Rail Could Help Ease Galveston and Brazoria Transit Issues

With more than 550,000 people now living in Galveston and Brazoria counties and thousands more communting there everyday, local officials are looking for ways to solve growing transportation challenges. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, the solutions could include commuter bus service, van pools and even a passenger rail line between Galveston and Houston.

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Right now, there isn't much to choose from for residents in Brazoria and Galveston counties who would like to commute to Houston or vice versa, a dearth of options that will likely need change as the population increases. Alan Rodenstein is a consultant who has been hired to explore how to move forward with new transit. He organized a transit summit in League City that included leaders from both counties.

"There is no local bus service beyond just demand-response service in either southern Brazoria County and the communities of Lake Jackson, Angleton, Clute and Freeport. In addition, there is a lack of service in Texas City, La Marque urbanized area. There is also no commuter service, although the northern parts of the county have been growing rapidly, both Brazoria and Galveston county."

Although commuter bus service would likely be the first step in the process, commuter rail could eventually be a major part of any transit blueprint. Galveston County Judge Jim Yarbrough says he's sold on how valuable it could be in getting workers to and from Houston.

"I think commuter rail would certainly be something that would be used. It's ahead of its time. We're still very independent folks and don't want to give up that Suburban and that SUV to drive downtown, but we need to lay the groundwork now for time to come. While we wait for the commuter rail or other options, certainly van pools and car pools and park and rides, we don't have any facilities in Galveston County that people can use."

There's also a possibility the two counties could unite to form a Metro-like regional transit agency to streamline the process of addressing transportation. Congressman-elect Nick Lampson says regional public transit solutions are the key to solving transportation solutions.

"Looking at these things on a regional basis is something that I believe we have not done in the past and if we only look at one community and let each community go and do its own thing, than obviously the big picture is not seen, and that's what have to accomplish. We need to look at a huge area here in Southeast Texas."

Lampson says he'll work with local officials to help them find federal funding for transit projects during the upcoming legislative session.

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