This Sunday, METRO is joining the celebration of Fiesta Patrias, a national Mexican holiday celebrating Mexico's independence from Spain.
The celebration will occur at Reliant Park , and you'll find METRO at a giant booth - complete with one of our new Quickline buses on display. We'll be at Exhibit Hall D, next to McDonald's in Booth B2.
Drop by, and register for a chance to win one of 15 goodie bags. We'll give one away every hour, but during peak hours of 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., we'll be giving two to three per hour. You do not have to be present to win.
Inside the goodie bags, you'll find two Dynamo tickets, two tickets to the Houston Museum of Natural Science (permanent exhibits), an umbrella, briefcase, totebag, VIP pen/pencil set - and a METRO Q® Fare Card preloaded with $10, courtesy of Univision Radio.
"We're hitting a different angle where it will be relaxing," said Tom Pham, METRO's advertising account executive. "Visit our booth, get on the bus, check out the interior. This will be more relaxing than just handing out items."
We'll have our booth stocked with brochures, too, so you can find out about METRO's services.
In addition to climbing aboard a new hybrid-electric Quickline bus, you'll be able to meet Abuelita, the grandma and face of our Hispanic campaign.
Our booth will be open from noon to 6 p.m. See you there....¡Acompáñanos!
Ten METRO staffers joined the University of Houston in its Commuter Green Fair, signing up hundreds of students on the main campus for a METRO Q® Fare Card.
"Here at the university, we have challenges, and we struggle with accessibility, as far as parking," said Emily Messa, assistant vice president for university services. "We wanted to reach out to our students - 36,000 and counting - and help them find out the bus routes from their home to campus. And if they live on campus and don't have a car, help them get to the grocery store on METRO or Wal-Mart."
Messa, known as "The Green Commuter Doctor" sat down with students and handed out "prescriptions" that showed them exactly how to get from Point A to Point B, using METRO.
"We'd plot the route out for them on Google Transit and give that to them - and say, ‘Here's your prescription.' I had a cure for people. They wanted to know their options. Were they flexible? Where do they live? Is mass transit a solution? Car pool?"
While the doctor helped students solve their commuting problems, METRO staffers - from revenue and from Community Outreach - helped students get new Q cards and renew old ones.
"It went very well. It was very well-organized," said Joe Garcia, community outreach rep. "We're helping UH go green."
Messa said the commute to UH from students, faculty and staff makes up 51 percent of the university's carbon footprint. "Just think what a difference we could make to the community if we could get our students, faculty and staff to be green commuters," said Messa.
To give students an incentive, UH said it is putting $5 on each new Q Card. "We want them to try it. Once they have the money, they almost feel it's an obligation," said Messa.
METRO gave free back-to-school backpacks to students who signed up. The Q Cards will be processed here and then delivered to campus. When students pick up their Q Card, they'll also get a free flash drive.
"I was stopped today by several students who thanked METRO for coming out. At the fair, fulltime students could get their Q Card. We were helping students renew their Q Card. That was a big time savings. Previously, they had to go to the RideStore. They were very appreciative of that," said Messa.
More campus parking lots are being used to construct buildings, giving more impetus to the university's drive to go green.
Messa says students who use METRO can ride in air-conditioned comfort and use the time to study for a test or catch up on homework.
Going green, she says, is the right thing to do. "It's working on mitigating congestion on our streets and on our parking lots. It's helping people get here in a less stressed-out way," said Messa.
If you visit our RideStore this month, you'll see construction and remodeling going on.
Today, we started redesigning our RideStore so we can consolidate three functions in one: the RideStore, Treasury and METROLift.
"The build-out is to better assist our customers. We're putting all our service in one place. It's a one-stop shop," said Danicel Whitaker, METRO's deputy director of revenue.
Treasury will now be known as Revenue Operations.
Business will be conducted as usual at the current locations (Revenue Operations on the second floor) during construction.
