It was a one-two punch of too many mojitos at Benjy's and a broken stiletto on the walk home that led Lauren Barrash to found The Wave, a jitney shuttle that has grown exponentially since October 2009 as a hip transportation alternative serving almost all areas inside the loop in Houston from Uptown to EaDo.
Although it was not exactly Barrash's intention to run a public transit agency, that's essentially what has taken shape, with riders able to call a Wave Runner for pick-up or "wave" down a bus for a ride. In the intervening years, the Houston native has become involved in the political process.
Barrash's most recent undertaking is a solution for Washington Avenue's parking woes. Though that issue is meant to be assuaged by the new Parking Benefit District, which officially went into effect when the meters began charging on May 1, she has seen a marked decrease in the crowds flocking to the bar-studded thoroughfare.
Barrash's most recent undertaking is a solution for Washington Avenue's parking woes.
"There were no cars on Washington at all that first week," Barrash tells CultureMap, worried that the diminishing visitors will mean bad business for area bars and restaurants and will, in turn, render the expected 60 percent revenue from the PBD for neighborhood improvements nonexistent. "The Wave should be more a part of the plan."
And the unlikely entrepreneur claims to have one — a solution, she says, that would provide a solution for security, street parking and traffic, and would ultimately save area businesses money.
Barrash had worked with former Houston City Council member Sue Lovell for nearly three years to find viable city lots that could provide around 900 satellite parking spots for Washington Avenue employees and visitors.
The safety of the former group causes concern for Barrash, who says that there should be a better option than wait staff and bartenders walking to their cars alone late at night in a poorly-lit neighborhood, carrying cash.
Riders could park at these satellite lots and take The Wave to stops along Washington Ave. Rates generally start at $5 each way or $70 for an individual monthly membership, but Barrash would provide a discount for restaurant- and bar-owners who opt to use the jitney rather than rent an employee parking lot.
It would free up paid spaces along the Washington Avenue corridor for area visitors, funneling funds into projects like landscaping, street maintenance, lighting and public safety, she says.
"The problem is getting the word out," she explains.