METRO opening new rail lines, improving bus service despite setbacks

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HOUSTON, TX-- We have been hearing about two new METRO lightrail lines opening for years now: the green line running east of downtown, and the purple line, going from downtown southeast by Texas Southern University and University of Houston, all the way out to Griggs.

It's a great project... but will it ever get done?

It was supposed to have finished last year, then got pushed back to early April. Now it's  delayed until late May.

Ash Diaz lives in Second Ward, where she's been waiting "a minute" for the Green line to open, while watching operators test the tracks. "We see this thing work every day. And we just now, maybe two weeks ago, saw the covers of the seats get taken off," Diaz says, obviously frustrated. "I just don't know why it's taking so long."

"The delay from April," explains METRO CEO Tom Lambert, "was as they were building the Marriott Marquis hotel at the George R. Brown Convention Center/Discovery Green area. The contractor ruptured a chiller line, going to the businesses in that part of downtown. And when they did that, we had to go back and replace the roadway section we just built." He continues, "That was about a 12-week delay, so that's why you're seeing us pushing it back to May 23rd."

That hasn't been the only hitch. The Green line ran into trouble at Latham street, where it would have to cross over existing freight train tracks. The METRO board decided earlier this year to build a bridge over those tracks, a project that will begin May 11th and is contracted to take 18 months.

And it's not just the rail lines that are improving. So is the bus system.  "You're gonna see more high frequency bus routes every 15 minutes. Not five days a week, but seven days a week!" enthused Lambert.  "We're gonna roll out that new bus network on August the 16th."

More trains. Better bus schedules. What else could be in store for Houston mass transit?

"As the demand grows," says Lambert, "we will look at expanding our operations. 24 hours a day, if that becomes necessary to do so."

For more on METRO's expansion plans, pick up a copy of this month's Houstonia.