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It's full speed ahead on streetcars in EaDo: Public transit plan's routes are revealed

It's full speed ahead on streetcars in EaDo: Public transit plan's routes are revealed

streetcar, Travis Street, downtown Houston
Houston has been without a streetcar since the 1940s. George Fuermann's Texas and Houston Collection, 1836-2001
Streetcar_Greater East End Management District_alternative route
Route alternative No. 1 Courtesy of HDR Engineering, Inc.
Streetcar_Greater East End Management District_alternative route
Route alternative No. 2 Courtesy of HDR Engineering, Inc.
Streetcar_Greater East End Management District_alternative route
Route alternative No. 3 Courtesy of HDR Engineering, Inc.
streetcar, Travis Street, downtown Houston
Streetcar_Greater East End Management District_alternative route
Streetcar_Greater East End Management District_alternative route
Streetcar_Greater East End Management District_alternative route

The Greater East End Management District (GEEMD) is moving full speed ahead in its consideration of the streetcar as an additional transit mode, and it presented alternatives routes for the urban circulator at a public meeting on Tuesday.

Scott Barker, a transportation planner at HDR Engineering, Inc., the firm commissioned to conduct the study, said that the team looked at demographic data like age, income and vehicle ownership, plus flood plains, street usability, existing transit systems and the capacity of key corridors to narrow down a dozen original alignments to three viable route options. 

The first extends a large loop down Commerce, up York to Navigation, down St. Emanuel before jogging over to Dowling, and then over into downtown on Bell and back to the east side on Leeland, with possibilities for future connectivity up to the KBR property and down as far as Leeland and Scott.

Though the public's reception has been overwhelmingly positive, Schenke admits that projects like this only work if area businesses help pitch in. 

The second route is tighter (loops are statistically more successful when people can actually see the loop, GEEMD president Diane Schenke tells CultureMap), running down Canal, up an existing track to Navigation, down St. Emanuel and across into the same downtown loop. Future single-lane extensions could go up to KBR on an existing track, and down Leeland as far east as Scott.

The third — which would be the cheapest to construct and would offer more frequent service — is a straight-shot route along Navigation and St. Emanuel. In the future, it could extend across Leeland and up Sampson to KBR.

Schenke says that the goal of each is to reestablish connectivity from the Second Ward to the forthcoming METRORail stops along the East End Line and the Southeast Line. The layout of the area streets present complications in this, as very few north/south thoroughfares run all the way through.

A streetcar would also interact with existing METRO bus routes, and would serve to link area residents to job sites as well as centers of commerce, like the new Main Street-esque Navigation Boulevard project. 

Though the public's reception has been overwhelmingly positive, Schenke admits that projects like this only work if area businesses help pitch in, forming a public/private partnership and sourcing anywhere from eight to 12 different sources of revenue.

HDR and the GEEMD are seeking community input — regarding everything from important area destinations to areas of service to personal concerns — over the next few months in advance of the project's next phase, which will look at details of ridership and costs. Visit the GEEMD website for more information.