?We?re not going to move the station a mile away and say, oh sorry this is where the activity is going to be so you may have to develop some space for parking or you may have to develop some open space park environment around it. And we?re starting with a very upscale bus station.?
The vehicles on the signature bus line will all be top-of-the-line with, as Wilson says, ?all the bells and whistles,? including traffic preemption, que jumpers and a streamlined, rail-like appearance.
Oh, and it will have one more thing, a mascot ? the bunny.
?What does a rail line have that makes it so good? It?s got a physical presence,? Wilson says.
?You know where it is. There are the tracks. There?s the wire. What does a BRT have? As you go from station to station, what do you got? You got nothing. Well you gotta create the visual route. OK.?
Wilson showed me a big round sign with a stylized bunny in it and explained that the new signature bus lines would be like the Wilshire Boulevard BRT line in Los Angeles and will be called the Quick Lines.
?It?s just a little bit better than [Wilshire Boulevard,] but the same concept. It?s a heavy route but we?re going to put an express service on top of it,? Wilson says.
?There?s nothing quicker than a bunny, so we named it the Quick Lines.
?They?re not express. They?re not Metro direct. They?re the Quick Lines,? Wilson says.
He explained that the bunny sign would be put into the pavement in the Quick Lines? lanes every hundred feet or so to show where the bus is operating.
?It?s reinforced by flags on light poles or telephone poles. So as you go down the street you know beyond a shadow of a doubt, there?s a transit line running there. And then when you get to the station, the station lights in the ground blink like they do at rapid transit systems,? Wilson says.
Off the Rack Procurement
Houston Metro is in an expansion phase. As part of this, it?s looking to expand its light rail fleet. Rather than putting out an RFP and initiating the standard bid process, Wilson decided to cut to the chase when it came to getting the new cars in what could be called an unorthodox approach ? although one that might just come to be an industry standard.
Wilson says the best way to make the right purchase is to, ?marry the right vendor and let them do what they do best and get the Hell out of the way. Don?t tell them how to do their business.?
So when Houston Metro went to purchase its new light rail vehicles, it gathered all the prospective vendors in a room and instead of giving them a list of specifications a mile long, they had a short list ? there are no specifications.
When questioned Wilson explained, again, that there would be no specifications on the car and he wouldn?t tell them what he wanted on it. Instead, he wanted the vendors to choose the car they felt the most comfortable with and pitch that to Houston Metro. As you can imagine the response was stunned silence.
?This industry has said owners are their worst enemy because they over-specify equipment,? Wilson says.
?They customize everything. And every time I go out we?re buying for the first time and they?re making it for the first time. Except this client is saying, you made this car a hundred times, I am going to take 100 more just the way it is.?
The next question that arose was how the evaluation process would be handled. Wilson said they needed one thing: a client somewhere in the world that is already running at least 10 of their vehicles. That?s it. More silence followed.
?And so how do I evaluate?? Wilson says. ?We?re going to go visit your customer. And we?re going to talk to the guys who run them. And we?re going to talk to the guys who maintain them. And they?re going to tell us what your car does.
?And we?re going to come visit your shop and make sure you?ve got a real shop and you?re actually putting these cars through and you?re actually making these cars.
?That?s it. I?m not looking at anything else. Oh ? one more thing, the price.?
Wilson gathered seven of his people and sent them across the globe looking at different vehicles in action. They had to learn five different languages. And they spoke with operators and maintainers and found out all the quirks and good things about the vehicles proposed to them. And what did it come down to in the end? Price.