HOUSTON – Those for and against a plan for Houston’s transit system to borrow $3.5 billion are making their closing arguments to voters who will make the final decision.
Leaders at METRO said the money will be used to expand the city’s public transportation system on several fronts.
“Our population is expanding from 7 million to 10 million by 2040, so we have to have a comprehensive transit system,” said Carrin Patman, chair of METRO’s board.
One big chunk of the plan calls for a dedicated 16-mile route of light rail to be built from downtown to Hobby Airport.
“You could have a one-seat ride to Hobby Airport, and then we do METRO Rapid, this new bus rapid transit service up to Intercontinental,” Patman said.
Other phases of the plan include improving and expanding existing services, adding new park-and-rides and creating two-way HOV lanes. Another part of the plan calls for 75 miles of bus-based rapid transit lanes – where buses stay in one dedicated lane on dedicated routes.
METRO’s entire plan would take 20 years to complete.
Bill Frazer, of the nonpartisan group Responsible Houston, encourages a “no” vote on the measure, saying there are more pressing needs.
“We think those dollars could be better spent today on things like fixing flooding and drainage,” Frazer said. “We’ve got a lot of issues with transportation in Houston that METRO could fix right now, particularly after Harvey.”
Patman said those issues will be addressed but expanding the current program is vital to keeping up with the region’s growth.
“When you have the population explosion that we’re experiencing, it’s a blessing, but we have to prepare for it,” Patman said.
Patman said a more detailed, prioritized plan of projects will be worked out if the bond passes.
The last time voters decided a METRO bond issue was in 2003. The measure narrowly passed and gave Houston its light-rail system.