Commercial bus and truck drivers who text while driving will face stiff fines, according to new federal guidelines effective immediately.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood's summit on distracted driving last fall promised to take specific steps to combat distracted driving, and these guidelines issued yesterday are part of that plan.
"We want the drivers of big rigs and buses, and those who share the roads with them, to be safe," said LaHood in a statement. "This is an important safety step, and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving."
Bus drivers and truck drivers who send and receive text messages while driving are subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750.
Here at METRO, if a bus driver is caught texting, he or she is immediately terminated. The same policy applies to any METRO employee who is texting while driving a METRO vehicle.
Research by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shows that drivers who text take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every six seconds while texting.
That means someone driving 55 miles per hour would be traveling the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road.
Virginia Tech researchers found that truck drivers who send text messages on a cell phone are 23 times more likely to crash or experience a near-miss than non-texting drivers.
The new federal ban applies to interstate trucks and commercial buses and vans that carry more than eight passengers.
To follow more on what the Department of Transportation is doing to fight distracted driving, click http://www.distraction.gov/. The photos posted here appeared on The Fast Lane, LaHood's blog.
METRO has published the University Corridor's Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), a milestone document that will help secure federal money to build Houston's light-rail line from the Hillcroft Transit Center to the Eastwood Transit Center.
The FEIS is required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The FEIS, which METRO had been preparing for more than a year, focuses on anticipated economic, environmental and social changes that would occur from the University Corridor - including during construction.
The document also indicates the proposed alignment of the line and the properties it may touch.
But before any construction can start on the 11.3-mile line, the Federal Transit Administration must issue a Record of Decision, expected in April. A Record of Decision is the FTA's official approval of University Corridor's plans and rationale, and gives METRO the green light to proceed.
With the FTA's Record of Decision, METRO can:
- Advance the engineering of the alignment
- Identify and start relocating utilities
- Acquire vehicles
- Begin surveys and appraisals for potentially impacted properties
- Start discussions with property owners along the proposed alignment
"We are now at the point where we will refine the alignment and further define the right-of-way required to implement the project," said Kimberly Slaughter, METRO's associate vice president of planning. "METRO will work very hard to make sure the impacts to the community are minimal.
"As the project advances, METRO will work directly with owners and tenants of impacted properties. METRO's intent is to deliver the project requested by the community with maximum long-term community benefits," she continued.
METRO has joined the Energy Corridor District to launch today new bus service: the 75 Energy Corridor Connector.
The service will run along Eldridge Parkway between Interstate 10 and Richmond, providing employees and residents in the Energy Corridor District (ECD) a quick, convenient ride to shops and restaurants along the route.
The Energy Corridor District is made up of 1,500 acres that extend along both sides of Interstate 10 from Tully to east of Park 10 Boulevard and along North Eldridge Parkway from I-10 to south of Briar Forest.
Companies in the district employ some 73,000 workers. Of those, about 40,000 employees and 15,000 residents in the corridor are directly served by the Connector, meaning they are within walking distance of a Connector route stop.
Major energy companies located there include ExxonMobil Chemical, Shell Exploration and Production, ConocoPhillips, CITGO and BP America.
"What we're doing for the people who live and work in the Energy Corridor is providing them with a commuting option," said John Nunez, transportation manager at the EDC. "The option for those who work out here will be to use a Park & Ride bus or local bus service that intersects with the Connector route to extend their trip to reach their final destination in the Energy Corridor."
Nunez said the 75 Energy Corridor Connector is part of an on-going effort to make the corridor "a more walkable, bikeable, green and transit-friendly place" and make it less auto-dependent.
This new service is being partially funded through the federal Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) program.
"The Connector does provide individuals who live in the inner city an opportunity to commute to the ECD suburban work sites, and many of these individuals may not have had the ability to reach some of these job sites before the route was established," said Nunez. "It does connect people. It's the main thing we're trying to do - keep people connected - not just for work, but for other things, as well."
ECD employees who live in the downtown and midtown areas can connect to the 75 Energy Corridor Connector by riding the 228 Addicks and 229 Kingsland/Addicts from the Central Business District to the Addicks Park & Ride. The Connector also links with the 82 Westheimer and the 131 Memorial.
