Mass Transit for the Next Mayor

Houstonians love their cars and trucks. But the KUHF-Houston Public Radio — 11 News survey shows they also love the idea of more mass transit. As Laurie Johnson reports the expansion of the region's transit system will be one of the biggest projects for Houston's next mayor.

METRO is already in phase two of its light rail project. Five new lines will be added, connecting places like downtown, the east side and the galleria. The planning is already done and most of the funding is secured.

University of Houston Political Scientist Richard Murray says the next administration will get the dubious distinction
of overseeing the actual construction of the new lines.

It isn't, as mentioned, a big issue in the campaign debates and discussions, but I think in practical terms — in terms of governing this city for whoever wins — yeah it's going to be an enormous problem because we're talking about a major expansion of the rail system through a lot of established neighborhoods, so you're going to get an earful if you're the next mayor."

That's because the devil's in the details. The KUHF-11 News Survey shows 82 percent of people polled favor reducing traffic by creating more efficient bus and rail systems.

But that doesn't mean they want those systems to run through their neighborhood.

Alan Clark is the director of transportation programs for the Houston-Galveston Area Council. He says the next mayor will play a very important role in relieving people's fears about mass transit.

"I think our elected officials will often be asked to appear before community groups to talk about the projects, their timing, their phasing, how they're going to potentially impact the communities that will be served by them — both near-term and longer-term."

"Every year there's an uptick in public support for improved transit. We're finally there."

That's Robin Holzer, who chairs the Citizens' Transportation Coalition. She says it's not a matter of getting people to accept mass transit, but of getting the right people to address it.

"People in this community value transit. Maybe it took a long time to get here, but we get there. And all of the polling reflects that the overwhelming majority of residents in Houston and Harris County want to see expanded and improved transit. So it's going to be essential for our next city government, not to mention our next county government and our state representatives and so on, to figure out how to help make that happen."

That's the challenge, but former Houston Mayor Bob Lanier has a bit of advice for Houston's next mayor.

"Make your mind up that it's not going to be decided by a label. A person should not be pro-highways or pro-rail or anti-bus or you know...just look at what works."

Tonight at 10 on 11 News — how has the controversy over racism and sexism inside the Houston Fire Department affected voters' perception of public safety?

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

 

> To read if the controversy over racism and sexism inside the Houston Fire Department affected voters' perception of public safety, visit the 11 News website.

 

 

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Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...