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Why Metro Wants To Hire An Urban Designer

The transit agency says it’s trying to come up with more efficient ways for people to get to bus stops and rail stations. The goal is to increase ridership.


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A bus waits at Metro's Downtown Transit Center.
Gail Delaughter
A bus waits at Metro’s Downtown Transit Center.

Metro put months of effort into redesigning Houston's bus network. The stated goal is to get more riders.

But to really grow those numbers, the agency says riders need to feel comfortable during what's called the "first and last mile." Metro CEO Tom Lambert says that became evident when they held public meetings on the new bus routes.

"And we learned very quickly and we probably should have known it for a long time, that every trip starts with somebody walking or rolling," says Lambert. "So how are we designing the infrastructure and the access to transit to make it easier for people to use transit, whatever the mode may be."

Riders wait for the bus near Metro's downtown headquarters.
Gail Delaughter
Riders wait for the bus near Metro’s downtown headquarters.

To help in that effort, Metro is now looking for someone to fill the brand-new position of "urban designer."

As for some of the job specifics, Lambert says the urban designer will help create facilities where riders can better connect with other regional transit providers. They'll also come up with new bus shelter ideas and improved ways for riders to get to those stops.

And that's a challenge for Metro's sprawling system. In some of the outer areas, a bus stop may just be a sign on the side of the road with no sidewalk to get there. Lambert adds there's a lot of questions they need to answer.

"How do we connect bikeways to transit?" asks Lambert. "How do we connect sidewalks to transit? How do we connect first and last mile providers to transit? How do you make sure that you're designing livable communities, making it easier for transit to serve those communities?"

So what makes a good urban designer?

Lambert says they're looking for people experienced in fields like engineering, architecture, or urban planning. He says they have several good candidates so far and they hope to start doing interviews shortly.

Bus stop on Peerless Street on Houston's southeast side.
Gail Delaughter
Bus stop on Peerless Street on Houston’s southeast side.