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City's First Signature Bus Service to Launch in August
Thursday, January 31, 2008 4:29 PM  

Exterior of Quickline bus in front of buildingHouston will soon see its first Signature Bus Service, which offers commuters fewer stops, upgraded buses and more modern, comfortable bus stops.

METRO's Board of Directors approved last month a contract that calls for Signature Bus Service to be on our roads by mid-August. You may be noticing enhanced bus shelters and furnishings, which we're installing this month.

We'll initially offer this Quickline Signature Bus Service on three routes, totaling 18 miles: Bellaire,Texas Medical Center/Palm and Tidwell. Future plans call for 28 miles of Signature service on Westheimer and Gessner.

The QL2 Bellaire will operate along with the existing Route 2 Bellaire service, running a nine-mile route from the Sam Houston Tollway in the west to the Texas Medical Center Transit Center in the east. It will run every 15 minutes, only during peak weekday morning and afternoon periods. There will be nine stops in each direction, including Bellaire Transit Center.

This Quickline service will be 10 minutes faster than the current Route 2 Bellaire service since it will only have nine stops compared to the 12 stops on the existing Route 2 Bellaire run.

And if you ride this route, be prepared for a more pleasant wait. We're upgrading our bus stops - think economy to first class. Right now, for example, the bus stop at Bellaire and Gessner is a Standard Type 4 shelter with concrete sidewalks, a pad area, a standard route sign and cluttered newsstands.

The new and improved bus stops will feature upgraded shelters and furniture, pavers and bus arrival lights. We'll have real-time bus arrival information on screens. For example, waiting commuters would see: "Next Bus in 9 Min."

 The new bus stops will sport half-moon shaped standing walls and a slatted rooftop, along with a lamp pole with a curved modern S-shape design running down the length of the pole.  Banners on light standards will showcase our stops.

The Quickline buses will be state-of-the-art: hybrid-electric drive vehicles with carpeted sidewalls and upgraded seats for a quieter ride; upgraded destination signs; interior security cameras; an air-cleaning system that can eradicate more than 95 percent of known airborne, biological toxins; and an improved climate-control system.

The technology along this route will also be changed. We'll reduce the run time by optimizing traffic signal timing, and we'll have transit signal priority using Opticom, a system that gives intersection right of way to authorized vehicles. We'll also improve key intersections at South Gessner Road, South Rice Avenue and South First Street, using a technique called "queue jumping" that allows the bus to jump to the front of the line ahead of other vehicles into a right or left turn bay.

The Quickline will cost the same as regular service to ride: $1.

Comments

Cedric Collins said:

Nice but why that late into the year for the start of this service?

# February 1, 2008 9:04 AM

Steve Palmer said:

Last night, riding the 27 line, I got on a hybrid bus that was not like the ones I've ridden before--among other things, it had very comfortable seats and carpeted walls. Is that bus destined for one of the signature lines, or will there be buses of that sort on the regular lines, too? (I hope so, given how much more comfortable it was than the other hybrids I've ridden.)

# February 1, 2008 9:22 AM

Royko said:

This adds nothing to METREAUX's hollow promise, made seemingly so as to dupe voters to approve the 2003 "Solutions" scheme, to INCREASE bus service 50%.  Instead METREAUX, overall, has slashed critical bus service to the poor, minority, elderly, and handicapped bus transit dependent riders throughout the service area.

I have asked to view the annual report to the NTD that Mr. Wilson sent January 29, 2008, which I believe will document that bus service again declined in FY2007.  I believe the bus transit dependant riders are the victims of the urban rail-centric policy adopted by the Urban Rail Robber Barons now running METREAUX.

# February 1, 2008 9:40 AM

Bob said:

This will be a great addition, and I can't wait for this service to start. The traffic signal optimization and queue jumping technologies are especially exciting. Hey, if you've ever sat in traffic on Bellaire Blvd. between Hillcroft and the Loop during rush hours (as opposed to getting all the way up to 23 miles per hour at other times), you'd be excited about this, too.

Thanks, METRO!

# February 1, 2008 11:04 AM

Dominic Mazoch said:

I have ridden the 2, and I think there are more than 12 stops between BW 8 and the TMC TC

Personally, there is enough service to run the QL service all day long, especially if the artics are removed.