Fare is the same as local bus service - $1.25 with a two-hour window for transfers. Three or four of the major ECD companies are providing a transit benefit to their employees, said Nunez.
Service runs every 15 minutes from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., it runs every 10 minutes.
Click here to see a map of the route.
Ever wonder what happens to the trains at night?
When our trains have finished their last run, our rail maintenance crew jumps into action - cleaning rail cars, sweeping tracks, maintaining systems and making sure everything functions smoothly - from the speakers on the platform to train doors opening and closing correctly.
Click the link below to hear a behind-the-scenes description from Scott Grogan, senior director of rail maintenance/operations.
If you prefer to watch METRO Matters on a big TV screen, catch it on Houston Media Source, Comcast Channel 17. Here are show times:
Mon 1/25/10 6:45 p.m.
Wed 1/27/10 6:15 p.m.
Sat 1/30/10 2:45 p.m.
Tue 2/2/10 6:45 p.m.
Thu 2/4/10 6:00 p.m.
Sat 2/6/10 11:45 a.m.
Mon 2/8/10 8:00 p.m.
Wed 2/10/10 10:35 p.m.
Fri 2/12/10 9:30 p.m.
Sat 2/13/10 10:30 p.m.
Mon 2/15/10 8:00 p.m.
Tue 2/16/10 12:30 p.m.
Yesterday, we set up an on-site METRO Q® Fare Card center right in the middle of the Texas Medical Center campus where students grab a bite to eat - the John P. McGovern Commons.
About 100 students - mostly medical ones - came through to learn about the Q Card, get existing ones renewed, or get processed for new ones.
It was all part of METRO's strategy to reach out to higher ed students and make it easy for them to hop on public transit.
"This is the beginning of our strategy to students," said Nicole Adler, marketing specialist in revenue. "We're planning to attend university orientation sessions to introduce the Q Card to students. Our goal is to be able to reach out to the larger universities."
Representatives from Community Outreach were also on hand to talk about the benefits of the Q.
"Community Outreach had a fun-filled morning providing Q Cards to medical students from Baylor and the University of Texas," said Joe Garcia, community outreach rep. "Many students and hospital employees came out to obtain their Q Cards or to simply renew them."
Our revenue department had laptops and machines on campus to renew cards immediately - and to take ID photos of students getting new cards. Once processed, the new cards will be taken back on campus for students to pick up.
On Feb. 2 and 3, METRO will be at the University of Houston main campus, helping students get and renew Q Cards.
"We're trying to get more riders, so this is a way to increase our ridership by educating students to the ease and comfort of public transportation," said Adler.
Students pointed out they are very busy and don't have the time to come into the RideStore at 1900 Main to cancel a lost card and replace it with a new one, so METRO said it would look for ways to address this and improve the system. The photos posted were taken by Adler. The one at the ltop shows Garcia helping a student.
Travelers who want to text and e-mail while enroute to their destination may be selecting the bus or train, instead of a plane.
That's according to a study by the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University. The study found that commuters on intercity buses are heavy users of portable technology, outpacing what is seen on commercial flights.
And the ability to use technology while traveling may be influencing people's choice to hop on a bus or train rather than take to the skies. Intercity bus service grew 5.1 percent in 2009 from 2008. That's a rate of growth higher than all other major modes of transportation for the third consecutive year.
In contrast, commercial airline travel dipped 6.8 percent in the same period.
Researchers rode buses, trains and planes in 14 states to observe the prevalence of technology use. At any given point in the trip, almost half - 40 percent - of passengers on buses equipped with Wi-Fi are engaging in some form of portable technology.
"The prevalence of portable electronics is changing the dynamics of how we make travel choices," Joe Schwieterman, director of the Institute and one of the researchers, told the Chicago Sun-Times. "For many passengers, the ability to freely use portable technology on a bus or train more than compensates for the longer travel times."
Curbside bus services - such as Megabus or BoltBus, which operates in the East, attract passengers who like using their BlackBerries and laptops. Sixty percent of their passengers are between the ages of 18 and 35.
On Amtrak, more than 35 percent of passengers use portable technology at any given point in their trip. On weekdays before 7 p.m., travelers on the Acela Express in the northeast corridor (Boston/NY/Washington) were using mostly visual devices.
