Remember when you go to bed Saturday night to turn your clock forward one hour.
Daylight Savings Time starts this weekend. At 2 a.m. Sunday, March 9, all clocks will be moved ahead one hour. Pay special attention to our rodeo bus shuttles and METRORail schedule, especially if you are going to the rodeo. At 2 a.m., it becomes 3 a.m.
The last southbound train from Reliant Stadium is at 3:25 a.m. Be sure to change your watch so you don't miss the train.
How prepared are you when severe weather hits? Here in Houston, we've dodged a hurricane for the past five years - but this winter, we've had to contend with icy conditions and slick roads. Icy weather has forced schools and offices to close - and METRO has shut down HOV/HOT lanes.
This week is National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, and two days ago we experienced a mini-weather crisis with icing and freezing temperatures.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) have teamed up to make sure companies are ready for weather emergencies. Last year, seven climate and weather disasters caused 109 deaths and losses exceeding $1 billion per event, said NOAA.
So it's important to be prepared. Here are six essential tips:
- Develop an emergency plan and tell your employees.
- Designate an emergency response team trained to use fire extinguishers, give first aid and shut down company operations.
- Keep a copy of important records and files at an off-site, secure location.
- Have a disaster supply kit with food, water and other essentials for employees who must shelter in place.
- Train employees on the details of your emergency plan, including evacuation procedures, alarm systems and shutdown procedures.
Click here to read more on how to be prepared when hazardous weather strikes.
Join the Tour de Houston and hundreds of your neighbors in the annual fundraising bike ride on Sunday, March 16.
The annual ride, presented by Apache Corp., is designed to promote alternate transportation and physical fitness. Funds raised will benefit the city of Houston’s reforestation program, RE-Plant Houston.
Mayor Annise Parker and State Senator Rodney Ellis will launch the event at 7:30 a.m.. There are three levels: a 60-mile route, starting at 7:30 a.m.; a 40-mile route, starting at 8 a.m.; and a 20-mile route, starting at 8:30 a.m.
The ride begins and ends at Hermann Square in front of City Hall at 900 Smith St.
Register at www.tourdehouston.org.
Registration fee is $35 and $20 for children ages 12 and under. There’s free parking at Memorial and Houston Avenue for cars with roof-top bike racks and Theatre District parking on Rusk for cars with truck-mounted bike racks.
Or ride a METRO bus downtown and stash your bike on our racks, which accommodate two bikes at a time. You can also park in a downtown parking lot and take your bike on METRORail. The Red/North Line runs from Fannin South to Northline Transit Center/HCC.
It only costs $1.25 to ride METRO. Seniors and students ride for half price, and children five and under ride free.
So whether you’re training for the BP MS 150, the two-day ride from Houston to Austin to raise money for multiple sclerosis, or you’re a weekend warrior, get out your bike, pump up the tires and let’s join the fellowship of the wheel. We’ll be getting fit and raising money to make our city more beautiful.
METRO is extending its Park & Ride service by one hour this morning
to accommodate patrons who are delaying their commute because of the
METRORail is now running the entire length of the line from Fannin South
to Northline TC/HCC Station with trains running about every 12 minutes.
Other service adjustments this morning:
• All METRO HOV/HOT lanes now open.
• Park & Ride buses are running, but expect delays as buses will avoid overpasses and bridges.
• Local buses may experience delays as detours may occur to avoid bridges and overpasses.
• METROLIft is running, but please limit trips to essentials and expect delays.
Please call the customer service line at 713-635-4000 for updated
schedules. The METRO T.R.I.P. app will not be the best source of “next
bus” arrival time due to potentially fluctuating schedules.
Keep checking our website for future service alerts.
Tomorrow is your chance to make a difference in your community. It's voting day for the Democratic and Republican primary elections.
Now, before you blow it off and tell yourself it's only a primary, listen up.
"People often think that the primaries and smaller elections don't matter. And so far, indications are that voter turnout has been low. But there have been many examples where as few as 350 votes have determined who wins a race," points out Monique Ward, senior Public Affairs representative.
