Many of you may be preparing to host or attend a Super Bowl 50 party this Sunday, but there are plenty of fun activities to entertain you before or after the big game.
From a classic movie with live orchestration to ice skating outdoors, the nation’s fourth largest city has lots to offer. Take METRO to get there, and you’ll be able to sit back and relax, and text without distractions. Tap and go with a METRO Q® Fare Card. Use the Google-powered Trip Planner to find your specific train or bus.
Event: The Ice at Discovery Green. This outdoor skating rink uses recycled water from Kinder Lake to produce a giant ice skating surface, the largest outdoor skating rink in the Southwest - 7,716 square feet. For $14, you can rent skates and glide on the ice for up to 1.5 hours. This is the last night of seasonal skating.
When: Friday, 7 to 10 p.m.
Where: Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney
Bus: 40 Telephone/Heights, 41 Kirby/Polk
METRORail: Green or Purple Lines, exit Convention District
Event: “Singin’ in the Rain.” The Houston Symphony provides a live soundtrack to this iconic musical starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds. This humorous depiction of Hollywood in the late 1920s includes the classics “Make ‘Em Laugh,” “Good Morning,” and the beloved title song. This movie has been rated the greatest movie musical by the American Film Institute. Now see and hear it in a unique way.
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St.
Bus: 20 Canal/Memorial, 32 Renwick/San Felipe, 82 Westheimer
Event: Americas Rugby Championship. Watch the USA Rugby Men’s Eagles open this championship game, competing against Argentina, ranked No. 5 in the world.
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: BBVA Compass Stadium, 2200 Texas St.
Bus: 137 Northshore Express, 30 Clinton/Ella, 6 Jensen/Greens, 20 Canal/Memorial, 48 Market. Note: The nearest bus stop is five blocks from the stadium.
METRORail: Green Line, exit EaDo/Stadium Station
There’s an enhanced tax incentive to entice you to use public transit.
In the new federal transportation bill (FAST Act) that passed last December is an incentive that allows public transit users to protect up to $255 a month in pre-tax income to help offset the cost of commuting to work.
The FAST Act stands for The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.
This five-year bill means transit, vanpool and parking will receive pre-tax commuter benefit deductions of $255 a month in 2016. This new law permanently establishes parity between parking benefits and transit/vanpool benefits. Before this law, transit and commuter highway vehicles were limited to $130 a month.
Here’s how these qualified transportation fringe benefits would work:
Employers give their employees up to $255 a month to commute by mass transit or vanpool. Employers get a tax deduction and save over providing the same value in gross income. Or employers allow employees to use pre-tax income to pay for transit, and employers save on payroll tax (at least 7.65% savings). Or employers can do a combination.
For employees, they can receive up to $255 a month tax-free for transit or vanpool. This money will not appear on their W-2 form. Or employees can pay for this commuter benefit with pre-tax income and save on income tax, or do a combination of both.
Ask your employer about this new commuter tax benefit for transit riders. Employers can save on payroll taxes, while employees can save on federal income taxes. It’s one more very good reason to ride METRO.
The federal department that governs METRO is observing its 50th anniversary in a year-long celebration.
Happy Anniversary to the Department of Transportation, established by Congress in 1966 to ensure a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that enhances the quality of life for Americans.
METRO is regulated by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), one of 10 agencies under the DOT.
Check out the new DOT 50th anniversary website
. You’ll learn factoids. Did you know it was the Federal Aviation Administration that created an anti-hijacking screening system? Also in the early days of the DOT, the Federal Railroad Administration expanded its oversight authority to include track oversight and maintenance.
More recently, the FTA began rigorous oversight of public transportation safety
. History buffs will revel in documents
that tell the story of how the DOT was created - including comments for and against the creation of the DOT.
Every month, there will be Monthly Spotlight
, highlighting a different theme exploring how transportation affects our daily lives. This month the theme is “Transportation's Role in Advancing Ladders of Opportunity.”
