Ottawa, Closer than Ever to Replacing Bus Rapid Transit with Light Rail

» Could the Ottawa model of instituting bus rapid transit, then converting to light rail, inspire other cities?

There was a time, a few years back, when talk of building bus rapid transit as a cheap precursor to train service was common. The theory was that cities could invest in new rights-of-way for rapid transit and design guideways specifically for future light rail implementation, but only fork up enough dough to pay for the buses.

After its voters agreed in 2003 to fund a series of new rail lines, Houston’s elected officials realized by 2007 that they wouldn’t be able to do so without a federal commitment — but they weren’t able to get help because of obstacles put in the way by Congressional Republicans representing the city’s suburbs. And so the city turned to buses, deciding to install BRT along its most promising corridors.

Though it was

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Rallying Against Rail in Southeast Houston

» Residents fear light rail would cause accidents, gentrification, and displacement. Can any transportation project be so influential?

Like many sunbelt cities, Houston is rushing to build a transit system that can provide an alternative to the congestion caused by a population that has exploded by more than a million people over the past forty years. Now with about 2.3 million inhabitants, the city has developed a five-line light rail plan that would extend rapid transit across the densest areas of the metropolis. Though fiscal difficulties may result in a delay in the construction of two of the planned corridors, most of the project is expected to advance as planned, with new lines opening beginning in 2012.

Houston’s first modern rail operation — along Main Street from downtown to the stadium complex — opened in 2004 and has been a roaring success, attracting more riders than

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Houston Leaders Fear Too Large, Too Quick a Commitment to Light Rail

» Reliance on bonds to be paid back over decades highlights some of the difficulties cities face in advancing multi-line construction programs.

Just a few years ago Houston had grand plans for an extensive new light rail system that would crisscross the nation’s fourth-largest city from end to end. With new sales taxes, the local transit authority would be able to afford the construction of five lines by the early 2010s, reshaping the commuting patterns of the city’s residents.

However, like Denver and Charlotte, which both had huge expansion plans of their own, Houston’s dreams have been seriously threatened by the reality of falling tax return revenues. It’s a disappointing setback for a city that received federal New Starts approval for two of its projects just last year and which finally is able to pursue construction without the noisy interference of

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Mayoral Elections Highlight Controversies Over Transit Provision

» Third in a series of three articles on today’s elections. The first considered governor’s races; the second reviewed ballot measures.

In six big cities across the country — Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Miami, New York, and Seattle — transportation is playing a role in the mayoral race being decided today. With the economic crisis front and center, however, transit isn’t anyone’s biggest priority.

Mayor of Atlanta, GA

Mary Norwood vs. Kasim Reed vs. Lisa Borders (front-runners in a nonpartisan race)

Update: Mary Norwood, with 46%, and Kasim Reed, with 36%, have moved on to a runoff on December 1st.

Atlanta’s dramatic growth over the past twenty years — it has increased in population from 394,000 in 1990 to an estimated 538,000 today — has brought with it a panoply of benefits, including increased density and better services. Much of the population increase has been due to an increase in the

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After Years of Conflict, Houston's Transit System Advances

» Tom DeLay’s departure from Congress has made the project’s implementation quite a bit easier.

Houston is America’s fourth-largest city and one of the nation’s most car-dependent. That’s because for the past sixty years, the city has invested in almost nothing other than new highways. Only in 2004, with the opening of a new light rail line running 7.5 miles down the city’s Main Street, did the trend begin to reverse itself. Though the region remains committed to the construction of huge expanses of asphalt, for the first time in decades, a large transit expansion program is under way.

The biggest news came last week, when the federal government announced that of the five New Start corridors for which it would be approving construction in FY 2010, two would be in Houston, providing a guarantee of $900 million. Construction on the system’s north

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The Site / The Fight

  • by Yonah Freemark
  • Twitter: @yfreemark
  • yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com
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