Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County officials discussed the local effects of its draft METRONext Moving Forward Plan with residents of the Spring and Klein areas during a standing-room-only community meeting Jan. 28 at the Klein Multipurpose Center.
The meeting was just one of 17 community meetings METRO is holding throughout the Greater Houston area in January and February to gain feedback on its draft METRONext plan, which includes significant investments in the public transit system through 2040.
“Our commitment is to really look at the next 20, 25, 30 years and [identify]what we need to do to really manage the growth that is coming to this region and keep people wanting to live in this region—that’s what this is all about,” METRO President and CEO Tom Lambert said.
While the draft plan includes public transit improvements spanning the entire Greater Houston area, one of the items Spring and Klein residents in attendance cheered for not being part of the plan was local bus service.
“I was out here [at a previous community meeting]in 2017… and it was made very clear to us that you didn’t want local bus service in this area,” said Jim Robinson, who represents Harris County on the METRO board of directors. “What you told us that you wanted was improvements to the freeways and improved park-and-ride service to make it easier to commute to work—so those are things that are included in the plan. We heard what you had to say.”
State Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, said the omission was reflective of METRO’s flexibility and adaptability based on local feedback.
“As you can see, METRO does listen—especially when you show up in huge numbers like this,” Swanson said. “Two years ago, far more people than we were expecting showed up here to let their wishes be made known. We looked at what [METRO] is planning, and they really have listened to us—they’ve assured us that they’re not trying to sneak in something that the area doesn’t want.”
Included in the preliminary plan, however, is expanded park-and-ride service in the Spring and Klein area, which Robinson said is largely based on increasing need with the growth of Springwoods Village.
“By 2021, there will be 20,000 jobs out at Springwoods [Village], and they are really interested in park-and-ride service coming there, so we’ve been in serious negotiations with Hewlett-Packard [and]Exxon. … We’re working very closely with those companies as part of what we decide to try and serve that need,” Robinson said. “For this part of the county, those are the things we’re emphasizing.”
In addition to expanded park-and-ride service, Robinson said METRO is also looking for better public transit access to both major Houston airports.
The METRONext plan proposes an I-45 North Bus Rapid Transport line downtown to George Bush Intercontinental Airport, which would provide station-to-station service similar to a Light Rail Transit system, while accommodating multiple routes. The plan also includes two proposed Light Rail Transit route extensions to William P. Hobby Airport.
Other local improvements included in the plan include adding more high-occupancy vehicle lanes on I-45 going northbound as well as the implementation of bidirectional HOV lanes, Robinson said.
“There is no additional METRO taxes,” Robinson said. “We’re not proposing any kind of tax rate increase whatsoever. In fact, we don’t even collect property taxes—we’re completely funded out of sales tax and what people pay to ride the system and some federal money.”
METRO officials will continue seeking feedback from residents and commuters in the Greater Houston area, both in person and online, over the next several weeks.