Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Intermodal transit center for Houston?

"Does Houston even need an intermodal transit center that would serve as a crossroads for light rail, Metro buses, Greyhound buses, taxis, Amtrak trains and shuttle services to the airports and cruise ships?" asks a Houston Business Journal article. Consultants are studying the idea. $100M price tag, probably north of downtown.

My initial reaction: could be pretty cool. Then a few other reactions:
  • Don't worry about placing it anywhere near the Amtrak station. They only come through town 3 times/week, and pick-up and drop-off almost no one. A small shuttle bus to/from the station those 3 times/week should be more than adequate.
  • I don't think you'll get any neighborhood to accept a Greyhound bus station. Just walk around the one in Midtown and I think you'll see why. Expect it to stay right where it is, and riders can connect on light rail up to the transit center if they want.
  • The biggest risk: transit planners will pump everything through the hub to jack up the numbers and justify the investment, even if that's way inconvenient for a lot of trips and probably costs overall ridership. This has already happened with bus transfers to the light rail line. HOV commuter busses that should circulate downtown will dump everyone off at the transit center. Places like the Medical Center and Uptown that should have their own direct airport shuttles will connect through the center instead, adding a half-hour+ to trips and killing ridership.

This last one is a big problem for transit planning. It's too easy to say "A connects to B connects to C" so everything's great, until you realize all those connections make something that's a half-hour car trip into a 90+ minute slog that people won't tolerate. Just because the connections are there doesn't mean people will use them.

"The consultants will help determine whether Houston needs one large intermodal transit center or whether the area might be better served by several smaller sites throughout the city. "

From a "city edifice complex" perspective, I'm sure it would be a big win. But from a mobility efficiency perspective, I'll bet a lot of boring, distributed local sites would be a whole lot better.


At 1:00 PM, June 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work about 2 miles west of downtown. After 2 months of trying to tie together Park&Ride with a 2 mile local bus trip I've come to appreciate what "I waited all day for the bus" really means. An intermodal one-size-fits-all approach sounds like what I've been experiencing on steroids.

The only person it helps is the out-of-towner for whom this is where the buck stops - no matter where they want to go if they can get to the one-size-fits-all center they're good to go.

In that case size it appropriately and off we go. But $100M is way over priced for such a relatively small application.

Greg F.

At 12:13 AM, October 18, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to live in Houston, and now live in Washington State, but I LOVE to travel on AmTrak, and everytime I would come into Houston, I was so ashamed of the sorry excuse of a train depot!!! Even the little town where I live has a better depot than Houston, the 4th largest city in the nation!!! How can you guys put down wanting Houston to better their Amtrak, Greyhound, etc. facilities??? Shame on you!!!

At 9:08 AM, October 18, 2010, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

No problem with some modest facility upgrades, but the massive cost of the move/consolidation to the a new "intermodal transit center" is overkill.


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