"It's almost an extension of their office," said Steven Field, a DePaul University graduate student and researcher on the study.
In contrast, on the average commercial flight, no more than 18 percent of travelers used portable electronic devices at any given point. The study showed that less travelers used the technology because of the inconvenience of turning it on and off to follow airline regulations.
Click here to read the entire study (18 pages).
Whether your company is large or small, there are opportunities for contractors who are interested in doing some work with the light-rail lines we're building.
This Thursday, Jan. 21, we're hosting a seminar from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the George R. Brown Convention Center, where you'll get a project overview, along with continental breakfast.
Attend Construction Outlook 2010 and learn of opportunities that are available. They include: public utilities, roadway, landscaping, trucking, excavation, paving and street reconstruction. We'll have construction staff on site to answer your questions.
Here's the schedule:
7:30 a.m. Registration and continental breakfast
8:00 a.m. Project overview
9 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Corridor sessions
There will also be lots of chances for you to network and meet other contractors.
The event is free and open to the public. Click here to register. Click here for directions to the George R. Brown and click here for parking info. Or ride the Red Line and walk a few blocks.
As community groups gear up to celebrate the legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., Houstonians can enjoy a plethora of parades this weekend.
On Saturday, there's the MLK Grande Parade and the Children's Day Parade.
That means detours for METRO buses.
Click here for detailed route detours.
On Monday, MLK Day, there are more parades. Regular weekday METRORail, local and commuter bus service will operate, with some detours in the downtown area, due to the parades from 9 a.m. to about 1 p.m. Please expect delays.
Click here for route detours.
Our Customer Service Information Center will be open its regular business hours of 6 a.m. - 9 p.m.
The RideStore and Lost & Found will be closed.
METROLift will run its regular subscription trips on MLK Day, but METROLift reservations and customer service offices will be closed.
If you wish to make a reservation for next Monday or Tuesday and speak to a person, you must call the reservation line at 713-225-6716 by 5 p.m. today.
Otherwise, you may schedule a trip the day before you need to travel by using our automated phone line, MACS. The number is 713-225-6716, then press 1. Or go online to MACS-WEB. You will need your client ID and password.
This Sunday, more than 26,000 runners will be pounding the streets of Houston in a marathon weekend: the Chevron Houston Marathon, Aramco Houston Half Marathon, El Paso Corporation 5K and Texas Children's Hospital Kids' Fun Run.
The expected turnout means service changes at METRO since many streets will be blocked off.
Starting today at 7 p.m. until close of bus operations on Friday, METRO will operate detour bus service.
The following bus routes will run via McKinney, left on Crawford, left on Walker to their regular route:
53 Briar Forest Limited
82 Westheimer/West Oaks
313 Alley Parkway Special
If you're traveling to downtown, please expect minor delays during the event. Click here for more info on these detours.
Texas Children's Fun Run
On Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., we will detour bus service along key downtown streets to sidestep potential delays during this run. The run starts on Walker at Crawford, proceeds west on Walker, south on Caroline, west on Clay, north on San Jacinto and east on Preston to LaBranch.
Click here to see details of the 26 routes that will detour.
Chevron Houston Marathon, Aramco Half Marathon & EP5K
On Sunday from 6 a.m. to 1: 15 p.m., most of the downtown streets will be closed due to these races. That includes the majority of streets north of Lamar Avenue. Click here for a detailed description of route detours.
Buses will resume their regular schedules on a rolling schedule as the race progresses. We'll have METRO supervisors downtown to help with bus-route detours.
Rail service will be suspended on Sunday morning until 2 p.m. between the northbound platform at Main Street Square and the southbound platform at Preston Station.
You will be able to catch a train between Fannin South and Main Street Square stations, and between Preston and UH Downtown stations at 18-minute frequencies.
By 2 p.m., we expect to resume normal train service.
The next time you want to walk along the ocean, wouldn't it be wonderful to avoid bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-45 South, and instead, hop on a train or rapid bus?
This week is your chance to let officials know what you think. Commuter rail, bus rapid transit and express bus are three options being considered in the Galveston-Houston Mobility Corridor Alternatives Analysis.
