METRO’s New Leadership Pauses Gulfton Corridor BRT Project for Review

METRO’s New Leadership Pauses Gulfton Corridor BRT Project for Review
Proposed path of the now-paused Gulfton Corridor bus line. Image Credit: METRO

The controversial Gulfton Corridor Project was set to bring bus rapid transit (BRT) to the Sharpstown/Gulfton area, likely removing traffic lanes along Hillcroft to create a one-seat bus ride from southwest Houston to the Galleria.

But last week, the project's webpage was taken down from METRO’s website, as reported by Houston Public Media. The webpages for METRO’s other BRT projects, the University Corridor and Inner Katy Corridor lines, were also removed. METRO told The Sharpener on Wednesday, 5/8, that the projects are paused for review.

If built, the Gulfton Corridor line would be an extension of the Silver Line, which runs through the Galleria.

But the pause comes on the heels of the METRO board’s April 25 decision to slow the Silver Line from one bus every 12 minutes to one every 20 minutes, as reported in the Houston Chronicle. The Silver Line was Houston’s only existing BRT line, but despite the initial hype, it was plagued by staggeringly low ridership. Now, the shift from five buses per hour to three means that the Silver Line will no longer be considered BRT.

What's behind these changes? METRO President and CEO Tom Lambert retired last December and has been replaced by an interim. More importantly, the makeup of METRO’s nine-member board radically shifted when Mayor John Whitmire appointed three new board members in April and a new chair, Elizabeth Gonzalez Brock, in February.

Whitmire has already shown he disfavors projects that remove lanes from city streets. Last year, Houston Public Works took over TIRZ #20’s Harwin Drive Improvement Project and decided to use it as an experiment in “road diet.” In addition to improving concrete panels, water lines, and sidewalks, HPW wanted to temporarily restripe Harwin from four lanes to three to see if the lane reduction lowered crashes.

But an HPW community meeting planned for January 11, 2024, was canceled by Whitmire’s administration. In the aftermath, David Hawes (an advisor to TIRZ #20) said that Mayor Whitmire nixed the idea of reducing lanes, although the project will proceed with sidewalk and street repairs.

Just in April, Whitmire's administration told the Memorial Heights TIRZ that it had to redesign a street project on Shepherd and Durham to avoid removing traffic lanes.

So it's understandable that Houston Public Media and Houston transportation advocates wondered if METRO was “scrapping” its plans for BRT.

The Sharpener reached out to METRO’s press office and received this response from Interim President and CEO Tom Jasien:

Since most of the new board members haven’t had a chance to review the proposed projects, we wanted to pause items that appear to be advocacy. METRO’s new leadership team is committed to reviewing all projects in order to best serve our customers and the community. We are prioritizing ridership and meeting customer needs for today by ensuring each service we offer is safe, clean, reliable, and fiscally responsible.

In other words, METRO hasn’t “scrapped” the Gulfton Corridor Project and other proposed BRT lines—at least not yet—but they’re paused for review. That means the future of these projects is up in the air—and it lies in the hands of METRO’s new board of directors.

Do you think METRO should keep or scrap the Gulfton Corridor Project? What about the University Corridor? Why?

See concept drawings of the Gulfton Corridor line below:

METRO’s New Concept Drawings Reveal Possible Impacts of Proposed METRORapid Bus Line on Hillcroft Area
At METRO’s community meeting on June 28, 2023, signs on black easels displayed new concept drawings of the proposed Gulfton Corridor METRORapid bus line. Some locals worry that the bus line might cause street congestion by turning some regular traffic lanes into bus-only lanes. Are those fears founded? The concept