Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by MetraBNSF
The Cubs celebrated their World Series championship. More people took public transit than ever before. Today in Houston, TX the city celebrated the Astros championship win. The Metro light rail system offered free rides for those going to and from downtown Houston. People took advantage of it. I wonder if the CTA did something of this sort last year, although I remember Metra being absolutely crushed.
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  by doepack
With Houston being such a car-centric city, it's bit surprising (and encouraging) that folks took advantage of the Metro system as they enjoyed the post-title celebrations. I don't know what their regular ridership is like nowadays, but I'm guessing that surge probably won't produce a whole lot more regular users of the system. When it was first built, I remember reading about how it had been plagued by grade accidents with cars because it took awhile for people to grow accustomed to seeing tracks down the middle of the street, which, along with the warning systems, seemed to be blithely ignored more often than not. No one seemed to think twice about driving around lowered crossing gates, I can only hope the cops are enforcing that better, and putting some teeth into fines.

I think I recall my daughter telling me that CTA was pretty much packed to the gills that day, she said just about every Brown or Purple line train was SRO, and I can only imagine what the scene must have been like in the Red line subway. And as for Metra in Wheaton, as I posted at the time, the platform was a sea of Cubbie Red and Blue, hundreds of people standing from one end to the other while I just marveled at the sight from my living room window in total disbelief at the mass of humanity. It was truly a sight to behold...
  by Tadman
Doepack has a good insight. I've been to Houston a lot and rode the light rail. It's almost as big as Chicago, but very spread out. There are only 3-4 rail lines and they don't go a lot of places - no airports especially. As you can guess, ridership is pretty light. It's a combination of not having a comprehensive network and being in a spread-out city. There are effectively 4+ downtowns.

GIven the above, I assume the free rides are a way to enlighten drives to the benefits of light rail. Unfortunately, I don't have high hopes because the free ride doesn't change the abbreviated nature of the network. If one gets a free ride, but has to drive fifteen minutes to the station and circle the parking lot for ten minutes to find a spot, to what benefit? For me, urban transit railroads are useful when I can walk right into a station (IE 5-10 blocks), board a train in 5-10 minutes, and either arrive at my destination in roughly the same time as traffic OR realize a savings in parking, gas, costs, etc that makes it worth the extra time. Few people, even sometimes railfans, want to take a train for the sake of taking a train.
  by eolesen
I work in downtown Houston every other week -- the deal for free rides also extended to their bus network, which is far reaching and fairly well used.

About 25% of the people I work with (we have over 700 in our HOU office) use the express bus network to come in from park & rides out in the hinterlands vs. driving. Parking downtown isn't cheap -- $5 is the cheapest I see, and $11 is the higher end. Add in tolls and the convenience of bus-only lanes in various places that get congested, and it's not a bad alternative. It's actually pretty darn clever -- you can buy ten buses for less than the cost of a mile of light rail, and that doesn't include the rolling stock...

The light rail network is a disappointment. It seems to exist to get people to/from the medical center and to a lesser degree, link a few community colleges and universities to downtown.

It does get quite a bit of use when there's an Astros game at Minute Maid Park, or a Texans game at NRG Park. Until it gets extended to either Hobby or Bush Airports, it will continue to be under-used.