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Thread: Houston: Festivals mark inaugural day for Metro train

  1. #1

    Default Houston: Festivals mark inaugural day for Metro train

    Jan. 1, 2004, 5:33PM
    New ride for the new year
    Festivals mark inaugural day for Metro train
    By LUCAS WALL
    Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

    Thousands of Houstonians flocked downtown today for a free ride as Metro kicked off 2004 with the grand opening of its Main Street light rail line. More than 500 invited guests were allowed to ride the first two trains and free rides are being offered to the general public throughout the day.

    Mayor Lee Brown, whose term expires today, helped pilot the first passenger-carrying train out of the rail yard and through a banner, pulling into the Fannin South Park & Ride, where the invited elected officials, Metro employees and board members, contractors, and civic leaders were gathered.

    Brown and several other dignitaries used gigantic scissors to cut the ribbon officially opening the 7 1/2-mile line to passengers.

    Confetti sprung from the tracks and rock music blasted as those in attendance crammed into the first train, which quickly reached its estimated 400 capacity. Another train pulled in next to it to accommodate the rest of the crowd.
    met
    Andrew Innerarity / Chronicle
    Jose Chulla smiles as his son chris, 6 years old, looks out for the next train while practicing his boarding step at the light rail's Main Street Square Station on the first day the public was allowed to ride the train.

    The first train, carrying Brown, members of Congress, state representatives, a county commissioner, City Council members, and other VIPs pulled out of Fannin South at 10:17 a.m. for the inaugural run north to the University of Houston-Downtown. The 29-minute trip was filled with loud chatter and numerous cheers as the train passed various landmarks, including Metro's new downtown headquarters, which is under construction and has been named for Brown. Some squeezed in the packed train remarked they felt like they were in New York or Washington.

    "We did it!" Metro President & CEO Shirley DeLibero exclaimed when the group reassembled on a university plaza overlooking Buffalo Bayou and the fog-shrouded downtown skyline. "We have brought rail to Houston and this is just the beginning."

    Today's journey brings to an end three decades of debate over rail transit in the Bayou City, a topic that has dominated politics here since a failed 1973 referendum to form at rapid-transit agency. Five years later, voters approved creating the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Metro took over regional bus service in Jan. 1, 1979, and has now become a multi-modal transit authority with the launch of rail on its 25th birthday today.

    DeLibero boasted that no other city has built a rail line in less than three years and no other place has such beautiful-looking trains.

    "Aren't they awesome?" she asked, receiving loud applause from the audience. "We've made believers out of those who thought it would never get done."
    rail
    Karl Stolleis / Chronicle
    Invited guests Kristin Massa, right, and friend Kayla Henry laugh as the train lurches forward leaving the Fanin Street South station this morning on the inaugural ride of the Metro rail.

    Brown said while on board the first train, he looked out the window and his thoughts drifted back to his first campaign for mayor in 1997, when he promised voters he would get Metro to build a rail line to help make Houston a "world-class city." Houston, the nation's fourth most populous municipality, was until today the only top 10 U.S. metropolitan area without rail transit, known instead for its massive web of freeways and the millions of cars, traffic jams, sprawl, and air pollution they brought.

    "This is truly a historic day in the life of our city," Brown said. "I can't think of a better way to leave office than the inauguration of this rail system."

    Metro is running free trains until 5:30 p.m. and has had large crowds come out to sample the train.

    At 3:30 p.m. from half-way through the free public time, a line of about 750 people smaked through the Fannin South Park & Ride lot and people at the front of the line were reporting 2-hour waits before they were able to get up to the platform.

    As 5:30 approached, the end of rail's first day of operations, Metro officials said they were working to get people back to their cars but encouraging others to come back Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, when free rides will also be offered. A crowd of about 500 people stood outside the University of Houston-Downtown in a line stretching over the Main Street bridge waiting for a southbound train.

    Metro adjusted its operations during the day, sending some trains out half empty from end-of-the-line stations to allow others upline to board. There had been long waits at some stations in Midtown, the Museum District, and the Texas Medical Center because trains were already full from passengers who had boarded downline.

    Lines were moving, albeit slowly, but most people waiting were patient and expressed enthusiasm about the light rail line and were glad to see a large turnout of people taking a look.

    No collisions had been reported. Metro police were out at major intersections controlling car traffic. A crossing arm gate near Fannin South Park & Ride came down on a bus, breaking it. Officers held traffic as trains crossed until the arm was fixed.



    Jose Chulla smiles as his son chris, 6 years old, looks out for the next train while practicing his boarding step at the light rail's Main Street Square Station on the first day the public was allowed to ride the train.



    Invited guests Kristin Massa, right, and friend Kayla Henry laugh as the train lurches forward leaving the Fanin Street South station this morning on the inaugural ride of the Metro rail.



    The Main Street Square station of the northbound MetroRail line is jammed as a train pulls in this afternoon. Metro debuted its light rail transit system today, and thousands turned out to be among the first to ride.

  2. #2
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    I heard on AOL News that a 22-mile addition to the rail system is now in the works.

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