Metro may relocate the Kingwood Park and Ride as part of the transportation agency’s long-range mobility plan. The idea is part of a large package of projects Metro wants to put on the November ballot.
Metro CEO Tom Lambert has stated that relocating the Kingwood site is an obvious choice because it was affected by flooding when Hurricane Harvey decimated parts of Kingwood. The existing ride along Kingwood Drive also is time-consuming for buses to navigate compared to a location closer to the freeway, he said.
The idea does not sit well with Houston City Councilmember Dave Martin.
“I had a face-to-face meeting with Tom Jasien, deputy CEO of Metro, and told him we are totally not in favor of moving it. Jasien knows my feelings. I take the park and ride frequently myself,” Martin said. “It makes no sense to move it to the front when so many use it where it is.”
Martin also disputes Lambert’s reasoning, saying that during the Harvey flooding, drivers could not have made it to any site in the front of Kingwood. He also said the site has only flooded once in more than 25 years.
“It makes no sense to move it. People in the back of Kingwood use it and those from about Woodland Hills west drive to the Townsen site. It would not increase ridership at all, and in my opinion, would decrease ridership,” Martin said.
Metro media specialist Laura Whitley did not address the once-in-a-quarter-century flood that occurred during Harvey but said, “The issue of flooding is only one factor. Our job is to prioritize the safe movement of people. If our park and ride and/or the roads leading to it are prone to flooding, it makes sense to relocate to areas less prone to high water,” she said.
Whitley confirmed that the relocation is being considered.
“The proposal is one of several potential projects. The proposal is to relocate the Kingwood Park and Ride from its current location to a more accessible location near Hwy. 59. This project is part of the proposed investments in the MetroNext Moving Forward plan which calls for approximately 11 new or improved park and rides. Public input will be key before moving forward with any of these projects,” Whitley said.
Metro’s board must vote later this month and call for an election in order to be on the November ballot. The overall plan calls for Metro to borrow $3.5 billion.
If the park and ride were relocated to the front of Kingwood, it would be very close to the Townsen Park and Ride in Humble, approximately a mile or so, depending on the final location. Whitley said increased ridership justifies the two facilities being so close.
“Demand for commuter service has grown as the region continues to grow. Katy’s Grand Parkway and Kingsland Park and Rides, for example, are located less than 4 miles from one another. Both facilities are two of our busiest. Kingwood and the surrounding area are growing and more proposed developments are on the way. Growing congestion along Kingwood Drive is impacting commuter service. Our job is to prioritize the movement of people. We can do that by moving the facility closer to the freeway and freeing commuter buses from growing traffic on roads,” she said.
Whitley did say that ridership at both park and ride locations is comparable. “In April, we saw 1,011 average weekday passenger rides on the Townsen 257 and 850 average weekday passenger rides on the Kingwood 255,” she said.
Martin said Metro wants their mobility plan to pass and wants Kingwood’s support.
“They asked what we want, and I get it. They want their plan to pass and know Kingwood has a strong voting bloc. But I told them this idea is not good, would only add those 1,000 cars to Kingwood Drive during morning and evening commutes, and is not needed,” he said.
Whitley said the park and ride relocation idea has been discussed at several community meetings. Metro has attended various committee meetings, such as the Super Neighborhood Council and local chamber meetings, to discuss their plan. She did say Metro is continuing to ask for opinions.
“For now, the plan is only that: a plan. With any plan it’s necessary to have a blueprint in place. Whether a new Kingwood Park and Ride is built depends on a number of factors, including funding and additional input from residents. We’ll continue to solicit additional feedback from the community if this proposal is something that ends up in the final plan. Community engagement will be ongoing,” she said.
Kingwood residents who wish to express their opinion should go to www.ridemetro.org/Pages/METRONext.aspx.