Rail vs. bus transit service for the city vs. the suburbsChristof has an excellent post on Houston's newest HOV extension on 59, but my favorite part is when he explains why express bus is better for suburban commuter service and rail is better for local city service (especially his concise concluding paragraph).
These buses don’t do any good, though, for the people who live in the neighborhoods along this freeway. The closest park-and-ride is at Hillcroft, and the buses don’t stop in Neartown or Montrose or serve the University of St. Thomas or the Menil. That’s why METRO is studying light rail here — not as a replacement for the suburban service, but as a complement to it, serving a different travel need.
I’ve heard the suggestion made that METRO should simply run light rail on the HOV lane to avoid disrupting neighborhoods. That would be easier than rebuilding Richmond. But it’s wrongheaded on every other count. Suburban commuters — the ones using the HOV lane now — would have a longer trip if they had to transfer to rail. And the inner neighborhoods wouldn’t be served at all.
If you want to build a suburban commuter service, you want park-and-ride lots, high speeds, and few stops. That’s what we’ll have in a few months. If you want to serve the city, you want stations in walkable neighborhoods with good pedestrian access, spaced closer to serve more people. That’s the next task.