Metro Transit System Reimagining
Traffic Engineers, Inc. led development of a transformative redesign of the Houston region’s local bus system for METRO. This reimagining took a blank-slate look at METRO’s local bus network in response to declining ridership, changing demographic and development patterns in the region, and community feedback.
The project developed a new 5-year transit service plan for METRO with goals to:
- better align local bus service with regional travel patterns
- better integrate the bus network with three new rail lines
- increase ridership
System Reimagining was METRO’s first comprehensive look at its bus system in decades. It represented an opportunity to view anew the role that transit plays in the city, and the ways transit might change the city for the better. The plan was developed to better utilize METRO’s existing resources by creating a strong network of transit routes that better serve major activity centers. The plan greatly expands the network of frequent routes and expands weekend service. The plan also called for a move from a radial, downtown-focused system to a regional grid which connects many people to many different activity centers, leading to faster trips for most current riders and a more attractive transit option for potential riders.
This two-year effort required extensive and meaningful conversation with stakeholders, elected officials, and people in the communities METRO serves. TEI and our project manager, Geoff Carleton, specializes in developing plans that engage the community at a level that builds consensus. The TEI team led a series of workshops with a 120-member stakeholder group made up of community leaders, bus riders, and staff from METRO and local jurisdictions to educate them on potential benefits of redesigning the bus system and build consensus on goals. Innovative design workshops, online games and tools, and presentation materials were developed to communicate the fundamental trade-offs effectively and collect feedback on the budget priorities and rider needs.
Once the METRO board of directors selected a position on the critical ridership versus coverage trade-off, a core planning workshop was held in which METRO staff and consulting team members designed the bulk of the reimagined system. The resulting network was evaluated against the goals, refined, and improved over the following months.
The METRO Board adopted the final network plan in September 2014 and set implementation for August 2015. METRO’s_New Bus Network delivers enormous benefits to the Houston region:
- connects a million people to a million jobs on the frequent network, with service every 15 minutes or less, seven days a week
- more than doubles the number of people with access to frequent bus service
- places more than 70 percent of existing boardings within ¼ mile of frequent service, up from less than half
The frequency and travel time improvements offered by the new network are expected to drive a 20% increase in ridership within two years of full plan implementation, or an additional 40,000 more transit rides each day. The network creates a strong foundation for future service additions and frequency improvements, positioning METRO to continue making strides toward meeting regional transit demand.
The plan has gained near total praise, both in Houston and from the national press, putting a major Texas city on the map as a transit innovator.