One of the daily challenges of life in Houston is getting around.
Metro is proposing to make getting to work, to education, and all the necessities of life easier by transforming its local bus system. The reimagined network offers just that with faster commutes, reduced wait times at bus stops and more frequent service seven days a week. Those are just some of the highlights of the draft five-year transit plan which was presented to the Strategic Planning Committee meeting May 8.
Redesigning an entire local bus network was no easy feat. Yet about 93 percent of Metro’s current customers will still be able to access the same bus stop they use today.
“The improvements in this plan are incredible; these are not just tweaks but significant changes that will positively impact how and when you ride,” said Metro Board Chairman Gilbert Garcia. “The city has changed and grown dramatically, and this plan tackles the challenges of putting service where it’s needed most.”
Metro Board member Christof Spieler spearheaded the project and said the goal from the beginning has been to develop a system that’s easy to understand, easy to use and connects more people to more places.
"I ride our local buses. Metro is my daily commute. I know that frequency is freedom. If the bus runs often, I can go where I want to go, when I want to go. I'm not planning my life around the bus schedule. For Houstonians that depend on transit, that means access to more jobs and more educational opportunities — and more time with their families."
Service frequency was key in developing the better network. Right now, less than 30 percent of Metro riders have access to routes that run at least every 15 minutes seven days a week system. Under the draft plan, the number increases to 73 percent.
Under the reimagined plan, frequent service means a bus every 15 minutes or better, 15 hours a day, seven days a week. The draft plan also includes simpler, straighter routes, updated route numbering to help customers better navigate the system and better maps.
In addition to making trips easier, faster, and more reliable for current riders, Metro projects the reimagined local network will increase ridership by about 20 percent after two years. While the plan is based on current resources, it is also designed to be the framework for future growth as Metro receives more sales tax revenue for bus service under the 2012 referendum.
The Authority’s next step is to share the draft with the community to gather input. Metro will host public meetings across its service area, as well as visit transit centers and civic organizations to reach out to riders and spread the word. The goal is to adopt a final plan this fall and implement the new system in the summer of 2015.