Public transit access to the Greater Houston area is almost within reach for Conroe-area residents as the city of Conroe nears the end of negotiations with the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) for its new commuter park and ride service.
The Texas Department of Transportation spent roughly $1 million to build Conroe’s park and ride lot under I-45 at the corner of FM 2854, but the 298-space parking lot has sat empty since construction was completed in fall 2017 while the city negotiated contracts with bus operators.
Now, METRO will meet with its Capital and Strategic Planning Committee on Oct. 17 to present the park and ride contract proposal to the committee, said Shawn Johnson, transportation manager for the Conroe Transportation Department.
Barring any big changes to the contract, METRO’s board of directors and Conroe City Council will vote on the proposal in November. If approved by both entities, the park and ride service will be operable by February 2019, Johnson said.
The Conroe Transportation Department has been looking to expand its public transit options regionally for many years, Johnson said. She said the new service will greatly affect Conroe’s large commuter population, who currently rely on The Woodlands Express Park and Ride service to access the Greater Houston area.
“The thing we’re going to be stressing is that it’s a commuter service,” she said. “Once you take a METRO commuter bus to downtown, you can hop on any METRO bus from there, and you can end up in Galveston in a day and still find your way back.”
METRO’s Oct. 17 proposal will include proposed routes, schedules and stops for Conroe’s new service, Johnson said. Three major Houston-area districts are included in the park and ride’s proposed stops: downtown Houston, midtown and the Texas Medical Center.
Additionally, Johnson said the bus schedule will mirror work hours, with three buses running southbound in the morning and northbound in the afternoon.
Conroe Director of Engineering Tommy Woolley said the Houston-Galveston Area Council will fund 80 percent of the park and ride’s costs for the first year and 70 percent of costs for the next two years. The remaining funds will be allocated from the city of Conroe’s general fund balance, Woolley said.