Previewing the new METRO North line
Friday morning METRO gave the media a preview of the new North line set to open December 21st. First some pics, then thoughts... (click on any picture to see the full size version)
|New maps are on the trains. The left side red section is opening this month.|
|The Burnett St. Station and Transit Center has an impressive elevated platform view of downtown. The bus transit center is under construction.|
|The Burnett Station just north of downtown has 3 tracks, enabling trains north and south of it to run at different frequencies (more frequent/faster headways to the south)|
|More of the skyline view from the Burnett platform|
|Skyline view pulling into Burnett station.|
|The Christmas Train!|
|The Christmas train announces the opening date. Get it? It's a Christmas gift from METRO to the city.|
|Riding up front!|
|The strangeness of houses directly in front of the station. And they have to listen to those repetitive station announcements all day long...|
- You will now be able to reach a Wal-Mart Supercenter by rail, which includes groceries. Actually, Northline Commons has a lot of retail, and an HCC campus. And Midtown has the Randall's grocery store just a couple blocks off the line. It now actually might be possible to manage most everyday shopping trips off of the rail line if one were so inclined.
- The stations are very well done with nice artwork.
- Signs of new development are thin: I counted one new townhome development, another small apartment complex, and a nice strip center or two. The train buzzed with speculation of how fast any new investment and redevelopment would occur. It's a big open question at this point. My guess is very slowly, especially looking at the rail-served parts of Midtown 10 years after the line opened. Sure, there are signs of good stuff happening (like MidMain), but they've been very slow to develop. And, frankly, the north side doesn't have the same location advantages as Midtown.
- The current estimate is that the train will take about 20 mins from UHD to the Northline end covering 5.3 miles. Add that to the current Main St. line, and you have ~50 mins end-to-end for about 12 miles. That's about 14mph net speed - not exactly flying. Somebody living up there could easily be looking at a 30-40 min commute to the medical center - surprisingly long given the short distance. To put that in context, in non-rush-hour traffic it takes me about 45 mins to get from Midtown to Tomball! But it honestly might be somewhat competitive with driving at rush hour, especially when you consider the cost and hassle of med center traffic and parking.
That last point reinforces something I've been saying for a while: people may still face some daunting travel times to their final destination even after they've been connected into the rail network. I occasionally hear people sort of hand wave that once somebody has transferred to the rails they're magically at their destination, whether that's downtown, TMC, UH, or, one day, Greenway or Uptown. That is far from the case. I think once you add up the travel times, very few people will want to take an HOV bus downtown and then transfer to UH, TMC, or elsewhere. METRO still needs to work on more direct express lane service to alternate job centers like TMC and Uptown. Rail network connections are not a magic silver bullet for that.
Overall, METRO seems to have done a solid job on the new line. Only time will tell what ridership develops and how the neighborhood transforms.
Labels: Metro, mobility strategies, transit, transit-oriented development