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Read on for the latest news:

Details on final options for the University line are published in DEIS

August 8th, 2007 by Kay

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Friday, August 3rd METRO released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the University transit corridor and opened a 45-day period for public review and comment. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) contains detailed analysis of each of the remaining short-list alignment options as well as the the “no-build” option. It identifies benefits of each option as well as impacts on a range of factors including traffic, parking, noise, trees, flooding, property, and more. The DEIS is the formal basis for review by federal, state and local decision makers as well as the public, leading up to the METRO board’s choice of a final alignment and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)’s record of decision.

You can review the DEIS online. You can also request (for a fee) a bound copy or a CD, or view the printed version at a number of libraries and other locations around town (details).

To get you started, the Citizens’ Transportation Coalition (CTC) has posted an illustrated analysis of the DEIS (starting with the options west of Main) in Christof Spieler’s Intermodality blog. Have a look.

METRO is providing the opportunity for you to review plan details and ask METRO staff questions about the DEIS at open houses 5-7 pm Monday, August 13 at Holiday Inn Select - Greenway Plaza and Tuesday, August 14 at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. The next step will be to submit comments (due September 17), and attend the formal public hearing at 2 pm on August 27, 2007, at South Main Baptist Church. Details on the open houses and the public hearing can be found on the METRO Solutions website.

Tuesday Nights Out are a fun way to support RichmondRail

July 24th, 2007 by Kay

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The many wonderful restaurants along Richmond Avenue play a big part in making our Neartown, Upper Kirby, and Greenway Plaza neighborhoods vital places to live and work. It’s in our interest to ensure that these businesses survive and thrive through light rail construction and beyond. We continue to gather for Tuesday Nights Out to show Richmond restaurant owners that we, their customers, support rail on Richmond and we support them.

Tonight, our 39th Tuesday Night Out, we’re meeting other RichmondRail friends at Blue Fish House, 2241 Richmond Ave.  For upcoming venues, check here (or follow the link under “Pages” at right to Tuesday Nights Out).

See you Tuesday night!
 

Great news! Rep. Culberson no longer on Transportation subcommittee

June 26th, 2007 by blog

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Early in 2006, Congressman John Culberson urged his constituents to contact him with our views about rail on Richmond. Even though he has repeatedly declared his personal opposition, we know many RichmondRail supporters have dutifully written Rep. Culberson to urge him to support rail on Richmond. We also know many of you were disappointed to be rebuffed by Culberson’s indifferent form letter reply.

As recently as March 29, Rep. Culberson has told constituents that:

“I have a responsibility to the Houston region to help improve our entire transportation network as the only Texan on the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee.”

But here’s the surprise: it turns out that since January 11th, Culberson is NOT on the Transportation subcommittee anymore. He’s now just one minority member out of 66 on the Appropriations committee, which should severely constrain his attempts to hijack the federal transit planning process! See this press release for details.


Freshman Texas Congressman Ciro Rodriguez has replaced Culberson on the House Appropriations Transportation subcommittee. And three other Texans — Chet Edwards, Kay Granger, and John Carter — all serve on Appropriations, too. It cannot hurt for us to let each of them know that we need their help. When Federal Transit eventually awards funding to METRO for rail on Richmond (because it will serve the most people for the lowest cost), we are counting on their Appropriations committee to approve it, in spite of their colleague’s hangups.

Judge denies “fishing” expedition; rail foes file suit

May 25th, 2007 by blog

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Late Tuesday, Judge Levi Benton ruled in favor of METRO to deny rail opponents’ requested “Rule 202″ motion. Opponents claim that METRO is violating terms of the 2003 transit referendum. They asked the judge to compel METRO officials to provide oral testimony so they could fish for ammunition for their planned lawsuit. Judge Benton denied their motion, perhaps because it was plain the plaintiff intended to file suit with or without extra depositions.

Sure enough, plaintiff Daphne Scarbrough filed suit against METRO the next day. Her high-profile attorney, Andy Taylor, boldly described the suit as “nuclear war” against METRO. But despite Taylor’s bravado, it’s important to remember that lawsuits have always been a part of rail politics in Houston, but litigation has never stopped a rail project.

The Houston Chronicle has the story:
“Merchant seeks to bar Metro projects without new election”.