The fourth option is a "no build," do-nothing option which would not do anything to relieve congestion on Interstate 45.
Tonight and the next two nights, open houses are being conducted to solicit your comments, according to GuidryNews.com.
What would you prefer?
"Your alternative preference and your comments on the transit evaluations are very important to the final selection of the locally preferred alternative," according to GuidryNews. "The locally preferred alternative will be presented to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for approval and required funding assistance.
These three public meetings are Round 2 of open houses. Click here for the schedule. In Round 1, participants said they wanted an alternative option to:
- Reduce traffic congestion
- Provide convenient service
- Reduce travel time
- Advance economic development
- Support emergency evacuation
Read the Galveston Rail Study for more details. A final selection is expected to be made in the next six months.
Christof Spieler of Citizens' Transportation Coalition says an ideal commuter rail line has eight characteristics, including one that serves more than commuters, connects to local transit and serves major employment centers in Houston and Galveston. He cites New Mexico's Rail Runner between Santa Fe and Albuquerque as ideal.
If you're near La Marque tonight, Clear Lake on Wednesday or Pasadena on Thursday, consider letting your voice be heard on the travel option you'd like to see between Galveston and Houston.
The traffic photo came from Houston Tomorrow, where you can read more about this corridor.
Imagine Houston with 1 million new residents in the next 10 years.
That's what experts are predicting, and most of that growth will happen in the suburbs - 20 to 25 miles outside of downtown Houston.
So how should we plan public transit that connects the outlying suburbs to the main employment centers of downtown, the Texas Medical Center, the Galleria and the Energy Corridor?
The Houston-Galveston Area Council has launched the Regional Transit Framework Study (RTFS) to analyze that issue. Phase I involves researching travel patterns, population and employment growth and studying what other areas similar to Houston have done. Phase I will identify the most significant regional transit issues.
Phase II will develop and analyze options, including projecting costs for various scenarios.
Phase III will offer a final recommendation.
"The purpose of the RTFS is to identify and prioritize future transit improvements to meet the needs of the growing region," says the H-GAC on its Web site. "The Framework study will include technical evaluations of regional land use, socioeconomic conditions, existing and planned infrastructure and transit service."
Recommendations from the Framework study will be included in the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan. Click here to read more on the Framework study.
METRO has produced a documentary hosted by Fox 26 news anchor Mike Barajas, in which transit experts discussed regional transit and what shape it should take. Click here to view it. (Scroll down to fourth documentary, A Look at Regional Transit).
Christof Spieler of Citizens' Transportation Coalition, Dr. Carol Lewis of Texas Southern University and Robert Muhammad, a transit consultant, offer their views on what needs to happen with regional transit and METRO's role.
Tell us how you think we should build regional transit here. Should it be seamless to the commuter - one fare card, one map, one Web site? Who should operate it - one agency or multiple ones? Is it possible for multiple agencies to work cooperatively to produce what's best for the region?
The graphic on this post came from H-GAC's Web site.
While temperatures dipped into the low 20s last night, METRO worked hard to keep customers from shivering.
Thursday night and into this afternoon, about 1,000 patrons climbed aboard METROLift vans, which were parked at our 18 transit centers with the heater running.
These warming vans were parked to give our riders a refuge from the cold while waiting for their bus - and apparently, it was a welcomed sight to hundreds.
Due to the high demand, we left the METROLift vans there all day.
In addition, last night we had space heaters stationed at our transit centers and 28 Park & Ride lots. Customers could feel the heat standing four to five feet away. Space heaters will continue to operate on Saturday from 4:30 a.m. to midnight at the transit centers.
Lawrence Eugene wrote on METRO's Facebook page, "I wanted to commend METRO for deploying hot air blowers at transit centers and allied facilities to keep bus and rail passengers - and the homeless - warm last night...I found METRO's concern, ah, heartwarming."
Melissa Noriega, council member at large/position 3, commended METRO for its efforts to protect patrons from the bitter cold.
"I know how much goes into such preparations and you have provided an impressively thorough plan. Your proactive approach reflects extremely well on the METRO organization, and in turn, the city of Houston. Thank you for helping the citizens of Houston in this critical time," Noriega wrote today in a letter to METRO President & CEO Frank J. Wilson.
