The proposal to put light rail along Washington Avenue has been stopped in its tracks.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO), which is working to finalize a $7.5 billion plan for expanding and modernizing its services during the next 20 years, is no longer entertaining the idea of light rail in one of Houston’s most popular entertainment districts. METRO board members agreed to explore the possibility in May but reached a consensus to drop the proposal at their June 27 meeting, citing a lack of information about its feasibility as well as a lack of interest among those who live and work in the area.
METRO chairperson Carrin Patman said the response to light rail on Washington Avenue was “very ambivalent” during a June 20 gathering of community members.
“I don’t sense a great deal of support from the community for it,” she said.
Later this month, METRO aims to finalize a general plan it will take to voters in November with the hope of gaining bonding authority. Part of that plan is extending light rail beyond downtown.
At the suggestion of Central Houston, a nonprofit organization made up of downtown business leaders, METRO considered a two-mile stretch of light rail on Washington between the northwest edge of downtown and Heights Boulevard to the west. The transit authority already had planned to add a .2-mile extension to the end of its Green and Purple lines to connect light rail to the municipal courthouse just west of downtown.
“I just don’t think that’s ripe,” METRO board member Jim Robinson said. “There has not been enough study. There has not been the level of community input. While it may be eventually desirable to run rail that way, there may be other priorities for the future that would be greater.”
METRO board members said there still is a need to explore public-transit solutions along the Washington corridor. But they suggested those needs might be better met by more regionalized groups such as Central Houston or the Old Sixth Ward Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 13, which encourages development immediately west of downtown.
“I think it’s premature to say the solution is rail,” METRO board member Lisa Gonzales Castaneda said. “But the corridor itself needs to be reflected somehow.”