And why not run the QL with the stuff you are using NOW.  Then when the buses andf stations come on line, timing on both 2's would be read

82 needs QL big time!

Now, why is QL not being considered for the 56 Airline Limited?

# February 1, 2008 5:14 PM

Don Gallagher said:

As soon as I read the article I too noticed that it claims the #2 route has only 12 stops.  Since it stops at virtually every street corner and some in-between, the number of stops is more likely far higher.

The 12 stops in the schedule are ONLY timing stops to allow riders to estimate roughly when a bus will be arriving.

I persoanlly detest this timing schedule over simply providing buses running at "X" minutes apart.  I have seen too many buses slow down or even stop just to reset their required scheduling.

As to having limited access service, it is one that is going to please many people and it should be charging a slight premium to ride.

On the negative side,  I disagree strongly with using fancy buses for this service (especially at the same cost!).  These type buses should FIRST be used for the Park N Ride customers who already are paying more and ride longer distances.  Lines like the #2 should then use either new hybrid regular buses or the same ones now used only have a special banner on the front letting people know "This bus gets you there faster" and is not a local.

As for the signal over-rides......there goes all that signal management to allow for faster auto passage on Westheimer!  One of these buses will throw off everything for all cars around it and many will simply get behind the buses and follow them through the lights.

As for these new stations, are you saying they are ONLY for the express service riders and not for the local buses on the same route?  

If so, what a waste of space.

If not, the notification signage could then say "Local arriving in X Minutes, Express in Y minutes."

# February 1, 2008 10:30 PM

Shawn said:

When I first saw the news about the new QL buslines that were to start in August, I thought that it was great. I wonder if they will add a QL to the 85 Antoine Ltd. that route is always crowded and there's never enough buses to service the many passengers that ride it everyday. With the new QL buses, are the going to change the existing routes or just eliminate some of the stops to allow a shorter wait time for passengers? Will they still stop at most major intersections?

# February 1, 2008 11:28 PM

Dominic Mazoch said:

Now, for QL on Westheimer:  The system should work WITH the signal timing on that road.

Now, with that in mind, why can't the Ciry of Houston, METRO, and the multi-cities Bellaire runs through have signal timing like Westheimer when QL is put in.

# February 2, 2008 4:36 AM

Dominic Mazoch said:

Actually, I don't think VIA in San Antonio would mind if you called the QL servise "Skip Stop", for that tells you EXACTLY what the route is doing.  Example:  the 92 Fredricksburg Road route stops at every stop, while the 91 only stops at major intersections, the Crossroads TC, and junctions with bus routes

# February 2, 2008 4:46 AM

dhirizarry said:

I love the new QL Service, but for it to work (Not having a Over Load) you need to charge a least $2.00 if not $3.00

David I.

# February 4, 2008 12:00 PM

ChloeMireille said:

Maybe the Quickline service can be the "New" express routes, charging $1.50.

# February 5, 2008 8:35 AM

Cedric Collins said:

Royko said:  "This adds nothing to METREAUX's hollow promise, made seemingly so as to dupe voters to approve the 2003 "Solutions" scheme, to INCREASE bus service 50%.  Instead METREAUX, overall, has slashed critical bus service to the poor, minority, elderly, and handicapped bus transit dependent riders throughout the service area.

I have asked to view the annual report to the NTD that Mr. Wilson sent January 29, 2008, which I believe will document that bus service again declined in FY2007.  I believe the bus transit dependant riders are the victims of the urban rail-centric policy adopted by the Urban Rail Robber Barons now running METREAUX."

OK---whatever, Mr. Royko---who cares???!!!

Steve Palmer said:  "Last night, riding the 27 line, I got on a hybrid bus that was not like the ones I've ridden before--among other things, it had very comfortable seats and carpeted walls. Is that bus destined for one of the signature lines, or will there be buses of that sort on the regular lines, too? (I hope so, given how much more comfortable it was than the other hybrids I've ridden.)"

