Friday, March 10, 2006

Christof optimizes west-side light rail

He totally nails it, including solving the Afton Oaks problem and the freight rail across Richmond problem. The trick will be convincing Metro to extend the Universities line all the way to the Galleria, rather than forcing a transfer. Read the logic and be impressed.

Update: David Crossley makes the case for Richmond in Intown magazine.

16 Comments:

At 11:51 AM, March 10, 2006, Blogger kjb434 said...

Is Christof offering these proposals to METRO particular the engineers performing the alighment study.

The only problem is the answer makes too much sense to believe that it will win politically.

 
At 3:11 PM, March 10, 2006, Anonymous Christof Spieler said...

METRO knows about this idea.
The individual pieces:

METRO is specifically considering the Richmond-UPRR-Westpark alignment, and they think it's viable. (They've just publicly eliminated the Westheimer option from consideration; blog post upcoming on that).

The details of how to grade separate light rail, the railroad, and Richmond would be dealt with later in the process.

I don't know how METRO feels about through-running onto the Universities line. I have a good idea, though, of how Uptown business groups would feel about it, and they have the ability to bring a good amount of pressure to bear. Furthermore, the ridership benefits compared to a transfer at Richmond or Westpark would be highly helpful in getting federal funding. I think this could happen. The more people who tell METRO and the city that it's a good idea, the more likely it is to happen.

 
At 9:05 AM, March 11, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

Tory,

I haven't kept up with this much, but could the reason why Metro isn't doing this be the expense? I mean, you're talking about three levels -- below ground for through traffic, ground-level for freight rail, and above ground for light rail. It sounds pricey. Maybe the plan already calls for something similar to this, though, and I just don't realize it. I do know that Metro isn't flush these days, what with wasting money on light rail and all. :)

Also, I have to point out that the business owners on or near the intersection really get the shaft. You could provide access via a feeder road, but it would still be blocked when trains came through. Moreover, most people would be apt to simply bypass the intersection entirely via the below-ground lanes. Finally, they'd face years of construction not to their benefit, during which time they may simply fold.

Maybe I'm just looking at the plan wrong, but these look like serious problems.

 
At 9:44 AM, March 11, 2006, Anonymous Christof Spieler said...

There is funding available for grade separations from the city, the railroad, TXDOT, and the new regional freight rail district. The way to make this work is for METRO and the city to get together and to work on other funding options. Building the Richmond grade separation at the same time as light rail makes it cheaper and minimizes the period of construction impact. The light rail overpass has to be built regardless, since any option for the Universities Line will cross the railroad, so METRO does have the money for it.

Business access is impacted for the businesses one block on each side. My idea would actually be to have the frontage lanes be a "U" turn only, with no railroad crossings. There would have to be signage provided for the businesses. In some cases, access would actually be easier -- getting to the busineses east of the tracks from Greenway Plaza would no longer require a left turn. Many businesses don't depend on "impulse" customer who drive by -- the biggest business alongside the tracks here is A&E, a firm that reproduces construction drawings.

 
At 9:56 AM, March 11, 2006, Blogger Max Concrete said...

I'm wondering about the narrow section of Richmond east of Shepherd. Taking two lanes of Richmond will adversely affect traffic flow and also impact businesses during construction (and possibly after construction due to lowered traffic counts). Is this section being studied for alternate routes or is it a given that the rail will be on Richmond?

 
At 10:22 AM, March 11, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

christof,

Fair enough. I'm an opponent of rail generally, but if it is to happen, it would be well worth spending money to see that it doesn't seriously inhibit traffic flow.

 
At 4:47 PM, March 11, 2006, Anonymous Christof Spieler said...

The study METRO is kicking off will consider traffic impacts in detail, and the engineering process will look at a lot of more detailed aspects of how rail fits into a street. Richmond isn't going to look line Main Street because it's a very different situation- Main had parallel streets a block away that cound handle its traffic, and Richmond doesn't. There will have to be left turns allowed at signalized intersection, likely with left turn lanes. There might even need to be short elevated sections at major intersections (Kirby, for example.

East of Shepherd is obviously the most constrained part of Richmond. There are alternates -- inside the 50 freeway trench or in the right-of-way along the south side of the freeway. But those do not serve the University of St. Thomas, the Menil Collection, or the neighborhoods along Richmond. I haven't looked at the street width in detail; my guess is that it's possible to fit the tracks and two lanes in each direction in the existing street width, but stations or some intersections might require additional property; in many cases, this could probably be bought from willing landowners who would benefit from rail access. Once again, there needs to be more engineering done to figure this out in detail.

 
At 6:08 AM, March 12, 2006, Anonymous nmainguy said...