Hours at the RideStore and Revenue Operations (Treasury) will remain the same during construction:
RideStore 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Revenue Operations (Treasury) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Once construction is completed, if you want to get a METRO Q® Fare Card or obtain a discounted Q Card (seniors, students and the disabled), you only need to come to one place - the RideStore.
The new RideStore will be the place to go if your Q Card is lost or stolen. If you had a registered Q Card, you'll be able to replace your Q Card, and we'll reload your balance.
And if you need METROLift services - for a discounted Q Card with a photo or for the interview process - you will only need to go to the remodeled RideStore.
The window for Revenue Operations will be along the wall where the brochures have been located. During construction, the schedules will be behind the counter by the RideStore staff, who will be happy to give you one upon request. Later, the schedules will be out in the open again.
We expect to complete the remodeling by Oct. 1. The newly consolidated RideStore will operate Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In July, we celebrated the groundbreaking of two light-rail lines in the North and Southeast corridors.
While we're excited about the progress we're making toward light-rail, getting there - with all the construction - can be arduous if you live in that neighborhood or own a business there.
METRO is committed to making sure this process goes as smoothly as possible, keeping residents and businesses current with construction news.
Our next episode of METRO Matters features Kim Williams, associate vice president of corporate programs, who explains exactly what METRO is doing in the corridor offices to help surrounding neighbors.
Click here to watch.
If you prefer to view METRO Matters on your television screen, here's the schedule of when it airs on Houston Media Source, Channel 17 on Comcast.
Tue 9/1/09 6:15 p.m.
Fri 9/4/09 7:30 p.m.
Sat 9/5/09 1:30 p.m.
Tue 9/8/09 6:30 p.m.
Thu 9/10/09 9:00 p.m.
Sat 9/12/09 8:00 p.m.
Tue 9/15/09 4:15 p.m.
Sat 9/19/09 8:00 p.m.
Mon 9/21/09 9:45 p.m.
Wed 9/23/09 8:30 p.m.
Fri 9/25/09 7:30 p.m.
Wed 9/30/09 9:45 p.m.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science's extraordinary exhibit of China's terra cotta warriors has been attracting thousands of visitors who have viewed these historical finds - exhibited for the first time outside of China.
Fourteen life-size warriors - along with more than 100 objects - were buried in the tomb complex of China's First Emperor, Quin Shi Huang, and were designed to protect him throughout eternity.
Last week, one of those warriors escaped and rode METRORail. Well, he wasn't exactly from another century, but he looked like he could have time-traveled from that era.
Chi Chang Zheng (know as "Jarry" here) , an actor from Taiwan, was sent by the Chinese government to accompany this exhibit. Last week, METRO shot and produced a video to help promote riding the rail to the museum. METRO is a partner with members of the Houston Museum District to encourage people to ride the rail.
The METRO crew spent about three hours with Jarry, starting at the museum and ending at the shops at Houston Pavilions, where Jarry enjoyed being a tourist.
"It was extremely fun," said Rob Fritsche, who wrote, produced and directed the spot. "People were following Jarry like a rock star. He had an entourage."
While the ancient warriors were made of clay, the flesh-and-bones real one, made himself look like one with a costume of industrial plastic, which he designed and constructed himself.
The exhibit runs until Oct. 18. Don't miss Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China's First Emperor. You can find a coupon for $10 off admission in our buses and trains - which makes an adult ticket cheaper than a discounted childor senior ticket.
Meet the dramatic soldiers....and click the link below to meet the one who escaped.
Riders of the 32 Renwick Crosstown said they were satisfied with the service METRO rolled out in June.
Most of the respondents to a survey conducted on July 21, 23 and 28 said they were riding the 32 Renwick Crosstown to travel from work to home. Sixty-one of the respondents said they transferred from another bus to ride the Renwick while 46 percent said they transferred from Renwick to another bus.
"The whole purpose of Renwick was to connect a bunch of east-west routes in areas where they were never connected before," said Darla Bell, manager of strategic analysis. "This survey was to find out whether people were using those connections, and secondarily, how they found out about it."
