Houston's New Tracks

Houston Bus Riders Say The New Light Rail Will Save Them A Lot Of Time

As we wrap up our series “Houston’s New Tracks,” we talk to a couple of bus riders who are excited to see the new lines open. They say the trains will help them avoid some long waits at the bus stop.

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University of Houston student Barrett Ochoa uses buses and trains for most of his trips. He hopes to pursue a career in public transportation.

 

*Click on the interactive map below to see Caitlin’s route

 

It’s 8:30 in the morning in downtown Houston, and we’ve just hopped aboard Metro’s southbound Red Line train. We’re with Caitlin Calder, a 33-year-old undergraduate at the University of Houston and a mother of two.

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Right now Calder is on the second leg of her morning commute. She just got off a park-and-ride bus from Cypress, a trip that can take up to an hour. After walking a few blocks from Preston Street, she’s boarding the Red Line to the Downtown Transit Center.

Once she finds a seat, Calder says she gets to have some quiet time. She likes to check out the downtown construction and do a little people-watching.

“I see people balancing their coffees on their leg. I have never seen one spill, so clearly they have some sort of skill that I am not aware of,” says Calder.

Our ride is uneventful, and as we approach the transit center Calder starts thinking about the final leg of her trip.

“I take another bus to UH. There are several options. But again, sometimes I’m waiting 20-25 minutes for one of those buses to come and take me to school. It is really stressful, especially if I have an exam. I find myself emailing teachers saying I’m on my way, I’m late. I’m kind of at the mercy of the bus schedule,” explains Calder.

 But Calder’s commute is about to get a lot smoother now that Metro is opening its two new rail lines. There’s the East End line, and the Southeast line, which will take Calder directly to campus.

As we exit the train and wait for a bus, Calder talks about the benefits of transferring to another train .

“It’s probably going to save me about 40 minutes a day, which is actually pretty substantial. And that 40 minutes can be obviously spent with my family. Less time on the road means more time with my family. The ride from school back to downtown is usually my longest, most difficult leg of my journey. The new line is going to make it a lot faster for me, a lot more convenient,” says Calder.  

But what about people who use local buses to get around? How will their travel change?

We took a bumpy ride on the #88 bus with 20-year-old Barrett Ochoa as he headed downtown to run some errands.

The UH music major says he first tried out a park-and-ride bus when he was still a kid and he liked it so much he’s now considering a career in transportation. But as much as he enjoys public transit, he says the frequency of the #88 bus route can be a big problem.

“And so if I’m on campus trying to go downtown, the bus is an amazing option that gets me there very quickly. If I miss the bus I’m out of luck and I have to find another route to get me there,” says Ochoa.

But with the Southeast Line running by campus several times an hour, Ochoa says those frustrating waits for a bus will be a thing of the past.

“And this is more time to spend at the coffee shop studying. This is more time to get to class and make it on time,” says Ochoa.  “This is more time to just kind of live my life and not be so reliant on transit.”    

When asked if they would change anything about the rail system, both Calder and Ochoa say they’d expand it to the suburbs.  

And that may become a reality, now that officials are taking the first steps toward a future line that would bring commuters into the city.

Click the arrows to use the interactive map below

 

This story was informed by sources in Houston Public Media’s Public Insight Network ®. To become a news source or share your expertise, go to www.houstonpublicmedia.org/pin.

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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