May 2, 2024 - News

Houston advocates want Metro to boost service

a white Metro bus with blue and red stripes

Photo: Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

While Houston transit ridership is rebounding from the pandemic, many passengers are experiencing longer wait times for rides and want improvements, a new report finds.

Why it matters: The annual Equity in Transit report, released Wednesday by transportation advocacy group LINK Houston, provides a playbook for the Metropolitan Transit Authority to improve service in the coming years.

Driving the news: LINK Houston evaluated how well Metro is serving Greater Houstonians, particularly those who rely on public transit for work, education and healthcare.

By the numbers: Weekly ridership in February 2024 was 86% of weekly ridership in February 2020 — the second-highest recovery among the top 20 metro areas following Miami.

  • That same month, local bus ridership reached 95% of its pre-COVID level.

What they found: The organization is calling on Metro to reaffirm its commitment to increasing bus service by 25%, which was included in the METRONext Moving Forward Plan approved by voters in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic made ridership plummet.

  • They say increasing frequency should be the agency's No. 1 priority to improve service based on their data analysis and interviews with riders.

LINK Houston also recommended making the system's on-time performance data readily available to the public to increase transparency, taking a comprehensive approach to safety and working with other government agencies and partners to improve access to transit.

Between the lines: The report came the same week Metro's new board chair, Elizabeth Brock — an appointee of Mayor John Whitmire — said she wants the agency to be "a service that people choose to use versus something that they're dependent on."

  • "The goal is to have as many people take Metro as possible," Brock told the Houston Landing. "Not just to serve people who need the system, but also to alleviate traffic congestion and to increase mobility."
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