While METRO has not yet made a decision on the light rail route for the University Line, it will be taking public comments today and tomorrow night on the environmental impact of the proposed routes. Meanwhile, those for and against the possible route along Richmond Avenue are working to get their opposing messages to as many people as possible. Houston Public Radio’s Rod Rice met with both sides and this morning reports on the efforts of the Richmond Rail Coalition.
This is the group that does not want rail to run the length of Richmond Avenue inside the loop, but, says Daphne Scarbrough it is not an anti-rail organization.
“We are wanting responsible transportation for Houston for our tax dollars. So, we have the Richmond Avenue Coalition, it encompasses over 400 small businesses and land owners, and that is one part of that, and then we have about 4,500 people in our MobilityCoalition.org.”
Scarbrough is a life long Houstonian. She owns the Brass Maiden on Richmond and has lived in that area for 25-years. She and others in both groups are adamant that the vote on where to place the University Line was conducted in 2003 when the ballot said that part of the rail plan would be on Westpark.
“Our contention is if they want Richmond Avenue they need to do, they need to do another ballot. They don’t have a right to do that from the 2003 referendum.”
This is the major point of contention on this issue. Robert McClain owns McClain Gallery on Richmond and says he’s been a rail support for many years, but like Scarbrough, he believes he voted for one thing in 2003 and is now could be getting another from METRO. The other major problem with Richmond Rail, he says, is that it will destroy neighborhoods. McClain believes that rail along Richmond is not about mobility.
“It is really more about real estate redevelopment and an idea of changing what these neighborhoods are like into high density commercial and residential, and that’s not what we want. We live in this area because we love the character of the neighborhoods, we love the certain bohemian aspect, we love the fact that there are small independent restaurants.
What we don’t want to happen here is what we’re seeing happening in the village. The village used to have character and charm; it is now only about making money in terms of real estate and losing the character and quality of our neighborhood.”
Daphne Scarbrough is concerned about the trees and greenspace along Richmond.
“We are the greenies in this fight. I am not into anymore pattern concrete than we have to have. All you have to do is look at the Main Street line and you see that you can not have tall oak trees such as we have up and down Richmond Avenue.”
There is also a concern about how rail on Richmond will affect traffic. McClain says if Richmond loses a lane in each direction it will be more congested, and north-south traffic trying to cross Richmond will have longer waits for trains to pass, and could also mean the end of synchronized traffic lights.
Both Scarbrough and McClain say the issue is the topic of conversation among business and homeowners in the area and they are always ready to share their views. The Richmond Avenue Coalition also holds community meetings, the next one will be in April and the date will be posted at mobilitycoalition.org.