The 32 Renwick Crosstown connects seven of our top 20 bus routes, along with four additional routes.
It serves 111 multi-family residential developments, 69 retail/supermarket locations, 17 religious gathering places, 15 educational institutions, as well as medical and health locations.
Eighty-three percent of the riders surveyed said they were very satisfied with the new route and 14 percent said they were "somewhat satisfied."
About one in five of those surveyed were new riders to METRO and said they found out about the 32 Renwick Crosstown from friends and family. Thirteen percent found out about the new route through the city of Houston's Women, Infants & Children's program at the Southwest center, located along the route.
Most of the respondents - 77 percent - said their primary language at home was Spanish, compared to English at 15 percent. The surveys were bilingual and passed out to riders by METRO staff.
When asked how we could improve service, most of the respondents asked for weekend service. The 32 Renwick runs Monday through Friday.
It is part of the METRO Solutions plan to add bus routes to our system.
Imagine stepping into a taxi or a bus and getting to your destination - without a driver.
If that sounds futuristic, the future is coming soon to London's Heathrow Airport.
These futuristic driverless vehicles are being tested now at Heathrow where trial runs are going from the business parking lot to Terminal 5. The battery-powered pods carry up to four passengers and their luggage, traveling at 25 miles per hour on their own narrow road system.
The system cost about $41 million to install, and if it succeeds, officials will spend another $327.7 million to expand it to transport travelers from hotels to terminals, replacing coach buses.
The inventor, Professor Martin Lowson, says this automatic vehicle has safety systems built in. "The vehicles control themselves, according to a pre-determined schedule, and then on top of that, there is an automatic vehicle protection system so that if things aren't doing what they are meant to do, it stops," said Lowson, who worked on the Apollo space program here in the U.S.
Passengers step inside, use a touch screen to key in their destination, and then enjoy the ride.
"It takes you where you want to go on the best available route, nonstop," said Lowson, who has been developing this system since 1995.
The Ultra Personal Pod cars aren't meant to replace buses, trains or taxis completely -but give people an alternative to fighting traffic jams. It would also take more vehicles off the roads and out of parking lots.
Read more here.
A Midwest transit agency is trying to lure new riders with a simple but powerful benefit: "U txt. We drive."
The new marketing campaign was unveiled by SouthWest Transit, a Minnesota-based agency that serves Eden Prairie, Chanhassen and Chaska. The campaign's goal is to show how public transit can boost personal quality time while also helping the public.
The SouthWest logo appears below the ad copy. Officials said that by leaving the driving to the transit agency, texters can be safer - as well as other drivers on the road, who don't have to worry about distracted drivers.
"Originally, this campaign was to be targeted to students who ride our buses to the U of M," said Len Simich, SouthWest Transit's CEO to METRO Magazine. "However, after...learning that 53 percent of all texters are 35 or older, we decided to begin our campaign immediately and use it with all our riders."
Here at METRO, our drivers will concentrate on the road while you can sit back and text to your heart's content. A strict new cell phone policy at METRO ensures that operators will not be using their cell phones while driving - and in fact, no driver's cell phone is allowed in sight. Violation is immediate dismissal.
But you, the rider, can stay safe and text while enjoying the ride.
Starting next Monday, commuters who travel between the Texas Medical Center and the Southeast Transit Center will have a faster way to get there.
It's called TMC Swiftline, METRO's newest express service.
The 426 TMC Swiftline will have five stops between the two transit centers, shaving 18 stops that are on the regular local 26 Outerloop/27 Interloop.
It will be eight minutes faster - or 25 percent faster - than the local bus traveling between those two transit centers.
"This is a connection between two of our busiest transit centers, Southeast Transit Center and TMC Transit Center. We feel there could be some early rider demand between the Southeast Transit Center and the Texas Medical Center, which is such a major employer," said Pat Porzillo, project manager of Swiftline and associate vice president of commuter rail. "This is basically a pilot project to see if we can be successful on the early implementation of this portion, which will eventually become a Quickline."