Steve,

     Hope you had a good ride on it---because I did when I FINALLY rode one on the route that I have to ride.  If you have noticed already, we were supposed to get 40 of those buses but only 30 are in---and painted in the regular METRO scheme.  The other ten will look like that (in regards to the exterior---I hope) but as far as the interior?  That, I do not know.  The only time we may expect to see more of this type of bus is if METRO wants to continue to purchase those new hybrid buses from New Flyer.

Shawn,

     I really hate to add insult to injury but if you noticed, that route is one of many that may need articulated buses but as Dominic and I have learned, METRO will not buy anymore articulated buses so when the ones we have now retire, that'll be it for articulated buses in Houston.

# February 5, 2008 10:06 AM

Mary Sit said:

Steve Palmer,

The bus you were riding was one of the buses we retrofitted and converted to a hybrid vehicle.  When we were retrofitting, we experimented with different interior configurations, such as the carpeted walls and high-back seating.

The Signature buses will include special interior designs and seating unique to the Signature fleet, as the name implies.

# February 5, 2008 10:17 AM

Cedric Collins said:

"The bus you were riding was one of the buses we retrofitted and converted to a hybrid vehicle.  When we were retrofitting, we experimented with different interior configurations, such as the carpeted walls and high-back seating."

How come this wasn't implied to the new hybrid buses?  Are the retrofitted hybrids semi-suburban?  I ask because you mentioned about the high-back seating.

# February 5, 2008 11:57 AM

J. Liggins said:

I guess what was once old is new again, eh?

You guys tried this before, remember: the 402 - Bellaire Flyer which traveled from downtown to Sharpstown using slightly modified RTS buses (2136-2150).  I doubt extending the route to Ranchester will make much of a difference, though perhaps having it run from the TMC to Highway 6 ALL DAY for a small premium would have much better results.

Also, rolling out one paltry quick line makes you all look like amateurs who are scared to take risks on anything other than costly light rail.  Odd,  seeing as how Metro is BUS COMPANY and not a railroad.  Rolling out service on Westhiemer from Downtown to Highway 6 and QL service between the major airports (with branches to other destinations) would have shown you have confidence and willing to put muscle behind the concept.

The airport idea may be iffy, but if any of you have ridden the 82 - Westhiemer, you know the route is in desperate need of that type of service.

# February 5, 2008 4:59 PM

Dominic Mazoch said:

J. Liggins:

Would you mind adding the 53-Briar Forest Ltd to the 82.  The 53 overlays the 82 for a good strech W of the Galleria.

# February 5, 2008 5:24 PM

Dominic Mazoch said:

Another idea would be to break some of these routes into two routes.  Example:  Bus service on Airline Drive.  The 24-Airline/Enid runs north to Northline Mall.  North of there, the 56 Airline Limited runs to Greenspoint.  Between Northine and Downtown, the 56 runs IH-45, via HOV if that facility is open.

Service on the Memorial works the same, with the 70 and 131.

I think routes like the 25-Richmond, 2-Bellaire, 4-Beechnut, and the 53/82 could be restructured likewise.  

# February 5, 2008 5:31 PM

_ said:

Are the seats bigger?

# February 5, 2008 6:23 PM

Dominc Mazoch said:

Now, are the QL buses going to be New Fliers?  Never Mind....

My question is:  Why are the RTS so expensive?

And our sister service to the west, VIA, seems to be moving away from RTS.  That was their bus from about 1979....

And are the new Orions going to be any better?

# February 5, 2008 7:17 PM

Mary Sit said:

The seats won't be bigger, but hopefully, they will be more comfortable.

# February 6, 2008 10:08 AM

Mary Sit said:

Dominc Mazoch,

Here's an answer from Andrew Skabowski, senior director of maintenance:

"The company that produced the RTS model shut that plant down around two years ago, and the bus is no longer being built.  A second company attempted to revive the model with no success.  For all intents and purposes, the RTS brand is dead.

"QL buses will be New Flyer hybrid buses.

"I do not understand the other question.  Will the Orions be better than what?  Better in what perspective?"

# February 6, 2008 1:26 PM

J. Liggins said:

Good answer Mary, but that doesn't explain why the agency didn't order RTS buses after 1983.  They might have been expensive, but I gurantee they'd still be roadworthy to this day.  It was the lack of W/C lifts that did the 1901-2188 series of RTS in.