“Through transportation, we can help ensure that the rungs on the ladder of opportunity aren’t so far apart—and that the American dream is still within reach for those who are willing to work for it,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
If you’re one of our riders on the 80 MLK/Lockwood this week, you’ll probably see our friendly street team, riding the bus.
They are handing out brochures all this week with a METRO Q® Fare Card attached. All you need to do is take this Q Card and load money on it, then tap and go as you board the bus or train. You can load money at the back of the bus with cash, or at any of the hundreds of grocery stores and Valero gas stations around town – and at our RideStores. You can also load the card using a credit card at any of our ticket vending machines on our rail platforms or Park & Ride locations.
You’ll love the benefits of a Q Card: free transfers for three hours in any direction. That’s like having a Day Pass for three hours. Plus, you get five free trips for every 50 paid trips.
There’s no registration required to obtain a Q Card. But if you choose to register it, you’ll be protected against loss or theft. The balance on a lost or stolen registered card can be transferred to another card. You’ll also be able to add money to your card online if you register it.
Of course, if you prefer paying for your fare in cash, that’s still an option. We simply think you’ll enjoy the convenience and perks that come with a Q Card.
For 175 years, Harris County has conducted its monthly auction of tax delinquent properties on the steps of the downtown courthouse complex outside the Family Law Center.
As many as 300 to 500 people attend these auctions, causing the outdoor “courthouse steps” location to become overcrowded and cramped for participants.
Now the auction is moving to a new site – and METRO can help you get there. The new auction site is located at the Bayou City Event Center on 9401 Knight Rd.
Starting tomorrow, and on the first Tuesday of the following months, METRO will operate a special shuttle bus to and from the auction site. Take the Red Line to the Fannin South Transit Center, and then hop on the shuttle bus. You can buy a rail ticket for $1.25 which includes your transfer to the shuttle. This ticket is valid for three hours in any direction.
The shuttle will run every 20 minutes. Click here to learn more about the auction, including bidder registration requirements and a list of properties for sale.
This weekend promises to be beautiful one, making it fun to get around town to enjoy all the entertainment a big city offers – from a Creole festival in the park to a giant auto show featuring the latest models.
Wherever you go, consider riding METRO, your transportation network of rail and bus that links you to your destination without the hassle of finding parking. Check out our Trip Planner, powered by Google, to find your exact bus or train.
Event: Houston Auto Show. The world’s top automakers will display their latest vehicles in more than 700,000 square feet. Find everything from ultra-luxury autos to off-road vehicles. You’ll be able to test drive cars with no sales pressure.
When: Friday, noon to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: NRG Center, One NRG Park, 8400 Kirby Dr.
Bus: 83 Buffalo Speedway, 60 Cambridge
METRORail: Red Line, exit at Reliant Park Station
Event: H-Town 2016 Houston Creole Heritage Festival + Mardi Gras Parade. Discover the joy of another culture as you sample food, listen to music and experience a rich Creole heritage at this family-friendly festival and parade. Musicians include Jerome Batiste, Step Rideau, Andre Lee, Major, Hustlers Brass Band, Platinum Players Zydeco Band, MC Texas Cowboy, McCarletta Shepherd, Zydeco Dots, Lil Jabb and Joe Guidry & Reloaded Band.
When: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St.
Bus: 41 Kirby/Polk, 40 Telephone/Heights
METRORail: Green or Purple Lines, exit Convention District Station
Event: “Number the Stars.” Based on the award-winning book by Lois Lowry, this play tells the story of young Annemarie and Kirsti as they face soldiers, interrogations, fierce dogs, personal danger, the loss of loved ones and their own fears as they help their friend Ellen escape to safety. Recommended for fourth graders and up.
When: Friday & Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.
Where: Main Street Theater at MATCH, 3400 Main St.
Bus: 9 Gulfton/Holman, 82 Westheimer
METRORail: Red Line, exit Ensemble/HCC Station
METRO wants to continually improve what we do, and at yesterday’s board meeting President & CEO Tom Lambert outlined our goals for fiscal year 2016 (Oct. 1, 2015 – Sept. 30, 2016).
