Metro narrows down the University Line optionsA Metro board meeting today narrowed down the potential routings of the east-west Universities light-rail line. The Chronicle story is here, along with a link to the west side map and east side map. Metro's official document is here, with summary evaluations of all the alternatives and a good map on p.12. The biggest news is that Afton Oaks is now officially off the table, removing the most vocal opposition group. The line will definitely jump over to Westpark somewhere before Weslayan. Some crossover options I supported, like the UP railroad RoW and Dunlavy, have been eliminated.
The other big piece of news is that they're seriously looking at extending the east end of the line to the Eastwood Transit Center, which would allow local and HOV riders from all over southeast Houston to access the line directly rather than having to connect via downtown (way out of the way). That allows a lot more direct routings for those people to UH, TSU, Midtown, the Medical Center, Greenway, and even Uptown. Kudos to Christof, who's been pushing this idea for a while. I also like that they're looking at much better and closer connections to the TSU campus.
So analyzing the 3 new options on the west side:
- The Montrose cutover is the most expensive of the bunch with the lowest ridership. Involves elevation along the side of 59. Lose about 40% of the riders while adding $50 million to the cost. Would barely serve UST, but not be able to serve The Menil Collection. This is the painful Culberson option.
- Crossover on Plaza Drive A in Greenway Plaza. Lots of elevated. Misses a few destinations further west.
- Crossover at Cummins, near the Edwards Theater. Hits the most destinations, gets the most ridership, and is the most cost-effective. We have a winner.
My guess is that this will defuse the most vocal opposition by bypassing Afton Oaks. Hopefully other businesses along Richmond can be reassured they won't struggle during construction because Metro has learned their lesson from the Main St. line and will manage it much better. The best odds of federal funding are the Richmond alignment, and hopefully the big$ Uptown community will put pressure on Culberson to soften his position, since their line won't happen without the Universities line, and that line won't happen without federal funding. Let's hope the political rhetoric fades away and we can come together as a unified community around the best plan long-term for the city.
Metro's calendar calls for a final routing decision by May 2007, and a construction start by August 2008.
Update: Christof weighs in.