Commuter Train to Galveston

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The Houston-Galveston corridor is one of the busiest in terms of rush hour traffic as people living in Houston commute everyday along I-45 to their jobs in the oil and gas industry on the coast. But hope arises for reducing the growth in number of vehicles on this already-congested stretch of roadway with the proposal for reviving commuter train service. Best of all, there would no need to lay down new rail lines since it would operate on the historic railroad that currently hosts freight traffic. Although freight traffic would be given preference or if possible siding tracks would be built to accommodate waiting trains, this is a realistic proposal with a greater chance of success in a region that is usually averse to any kind of public transit. The light rail project currently operating between the Medical Center and Downtown Houston is a joke and is often used as a failed strategy by anti-transit proponents. To be fair, the light rail project was doomed from the start and never implemented correctly.

Another use of this railway would be to serve as alternative for evacuation in the hurricane-vulnerable region of Galveston and it would cost far less than light rail or even expanding the Gulf Freeway. “The passenger line would make four to six stops before arriving at the Galveston Railroad Museum, housed in the former Galveston passenger terminal. Debarking passengers would exit through the museum to board a trolly, electric bus, horse-drawn carriage or cruiseship shuttle” [Houston Chronicle]. The horse-drawn carriages apart, the stops can be effective transportation hubs and point for renewed development of businesses and residences.

I am hopeful that this seemingly feasible solution would appeal to all Houstonians especially those who are enmeshed in everyday rush hour.

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10 thoughts on “Commuter Train to Galveston

  1. How was the Houston Light Rail botched from the start? I’m not familiar with its beginnings. I did live in Houston twice in my life, but both times I was young. I remember there was once a mayor who wanted monorail. I think this was circa 1990.

    The Galveston commuter train is an excellent idea.

  2. I echo Steven’s question — how is Metro Rail botched? The one time I got to visit Houston I stayed downtown and remember seeing a lot of that train, and people waiting for it, and the like. Seemed like Houston was undergoing an urban renaissance of its own. This was 2004 I believe.

  3. Guys,
    The Metro ‘light’ rail is frankly a token gesture in the name of public transit linking a select few parts of a large city. Any plans of expanding it into far flung neighborhoods are instantly shot down or hotly debated by ‘deed restricted’ communities. Houston remains at heart an oil & gas city so any efforts to introduce a true mass transit system are going to be at best a token gesture. It may seem impressive when you visit but not so when you live and have to rely on it.

  4. Houston passed a big transit expansion initiative and is building as much light rail as their Republican congressional delegation will let them. Pratik, you couldn’t be more wrong on this.

  5. so, when is this going to happen! i’m already ready already for a commuter train too and from the city. Is there any kind of petition that is being setup to move this plan along a little faster? the city does things slower than a snail.

  6. 78hy

    I have been commuting to Hobby Airport and Ellington Field from Clear Lake and now Galveston where I live. I have watched the continuous expansion of I45 since 1972 when I moved here as a freshman in High School commuting at least three times a week even then when all I wanted to do was surf. Train service is essential to us as part of a solution to the increasing overcrowded freeway system. If you look at your neighbor driving his car nine times out of ten he is alone in his car or truck. I was living in Houston temporarily and commuting to Hobby airport from the museum district. I noticed that the metro line that is in operation is full during rush hour. If you think that this is political then believe that a rail line such as existed on the I45 corridor would be a welcome return to republicans like me who would rather drive their car to work everyday and not have to sit as long in traffic, have to get up as early and stay as late to avoid the traffic jams caused by the congestion because at least liberals would be willing to use the train. The existing infrastructure can not keep up with the growth and never has. Rail will help. The issue I believe is rail would have to be profitable to the railroad operator brave enough to try it again. I am sure that thinking people would agree that it would make better since if rail was self sustaining through reasonable fares and parking fees.

  7. Lee

    I think the rail is a great idea. I am one who hates to drive and especially on 45 down to Galveston. I would go a lot more if i didnt have to drive!! I love to shop in those little shops down there and especiallyat Christmas time! Besides, I have never been on a train before!

  8. Bill

    I have lived in the Clear Lake Galveston Houston area since 1972. I have been driving to and from Galveston for as long. I have seen the freeway expansion efforts and it really never keeps pace with the popularity of this area. We never have the infrastructure in place to accommodate the growth. One of the problems with rail in the existing corridor is the noise of diesel locomotives. I am from NJ originally and remember growing up in a house on a street that was right next to a railroad track. When I was invited to dinner across the street at friends the whole house literally shook from the noise of the train. This might be solved by using electric rail. The trains in downtown Houston are very quite comparably to what I am used to. Another problem with rail on that corridor is the many stops necessary for it to be useful for transportation. A delay of any length at a stop light on Bay Area or Nasa one would only add to an already chaotic situation. The San Francisco Bay area utilizes many different forms of transportation. Electric articulated busses, electric light rail, heavy rail, taxi, cable cars, and diesel busses. When necessary, the light rail (BART) becomes a subway which is not an option here in this area. The truth is that rail will not be a silver bullet here. Monorail is a great idea until the power fails or a breakdown creates a situation stranding people 20 feet above the ground until they can be rescued. We need careful planning to keep up with our growth, and not knee jerk solutions to fix our congestion problem. Has anyone ever tried to use a bus in Galveston? The bus stops are typically in residences yards. This is also typical in many areas of Houston. The city or the bus company has not made a sincere effort to provide covered bus stops for their passengers who have to wait for inordinate amounts of time for a bus in 120 degree heat, rain, or wind that might not even go to a place remotely close to their destination. This may be a result of a lack of zoning which no one wants to think about. I believe that we need trains where they would work, busses where they would work, monorail where it could be used effectively and maybe even water taxis. I don’t believe that until the transportation problem is looked at in this way, anything realistic will be accomplished. As far as rail being ready for the next evacuation, I would rather count on the military airlifting those residents out from the Galveston Airport that need it to shelters, than to believe that a train would be ready in time.

  9. Tristan

    I think the current light rail is fantastic. I live in Houston (Clear Lake area, between Galveston and downtown Houston), and I take a commuter bus downtown each day to catch the light rail. The light rail takes me to my job in the medical center. It is a quick way to get from downtown to the medical center or Reliant Center without the burden of taking a city bus. The only problem I have with METRO currently is that I pay quite a bit of money each month to ride, and always run into overcrowding in my evening commute. I usually have to wait for 2 busses on my line to catch one with a seat. Other than that, it’s great. I think restoring the old commuter line would be a great idea. I think it would be a huge success. I hate driving on I-45 between Galveston and Houston. It is always crowded with cars.

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