Apr 04, 2016

High Frequency: Why Houston Is Back on the Bus

High Frequency, the new Streetfilms production supported by TransitCenter, tells the story of one of the most high-profile recent innovations in American transit policy.

The redesign of Houston’s bus network was accomplished during three years of planning and consultation and then implemented overnight on August 16, 2015. The transit agency board gave priority to a new policy that deploys the system’s resources on a few key corridors—with the goal of attracting more riders through more frequent bus service—rather than having the system spread itself thin across all parts of the city.

The changes already appear to be attracting more riders just a few months after implementation, despite the fact that few additional resources were needed for the redesign. METRO reported bus ridership in November was up 4 percent compared to the previous year, while Boston, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia all saw declines.

The idea for the new bus network originated not with agency management, but with METRO board member Christof Spieler, an architect who emerged as an online critic of METRO before being appointed to the board by Mayor Annise Parker in 2010. Spieler became the leading voice for the idea that METRO should effectively start from scratch in designing where its buses go and how often they run. Five years later, Houston has created a model for the rest of the country to follow and written a new chapter in the history of transportation reform.

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