Poll: Would You Ride a Bullet Train That Doesn’t Reach Downtown Houston?

Is it still useful?

We learned last week that the Dallas-to-Houston bullet train is likely not to see its southern terminus reach downtown Houston but will instead stop at that city’s Northwest Mall, which is along Interstate 610 loop, just south of U.S Highway 290 — about an 8-mile drive from downtown. The reason is that the environmental impact of taking a train through the neighborhoods that would be affected by the closing of that distance are too costly.

Houston’s METRORail doesn’t connect to Northwest Mall. According to Google, this is the public transportation option available for getting from there to downtown:



So Dallas to Houston in 90 minutes, then Northwest Houston to downtown Houston 40 minutes, if you get to the bus stop just in time for a pick-up. Or, of course, a pricy taxi ride. At any rate, it would seem to make the train considerably less useful, unless you’re dying to visit Northwest Mall’s Southern Apache Museum.

METRORail doesn’t already have plans in the works to take its rail service to that part of town, though there’s speculation about a partnership in which Texas Central, the private effort behind the bullet train, might help to fund a connection. However, Texas Central CEO Tim Keith seems reluctant to commit to such a proposal yet:

The discussions will likely include the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which is planning some projects around Loop 610 and U.S. 290. Metro board member Jim Robinson said Metro officials have suggested the private high-speed rail firm help to pay for a Metro light rail extension to the area.

“They could extend light rail for a fraction of (the high-speed rail cost), and that would certainly better serve their business model,” Robinson said. “I think we should absolutely partner with them.”

Keith said no conversations about Texas Central funding other improvements have taken place.

“We are going to work hard to get something to maximize connectivity,” he said.


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  • aerorazavi

    FWIW, the station would help revitalize an area that could some revitalizing. And the station appears to be closer to Uptown Houston, which is probably as big if not bigger draw than Downtown Houston.

  • It’s not any further out, time-wise, than Hobby.

  • James Leno

    I haven’t lived in Houston for almost 20 years, so I’m going off Google Maps…

    The 290/610/10 splits were a nightmare 20 years ago, and from what I hear from my friends it sounds like they still are. Putting more traffic in that area is a recipe for disaster.

    There’s a spot just east of the Burnett St. light rail station that would be perfect, optimal, and ideal to build an HSR station. That is, unless UH Downtown was already planned to be the station.

  • Hannibal_Lecter

    I’ve lived in Texas for 52 years. I’ve been to the Houston area a couple dozen times for various reasons, usually business. Not once have I have been in downtown Houston, unless you include driving by it on the freeway. It just doesn’t matter.

  • Bob Davis

    The serious advantage of high speed rail over air travel is the entry/exit points being at the actual destination. Trains are for cities. Airports intrinsically because of their size can’t be where the people are. Rail stations, even large rail stations, are a tiny fraction of the size of a airport of similar capacity. Penn Station in New York fits in the basement of an event venue and has way more traffic than the Dallas-Houston HSR stations ever will. If you are burdened with the long connection across town to the rail, just as with air travel, why not save 30 more minutes and just take the plane? This project, if done correctly, makes the city center of Dallas and the city center of Houston the focal points. Density is what makes rail make sense. It makes living close to the rail stations that much more appealing, driving up the densities of both downtown areas. If you do the project poorly and stick the stations somewhere near-ish to where people are, you add total trip time, and you have no competitive advantage over the airport. Why do it at all? The last 8 miles makes or breaks the success of the project.

  • MattL1

    The exact location of the station is less important than how easy it is to get around town once you get there. Connectivity is key. It’s not unusual for high-speed trains to stop on the outskirts of cities and leave it to local transit to do the rest. Maybe this will give Houston the impetus to expand its transit system out to that part of town.

    But if it just stops in the middle of a freeway interchange and a parking lot…bad move.

  • thufir_hawat

    If the target traveler is a business traveler — and it is — then not getting to downtown is going to be deal breaker. My own experience: looking for an alternative to Southwest, I took the bus. Megabus: Loud, crowded, not especially, comfortable, but lets you out downtown on the edge of the CBD, right next to the Main Street trolley. Vonlane: Glorious, comfortable, roomy, productive, but lets you out near IAH, so the commute downtown, leaving at 7:00 the next morning, was 60 minutes. No thanks; I’ll just fly to HOU, where I have a greater chance of coming back the same day.

  • Anne Mckinney-page

    What? You have fools attacking the folks who may lose family farms, and land to a pie in the sky private firm… and this train isn’t even going to hook up to Mass Transit, or end up closer to Downtown Houston? I think the REAL fools here… are the ones who trust a Private firm to pull anything this large off… as the Taxpayers will be stuck bailing out…. and finishing out the rail line. IF it is ever built.

  • George Johnson

    Houston is a giant slum. Why are we building bullet trains to go there again? So many better places they could put bullet trains but like everything else the decisions are in the hands of paid for shills for the corporate leadership who need to go places fast which is why they like to put their apartments in their corporate buildings so they don’t have to actually GO anywhere

    • Andrew Scott

      Seriously, your an idiot who doesn’t have a clue…How do you manage to wake up in the morning?

  • MeeeBee

    I live in Houston, my whole family is in Dallas. We have to drive all the time to see them and vice versa. I admit it would be nice to have an easier, quicker route to them so we can see each other more often. So the downtown thing does not bother me. We never even go downtown. Uptown and the Galleria area is wheres it’s at, for us.

  • RedLeader

    Catching an Uber ride from the train station to downtown makes this a trivial concern, at best. If it’s only 8 miles, the Uber ride will cost about $10 or less on average.