The election of judges and statewide officials can affect the kind of funding that makes its way to METRO. For example, the governor appoints commissioners to the Texas Transportation Commission.
The Houston Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) is the agency through which millions of federal dollars are allocated annually - and H-CAC's board is made up of elected officials from our 13-county region.
H-GAC determines how much money is designated for highways, roads and public transportation.
"Far too often, people don't realize that ‘small' elections can have major impact on their lives, jobs and the priorities and allocation of resources for their communities versus someone else's," said Ward.
Go to http://www.harrisvotes.com/ to find your polling place and ballot. Be sure to bring an approved photo ID, such as a Texas driver's license, U.S. military ID card or US citizenship certificate with a photo.
So take the time to vote tomorrow, and help shape your community. It's worth it.
Jasmyne Bell, a University of Houston sophomore, rides a METRO bus every day. She rides her bike and then the bus when she goes to work, and she rides the bus to get to classes.
But Bell had never used a METRO Q® Fare Card - much less, a student fare card that would have given her half-price fares. Instead, every time she boarded the bus, she dug into her pocket for $1.25.
Then last October, her good friend saw the METRO event at which METRO Public Affairs representatives were on campus - on a wet Halloween night with torrential rains - offering student Q Cards. It was the culmination of a marketing class project in which students designed a campaign dubbed, Q Your Moment. The idea was to raise awareness of METRO's services and let students know they could ride METRO at half-price.
Part of the campaign involved miniature bus shelters placed strategically around campus. Students were urged to shoot pictures and post on social media whenever they saw a squirrel on, under or near a mini-shelter. The UH campus, say students, is rampant with squirrels.
Bell's good friend rode her bike by the event, got herself a student Q Card, then raced on her bike to tell Bell about it. "Hey, dude, you have to come right now!" her friend insisted.
Bell did - got herself a METRO Q® Fare Card - and was entered into a contest. The student who used his or her Q Card the most would win and get $100 added to the card.
Bell won and was recognized at yesterday's board meeting with a certificate and a loaded METRO Q® Fare Card, which comes with the benefits of free transfers in the same direction and five free rides for every 50 trips.
"Since I won, I've been talking about this. Now when I get on every bus, I don't have to worry about transfers or finding change," said Bell, adding that METRO coming to the UH campus made it very convenient for students.
Riding the bus is Bell's primary form of transportation, and as an avid Q Card user, she's spreading the word among her friends.
After serving 14 months as METRO's interim president & CEO, a long-time veteran of the agency who built his career here, has been officially appointed president and CEO.
Tom Lambert's official appointment was announced at yesterday's METRO board meeting. Click here to read the letter of agreement. Lambert's base salary will be $275,000, and his term will run through April 1, 2016.
"Sometimes the right person for the job is right in front of you, and that is what we found," said Gilbert Garcia, METRO board chairman.
Lambert started his career here in 1979 as chief of police and, later, as the agency's top administrative officer before being asked to serve as interim president & CEO in January 2013.
"We'll continue to stay on the basics to ensure we have a very good organization," Lambert told the board. "I thank the chairman and the board for the opportunity to serve."
METRO has 3,500 employees and an annual budget of $1.24 billion.
We are tripling our rail system by year end with the roll-out of the Green/East End Line and Purple/Southeast Line in the fall. We are also working on an ambitious system redesign of our bus routes called Transit System Reimagining, a plan that would bring more frequent bus service to riders, while giving maximum coverage.
It’s time to don a western hat and slip into those cowboy
boots with the Houston
Livestock Show and Rodeo in full swing next week.
We can help
you get there and back without inching through the crush of traffic.
In addition to our rodeo shuttles throughout the city, which
we posted about earlier, METRORail offers a
convenient way to get right to Reliant Stadium.
