Transportation

Metro’s New Chairman Talks About The New Bus Network And Services For The Disabled

The transit agency is currently working to boost ridership on its buses and trains. There’s also the challenge of serving low-income and disabled riders who have limited options for getting around.

Houston attorney Carrin Patman was recently appointed by Mayor Sylvester Turner as Metro Chairman.
Houston attorney Carrin Patman was recently appointed by Mayor Sylvester Turner as Metro Chairman.

News 88.7 Transportation Reporter Gail Delaughter recently sat down with Carrin Patman to talk about some of the issues facing Metro. And what better place to do it than the Red Line train headed northbound. We begin the conversation with a look at Metro’s new bus routes.

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Houston’s buses are already promoting Super Bowl 2017.

Delaughter: One of your goals is to develop the new bus network. What do you think needs to be done, now that the new network is in place, to get people to warm up to the bus system and to use the weekday buses in particular?

Patman: Well, obviously any innovation has unintended consequences. And one of the things we’re working on now is tweaking the new bus system to make sure that some folks who feel left behind, or who — some feel left behind and just aren’t familiar with alternatives they may have in the new bus network. So getting the word out and communication out is a key part.

Second though, some people may have been left behind. There are some routes that were eliminated that we probably need to do something about, in terms of re-embracing those people into a bus network. So we’re now at that stage of the iterative process, as some people would call it, of looking at where unintended consequences arose, where gaps exist, and how to plug those gaps.

Delaughter: For those who may not have any other transportation options, how important is the bus service or rail service to them?

Patman: The bus service is critical. And those are the people for whom it’s most important that Metro provide quality service. That’s the reason for existence for transit, or one of the big ones.

Delaughter: The disabled constitute a large portion of Metro’s ridership, either people who use the lift buses or people who use the fixed-route buses. Visually-impaired, people who use mobility devices, what are things that you would like to do to improve the customer service experience for disabled riders?

Patman: Interestingly enough, METROLift operations are the most challenging aspect for transit agencies across the country. And there is nothing more important, again, than serving that population. Because disabled folks are very dependent on transit.

One of the problems is, that when you have a METROLift driver and the first customer doesn’t show or is late, it delays everybody else along the line. And so we’ve made some improvements to try to mitigate that.

We did have to increase fares, the prior board did. I’m told that actually we hadn’t had a fare increase in many years. And to continue to provide the service we provide, we did need an increase. But that’s something actually I’m going to take a second look at, and just make sure that that’s really warranted.

Delaughter: So one of the big events coming up for Metro is Super Bowl. How much of an effort will this be to get ready for Super Bowl?

Patman: My understanding is that the Super Bowl committee is planning events, or selecting locations, based on where the bus stops are and the rail stops are, to make it really convenient for people. I don’t know if every event will be like that but many of them will be.

I feel very confident we’ll do a good job. We are fully focused on it.  

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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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