At an Aug. 29 meeting, The Woodlands Township Board rescinded funding for a proposal to build a transit center next to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.
The proposal, which includes a parking garage and a hub for buses and trolley service, is tabled until after the November township board elections, said Mike Bass, member of the board of directors and Woodlands Road Utility District member.
“Over two years ago we recognized that with the growth in residents, visitors and those working in the Town Center and Hughes Landing were—and are—facing a significant parking and mobility issue similar to other very dense urban areas,” Bass said.
Two years ago the township initiated a transit study to examine how to alleviate the mobility problems near Town Center.
“The general conclusion was there is a congestion problem that will only get worse,” Bass said.
Two designs were developed for the transit center. One includes a roundabout for trolleys for $7 million, Bass said. The other design would cost $5.2 million.
Township Board member John McMullan said taxpayers are not asking for the transit center.
“We’re in a new economic climate,” he said. “Residents with fixed incomes are worried about being taxed out of their houses. Now is not the time to make a very large expenditure on a new transit program entirely within Town Center.”
Bass said once the township uses the hotel occupancy tax revenue to fund the Convention and Visitors Bureau, there is $1.7 million left over in the fiscal year 2015-16 budget. Some funds could be allocated to bus transit, which would run every six to eight minutes, compared with the 20-30 minute trolley schedule.
McMullan said the 278 parking spaces being proposed in the transit center would only be in addition to a nearby parking garage, which is often empty.
“It is so out of touch to try to spend money on an experimental program,” McMullan said.
Township Board Director Gordy Bunch said he does not foresee a need for the transit center. He said there is already plentiful parking in the area—at The Woodlands Marriott Waterway and Convention Center.
“Now that we know that there is already a private-sector solution to the Town Center parking, it makes no sense to build a parking garage next to an existing empty parking garage,” he said.
Bass said the 2,300 people who live in Hughes Landing are adding gridlock to an already congested area.
He said the concern with the population in Hughes Landing is that residents add to traffic woes when they need to visit Town Center.
“If the congestion becomes a bigger issue, we run the risk of negatively impacting sales tax revenue and job growth,” Bass said.
The transit study will be presented again to the board in January, he said.
“Now we have to go back to convince them that we’re not blowing smoke,” Bass said. “In 2016 we have enough hotel tax monies that are more than adequate to fund the transit activities in the Town Center. We don’t want to come back to the board until we know who the board is.”