It only costs $1.25 one way to ride the train. Seniors and
children are half price, and kids under age 5 ride free. You can buy a ticket on any rail platform,
or pick up a METRO Q® Fare Card at any of these retailers or
at our RideStore
at 1900 Main.
We are extending our hours on the rail during the
rodeo. From Feb. 27 – March 1 and
from March 4 – 23, here are the METRORail hours:
Monday – Saturday:
northbound train from Reliant Station is at 1:40 a.m.
southbound train from Reliant Station is at 3:25 a.m.
northbound train from Reliant Station is at 11:24 p.m.
southbound train from Reliant Station is at 1:15 a.m.
You can park at Fannin South
Park & Ride lot and pay a $20 fee. That covers parking and round-trip
METRORail passes for all passengers.
Or you can park at any of the parking lots downtown and board the train on Main
So enjoy the barbeque, the calf scramble, the concerts and
party past midnight – then hop on METRORail and let us get you home safely and
If you ever travel to New York and ride the subway, you'll hear electronic tones as you walk through the turnstiles. Those tones are for seeing-impaired patrons who listen for one tone, which means "go," a double tone, which means "swipe again" and a triple tone, which means insufficient fare.
Now a musician, James Murphy, wants to change that and create more harmonious tones, reports the Wall Street Journal. Murphy, the lead singer of the now-disbanded alternative dance band, LCD Soundsystem, has been working for the past 15 years on creating a unique set of notes for every station. One note would sound each time a commuter swipes his or her MetroCard to board, and the more passengers, the more harmonious the music.
Murphy told the Wall Street Journal that harmonic sequences could help riders get off at the right stops and help connect them emotionally to their neighborhoods.
Murphy thinks now is the perfect time to reprogram New York's 3,289 turnstiles, as it begins a renovation project to reposition turnstiles to improve passenger flow.
But the MTA isn't so keen on musical art. A spokesman said the dissonance among machines is caused by "natural technical variation, and we really don't care."
Click here and scroll down to the middle of the article to listen to the musical subway sounds Murphy would create.
"I believe that music makes people happy and makes them reflective. I think people...deserve a small sonic gift on their way home," says Murphy on his website, http://www.subwaysymphony.org/. The picture posted here is from his website.
If you're planning to kick up your boots and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo opening this Thursday with the World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, METRO can help get you there and avoid some of the traffic gridlock.
You can park your car at the Rodeo Express lots or at our Park & Ride lots.
Rodeo Express lots are located at Delmar Stadium at 2020 Mangum Rd.; Old Spanish Trail at North Stadium Drive; Old Spanish Trail at William C. Harvey Boulevard; and Aramco Services Co. at 9009 W. Loop South. Rates vary by lot and range from free shuttle to $10 per person. Show volunteers with gold badges may ride free, along with a guest.
The Park & Ride locations that offer rodeo shuttles are North Shepherd, West Loop, Monroe, Fannin South and Maxey Road. Except for Fannin South, there's no charge to park. Round-trip shuttle prices range from $4 to $6.50 per person. At Fannin South, $20 per vehicle covers parking and round-trip METRORail passes for all passengers. METRORail will drop you off right in front of Reliant.
The number of commuters who use both bike and bus to get around town has increased more than 47 percent in January, compared to a year ago same month.
Our bike boardings totaled 17,859 in January, up from 12,111 in January 2013. Last October, METRO reported a record 22,000 bike boardings on buses - a 44 percent hike over the previous October.
"We are preparing for and trying to cultivate these folks as repeat customers," said Tom Lambert, METRO's interim president & CEO. "We're doing that with bike racks on buses and with bike stands at bus stops. We've installed racks on our new trains and are working with the city to provide better infrastructure with bike lid storage at Park & Ride lots and B-Cycle facilities at our Downtown Transit Center."
Houston B-Cycle is a rental bike-share program, where users can pick up a bike at one station, ride and then return the bike at another station.
The racks on our local buses can accommodate two bikes at a time. But that could change in the future. Rice University engineering students recently designed an award-wining rack to transport three bikes at a time via bus. The Rice team developed an expandable bike rack that holds a third bike.