From Christof: "(They've just publicly eliminated the Westheimer option from consideration; blog post upcoming on that)."

Actually according to Metro's news letter, Westheimer is off the table for now-not necessarily forever:"Although Westheimer has been eliminated from further study at this time, METRO would be willing to reconsider the alignment if a large segment of the corridor community were behind it."
I'm of the hope that a portion of Westheimer will be put back into the discussion, ie. from Weslyan to Post Oak.
We need LONG term solutions inside the city for those who work and travel inside the city-and our numbers are growing by the day.

 
At 10:57 AM, March 12, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I think taking Westheimer off the table is a wise one. If there's one road in the Houston area that can't afford to lose any capacity, it's Westheimer in the Galleria area. It's a major exit off of 610 in both directions, not to mention the primary east-west artery in that area. Transit riders do not shop at Highland Village - mainly wealthy soccer moms (whereas the Galleria does attract a much more diverse demographic, even if there might be more window shopping than actual purchasing).

Richmond and Westpark are much more secondary in that area, and the line can still link in the Galleria just fine going up Post Oak. Post Oak can also capture more of the area office buildings.

 
At 1:51 PM, March 12, 2006, Anonymous Tom Bazan said...

I have looked at the METRO Resolution 2003-77 and 2003-93 with exhibits and it is clear that the METRO "Solutions" referendum clearly stated WESTPARK and the graphic for the Westpark line was clearly below US Hwy 59.

If METRO wants to run a line down RIchmond, they MUST hold a vote per City Charter Article II, Section 21.

SO until there is a vote, METRO can only plan on Westpark, which is not viable under the FTA criteria.

 
At 4:36 PM, March 12, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

nmainguy,

We need LONG term solutions inside the city for those who work and travel inside the city-and our numbers are growing by the day.

The problem is that virtually everyone who lives and works inside the city owns a car, has private parking, and doesn't want to use transit unless it affords the same conveniences as their auto (in terms of travel times and personal comfort). Transit can't do that, and if you end up cutting lanes to put in rail along every major artery (both Richmond and Westiemer, here) you'll inconvenience the majority of those living and working inside the city who don't want to take the train.

 
At 6:31 PM, March 12, 2006, Anonymous nmainguy said...

I agree with Tom using his logic. If you don't run it down the name of a street listed in the referendum vote, then it's Westpark or nothing-even though Westpark dead-ends at Kirby. Since Tom is such an advocate for what he believes the ballot represents, he has a great case for any future transit system. So if we use the anti's argument The North Hardy line can only be built on Hardy? But A, B, and C are not on Hardy...
Uptown/West Loop can only be built on the West Loop or is Uptown a loose enough designation to allow it to be built anywhere in Uptown?
The Westpark line can only be on Westpark...but Westpark doesn't go to Wheeler...so do we go by the letter of the ballot...but if the ballot has flawed language [because Westpark does not go to Wheeler]...do we take it all literally or do we...man! I am one confused guy here!!!
(from my posts on Haif)

 
At 1:06 PM, March 13, 2006, Blogger kjb434 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 1:08 PM, March 13, 2006, Blogger kjb434 said...

I think people need to under what a corridor is in planning and what it represents. Westpark is representative of a corridor, not necessarily that the line has to run down Westpark. By that logic, the proposed commuter rail to the northwest side would have to run right by the US 290 right of way, but from the loop to the beltway, the line will run along Hempstead. US 290 is just a reference for a corridor.

Hardy and I-45 can be referenced as a north-south corridor north of downtown. This also gives Metro a study area to determine an alignment, not a predetermined path. The westpark line was never intended to run down the Westpark right-of-way. West of US 59, the Westpark line is intended to run on the southside of the Westpark Toll Road, not on westpark. From Kirby to the loop, the line would just cross Westpark once and never run on it.

Essentially, it can be shown that that orginal intention of the METRO plan and the ballot language aren't identical. The use of the name Westpark labels a corrdior to be used.

 
At 6:39 PM, March 14, 2006, Anonymous nmainguy said...

Thank you, kjb...that is what I've been saying.
If the opponents insist on Westpark proper only, then there will be a hold on the entire ballot.
Go read it and then try to take it literally...especially the Uptown segment.
Thanks again.

 
At 10:11 AM, March 16, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

kjb434,

I think people need to under what a corridor is in planning and what it represents.

Sure, but isn't the onus on Metro to put forth clear ballot language? I'm betting most voters thought they were voting for a line ON Westpark, not just in that general area. Metro ought not be able to confuse voters with technical language and then confond their expectations. It isn't exactly democratic, and still reeks of a bait and switch.

 

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