How Houston designed a better bus system

Streetfilms produced this excellent short documentary on the changes that led to a better bus system in Houston. It’s very relevant to the current efforts by the Palm Tran Service Board to enact similar changes in Palm Beach County. From the film description:

Every city should do a “system reimagining” of their bus network like Houston METRO did.

Back in 2012, a small group of motivated citizens asked their local transit agency, elected leaders and advocates about how they could improve Houston’s bus network. Ridership was down. Buses did not run as frequently as people liked. The routes didn’t go where the populace needed them as the system did not change with the city since the 1970s. Weekend ridership was weak. If you wanted to transfer to another route, you almost always had to take a bus downtown first.

As you can surmise, all of this contributes to more cars on the roads and people not wanting to use transit.

The solution was an extremely ambitious, complete examination of every single bus route in the city, wiping the slate clean and starting from scratch. Through community meetings and years of tough decisions – a new METRO bus network emerged. One that has faster service, more efficient, better routes and one that is already boasting big gains in weekend service. And the changes have been essentially revenue neutral, meaning that all the Houston bus system is running at about the same budget it did prior.

This inspirational Streetfilm was produced in partnership with TransitCenter, which is funding us for a total of four films looking at transit throughout the country in 2016.




One Comment

  1. Excellent video.

    Here’s a rough question that I ask myself often when I’m in a distant suburb far from any real city center. When do we simply eliminate transit entirely in a place that is never going to be well served due to the land use pattern or local culture?

    My hometown of Toms River in southern New Jersey (that’s an hour and a half from either New York or Philadelphia) is profoundly sprawly with a local political culture that hates transit because it “attracts the wrong element”. The state and feds forced minimal transit on the town by threatening to cut off highway funding. So the town created a bus that went around in circles to tick off the required boxes. Community college. Check. Medical center. Check. Civic center. Check. Regional mall. Check. But the system serves no one. The buses ride around empty.

    I’d rather the Toms Rivers of the world stop pretending they have meaningful transit and transfer that money to another town that actually wants it and will make their system serve the population well. Toms River will fail or succeed on its auto-only trajectory for better or worse.

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