Did you know that a texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-texting driver?
Yet one million people text while driving every day. The average text distracts a driver's eyes from the road for nearly five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that's enough time to travel the length of a football field. Texting while driving is essentially driving blind, says the Ad Council, which has teamed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to promote safe driving.
Smart phone users can enact "driving mode" on their phones that will automatically reply to a text sent while driving, informing the sender that the driver can't respond yet because he or she is driving.
Recently, I was riding in a car with a friend when he began reading texts while driving. It was scary, and I asked him to stop. I admit that I've also texted while driving, but only at stoplights. Still, any fumbling with a phone while behind the wheel isn't a good idea.
One text or call could wreck it all, says the website at Distraction.gov the official U.S. government website for distracted driving. In Texas, there's a ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for bus drivers and new drivers. If you drive in a school zone, the use of handheld cell phones and texting in is also banned in Texas.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) banned rail employees from using cell phones or other electronic devices on the job after a September 20078 Metrolink crash killed 25 people in Chatsworth, Calif.
Of all the distractions while driving, text messaging is the most alarming because it requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver, according to Distraction.gov, whose photo posted above is part of a commercial against texting while driving.
If a matter is urgent and you have to text while driving, pull over to the side of the road or drive into a parking lot. Better yet, for those long commutes to the office, leave the driving to METRO. You can sit back and text to your heart's content.
Click here to learn more about the facts on distracted driving and how you can get involved to prevent it.
Think of it as eBay for government agencies.
Need a carpenter’s work table? You can buy one from Oregon State
University for $158.50 in the next two days and four hours, but must
If you need a birthday gift for your sweetheart, how about a ladies 14k
white gold and diamond bangle bracelet for $550? Colorado Springs
Utilities is selling it and will mail it to you.
You can buy a Kohler piano with a bid that starts at $5 from the
Tumwater School District in Tumwater, Wash., but you must pick up. There
are three bids with two hours and 46 minutes left for the auction at
From computers (Dell computer, missing parts, $1) to furniture, a
variety of items from public agencies are available and for sale at
auction on the website www.publicsurplus.com.
METRO also has items for sale on this site. Few people know about it,
but there are bargains available. This auction system was created
specifically for public agencies, offering buyers and sellers
high-quality service, according to the website. It started in 1999 when
the purchasing director of a big school district in Utah wanted a third
party to create an Internet-based live auction approach.
Public Surplus was designed to help agencies manage their entire surplus
inventory, while keeping compliant with any state regulations and
Anything can be sold on Public Surplus, including mousetraps, portable
classrooms, automobiles, buses, heavy equipment, shop equipment,
athletic equipment and musical instruments.
“It’s amazing. Almost everything listed sells, no matter how old or how
odd,” says Public Surplus on its website. You can search by zip code or
region and by item.
So go online and help public agencies increase their revenue. Agencies
have increased total net revenue by at least 30 percent and in some
cases, more than 200 percent, says Public Surplus.
Imagine living in a neighborhood where you didn't have to hop in your car to buy a gallon of milk. You could walk to the grocery store, walk to the dry cleaners, walk to the movies.
I once lived in a neighborhood where I rarely used my car on weekends because I could walk everywhere I wanted to go - from restaurants to bookstores (in the Boston area).
Building walkable, bikeable neighborhoods from the ground up is the topic for a meeting of My Houston 2040 on Thursday, Feb. 20, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Rudyard's Upstairs at 2010 Waugh.
The event is sponsored by Houston Tomorrow, Air Alliance Houston, Better Houston, Planners' Revolution, CNU-Houston and Citizens' Transportation Coalition.
Find out how you can bring complete streets to your neighborhood at this discussion featuring Cedric Douglas and Jay Blazek Crossley. Douglas is the committee chair of Strollin and Rollin Southeast Houston Go team. He is a designer and community builder working in Houston and Austin to foster urban rejuvenation with existing community resources.