"We see the overall Quickline project between the Texas Medical Center and the Palm Center connecting our Southeast light-rail line and Main Street line as being a great route for connectivity," said Porzillo.
TMC Swiftline will come with new hybrid Orion buses equipped with bicycle racks and security cameras. The 426 Swiftline buses and stations will also be branded with a Swiftline logo.
The TMC Swiftline will operate during peak hours from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
It will have the following five stops: TMC Transit Center, MD Anderson, Ringness, St. Dominic/Grand (TMC administration building), and SE Transit Center.
We'll conduct a survey the last week of September to see how satisfied customers are. But in the meantime, hop on the TMC Swiftline, try it out - and let us know on this blog what you think.
Good news in our plans to build the North and Southeast lines: The Federal Transit Administration has just approved our Final Design on these two lines.
This approval means we have just completed the final prerequisite toward entering something called a Full Funding Grant Agreement on both lines. And achieving that step signals the federal government's commitment to fund its part of the projects.
So what this approval entail?
It gives METRO permission to start preparing for construction. That includes utility relocation, right-of-way acquisition, development of detailed specifications and preparation of final construction plans.
The FTA noted in its letter that METRO had adequately defined the North and Southeast Corridor's project scope, cost estimate, schedule and potential risk areas.
The letter also stated we had demonstrated the technical capacity and capability to construct and implement the projects, adding that METRO has sufficient technical and management resources to enter into final design work.
Last month, METRO issued a $121 million work order for the North and Southeast lines, including utility relocation work. The work order is a segment of a larger contract that allows for the initial spending of $632 million on the North, Southeast and East End light-rail lines.
All this construction is expected to result in 60,000 direct and indirect jobs. Small and local businesses are expected to up to $385 million in eligible contract work by the time four lines, including Uptown, are done.
The photos posted here show construction of the Red Line on Main Street.
If you tune in to any of the Spanish-language TV or radio stations, chances are you've met Abuelita, our newest fan of METRO. She's a fun, smart grandma who gets around the city - intrepidly- by riding METRO.
"Abuelita" is our campaign aimed at the Hispanic community.
"We are reaching out to the Hispanic audience to introduce them to METRO services and to increase ridership in the Hispanic community," said Raequel Roberts, associate vice president of marketing, media and corporate communications.
Click here to see Abuelita at a Dynamos game. You'll see a 30-second Spanish version and a 30-second English version.
Who is Abuelita? She's an actor we hired. But in real life, she rides METRO, and she's a grandma.
"We took the concept to focus groups. The abuelita is very well-respected in the Hispanic community. She is someone you would trust and listen to and is the center of the family," said Sydney Scardino, METRO copywriter, who worked on the campaign. "And she is a fun, smart woman who can get around and do everything she wants to do because she rides METRO."
Roberts says as far as she knows, this is the first METRO campaign targeted to the Hispanic community. On May 5 - Cinco de Mayo - we passed out brochures, inviting the Hispanic community to nominate their grandma.
If you want to nominate your abuelita, send us a story about your abuelita's travels aboard METRO, and e-mail it to email@example.com. If your story is chosen, you and your abuelita will be invited to a special event in October, National Hispanic Heritage Month in which the Hispanic culture is celebrated.
Abuelita has made personal appearances at events around town, including at the launch of the 32 Renwick Crosstown. She'll be appearing at Fiestas Patrias at Reliant Center in early September.
Catch her on TV on Telefutura Channel 67 and Univision Channel 45. And on the radio at: KTJM La Raza; KEYH La Ranchera; KQBU Tu Musica; KLTN Estereo Latino and KLAT La Trernenda. She'll also be in print ads in La Subasta soon.
The campaign ends in September, then is scheduled to reappear next January.
Fox News is doing it. So is the Wall Street Journal. Dupont and British Petroleum and NBC Universal are, too.
They are all going green and helping the environment. Read more here from ABC News.
Count METRO as a company taking big steps to go green, too. We have embarked on green initiatives that will save energy - and save taxpayers thousands of dollars every year.