We weren't the only ones helping those standing in the cold.
An anonymous elderly couple made and distributed homemade chicken soup to one of our police officers and construction crew working on the light-rail line in the East End.
"This couple pulled up in a white car and said, ‘Hey, are you guys cold?' We looked at them and said, 'Yeah,'" recalls MPD Officer Roger Salazar, who was directing traffic around the crew at the northeast corner of Harrisburg and Lockwood.
It was around 11 p.m. - in the middle of a 12-hour shift that wouldn't end until the next morning at 7.
The couple pulled out a giant, industrial-sized pot filled with soup, large Styrofoam cups, a ladle and started serving.
The woman explained she and her husband normally make soup on frigid nights for the homeless, and couldn't find any. But they did notice one of our subcontractors with a crew of 15.
With a wind chill factor making it feel 24 degrees, the crew eagerly ate the soup. The couple then fed another crew two blocks south.
"It was good. I had two servings," said Salazar. "It was something you just don't see, anymore - for somebody to take the time out and see people freezing, and say, ‘Hey, let's go warm their belly, even if it's a little while.'"
Salazar said he and the crew stayed warm for an hour after eating the chicken soup.
Tonight, we'll have METROLift vans again at the transit centers, where they will stay in place until Monday morning for anyone seeking temporary relief from the cold. We'll have space heaters operating tomorrow from 4:30 a.m. to midnight at the transit centers.
The photos posted here were taken by Jesse Quintanilla, our Web designer. The top photo shows the following transit centers, left to right: Downtown, Hillcroft, Bellaire and Northwest. Photo of man's feet and space heater was taken at DTC, and photo on the left at Hillcroft TC.
If you're planning to wrap your pipes and cover your plants tonight, you know that temperatures tomorrow morning will hover in the low to mid-20s.
For commuters, shivering outside in the bitter cold can be especially uncomfortable.
So METRO is taking extra steps to make sure you stay warm. Starting tomorrow at 4:30 a.m., we'll have space heaters at our 28 Park & Ride lots and 18 transit centers.
We'll keep the space heaters running until 10 a.m. at the Park and Rides and until midnight at the transit centers.
On Saturday, space heaters will be operating from 4:30 am. to midnight at the 18 transit centers.
Also, tomorrow, from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. Friday, a METROLift vehicle - our wheelchair-lift or ramp-equipped van, will be standing by with the heat on, serving as a temporary refuge from the cold.
We'll have a METROLift vehicle at all the transit centers. These vehicles, however, are not intended to substitute for local homeless shelters, but are a last resort for those who need to come out of the cold overnight.
Click here for the latest forecast. The photo posted here, from New England News, shows Bostonians bundled up against the cold on Wednesday, the coldest day of the season there thus far, with temperatures from 17 to 26 degrees, but with the strong winds, feeling like 0 to 12 degrees.
He calls himself a policeman without a badge, and the 6-foot-2, 275-pound METRO bus driver has lately helped passengers in a way many would consider heroic.
Kenneth Roberson says he's simply doing what he was trained to do: Treat everyone with kindness and respect.
A bus operator who works out of our Hiram Clarke facility, Roberson was driving the 1 Hospital route last Oct. 12 when a middle-aged man boarded the bus at the Hermann Park area, looking pale and clammy.
Roberson assured the man they would be at the Veterans' Hospital within minutes. Later, the man started clutching a pole. Roberson asked if he needed medical attention right then.
The man said he would make it to the hospital. When they arrived, the man started deboarding when he collapsed to the floor of the bus.
"Once he fell, he was shaking. I took his pulse. It seemed to be OK. His eyes were rolling around in his head," recalls Roberson.
Roberson jumped off the bus, pushed the button on an emergency call box nearby, and within minutes, nurses and security guards appeared with a gurney.
"I was calm, I didn't get excited," says Roberson, who says he took a first aid course as an Eagle Scout at age 14. "You have to keep your head, think on your feet. You can't let emotions get the best of you."
Two months later, Roberson had another chance to be someone's hero.
On Dec. 10, a woman boarded the 1-Hospital route bus Roberson was driving at Fannin and Preston.
