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Houston METRO Opens Two Light Rail Lines
Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) opened two new light rail lines, the Green (East End) and Purple (Southeast) lines, May 23 with events including community pep rallies, a free concert and fireworks.
METRO President & CEO Tom Lambert called the opening a culmination of the hard work by the METRO Board of Directors and all employees, the community and the construction partners. “We really want to celebrate as we see people in the community riding rail and connecting with downtown and other destinations,” he said. “It’s a great thing for this community,” adding that the agency is preparing to introduce a completely new bus network in August.
“Since construction started, you see the difference light rail is making in these neighborhoods,” said METRO Chairman Gilbert Garcia. “Old businesses are expanding and new businesses are emerging.”
Other agency officials and staff, residents, community stakeholders and city and national elected leaders took part in pep rallies in the East End, Southeast Houston and the Theater District. Guests then boarded light-rail trains to travel to a huge rally that connected all communities at BBVA Compass Stadium, featuring fireworks and a concert headlined by Ne-Yo and Frankie J. METRORail rides were free throughout the day.
Two days after the lines opened, severe flooding and tornadoes throughout the Houston area and elsewhere caused several fatalities, resulted in significant property damage and forced METRO to shut down all operations. METRORail resumed service by mid-morning May 26, with major bus routes returning to limited operation that afternoon. Normal service throughout the agency resumed May 27.
Margaret O’Brien Molina, senior media specialist with METRO, said the agency’s experience with flooding and other severe weather during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 enabled agency officials to respond quickly to the emergency. She also noted the importance of Houston TranStar, the regional transportation and emergency management center, in which METRO partners with the city, Harris County and Texas DOT.
“TranStar certainly is helpful for Houstonians,” Molina said. “It helps us inform the media about current conditions, which allows the public to know what’s going on. TranStar provided us with coverage all night long; we fed information to the public through both social media and traditional media outlets.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), center, and Houston Mayor Annise Parker, right, cut the ribbon amid a crowd of well-wishers to open the two new light rail lines in Houston.