or tall buildings or a postal system or rail tanker cars or public water reservoirs. You might as go out into the hinterlands and hide like a coward until everything blows over.

RE: ...and underutilized even during the rush hours...

The ridership statistics tell a different story.

RE: ...and panhandlers...

Oh I see, this is the transit dependent population that you claim to defend when it's convenient for you, otherwise their just a bunch of panhandlers, and everyone else is a yuppie or a guppie.

Wow, what a post. You're on the warpath tonight Bazan!

 
At 7:44 AM, August 03, 2005, Anonymous Tom Bazan said...

rj,

If one believes METRO, that the lemmings are rushing down to ride the tram, in favor of any other transit option, would indicate a lot about that person's ability to discern the truth.

If you wish to parrot METRO's ESTIMATED tram ridership and claim that the tram boardings are proof Houstonians have embraced this mode, fine.

As METRO is forced to release additional information a much different picture of METRORail is emerging.

What will the pro-tram supporters do once METRO is forced to turn off the power in the Texas Medical Center, or where the tram passes under the two major freeway overpassess, due directly to the fact they did not properly protect these critical structures from the damage caused by underground stray current?

I have suggested they get some mules, as was used over 100 years ago.

A half billion dollars of taxpayer cash already wasted by the bureaucrats, and they promise more of the same, not less, and will ram it down our throats sooner than later.

 
At 8:04 AM, August 03, 2005, Anonymous RJ said...

...that the lemmings are rushing down to ride the tram...

So now everyone who rides the train - even those transit-dependent whom you claim to defend except when you call them panhandlers - is a lemming.

 
At 9:24 PM, August 04, 2005, Anonymous nmainguy said...

rj:
Trying to conduct a conversation with some one like bazan is akin to trying to explain to a 3 year old why he can't have another piece of candy. All you'll ever get is a long, continuous whine. (and this guy actually ran for congress? I'm assuming he got beat like a bad piece of meat...)

 
At 10:18 AM, August 06, 2005, Anonymous Tom Bazan said...

NMAINGUY,

I am not the one wanting to squander precious taxpayer resources on another wasteful toy train.

I liken my role as a frustrated father trying to explain to some spoiled kids that we shouldn't spend the mortgage money on another Lionel train set that will be seldom used like the other one stored under the kids beds.

 
At 3:58 PM, August 06, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

same old thing, when it's something you personally don't like then it's time to yank out the "precious taxpayer resources" card. otherwise you keep it in your deck.

 

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