In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Houston METRO resumed some bus and rail services, on a limited basis, and is continuing to provide medically-necessary and life-sustaining paratransit service in areas that are not still impacted by flood waters, debris, or damage.
“We were able to get about 20 bus routes back on line starting today and a portion of our rail line,” said Laura Whitley, spokesperson for Houston METRO, on Thursday morning. “Those routes represent about 50 percent of our ridership, so we are very excited to be able to re-launch those services.”
Whitley said there are still thousands in METRO’s service area that are still evacuated and expects the majority of those people getting back to work are those working in nearby medical centers and others continuing to help in the hurricane relief efforts.
Although she was not quite up to speed yet on damage incurred to METRO facilities and assets, Whitley said there were a few vehicles damaged when the storm waters rose. She added, however, the agency did plan ahead to minimize possible damage to its vehicles.
“In particular, we parked several buses on an elevated HOV lane to protect them from a lower-lying area,” she said. “Operations did take into account our assets and tried to locate them in places that would protect them.”
METRO’s team was also beneficial during the rescue efforts, shuttling evacuees to two large shelters in the Central Houston area.
“METRO is also providing transportation, as needed, for those people at the shelters who need to go to the pharmacy and different things like that,” Whitley said. “And, we will continue to provide support for people who have been displaced, in terms of providing them transportation in the coming days, so we’re working on those go-forward plans right now as well.”
As of now, METRO had no timetable for adding services or getting back up to full service, but are scheduled to their Park & Ride services Tuesday after the Labor Day weekend.
“What we’re doing is going through each route, looking at what roads are open, and basically, where it’s safe to operate our services, and then, we will re-open service on those roads as they are deemed safe,” Whitley said. “I would expect that they’ll be more routes that come on line here in the coming days. In terms of our rail lines, METRO is currently testing the communications and the power that serves those lines to make sure they can resume safe operations.”
In a letter from APTA’s Acting President/CEO Richard A. White to APTA members, he said that the association is teaming with the Texas Transit Association (TTA) and the South West Transit Association in an effort to provide help to those public transit employees impacted by the hurricane.
To help, you can buy gift cards and Meredith Greene, executive director of TTA, will deliver them to the transit systems affected so agencies can distribute them directly to employees in need. Send gift cards to: TEXAS Harvey Relief, TTA, ATTN: Meredith Greene, 106 E 6th Street, Suite 900, Austin, TX 78701. (Please make certain the card does not have additional fees the recipient must pay).
APTA added that cash donations will not be accepted by TTA and SWTA, but urged members to consider a donation to the American Red Cross.