"I could see she was in pain. As she was trying to pay, she was holding her arm. As I looked at her arm, I could see large swelling," says Roberson, who has worked for METRO for seven years.
The woman told him she had tripped on a rock and fell.
"I said, ‘I think you broke your arm.' She said, ‘I'll be OK. I said, ‘Ma'm, look at your arm.' She said, ‘Wow. You know, it was hurting really bad. I didn't know it was swelling.'"
Roberson asked if she needed medical attention, the woman sat down in pain and burst into tears. The bus driver called dispatch and within minutes, EMS arrived.
The third incident occurred two days before Christmas. The 49-year-old Roberson became a hero to a young man who never had a chance to speak to him.
It was 11:15 p.m.
Roberson was driving northbound toward the Southeast Transit Center on the 52 Scott. On the opposite side of the street, a teen-ager was waving his hand and running toward the bus. Roberson slowed down to signal that he had seen the running passenger.
"He kept running. As he stepped two steps off the curb, a grey Dodge Durango hit him. I yelled, ‘Oh, my God, oh my God.' When the SUV hit him, he flew across back toward a house, hit a couple of poles and bounced back into the street," recalls Roberson. "The only thing out there was me."
The driver of the SUV kept driving. Roberson left his eight passengers on the bus and ran to the victim.
"I checked his pulse, took out my flashlight and looked at his body for movement, signs of breathing, gasping. There was none," says Roberson. "I pulled out my cell phone and dialed 911."
As the sole eyewitness to the incident, Roberson stayed to answer officials' questions. But he didn't leave afterwards. Instead, he stayed till 2 a.m. when the body was completely taken care of.
Only three years earlier, Roberson was the first to arrive on the scene when his parents were instantly killed in an auto accident. And that experience reinforced his desire to stay with the young victim, whose parents could not be reached.
"I had a bond with that young man. I could feel his essence leaving his body. I had to stay there with him. When I shined my flashlight on his face, it was like, that could be my son. I put myself in his parents' shoes," says Roberson.
Roberson says he doesn't feel like a hero. He was just doing his job - and treating riders the way his parents had taught him.
"It's just caring -being alert, being aware. Give myself the way I'd want a person to give to me," says the single dad. "Always help your fellow man. Pay it forward."
Since Ray LaHood became the U.S. Secretary of Transportation last year, he's been championing ways to avoid distracted driving - specifically texting while driving.
Click here to view the DOT's new public service announcement on what happens when you're on your cell phone talking to your dog, or discussing time travel or texting.
Last fall, LaHood organized a summit on distracted driving to brainstorm with leaders various ways to combat it. The general consensus: Once drivers understand that talking and texting on your cell phone is as dangerous as driving drunk, the practice will stop.
The Obama administration issued an executive order days following the summit, banning text messaging while driving government-owned vehicles, when using government-supplied electronic equipment while driving or while driving a privately owned vehicle while on government business.
A new government Web site, Distraction.gov, offers stats and a state-by-state summary of current laws. The New York Times reports that lawmakers have already proposed 200 bills to tamp down distracted driving, and public policy experts predict dozens more in the coming months.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia already have laws that ban texting while driving. Texas is not among them.
However, a new state law that took effect last September bans talking on cell phones while driving in school zones unless your car is stopped in a school zone or you are using a hands-free device to talk.
Here at METRO, there is zero tolerance for using a cell phone while driving a METRO vehicle - whether it's a bus, train or non-revenue producing SUV or sedan. If you're caught, you're fired.
More METRO customers are stowing their bikes on our bus bike racks each year, continuing a steady trend.
December 2009 bike boardings totaled 6,765 boardings - a 47 percent increase from the same month a year ago. December 2007 recorded 902 bike boardings.
For first quarter of FY '10 (October ‘09 to December ‘09), we saw 34 percent more boardings than the same period a year ago.
The two routes which get the most bike boardings? Route 52 Hirsch/Scott with a year-to-date count of 1,122 and Route 81 Westheimer-Sharpstown with a year-to-date count of 968.
From November 2009 to the following month, there was a slight decrease of 4 percent - which also occurred month to month in 2008.
Marie Turner, METRO's operations management analyst, attributes the month-to-month slip to holiday schedules and schools and colleges being on break for two weeks in December.
