Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Park & Ride" coming to Pearland in 2014

CHRON: Motorists driving on Texas 288 may get some needed relief when a new Metropolitan Transit Authority Park & Ride comes online in mid- or late 2014 taking from 900 to 1,000 cars off the road daily.
In November 2011, Metro purchased 15 acres off northbound Texas 288 north of a detention pond and just south of a medical office for the Park & Ride. Hughes Ranch Road is north of the site and County Road 94 or Smith Ranch Road is just to the east.
Metro is in the process of bringing on a firm to perform engineering services for the Park & Ride. Once final design has been completed in late 2013, construction activities will soon follow, said Caroline Mendoza of Metro's press office.
Edmund Petry, Metro manager of environmental and capital planning, said cost for the project is anticipated to be approximately $14 million. The Park & Ride will include about 1,000 parking spaces, a three-bay bus facility with a canopy and accompanying seating.
"Based on the current assumptions within the proposed service plan, the annual ridership is projected to be 228,600," he said.
The new facility will provide residents service between the Texas Medical Center and Brazoria County.
Petry said the route will offer patrons additional opportunities since about 13 bus routes operate out of the Texas Medical Center Transit Center and because it also provides access to MetroRail connecting to downtown.
"State Highway 288 is the main artery from this area into downtown Houston, and there is no high-occupancy vehicle lane at the moment to help ease congestion. This new service would give Brazoria County residents a cost-efficient, direct ride to the Texas Medical Center," Petry said.
He said many medical center employees call the Brazoria County area home. TMC officials, he said, have consistently asked for additional service for their commuting employees and to help them meet expansion goals.
"This service will help the medical center meet its development goals by reducing the need for parking, provide mobility options, enhance safety and improve air quality," Petry said.
Carol Artz-Bucek, president and CEO of the Pearland Chamber, of Commerce, expects the project to contribute generally to the quality of life for Brazoria County residents.
"Such projects improve the quality of life by offering more choices, better safety and more opportunities for commuters in the Pearland area. I am very proud of our civic leaders who negotiated and worked on this," Artz-Bucek said.
Petry said the process began in 2010 when the city of Pearland and Gulf Coast Connect Transit approached Metro with a request for commuter service between the medical center, Pearland, Manvel and the adjacent Brazoria County area. He said these entities had secured grant funding for operating the service and needed Metro to program and provide the service.
A stakeholder committee comprised of representatives from the cities of Pearland and Manvel, the Houston-Galveston Area Council, Gulf Coast Connect Transit, Brazoria County and the Texas Department of Transportation conducted extensive studies in selecting the land for the Park & Ride, Petry said.
Pearland Assistant City Manager Jon Branson said, "We've been asking Metro for many years to put a Park & Ride in Pearland due to the growth of our area and our large number of commuters. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Pearland was the second fastest-growing area in Texas and the 15th fastest-growing in the nation," he said.
Branson said the city was a key partner along with Metro and Gulf Coast Connect Transit in securing federal grants to make land procurement and construction possible. The city has committed to provide matching funds to facilitate day-to-day operations at the Park & Ride for the first five years. The first two years are expected to cost the city $90,000 to $100,000 each. The next three years he anticipates will be about $320,000 each.
Branson and Pearland Economic Development Corp. President Matt Buchanan think it is a great investment. Both men anticipate that Petry's estimate of 228,600 annual boardings will translate to around 900 to 1,000 cars taken off the road daily.
"It's an exciting opportunity for our residents to have another option to get to the Texas Medical Center, downtown and other job centers," Buchanan said.
And Branson said it is not just the improvement for people commuting from Brazoria County into town that is in focus, but also increasing the opportunity for people to commute into the Pearland area for work as well.
"We believe the Metro estimates will be met and exceeded," Branson said. He also noted that residents are already calling the city asking when the new Park & Ride will come online. That, he says, is another cause for encouragement.
Mark A. Quick is a freelance writer. He can be reached at markquick@windstream.net

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