Our goals are:
· Improve service delivery
· Enhance the customer experience
· Increase public and regional engagement
· Change management practices
“How do we make sure we improve service delivery on the integrated transportation network? How do we better manage that network we put on the street? We now have a computer-aided dispatch system that makes it easier for our bus controllers at TranStar to better manage that fleet that’s on the ground, “ said Lambert. “Our customers want to make sure that when we say we’re going to be there every 15 minutes…that service is arriving so they can count on that reliability.”
Lambert called these goals and objectives measurable and achievable. Click here to hear his remarks. Drag the circle on the bar at the bottom of the video to 1:37 and you’ll get to the President’s Report.
METRO unveiled its newest generation of buses yesterday at Pinto Business Park where Freedom CNG, a Texas alternative fuel provider, has built a fueling station.
Fifty new buses powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) are joining METRO’s fleet of 1,220 buses, a fleet that includes both clean diesel and hybrid vehicles.
The agency yesterday also joined Freedom CNG in a ribbon-cutting ceremony, marking the opening of Freedom CNG’s newest station, its third in Houston. The station is located inside the Pinto Business Park in North Houston at I-45 and Beltway 8.
The partnership between METRO and Freedom CNG promotes clean air initiatives. CNG-fueled vehicles produce 20 percent less carbon dioxide and 70 percent less carbon monoxide than their diesel-fuel counterparts, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
With fewer diesel-burning vehicles on the road, Houston enjoys an improved quality of air.
The METRO Police Department wants to hear if you feel safe on our system.
Please take a survey and let our police officers know how well they’re doing their job and how they can meet your expectations. Questions range from whether you feel safe at METRO bus stops and shelters or rail platforms to whether police officers treat citizens with respect.
The survey also gives you an opportunity to offer suggestions on ways to change the image of the police department and ways to improve MPD.
Click here to take the survey. Thanks for your time – your opinion counts.
Load, tap and go!
That’s the message our street team is spreading today aboard buses along the 46 Gessner. METRO wants all our cash-paying customers to start using the METRO Q® Fare Card and begin enjoying the benefits.
A METRO Q® Fare Card offers free transfers in any direction for three hours. That’s like having a three-hour pass for the price of a single fare. In addition, Q Card users earn five free rides for every 50 paid trips.
The street team is handing out brochures with a Q Card taped to it. Riders can simply remove the card and then load it with money. The card can be loaded with cash at the back of any bus or at ticket vending machines on most rail platforms.
At Park & Ride lots and some transit centers, Q Cards can be loaded at credit vending machines. Customers can also load the cards at retailers, including participating Kroger, Fiesta, Randalls, HEB and Valero gas stations.
You don’t need to register your card. But if you do register, it will protect your balance if you lose your card.
If you’re riding METRO by paying cash, pick up a Q Card. If you don’t run into our street team, simply pick up a card at our RideStores or at these retailers.
Save time and money with the METRO Q® Fare Card.
While the East Coast is preparing for a fierce blizzard, including record snowfall in Washington, we Houstonians can relax in mild winter temperatures and sunshine, making outdoor activities a fun option in January. From spinning tops in a park to a rare clock designed to spin accurately at sea, you’ll find great choices to help you unwind.
Wherever you go, take METRO and avoid parking hassles and traffic gridlock. Be sure to check the Trip Planner, powered by Google, to find your specific bus or train to your destination.
Event: Brick Fest Live! Lego fans will delight in this festival featuring nothing but Legos – more than one million on display. Hands-on activities include a mosaic wall, vintage and custom bricks, a derby and an inspiration station.
When: Sunday – 10 to 6 p.m.
Where: George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas
Bus: 40 Telephone/Heights, 41 Kirby/Polk
METRORail: Green or Purple Line, exit Convention District Station
Event: Los Trompos (spinning tops). This festive interactive art installation was designed by Hector Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena of Mexico City. This multi-colored temporary installation will bring a smile to visitors of all ages. Inspired by spinning tops, this artwork features 20 three-dimensional structures that create movement. The tops will spin only when manipulated by two or more people.