"It's still increasing when you look at year to year. You can see that each year we're still improving," said Marie Turner, operations management analyst.
Someone recently asked on the blog when you can board bikes on buses. You can board your bike any time on our local buses. On the Park & Ride buses, you can stow your bike in the belly of the bus where luggage is normally stored.
For first-timers, click here to see detailed instructions on how to mount your bike on our bus bike racks.
The world's fastest train hit its first major speed bump less than a week after it launched in Southern China.
An errant smoker set off an alarm that caused a two-and-a-half hour delay - almost as long as it takes to travel the 684-mile distance between Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, and the central city of Wuhan, reports Reuters.
The bullet train debuted last Saturday with an average speed of 217 miles per hour. It reduces the 10-and-half hour trip between Guangzhou and Wuhan to just three hours. Click here to view more pictures of this train.
Construction on the rail link began in 2005 with the idea of connecting the business hub in southern China - Guangzhou near Hong Kong - to China's capital of Beijing, according to Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency.
Chinese officials say this super high-speed train can travel at 394.2 km per hour, making it the fastest train in the world. In contrast, high-speed trains in Japan travel at 243 km per hour and in France, 277 km per hour.
China introduced its first high-speed rail line during the Beijing Olympics in 2008, connecting the capital to the port city of Tianjin. Last fall, officials said they intend to build 42 high-speed rail lines by 2012 to prompt economic growth amid the global recession.
The network uses technology developed with Siemens, Bombardier and Alstom, according to the news agency AFP.
Sometimes construction can yield unexpected benefits.
About five years ago, a construction crew was upgrading an off-leash dog park in Fort Ethan Allen Park in Arlington and unearthed artifacts dating to the Civil War era.
To make sure treasure buried beneath the dirt remains undamaged, METRO recently conducted classes for contractors and subcontractors working on our light-rail lines - the East End, North, Southeast and Uptown lines.
The class, conducted by archaeologist Duane Peter and architectural historian Marsha Prior, explained to workers that historic buildings are often more fragile than other structures in the area and require care and knowledge to operate around them.
Peter and Prior, consultants for Houston Rapid Transit (HRT), explained the importance of preserving artifacts - everything from bricks to bones.
The class was designed to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and the Texas Antiquities Code, helping contractors understand their work in a broader context.
"So far, 19 historic properties have been identified along the Southeast Corridor, and they range from houses and religious facilities to government and commercial multi-story buildings," said Peter.
"The Niels Esperson Building (814 Travis), the S.H. Kress & Co. Building (705 Main), and the Annunciation Catholic Church (1618 Texas) have features that are unique, such as limestone columns, terracotta coverings, or arched and round windows that require special care. Awareness of these properties on the part of the workers will ensure that they are not accidentally damaged during construction," continued Peter.
The photo above is a stained-glass window from the Annunciation Catholic church. The photo of the brick, right, is an example of remnants of a historic building.
So far, no archaeological sites of prehistoric or historic periods have been discovered within the light-rail corridors, but the potential exists - especially where the bayous intersect the East End and Southeast lines, pointed out Peter.
The mid-December workshop, attended by about 100 contractors and subcontractors, was part of a bigger agreement among METRO, the Texas Historical Commission and the Federal Transit Administration.
Season's greetings to all. Click here to view some fun holiday transit photos.
Have a wonderful holiday - and stay safe.
The Texas Bowl is coming up, and if you're gearing up to enjoy the game, here's one way to make it easier: Ride METRORail.
The fourth annual Texas Bowl will showcase the University of Missouri Tigers playing against the U.S. Navy Midshipmen at 2:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve.
If you haven't bought tickets yet, consider this package deal: A METRO Game Day package, starting at $30. It includes two game tickets and two METRORail round-trip passes.
Call 832-667-2390 or visit texasbowl.org to buy tickets.
If you have tickets already, here's how you can still use the rail. Downtown or midtown residents can get to Main St. and take the Red Line for $1.25. Or drive to Main Street and park your car at various public parking lots on Main Street, then take the train.
Suburbanites can park your vehicle at METRO's Fannin South Park & Ride (Fannin at West Bellfort), where affordable parking is available. Then hop on the train to Reliant Stadium.