What’s interesting is this: one anti-Richmond merchant now seems intent to shut down Houston’s entire transit system expansion just to keep light rail off of Richmond. That may not go over well in the Near North Side, East End, Third Ward, or Uptown…

Rail opposition: same old faces, same old tactics

May 15th, 2007 by blog

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Last month, rail opponents announced they were filing — NOT a lawsuit — but a “section 202 motion” with the intent to eventually file a lawsuit against METRO. They are asking a judge to grant them authority to use depositions to “fish” for some kind of evidence of wrongdoing by METRO.

Harris Cty Civil Court HouseRail opponents would have us believe that their legal case is open and shut. But if the ballot is so clear, why do they need permission to gather additional evidence to make their case? They are asking a judge to authorize a fishing expedition, an attempt to find something — anything — to justify a lawsuit to stop this project.

Their motion is now scheduled for a civil court hearing Wednesday, May 16, 2007 at 4:00 pm, in the 215th Judicial District Court of Harris County, 201 Caroline between Franklin and Congress, 13th floor, 77002.

Since the 1970s, lawsuits have been a routine part of rail politics in Houston, but they have never stopped a project. Here’s the program for this round:

Who will be in the courtroom on Tuesday?

Ms. ScarbroughThe plaintiff: Daphne Scarbrough, who owns The Brass Maiden, a high end home goods store on Richmond, says she’s worried about her business. She’s spending her time organizing against rail in her neighborhood, in the Third Ward, on the
Near North Side, and even in the state legislature.

Counsel for the plaintiff: William A. “Andy” Taylor, Andy Taylor & Associates. In 2003, Andy Taylor was the attorney for Texans for True Mobility, a secretive group that ran $1.5 million in ads opposing the METRO Solutions referendum. Texans for True Mobility was co-chaired by Congressman John Culberson.

Public relations for the plaintiff: Chris Begala, a professional political consultant who accompanied Scarbrough to Austin in April 2007 to lobby for anti-METRO legislation. In 2003, Begala served as spokesman for the aforementioned Texans for True Mobility.

Fund raiser for the plaintiff: ??? We don’t know who is funding the current legal action. But in 2003, Taylor and Begala’s anti-rail work was funded by Congressman Tom Delay, suburban apartment developer Michael Stevens, and others. Taylor fought in court to keep the donor list secret.

The defendant: Metropolitan Transit Authority

Counsel for the defendant: Andy Edison, Bracewell & Giuliani

The judge: Levi Benton, 215th Judicial District Court of Harris County

On the sidelines (but not by choice)

The voters: In 2003, voters in Houston and Harris County approved rail expansion by a more than 9,000 vote margin. We want to see more transit, not more delay. And we don’t want our tax dollars going to defend against frivolous lawsuits.

The community: Community organizations in the Near North Side, the East End, the Third Ward, and Neartown have worked hard for more and better transit in our neighborhoods. There is widespread public support in all of these corridors for METRO’s proposed lines. Richmondrail.org’s online petition has been signed by almost 3,000 Houstonians who support neighborhood-friendly light rail on Richmond Avenue. Further, every active civic club along Richmond or US-59 between Main Street and Shepherd formally supports rail on Richmond, as do the Museum District Business Alliance and the Neartown Association.

The history? This is just the latest in years of anti-rail legal tactics.

May 15th, 2007 by blog

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While rail transit has finally gained widespread public support in Houston, the opponents continue to mount narrow legal challenges. Once again, rail opponents hope to achieve in court what they can no longer achieve at the ballot box:

