Metro is going around to public hearings giving slide shows on its proposed solutions to the alleged problem of Houston not having enough light rail. Houston voters, of course, passed a referendum approving a massive expansion of the system; what Houston voters didn't do was read the fine print. That fine print essentially said, "Ignore these pretty maps we're showing you in campaign ads; we're gonna build these lines wherever the hell we want."
Which didn't sit happily with the folks along Richmond Avenue, especially those in Montrose and Afton Oaks. They — being simple, naive, trusting creatures — believed the rail line between UH and the Galleria would go down Westpark. How they got that idea, beyond listening to Metro, we'll never know.
Richmond people are up in arms, so Metro, as we said, is holding public hearings. And if you ever want to know which "solution" Metro prefers in the Richmond vs. Westpark battle, look no further than these two slides:
1) Light rail on Richmond: There's a sleek train nestled somewhere under all those beautiful green trees, but you have to look hard to see it. Such trees can magically grow mere inches from rail tracks, with their roots and branches never interfering with operation, so you can hardly tell the difference between present-day, arboretum-like Richmond and the Gleaming, Friendly Future, featuring light rail.
2) Light rail on Westpark: Welcome to the People's Republic of Industry and Soullessness, comrade. This — and notice, it's labeled helpfully as a "Westpark typical station," so it'll be no better anywhere else up and down the line — is a vision of transit hell. No trees offer shade from the blistering Houston sun; there are only ugly transmission towers and telephone lines. Traffic crawls along Westpark, offering the only reason any human would conceivably walk across long distances of sun-baked concrete to wait for a train. Even BlackBerrys are disallowed in this dystopian future: Notice Dad, trudging lifelessly with 1950s briefcase, enduring one last indignity before heading home to a Swanson's TV dinner and a Gunsmoke
The message is clear, folks: Support the Richmond Avenue option. Or suffer. --Rich Connelly