Here are some things we do to keep METRO green:
- Monitor and track utility consumption at each facility
- Carefully review utility invoices to identify errors such as overcharges
- Retrofit lighting systems with new, more efficient ones.
- Adjust temperature settings at facilities
- Recycle water used to wash our bus fleet
- Water lawns and landscaping areas on as-needed basis
- Review sprinkler systems to detect and repair leaks.
- Modify water sprinkler system schedule
- Install occupancy sensors in offices and conference rooms to reduce energy use in unoccupied areas
- Stop supplying Styrofoam cups in break rooms at 1900 Main and ask employees to use their own mugs
We're already beginning to save money. So far, we've reduced our water use by more than 5 percent and our gas consumption by more than 7 percent in the period from June 2008 to June 2009.
We have also started working on an FY2010 plan that adopts the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Energy Star program.
Read Earth911.com to learn eight ways to green your office. Click here to find 10 easy ways to green your home.
Washington-area commuters who use bicycles as their main mode of transportation will soon have a much fancier place to park their bikes.
A $4 million Bike Transit Center is scheduled to open in October next to Union Station and will feature 150 enclosed bike racks - triple what is available at Union Station now, reports the Washington Post. (The photo above was taken by Bill O'leary for the WP).
The 1,700-square foot building will also sport dressing rooms, personal lockers, a bike repair shop and a retail shop that will sell bike accessories and drinks.
Access to the Bike Transit Center will cost riders $1 a day to get in and out from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or annual membership of $100 a year and 24/7 access to bike racks.
"To leave your bike outside unattended and unsecured was a problem. We needed more capacity and more security," Jim Sebastian, the District Department of Transportation's bicycle program (DDOT) coordinator, told the Washington Post.
The center will be first one on the East Coast. The U.S. Department of Transportation paid for 80 percent; the balance was paid for by DDOT.
About 87,500 people now use bikes as their main way to get around town - and supporters hope this new Bike Transit Center will encourage more bike riders.
Read more here.
When a Boston trolley rear-ended another trolley in May, sending 49 people to the hospital, the cause turned out to be texting. The 24-year-old conductor was texting his girlfriend, reported the Boston Globe.
Last September, a Metrolink engineer in the Los Angeles area caused fatalities when he was texting a teen-ager. It was the nation's worst train crash in 15 years, killing 25 people, including the engineer. Read more here.
Clearly, texting while driving can be deadly.
To ensure a safe ride here at METRO, we have a strict cell phone policy for our bus operators. The policy states that "the use of cellular phones including hands-free and/or other electronic devices, except for the bus or rail radio, while operating a METRO vehicle, is prohibited and will result in termination of employment for the offender."
The policy refers to all METRO buses, trains, trucks and non-revenue vehicles (company cars driven by employees that do not pick up paying passengers).
Operators may not have their cell phones visible at all. They must be turned off and tucked away in a bag - out of sight and out of reach.
Should an emergency occur and the operator need to call the dispatcher, the operator should pull the bus to a safe location, set the brake, secure the bus, exit the bus and then make the call. This would be a rare and unusual circumstance.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has championed the cause of no texting while driving, calling for a summit on distracted driving late next month. Read LaHood's announcement here.
The New York Times reports on pros and cons of laws that ban texting. For example, the Governors Highway Safety Association advocates no texting while driving, but opposes laws that can't be enforced. But safety advocates say laws can help change behavior, such as happened with seat belt laws.
Meanwhile, LaHood's summit is attracting a lot of attention.
"Everywhere I've gone since the announcement, people have been telling me the distracted driving horror stories they've witnessed or been victims of," writes LaHood on his blog, The Fast Lane. "Letting your concentration drift, for any reason, while driving, endangers your life and the lives of others."
The grandfather of nine grandchildren, LaHood also reminds readers that as back-to-school schedules gear up, it's time to take this message seriously.
