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Home Travel METRO’s Silver Line bus lanes in Galleria area fail to meet expectations, raises questions about future projects

METRO’s Silver Line bus lanes in Galleria area fail to meet expectations, raises questions about future projects

by Staff

HOUSTON – Houston METRO’s first “bus rapid transit” line has failed to meet ridership expectations, according to recent findings by KPRC 2 Investigator Joel Eisenbaum. Despite this setback, plans are underway to develop similar routes in the future.

“President Biden already has in his fiscal 2024 budget, the first $150 million,” said the chairman of Metro’s Board of Directors, Sanjay Ramabhadran, about the future project.

The Silver Line, Metro’s initial BRT route that launched in August 2020, has fallen short of ridership projections by more than 90%.

This can be partially attributed to the impact of the ongoing pandemic, which has significantly affected commuter patterns along the 4.7-mile bus route.

The Silver Line, designed to provide relief to Galleria area commuters by bypassing the congested West Loop, features distinctive long silver articulated buses that operate in dedicated lanes, resembling commuter trains.

Passengers enjoy the convenience of elevated station platforms and wide-door boarding, akin to train systems. With a total cost of $193 million, the line is serviced by two park-and-ride stops, and riders are charged $1.25.

In 2015, as the Silver Line was still in the planning stages, Metro adjusted its ridership expectations downwards. The revised projection anticipated a daily average of 14,850. However, the actual ridership has consistently remained below that figure. Even during the strongest month of December 2023, the average daily passengers recorded were only 1,045, representing 7% of the initial forecast.

“The pandemic dramatically changed things for us. The offices are not full and most people in the galleria, white collar, come in when they want. The ridership’s not there,” said Ramabhadran.

Despite these challenges, the Silver Line ridership has steadily increased year-over-year since 2020.

Critics, such as Bill King, a former mayoral candidate, have referred to the BRT system as a costly endeavor that has failed to meet expectations.

“BRT is a boondoggle, period,” said King. “In the private sector, which I spent my whole life in, if you built a project like this, it was an utter and complete failure, you know, you’d stop and say, ‘Maybe we’ve made a mistake. We’ve got to rethink this.’ You wouldn’t double down and say, ‘Well, that works so great, I’m going to spend another $3 billion of taxpayer money.”

Ramabhadran defended Metro’s approach, emphasizing the long-term vision of building an expansive system that maximizes its benefits.

The future plans include creating a bus rapid transit loop around the city, similar to the existing 610 loop.

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