Crossley is a policy analyst at Houston Tomorrow and believes Houston could be a model region for the world if we harness our unique urban, cultural, business and ecological potential. A musician and band member who lives on a farm outside of Houston, Crossley holds a master's degree in public affairs from UT-Austin.
The event is free and open to the public with time for networking and socializing. Food and drink are available at the bar; speakers begin at 6 pm.
If you're still wondering where to take your sweetheart for Valentine's Day, consider riding METRORail and enjoying some of the restaurants along the rail that are part of our Q Star program.
Participating vendors in the Q Star program offer freebies or discounts when you show them your METRO Q® Fare Card. Here are some goodies you can get by showing your Q Card: 10 percent off at Tacos A Go-Go; complimentary dessert with purchase of lunch or dinner at Julia's Bistro; free eggroll with purchase of a meal at the Vietnamese Kim Tai Restaurant.
If you need to spruce up before your date, get $1 off a haircut at Joe Lee's Barbershop. Snag a 10 percent discount on your homemade Valentine's card when you make a color copy at University Copy Center UH Downtown.
After dinner, enjoy a play at The Ensemble Theatre, which offers a buy-one-get-one-free deal with a Q Card. Later, discuss the play over a drink at Sig's Lagoon where you'll get 10 percent off.
If you've got the afternoon off, check out the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum on Caroline Street (10 a.m. - 5 p.m.), which offers a 10 percent discount. And the Houston Zoo offers $2 off adult tickets and $1 off children's tickets.
Don't have a Q Card? Pick one up at any of our participating retailers, load at least $5 on it and you're ready to enjoy an evening of romance while saving a few bucks.
Happy Valentine's Day!
METRO is scheduled to conduct a special board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 2 p.m.
The agenda will include discussion on the Harrisburg grade separation, public comments and the sale of a portion of Westpark corridor to Fort Bend County. An executive session is also scheduled to discuss pending or potential litigation, legal matters, real estate matters, security matters and devices and personnel matters.
The next regularly scheduled board meeting is Feb. 27 at 9 a.m. METRO board meetings are normally scheduled on the fourth Thursday of every month and our held at 1900 Main St. They are also streamed live and archived on our website.
In its first month of operation, the Red/North Line extension exceeded ridership projections by 62 percent.
METRO launched its 5.3-mile extension of the Red/North Line last Dec. 21 - extending the line from HCC-Downtown Station eight more stops to Northline Transit Center/HCC.
In January, the first full month of operation, the Red/North Line averaged 4,200 weekday boardings. That's 1,600 more than what we had forecasted for the average daily ridership by Sept. 30, the end of METRO's fiscal year.
"This speaks volumes about the value of rail in the community, and how expanding the reach of one form of transit enhances others like our bus service," said METRO Chairman Gilbert Garcia in a statement.
Added Tom Lambert, interim METRO president & CEO: "It's providing better connectivity and improving the customer experience on many fronts."
Consider these stats since the Red/North Line expanded:
- The amount of transit service has increased, adding 192 rail trips each weekday, replacing 149 weekday bus trips.
- The frequency of service has increased with peak and midday service running every 12 minutes compared to 15 minutes on previous bus route.
- On-time performance has improved. Route 79, which serves the Northline Transit Center, rose to the top ten routes for on-time performance from the bottom 10.
Ridership on the Red/North Line is expected to surge when two more light-rail lines open later this year, the Burnett Transit Center opens and a redesign of our bus system is implemented.
Once the Green/East End Line and the Purple/Southeast Line open later this year, METRO will have about 23 miles of rail.
With the extended Red/North Line (Main Street Line) operational, we now have 13 miles of rail. And with the opening of two more light-rail lines later this year - the Green/East End Line and the Purple/Southeast Line, we will have more than tripled our light-rail system.
In 2004, the Red Line opened days before the city hosted Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium.
"It's been a tremendously successful line," David Couch, vice president for rail construction, told Civil Engineering magazine.
