Friday, March 28, 2014

METRO annual audit? Clean.

While our rail-car snafu is ongoing, at least METRO's accounting practices are in good order.

METRO Regular Board Meeting from yesterday featured John Kennedy of KMPG delivering the good news of there being only a few easily-correctable minor boo-boos committed by METRO over the last year(meeting video here).  Our METRO is running a tight ship.

METRO's latest choice of light-rail car vendors?...

...umm, not so great.

The agency seems to be paying dearly for its choice to not continue with Siemens as its manufacturer of light-rail cars.  While the situation on our side is not yet hampering light-rail service, CAF, the Spanish company now building our light-rail cars, is woefully behind in order fulfillment.

Yesterday's METRO Regular Board Meeting featured about an hour-long discussion between the Board and METRO's chief administrator, Terence Fontaine (meeting video here).  While Mr. Fontaine was not on the hot-seat whatsoever, he was the unfortunate soul who had to regale the Board and the public on just how behind CAF is.

However, CAF seems to have wised up, especially in the light of a recent visit by Fontaine and Board Members Spieler and Ballanfant to Spain.  Building new facilities like mad, the Spanish company seems from the tenor of the Board meeting to be doing its level-best to make things right.  I have a great feeling, though, that if it does not get the job done and done with high-quality rail-cars, there will be hell to pay.

Of course, the burning question is was it worth the money 'saved' to not go with the proven work of Siemens, and why did the agency think it best to do so?  Inquiring minds want to know.  :-)

This situation is dire.  If CAF delivers lemons, the opening of the East and Southeast Lines could, in my estimation at least, be delayed by who-knows-how-long and would be a disaster from which METRO could not recover in terms of reputation if nothing else for years, year, and years.

And in terms of the coming change in Mayor, it could bring System Re-imagining crashing down before it ever has a chance to be built up.  Should CAF's cars fail and/or delivery be even-more delayed, the next Mayor could be of a mind to appoint a Board that would nix System Re-imagining altogether because of public pressure.  Not sure how that could happen, but one never knows.

Hopefully, I'm being a bit over-dramatic.  And again, it appears things are on the upswing with CAF and how seriously it now views the situation at-hand.  We shall see.

A vision of the future of Houston mass-transit from Houston Tomorrow

Houston Tomorrow is an organization dedicated to research, discussion, and education about Houston's future.  It is all about city planning as it relates to Houston and our region of Texas and in an issue of their online Tomorrow magazine from 2011, even the state of Texas as a whole is discussed.

In this Summer 2011 issue of Tomorrow, a compelling look at Houston transit is given, showing off a possible vision of what a complete rail and frequent-bus system for the greater Houston area could (and should, imho) look like that will carry us forward for the next quarter-century.

This issue may be about three years old, but in the light of System Re-imagining, it is as timely still as it was then.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

METRO's System Maps and how I don't use them

The above takes one to METRO's website where one may find the complete set of maps showing our entire local, Park & Ride, and METROrail system.  For the most part, the maps are not confusing, but I find them so visually busy and not-to-map-scale (a necessary evil) that I have mapped on Google Maps Engine Pro all our local bus routes plus our present rail system (including the coming East and Southeast Lines) and all Park & Ride corridors.

I am going to a rehearsal tonight near Heights Blvd. and was able to find the nearest bus on my map far-faster than I would have found via METRO's system maps.

Hopefully with System Re-imagining, METRO can get new System maps that are easier on the eyes.


Monday, March 24, 2014 & are now working!

My mass-transit endeavors have proper web domains - and I cannot believe they were available.

A few of you have read this blog, already, and hopefully have had a chance to listen to the podcast.  Thanks so much for the Facebook 'likes' (though I had to delete my original posts due to technical snafus).


HoustonOnTheGo Podcast Episode 1: 24 March 2014

It's here!  The HoustonOnTheGo Podcast is the real deal, and it's here for you!

In this first episode, I discuss a little about METRO System Re-imagining - good stuff!

NOTE: is not working at the moment, but I'm working on it - Thanks for listening!

METRO website:
METRO System Re-imagining website:
METRO Interview with Christof Spieler from 'METRO Matters' show:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Getting from Point A to Point B...and back again.

Traffic in Houston.  We hate it.  We hate driving in it.  It shortens our lives.  It sucks our joy and crushes our souls.  And as our population continues to grow and unless We, the People, do something about our over-dependence on cars, traffic in Houston will only get worse.  This blog is intended to channel your road-rage into learning about what mass-transit is, what it should be, how if done properly it could revolutionize how we Houstonians get around, how it could improve your life immensely and the lives of thousands of others, and why it is worth fighting for.

The theory of mass-transit is this: Buses, trains, etc. can carry far more people in less space, using less fuel, and making a much-smaller footprint on our roads than automobiles.  The more people on trains and buses equals fewer people in cars clogging our freeways.

Heretofore, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, our local mass-transit agency, and our local leaders have not done right by Us, the People in regard to everything to do with mass-transit: vision, implementation, and a genuine concern for the people it is supposed to serve.


Enter Annise Parker, the Mayor of Houston.  The Mayor of Houston appoints five of the nine members of METRO's Board of Directors.  Mayor Parker's METRO Board appointees' first task upon taking office was to take stock of the poor job done by previous METRO leadership.  Once that was done, it was down to business, remaking METRO and creating for the community a never-before-seen-in-Houston window of genuine community engagement which culminates this year in what will be the most-important seismic change and revolution in the history of Houston mass-transit:

System Re-imagining

More to come.