The Humble chapter of Rotary International featured Chena Karega of METRO Houston as the speaker for its Oct. 30 meeting. She is a member of their public affairs division and gave an overview of the Moving Forward plan that is a part of their bond proposal which is being put forth to the voters Tuesday, Nov. 5.
METRO has had more than 1,000 outreaches like this in the greater Houston area since June 2017 to inform the public about their plans for the next 20 years. Houston could see a projected population of more than 10 million citizens by 2040, according to METRO projections. That’s the equivalent of adding nearly 50 Kingwood populations to the region.
METRO is asking for the borrowing authority to receive up to $3.5 billion in loans over the next 20 years that they hope to pair with another $3.5 billion in grants and $500 million in local government contributions to add light rail, bus rapid transit, park and ride increases, and more. The largest change that the Northeast Houston area would see is the addition of another HOV lane on Highway 59, which would allow the lane to stay open in both directions the entire day. Karega also confirmed that they are still planning on adding an additional Park and Ride station somewhere in the front of Kingwood. She was clear to point out that the existing Kingwood Park and Ride would be staying, and that this would be in addition.
Also on the table is a service called “community connector” service. It operates on a demand-based system, where you would call to schedule a pickup as little as 30 minutes in advance, and the bus would drop you off at a destination of your choosing. METRO currently operates these systems in select neighborhoods and is considering them for the Lake Houston area as well.
METRO wants to plan for a future-proofed system because of technologies that are not yet available but might be in the near future. This includes autonomous buses and electric-powered buses. If the technology becomes available, then they need to become adept at being able to pivot towards it.
METRO’s performance has been a point of contention in the recent mayoral race, but METRO Houston is independent of direct mayoral control. Regardless of who is elected mayor, if the bond proposition passes, then METRO will fulfill their plan.
While the larger framework of the plan has been set, the details mostly haven’t, and it’s expected that METRO will continue having community outreach meetings to help prioritize projects. See the full plan at www.metronext.org.