When: Friday, Saturday and Sunday – 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Where: Discovery Green Park, 1500 McKinney
Bus: 40 Telephone/Heights, 41 Kirby/Polk
METRORail: Green or Purple Line, exit Convention District Station
Event: The Houston Museum of Natural Science – The Chronophage Clock. One of only four in the world, the chronophage clock is a wonder of science and art. It features the historic grasshopper escapement invented in 1722 by John Harrison, a British clockmaker.
When: Friday, Saturday, Sunday – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: The Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Dr.
Bus: 56 Airline/Montrose, 65 Bissonnet, 5 Southmore
METRORail: Red Line, exit Museum District Station
Starting this Sunday, Jan. 24, you’ll see an even more efficient and convenient network transportation system.
Service changes go into effect then. When we inaugurated the New Bus Network last August, you spoke out about enhancements you’d like to see, and METRO listened. These service changes are designed to reduce overcrowding and improve on-time performance.
For example, we added trips. The 6 Jensen/Greens gets a new 4:04 a.m. southbound trip to meet customer demand. The 44 Acres Homes and the 49 Chimney Rock/S. Post Oak also receive extra morning trips.
We are also adjusting running times for more reliable service. On some routes – such as the 76 Evergreen and the 65 Bissonnet – we changed frequency to match service with what riders need. The 76 will see a bus coming every 30 minutes all day. The 65 Bissonnet eastbound bus will come every 10 minutes instead of 12 minutes between 6 and 7:30 a.m.
Click here for a complete list of service changes coming this Sunday. We hope you’ll like these enhancements.
The following is a guest post from Margaret O'Brien Molina, METRO's media manager.
METRO is trying to drive a conversation and, realizing it’s a two-way street, decided to invite transit bloggers to meet with transit planners, METRO leaders, Operations and IT staff here at 1900 Main for some back-and-forth about tweaks to our New Bus Network Plus. The Plus, in case you missed it, will get rolling on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016. The enhancements and refinements are part of a five-year plan to bring great transit to the Houston region.
METRO Board Member Christof Spieler and President & CEO Tom Lambert kicked off the dialogue last Friday.
Among those attending the blogger luncheon were Kay Adams from Raised on the Rail , Christopher Andrews of CDAndrews.com, Anjelica Cazares of juanofwords.com, Tory Gattis from Houston Strategies, Andrea Greer from nonsequiteuse, Anastasia Hansen from It's Not Hou It's Me and Charles Kuffner of Off the Kuff.
Kurt Luhrsen, METRO’s vice president of Planning was on hand to elaborate on lessons learned since METRO’s local bus system underwent a complete remake in August 2015. It was a huge development, and other cities are looking at it as a model to work from – or towards. The new bus network increased frequency (especially weekends, evenings, and midday) with a newly formed grid facilitating logical transfers, and introduced next bus texting.
METRO Board member Christof Spieler put it this way, "We're not trying to convince people to get out of their cars. We're trying to make transit an attractive option."
The recent meeting was (ahem) more about substance than form – although some concession was made for a quick photo-op – behind a green #NBNPlus bus cut-out. Don’t laugh. It worked for our bloggers and our staff, and you may well see it at a #NBNPlus stop near you soon! *
The enhanced bus network launches this Sunday to improve on-time bus arrival and minimize overcrowding. See the changes here and join the conversation with #nbnplus. And don’t forget METRO’s interactive service map and service/detour alerts can help you manage where you are going and when you get there.
METRO Chief Technology Officer Randy Frazier passed along information about apps that have recently been released and others that are about to be launched, including a mobile payment option that is expected to be ready in late February or early March. Meanwhile, our popular TRIP app, Frazier announced, is due for an update soon, so look for that on the horizon.
*Note to self: Smile when you get behind the bus screen and post the pic ASAP!
Anyone who's traveled our freeways knows the experience of crawling bumper-to-bumper as we inch toward our destination.