Sept 1999 - METRO board endorses a 7-mile light rail system from downtown to the Astrodome
Jan 2000 - Design team begins work on the Main Street line
May 2000 - Suburban Congressman Tom DeLay moves to kill $65 million in federal funding for the line
Oct 2000 - Federal transportation bill passes with DeLay’s language barring METRO from spending any federal dollars on rail in fiscal 2001; METRO Board decides to proceed with local funding
Nov 2000 - Houston City Council authorizes METRO to use city streets for Main Street line
Dec 2000 - Rail opponents file a petition with 1,100 signatures requesting the City of Houston hold a referendum before building the Main Street line; City Attorney rules they need 20,000 to force the vote
Jan 2001 - Rail opponents sue to try to force the City to hold an election; State district judge issues restraining order to prohibit work on rail until lawsuit can be heard
Mar 2001 - State court rules unanimously to lift injunction; METRO breaks ground on Main Street line
Jun 2001 - Rail opponents appeal decision; Texas Supreme Court refuses to stop work on the line or require a referendum
Oct 2001 - Rail opponents get Proposition 3 on the ballot which, if passed, would require an election be held about the Main Street line (and requires the line to be torn up if that election fails) and requires election on any future rail lines
Nov 2001 - In a City election, 74% of Houston voters approve Mayor Brown’s Proposition 1 that lets work continue on the Main Street rail line but guarantees a referendum on any future extensions; voters reject Proposition 3

May 2003 - METRO holds public meetings regarding Solutions transit expansion plan
Aug 2003 - METRO board approves ballot resolution to put Solutions plan before voters
Oct 2003 - Texans for True Mobility, led by suburban developer Michael Stevens and Congressman John Culberson, and funded in part by Congressman Tom Delay, spends $1.5 million on anti-rail “issue education” ads to oppose METRO referendum
Nov 2003 - In a City election, METRO Solutions referendum is approved by voters with more than a 9,000 vote margin
Jan 2004 - Main Street light rail line opens in time for Super Bowl

Dec 2005 - Rail opponents get state Rep. Martha Wong to preemptively announce opposition to any future Richmond alignment
Jan 2006 - Rail opponents get Congressman Culberson to urge METRO to build the University line on Westpark
Apr 2006 - Houston City
Council members host 9 public forums for University line
Jun 2006 - METRO holds first scoping meetings for University line; RichmondRail.org becomes first grassroots group in Houston history to fight FOR rail on a specific street

Jul 2006 - More than 1,000 Houstonians sign RichmondRail.org’s petition supporting rail on Richmond
Aug 2006 - Congressman Culberson asks METRO to take Richmond alignment off the table
Nov 2006 - In a state and federal election, Martha Wong draws only 38% of the vote in precincts along University corridor and loses seat to Ellen Cohen; John Culberson’s support falls from 25% to around 18% of the vote in precincts along University line corridor, but he is reelected due to
support in west Harris County.
Dec 2006 - METRO board approves three final options for the University line west of Main Street: two on Richmond as far west as Greenway Plaza, and one along the Southwest Freeway
Jan 2007 - Congressman Culberson urges METRO to build rail along Southwest Freeway, and pledges to keep “fighting to keep rail off of Richmond”
Feb 2007 - President Bush’s budget includes federal funds for METRO’s North and Southeast transit lines
Mar 2007 - Public supporters of rail on Richmond outnumber opponents at Congressman’s town hall meeting; almost 3,000 sign petition of support for Richmond
Apr 2007 - Rail opponents introduce House Bill 1813 to gut METRO board; Texans for True Mobility spokesman Chris Begala testifies in its favor; lacking legislative support, the bill is left to die in committee
Apr 2007 - Rail opponents file “202 motion” request to seek court authorization to depose METRO and seek evidence of wrongdoing, not just on the University line but on other corridors

METRO planning workshops for University Line

March 25th, 2007 by blog

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This Monday and Tuesday, METRO will hold the first official public meetings since they announced the final three alignment options for the University Line west of Main Street back in December.

These meetings are part of the required environmental process, and the public’s first opportunity to give METRO specific feedback about the remaining options. Here’s what RichmondRail supporters will tell METRO:

  • We want light rail for our neighborhoods.
  • We support the Richmond-to-Cummins option because it goes where we need to go.
  • We oppose Culberson’s elevated backyard option which leaves Richmond at Montrose-to-US59-to-Kirby-to-Westpark.
  • We want neighborhood-friendly design and amenities.
  • We want minimal disruption from construction and effective mitigation of impacts.

Fundamentally, we want neighborhood-friendly light rail transit for our urban neighborhoods. And we want it on Richmond Avenue through Neartown, Upper Kirby, and Greenway Plaza. If you agree with us, be sure to sign our online petition of support! And consider attending one of METRO’s meetings:

What:METRO University Line (West Side) Open House and Planning Workshop
When:Monday, March 26, two sessions:

Open House from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm;
Open House & Planning Workshop from 6:00 pm to 8:00 p.m.