Here in Houston, drivers need to change their habits when driving through school zones. A state law that goes into effect Sept. 1 prohibits drivers from using a wireless device or cell phone when they are driving through school zones when the lights are blinking.
What do you think? Should texting while driving be banned? If so, how enforceable is that? What about software that allows your speech to be converted to text and vice versa? Would that be less distracting?
Imagine this: You just landed a new job at the Texas Medical Center, but you are dreading the long trek from your home out in Katy.
Instead, you decide you'll share a ride - not just to save money but to keep our environment cleaner by keeping one more car off the road. You click on METRO Star and check out vanpooling.
Not only will you reduce your carbon footprint, you'll gain some free time as a passenger to catch up on reading or napping.
That's just one commute solution you can take to help clean our region's air.
You can share your solution - and pledge to take that solution the month of August - as part of Commute Solutions, a campaign sponsored by METRO and the Houston-Galveston Area Council.
You're invited to attend a kick-off event tomorrow, Aug. 12, from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. at the Texas Medical Center Transit Center. Participate in "My Solution is..." campaign and register to win prizes.
Some more commute solutions you may want to consider and make a pledge to keep:
- Teleworking - work from home one or two days a week. Research shows this increases productivity and lowers absenteeism by allowing workers to work from the comfort of their home.
- Vanpooling - Leave your car at home and share a van to work.
- Mass transit - take a bus or train to work. One 40-foot bus takes about 58 cars off the road.
- Flextime - Use staggered work hours to avoid peak rush hour.
- Biking and walking - Board your bike on a bus and take two wheels instead of four to reach your destination.
- Maintain your vehicle - keep tires properly inflated, change your motor oil every 3,000 miles. A car that is not maintained can release as much as 10 times more emissions than a properly maintained vehicle.
Pledge to keep one of these solutions - or create your own. If you can't make it to our event tomorrow, go online and pledge. Click here to register your solution.
Three million passengers a day ride the London subway, known as the Tube or the Underground.
And one prize-winning artist has found a way to weave art and poetry into those rides to help break up what he calls the monotony of train announcements, reports The Los Angeles Times. (The photo on the left is by Andy Rain/EPA and appeared in the LAT).
So instead of hearing, "Please take your belongings with you," now passengers could hear a quote from William Shakespere, or a Swedish proverb, or a quote from Karl Marx.
Artist Jeremy Deller had initially proposed a day of no announcements at all on the train. Officials nixed that idea, so Deller suggested operators could read from a manual of quotes and witty sayings. This time Transport for London, which operates the Underground, agreed.
"I thought it would be nice to hear something with a higher meaning or a resonance with the traveler," Deller told the Los Angeles Times.
Here are some of the quotes:
"An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory." - Friedrich Engels.
"The afternoon knows what the morning never expected." - Swedish proverb.
"A throne is only a bench covered in velvet." - Napoleon Bonaparte.
"There's more to life than increasing its speed." - Mohandas Gandhi.
What do passengers think about the witty art? Some have welcomed the effort, while one asked for Valium, not poetry. Click here to read comments from London commuters.
The booklet of quotations was given to all 1,500 train operators of the Piccadilly Line, the subway's second busiest line. It's up to the operators to decide if they want to read from the booklet -and they can read whenever the mood strikes.
The METRO Police Department will be hiring eight officers and buying two - two four-legged officers, that is - thanks to federal stimulus funds it was awarded last week.
MPD was one of 15 transit agencies nationwide selected to receive money from a $78 million pot. The funding is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP). The 15 agencies will hire about 240 law enforcement officers to help the nation guard against acts of terrorism.
"This Recovery Act money will create critical law enforcement jobs that will help our nation prevent terrorist attacks," said Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security secretary, in a statement
METRO will receive $3 million to hire additional officers, beefing up the current force of 185 officers and eight K-9 officers.
"Any additional resources will help us to make the system safer," said METRO's Assistant Chief of Police Tim Kelly. "Police officers are the backbone of what we do. This money will help us get more officers on the force to help with our day-to-day operations, such as conducting random patrols which help deter terrorism and reduce crime."