In fact, the Houston area ranks as one of the top ten regions for worst traffic in the nation with congestion costing the city $4.9 billion last year, says the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC).
But transit advocates are working on solutions - and you can become a part of that solution.
On Wednesday, Jan. 20, H-GAC, a regional organization of local governments and elected officials from the 13-county Gulf Coast Planning Region will launch the "My Solution Is..." transportation fair at Memorial City Mall.
METRO will be there and will tell you about our new METRO Transportation Network with our buses arriving every 15 minutes or better on our frequently-traveled routes; our STAR vanpools and our carpool service where we can match you up with like-minded neighbors who live and work near you.
"This event will be important for those looking to save time to get to work, maybe have a more reliable way to get to work. Many people do not realize the transportation choices they have," said Alan Clark, H-GAC's director of transportation. "We'll also be helping employers in the area understand what they can do to help their employees be more reliable and have a better attitude as they enjoy an easier way to get to work."
Laura Reynolds, CBS Radio MIX 96.5 personality and assistant program director for SportsRadio 610, Talk 650 and Texans Radio Network, will emcee the event.
Become part of the solution to help clean our region's air by committing to take a bus or train to work one day a week, telecommute, ride a bike to work, or vanpool or carpool. Find out all the options available at this fun and informative event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Wednesday at 303 Memorial City, Memorial City Mall.
METRO and the marathon make a winning combination as thousands descend upon the Bayou City this weekend to run in the 44th annual race, support it, or cheer the athletes.
The 2016 Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon expect to draw participants from around the world, including past winners of this marathon. First place winner in the men’s and women’s divisions will each be awarded $40,000, and $20,000 will be awarded to the first place men’s and women’s champions in the half marathon.
This year, METRO is partnering with the marathon by offering free rides on local buses and trains to all runners wearing a race bib with their official number on it. If you’re planning to cheer on your favorite marathoner, watch the race by taking METRORail to one of two spectator halfway points.
For the half marathon, take the Red Line and exit at the Museum District Station, then walk to Main Street at Bissonnet. For the full marathon, take the Red Line, exit at Hermann Park/Rice U Station, then walk one-quarter mile to Sunset at Rice Boulevard. Rail tickets are only $1.25 one way, and half price for students and seniors using a discounted METRO Q® Fare Card. Children ages 5 and under ride free.
Streets will be blocked off for this event, so please expect detours if you’re riding the bus. On METRORail, the marathon will require service to be interrupted between some stations. Click here for details.
Enjoy the marathon this Sunday – and good luck to all the runners!
The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is this coming Monday, and that means parades, detours and a holiday service schedule for METRO.
Here’s the good news: METRO will operate its regular weekday schedule on MLK Day. All local buses and Park & Ride buses will run on their usual schedule. METRORail will also operate on a regular weekday schedule - running every six minutes.
If you lose an item on the bus or train on MLK Day, please report it the next day. Our RideStore and Lost & Found office will be closed next Monday, Jan. 18, as well as our Customer Care Center.
If you use METROLift subscription trips, your trips will not be affected by the holiday. However, if you do not plan to ride that day and you have a trip scheduled, please call to cancel. If you need a ride on MLK Day or the next day on Tuesday, Jan. 19, please call the METROLift reservation line this coming Friday, Jan. 15, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 713-225-6716.
To book a trip the day you need to travel, use MACS (713-225-6716) or MACS-WEB.
On Jan. 24, METRO customers will start to see enhancements to our bus service, designed to relieve overcrowding and make riding METRO a better experience.
Since we launched a new network of routes last August, many of you have suggested adjustments.
To improve METRO’s transportation network, we’re adjusting layover times at busy transit centers, including downtown, the Texas Medical Center and Greenspoint.
“We’ve added the early morning and late work night trips on 12 routes,” said METRO Vice Chairman Jim Robinson at a news conference yesterday. “We’ve adjusted running times to improve the reliability on 23 routes.”
On one of our most popular routes along Westheimer, riders will see buses running every six minutes during peak hours, starting Jan. 24. Click here to see all the service changes.
