It’s still in the very early stages of planning and might not happen at all, but there’s talk of a METRO line being constructed along Washington Avenue reaching west to Heights Boulevard. The proposed line would be located south of Interstate 10 and not going through the Heights proper and would serve to connect the many apartment complexes, restaurants, and nightlife options along Washington to Downtown. If built as planned, the line would have stops at Studemont, Sawyer, and Heights/Yale.
This two-mile stretch of light rail would be part of a $7.5 billion plan to expand and modernize the Houston public transit system over the next 20 years. The location would be a high demand area for a train, since it is increasing in population density faster all the time, and is very popular with millennials who are more likely to utilize public transit. A METRO line along Washington would offer good “bang for the buck” according to METRO board member Sanjay Ramabhadran, because it would be a short extension that would reach a maximum number of people. The eventual plan would be to extend the line all the way to Memorial Park.
In order to serve riders who don’t live within walking distance of the proposed METRO line, a park-and-ride lot would be constructed near the end of the line. There are already plans in place for a Red Line extension to reach the North Shepherd Park & Ride at the intersection of I-45, North Shepherd, and Veterans Memorial Drive.
Anyone who has lived in another major city anywhere near the size of Houston will tell you that the Houston is woefully behind when it comes to public transportation. We like our cars, and most everyone has one, so it’s been possible to get by without a top-notch transit system so far. However as more people move here from other urban centers, they are missing the ease and ubiquity of public transit that they are accustomed to back home. Downtown and the surrounding areas are getting more crowded all the time, and with parking becoming expensive and increasingly scarce, public transit looks like a more attractive option to those who work or play in the densest parts of the city.
As with any kind of big change, there will always be people with strong opinions on both sides of the issue. Like the saying goes, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, and a major construction project will surely crack a metaphorical egg or two along the way, but a light rail along Washington would ease the commuting woes of many people along the Washington corridor and the Heights as a whole. We’re interested to see how this nascent plan continues to develop in the coming months. What are your thoughts?