The two police dogs will be trained to detect explosives. Currently, METRO's K-9 force includes five dogs trained to detect explosives and three dogs trained to track narcotics.
"I love it - I'm totally excited about expanding the force. I love training dogs," said John Ivey, MPD's canine trainer. "It will definitely be beneficial to METRO to have seven explosive dogs. They're effective because they can help pinpoint the area for bomb technicians and eliminate the concern if there's a device or suspicious package. We run the dog first to see if we get any response and then the bomb technicians come in and disarm it."
The New York Metropolitan Transit Agency received about $35 million for 25 new officers, making it the largest award among the 15 agencies. Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) was the only other Texas transit agency to get some of this funding - $1.4 million.
The Recovery Act was signed into law by President Obama in February, committing more than $3 billion for homeland security projects.
If you're one of the hundreds of commuters who rides METRO, you probably climb on-board, settle in your seat and never think twice about what keeps the buses and trains running.
And that's the way it should be - a seamless, safe ride for you.
But what happens to the buses at night when they complete their runs?
Watch METRO Moves tonight on HCCTV, Channel 19 on Comcast at 6 p.m. You'll find out that our six bus operating facilities, known as BOFs, are open daily to clean and maintain our fleet of buses. Three of the BOFs are open 24/7.
The buses are refueled at the BOFs every night with dripless, fast-fuel equipment. Each bus can hold 125 gallons of diesel fuel.
We replace 100 buses a year - using hybrid-electric buses - making our fleet one of the youngest in the nation. Buses are parked facing in or facing out in their assigned spots, indicating to the repair crew which buses need work.
Before any bus pulls out for the day, the driver uses a handheld computer to check numerous safety points in a detailed pre-trip inspection.
On the train, inspectors ride the rail daily and walk around each train to inspect it with a hand-held computer.
You'll also meet some of the men and women who plan the routes, analyze the ridership and make changes that bring service to where it's needed - without increasing costs.
Watch all this tonight at 6 p.m. It will be repeated every night through Friday. If you don't get Comcast, you'll be able to view it on our Web site after 5 p.m. Click here.
You may have seen the story and editorial in the Houston Chronicle this week about METRO's practice of posting our working committee sessions in our lobby at 1900 Main St. and at the Harris County Civil Courthouse, but not on the Web. Below is METRO's response.
We are thankful to the Houston Chronicle for focusing our attention on this matter. However, the Chronicle has covered METRO for years, and it has never been its practice to attend these working sessions. It has a right to change its past practices, and we have a right to reexamine ours.
To avoid confusion, we need to distinguish between the formal monthly committee meetings of the METRO Board of Directors (held on the mornings of the monthly Board meeting) from the working sessions.
First, these working sessions are not attended by a quorum of the Board, which means under state statute we are not required to post their schedules.
Second, unlike the formal committee meetings, the working sessions are conducted on an as-needed basis. They follow no set schedule - sometimes changing times and dates with very little notice. Depending on the schedule of the committee chair, working sessions may even be cancelled the morning of the scheduled day.
So, while we have been diligent about posting the working session notices, it has been almost impossible to manage the process beyond that.
Going forward, if we anticipate a quorum at a Board working session, that meeting will be posted 72 hours in advance. These notices, along with our monthly committee and Board meeting notices will be posted at the Harris County Civil Courthouse (4th floor), in METRO's Ridestore lobby and on METRO's Web site.
Establishing light rail in Houston has been a long and rocky road - but with the recent celebrations of the North and Southeast groundbreakings, we are one step closer to achieving real choices for commuters.
Our documentary this week traces the path to rail - and how voters came to the pivotal decision that the nation's fourth largest city needed light rail.
The referendum - known as METRO Solutions - passed in November 2003 - and Houston was its way to becoming a transit-friendly city.
Watch The Path to Rail on HCCTV, Comcast Channel 19 tonight at 6 p.m. It will be repeated every night through Friday this week.
You will also be able to see in on our Web site tomorrow.