Soon METRO passengers may be hearing languages from all over the world on buses and trains as newly arrived international students start riding our system.
Last week, METRO introduced the METRO Q® Fare Card to a record-breaking crowd of international students at Houston Community College. About 900 students gathered at the J.W. Marriott for orientation, which included learning to get around the nation’s fourth largest city by mass transit. Students came from Africa, India, Europe, South and Central America, Canada, China and Vietnam.
Attendance last Friday was 40 percent higher compared to last year, said Nicole Adler, sales representative in Customer & Ridership Services, who gave a “How to Ride” presentation. Students ride for half price and can apply online. Students must show one of the following: a current class schedule and a fee receipt; a letter from the college verifying he or she is a current student; or a METRO fare card registration form signed and stamped by the school registrar.
“The students are always so very appreciative for the service and information since they don’t have a driver’s license and depend on public transportation,” said Adler. “Houston is the most diverse city in the country, and you can see it happening just in the student population. They come from all over the world, and these students are used to riding public transportation, so it’s important for them to understand how to ride METRO.”
Almost 500 forms were distributed to students to fill out and get their METRO Q® Fare Card by mail.
This weekend, you can heat up chilly nights while skating under the stars, or plan a dream wedding at an extravaganza showcasing the latest trends.
Wherever you go to relax, be sure to take METRO. Check the Google-powered Trip Planner for your specific bus or train. Leave the driving to us, and we’ll save you parking hassles and wear-and-tear on your vehicle.
Event: Hot Nights on Ice. Mix, mingle and crank up the heat as you glide on ice with your friends and family. Enjoy an evening of skating to music surrounded by the downtown skyline. Skating fees apply.
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney
Bus: 41 Kirby/Polk, 40 Telephone/Heights. These routes are within a four-block walking distance: 52 Hardy-Ley, 137 Northshore Express, 11 Almeda/Lyons, 6 Jensen/Greens, 51 Hardy-Kelley
METRORail: Green or Purple Lines, exit Theater District Station.
Event: Bridal Extravaganza Show. This 32nd bi-annual bridal show brings hundreds of local vendors under one roof for one-stop shopping. Sample cake, see fashion shows and plan your wedding in one weekend. Honeymoons and shopping sprees will be given away.
When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas
Bus: 40 Telephone/Heights, 41 Kirby/Polk. These routes are within a four-block walking distance: 52 Hardy-Ley, 137 Northshore Express, 11 Almeda/Lyons, 6 Jensen/Greens, 51 Hardy-Kelley
METRORail: Green or Purple Lines, exit Convention District Station.
Event: Houston Texans vs. Kansas City Chiefs. Watch our home team play against the Kansas City Chiefs in this wild card game, as each team fights to move one step closer to the Super Bowl.
When: Saturday, 3:35 p.m.
Where: NRG Stadium, One Reliant Park
Bus: 84 Buffalo Speedway, 60 Cambridge
METRORAIL: Red Line, exit Reliant Park Station. You can also park at the Fannin South Transit Center and pay a special game day rate of only $15 per vehicle. All occupants of your vehicle ride free round-trip to NRG Stadium on the rail.
Some important changes are about to happen at METROLift.
Starting Feb. 1, METROLift customers will see a fare increase for service both inside and outside the METROLift Base Service Area.
METROLift is a paratransit service offered by METRO in accordance with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The base fare will go up to $1.25 one way. This is a 10-cent increase, the first fare hike in 25 years.
We’re also offering the METROLift Freedom Q® Card that allows METROLift customers and their caregiver to ride free on our local buses, Park & Ride and rail.
Join us at one of our community meetings to find out more and ask any questions. Six more meetings are scheduled throughout the city. Two next week are: Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 9 a.m. at Sunnyside Multi-Service Center; and Wednesday, Jan. 13, at 10 a.m. at Acres Homes Multi-Service Center.
Click here for a complete list of meetings. Can’t make it? Read our FAQ and find some useful information. You can also call METROLift Customer Service at 713-225-0119.