You all have two RTS (1759, a 1978 RTS-II-01 and 2052, a 1983 RTS-II-04) buses sitting in good condition in a yard on the side of Polk street Depot. You should reactivate those buses for ceremonial or PR purposes.  New York recently did this to great success.

# February 6, 2008 3:18 PM

J. Liggins said:

Mary, you should devote a blog to the RTS.  It'd bring the hits.

I'm kidding, sort of, but not really.

# February 6, 2008 3:19 PM

Mary Sit said:

J. Liggins,

If you e-mail me with your e-mail address and daytime phone number, I'd like to contact you to talk about the RTS - good suggestion. Thanks.

# February 6, 2008 3:42 PM

J. Liggins said:

No problem Mary.  Despite the terrible three hour odyssey I endured on the bus ride home, the prospect of discussing the RTS brings a smile to my face.  The breakdown of bus 2869 today after a sudden loss of air pressure just reminds me of how far Metro has regressed since the demise of those buses.

# February 7, 2008 12:11 AM

Cedric Collins said:

"I do not understand the other question.  Will the Orions be better than what?  Better in what perspective?"

Mary,

    I believe Dominic was asking if METRO know if the new Orion VII NG HEV buses will be better than the restyled New Flyer hybrid buses we have---for example---in terms of performance.  Do those buses ride better?  Do they handle better for the driver?

Just ask the peoples of Toronto who ride those TTC buses.  They have the Orion VII NG HEV buses in service---with more coming in.

# February 7, 2008 11:26 AM

Dominc Mazoch said:

Orions vs. New Fliers is what I was talking out.

# February 7, 2008 6:33 PM

Dominc Mazoch said:

I FINNALLY rode one of the New New Flier Hybirds today on the 82.

Comments:

1.  Good:  The construction of the body and doors looks stronger than the present NF units.  Also, it seems to have a better transmission.

2.  Bad:  THE SEATS!  Did NF copy something from the military prison at Gitmo?  So hard, they define tortute!  Hope the QL's have something more humane.

3.  Ugly:  Sorry, the smiley fron end is no match to the fron of an RTS!

# February 8, 2008 7:33 PM

LESLIE H KERR WITH METRO TASK FORCE GROPUP FOR ADA said:

WILL ALL THESE BUSES MEET ADA GIDELINES THAT ARE SET BY METRO SO THAT SOME ONE IN A WHEELCHAIR WILL BE ABLE TO RIDE THESE BUSES WITHOUT ANY PROBLEMS WHEN IT COMES TO TIEING DOWN A WHEELCHAIR AND IF THESE BUSES MEET ALL GIDELINES THAT ARE SET BY METRO WILL THE TASK FORCE GROUP GET TO SEE THESE BUSES BEFORE THEY ARE PUT ON THE STREET AND GIVE THIER OK ON THE BUSES.

# February 14, 2008 8:03 PM

Mary Sit said:

Leslie H. Kerr,

All our buses are ADA-compliant and have been for years.

# February 15, 2008 6:12 PM

Cedric Collins said:

Dominic,

       "2.  Bad:  THE SEATS!  Did NF copy something from the military prison at Gitmo?  So hard, they define tortute!  Hope the QL's have something more humane."

Huh?  Sorry to add insult to your injury but there are other TAs with this same type of restyled New Flyer bus and their seats (the way they look) are the same.  I personally don't care how the seats are, just as long as I'm able to sit down---at my favorite spot on the bus, of course.

"3.  Ugly:  Sorry, the smiley fron end is no match to the fron of an RTS!"

No offense but even I don't care how the bus looks like, just as long as it performs as it supposed to be.  Also, the front ends of the old style New Flyers we have are too dull-looking and I'm more in favor of front ends of the new, restyled models.

# February 21, 2008 12:00 PM

Cedric Collins said:

LESLIE H KERR WITH METRO TASK FORCE GROPUP FOR ADA,

Mary is right---and---you may want to tell your comment to METRO and the people who is building our new buses BEFORE the bus is even built to make sure the bus models are ADA compliant.

# February 28, 2008 1:14 PM
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