The light-rail lines are being constructed with a design/build contractor - Houston Rapid Transit (HRT), a joint venture of Parsons' transportation group, Granite Construction Co., Kiewit Texas Construction and Stacy and Witbeck.
"By having everything under one design/builder, with them putting the same system and the same components in for all three of the lines, it gives you an economy from a financial standpoint, and it also helps you from a standpoint of not having to integrate disparate systems. It works very well," said Couch.
Click here to read the entire article.
If you drive to work, you've probably noticed that commute times have been inching up as you sit in traffic.
You're right. Newly analyzed data from Houston TranStar reveal that from 2011 to 2013, travel times during rush hours have increased by as much as 20 minutes, reports KTRH (740 AM).
Peak times in the study started at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. for the drive home. The longest commute is on I-10. The drive to and from the Woodlands takes 18 minutes longer than it did in 2011. You're driving 12 minutes longer if you are on Highway 288, I-45 Gulf Freeway and I-10 Baytown East.
The flip side of all this congestion: It means our economy is healthy with people driving to and from jobs, says Tim Lomax, a senior research engineer with the Texas A & M Transportation Institute.
If you don't want to deal with a commute that continues to get longer, leave the driving to METRO. Check out our T.R.I.P. app that gives next-time bus arrivals. Once you tap your METRO Q® Fare Card and board, you can catch a few winks, text your friends or read. You'll get to zip along in the HOV lanes and arrive faster than driving solo to downtown.
Since the Red Line extension opened last December, METRO has hired seven fare inspectors, who not only randomly check riders' fare media, but also act as goodwill ambassadors, giving directions and explaining any bus-train connections.
"This first group of fare inspectors is enthusiastic about their jobs and encountering the public in a positive manner," said MPD Chief Victor Rodriguez. "I think it's going as well as can be expected."
Anticipating increased ridership with the Red Line extension, MPD rolled out this initiative on Dec. 21 opening day of the extension. The fare inspectors were hired internally and externally and include a retired police officer, a former security officer and someone who worked in transportation at Texas A & M. They went through two weeks of classroom training, then two weeks of field training, learning how to check fares, understand codes and how to go to municipal court and testify.
"They had to become familiar with the transit system, particularly those buses and transit centers where we have an intersection of rail and bus so they could assist our customers with navigation. Part of their role is to be ambassadors. The other part is the enforcement side - reading devices, testifying in court, writing tickets. These are not police officers, so we are not asking them to engage in a confrontational manner," said Rodriguez.
Right now, fare inspectors are paired with police officers with the fare inspectors focusing on proof of payment and the officer monitoring the rest of the platform or train.
Rodriguez said his goal is to inspect 10 percent of the riders who use the rail. "We routinely exceed that marker, sometimes as much as 15 to 20 percent," he added. MPD purposely started out issuing more warnings than tickets to get customers used to the idea of seeing fare inspectors.
In December, MPD (officers and fare inspectors) issued 447 warnings for fare violations and 68 fineable citations, or tickets. That compares to 325 warnings and 424 tickets in December 2012.
In January, MPD wrote 3,079 warnings and 74 tickets.
You'll recognize the fare inspectors by their uniforms. They are dressed in dark blue pants with cargo pockets and inverted pleats on the sides, white shirts and lime green safety vests. Their jackets sport a patch similar to an MPD officer that says: "Fare Inspector."
Rodriguez said becoming a fare inspector is a good way for a young person to determine if she or he wants to become a police officer. "It gives them an opportunity to engage the public in an enforcement role," he explained.
The entry-level job pays $16 an hour. MPD is planning to hire eight more this fiscal year. The three fare inspectors who were in roll call this morning were friendly with engaging smiles. They are pictured above (left to right): I. Perez, Patricia Little and Carl Jefferson.
"We're looking for people good with customer service and customer interaction. We want people who have clean employment histories and clean criminal histories. Personal and professional integrity is an important characteristic of any law enforcement job, including the fare inspector position," said Rodriguez.