Where: Renaissance Hotel at Greenway Plaza, 6 Greenway Plaza East. Hotel parking will be complimentary.

A second set of sessions on Tuesday, March 27, will focus primarily on the University line east of Main Street, and will be held at the UH Hilton. METRO says the public may attend either day if unable to attend the appropriate day.

See you there!

Bringing it to the bottom line!

March 19th, 2007 by blog

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RichmondRail supporters are amazing!

Last Tuesday, more than 80 rail supporters dined at Maria Selma’s Mexican Restaurant (review) in support of rail on Richmond! Your support was so overwhelming that we not only filled the restaurant inside, but also spilled out to fill the new palapa outside, too. Thank you, all, for our best turnout ever!

Our thanks also go out to radio stations KTRH and KUHF (story) who came out to cover our event and tell our stories!

As we return each week on Tuesday — or any day — to local spots like Maria Selma, Pepino’s, El Pueblito, Blue Fish House and others, we reinforce our mutual relationships with the owners. With our help, they are learning more about rail transit, and they know that we will be there for them through construction and beyond!

If our positive approach makes sense to you, consider joining us for an upcoming Tuesday Night Out:

  • Tuesday, March 27: Hobbit Cafe, 2243 Richmond near Greenbriar
  • Tuesday, April 3: Ninfa’s, 3601 Kirby Drive at Richmond
  • Tuesday, April 10: Harlow’s, 3839 Weslayan St. off Richmond

Join us for Tuesday Nights Out!

March 12th, 2007 by blog

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Have you heard? Richmond Rail supporters put our money where our mouths are!

Every Tuesday for five months — 22 Tuesdays and counting — we are demonstrating our community support for Richmond Avenue businesses and for light rail on Richmond.

This Tuesday, lots of us will be at Maria Selma Mexican Restaurant — dining in groups and individually — to let owner Rene Hidalgo know that we want rail on Richmond in front of his restaurant and we support him, too. Here’s why:

The many wonderful restaurants on lower Richmond Avenue play a big part in making Neartown and Upper Kirby vital places to live and work. Studies show that restaurants are often the first businesses to benefit when rail service begins — rail transit brings hungry customers! But many Richmond restaurant owners are fearful of the disruption created during rail construction.

It’s in our interest to ensure these businesses survive and thrive. Tuesday Nights Out are our way of showing Richmond business owners that RichmondRail supporters are their customers today and will continue to support them throughout construction. When we show up as a group of customers sporting green and white RichmondRail buttons and t-shirts, it sends a powerful message that we support rail and we support their businesses. And we estimate that we have spent more than $10,000 in these restaurants to date, which doesn’t hurt either!

So this Tuesday, consider joining us… for dinner and for rail:

What: Tuesday Nights Out for RichmondRail
When: Tuesday, March 13 between 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm
Where: Maria Selma Mexican Restaurant, 1619 Richmond Ave. near Mandell, 77006 (map)

And if our positive approach makes sense to you, consider signing our petition of support for rail on Richmond!

What a turnout! What an impact!

March 1st, 2007 by blog

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RichmondRail supporters at rally
Community support for RichmondRail at Thursday’s rally and town hall meeting was tremendous! What a surprise it must have been for Rep. John Culberson and his anti-rail cohorts to enter a room dominated by RichmondRail supporters, all sporting our message on buttons and t-shirts.

Neighborhood leaders speaking to press
A big thanks to everyone who showed up! Thanks especially to Adra Hooks, Allen Ueckert, Doug Childers, Jay Crossley, Jonathan Paull, Julie Orser Odermatt, Laura Mullen, Michael Massa, and Paul Lester for addressing the media! Thanks also to everyone who helped with signs, buttons, displays, and logistics!


Our mission Thursday night was not to change the Congressman’s views — fat chance! — but to forcefully convey the breadth of support for rail on Richmond, and we did! We captured the attention of Houston media and garnered some great press, including Friday’s Houston Chronicle editorial! We also enjoyed positive coverage from KUHF, KTRH, Fox, and the Examiner. Coverage has continued for a week culminating in the Chronicle’s best article to date: “Culberson’s meeting attracts vocal crowd”! Working together, our message is getting through loud and clear!



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