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This summer, Houston officials dramatically restructured the route of municipal busses to streamline service reflecting where people live and work -- all for almost no additional cost. Now, the system may be a possible model for how other cities redesign their public transportation. Special Correspondent Karla Murthy reports.
Janis Scott starts almost every morning on this corner at the bus stop near her home on the east side of Houston. Even though she knows how to drive, she prefers the bus. She rides the bus so often, she's known as the "Bus Lady."
I tell people if you can't remember my name, say "Hey, Miss Bus Lady!" I said I'll turn around, I'll answer!
Two months ago, the bus routes Janis had taken for the last 30 years changed overnight. Houston's transit authority, known as Metro, revamped the entire bus system to make the routes simpler and faster with better connections — at almost no extra cost.
Good morning! Hi How you doin'?
Our first bus arrives, the number 30. In the past, busses ran infrequently, and many didn't run after 5 p.m. or on weekends.
So, essentially we've had a long-term decline in bus ridership.
Christof Spieler is one of the architects behind the new system. He's an urban planner and sits on Metro's board.
So we just asked a question, what would this bus system look like if we started over from scratch.
The old bus routes ran on a radial system, a hub and spokes, with the high frequency routes going through downtown. But as Houston grew into the fourth largest city ind America, with over 2 million people spread out all over the city, Speiler says, that old system no longer worked.
The radial system was based on a time when everybody worked in the same place and not a system that really made it easy to move around the city.
Now those bus routes run on a grid, creating more local transfers and run more frequently all over the city.
Janis is retired. She spends her days going to museums and lectures.
I'm a volunteer.
Today, she's on her way to a public meeting on transportation on the city's west side. She's chosen a route that will take us on three different busses.
Ok, sweetie. Thank you.
She says it's not the most direct way but will show us how the new rotes connect.
Here's one of those transfer points. We cross the street to catch our second bus. Before, this would come every half hour. Now, it's every 15 minutes.
Oh look. There it is.
There it is.
That was fast.
Designing the new system took about two years, and Janis served on one of the planning committees.
If you're not at the table, you may end up on the menu. And I didn't want that to happen to me, because at one time, Metro was considering cutting service.
She says for a lot of people, the bust isn't a choice, it's the only option.
They need to get to grocery stores; there's a lot of food deserts in this town. A lot of people don't have access to health care in their immediate area.
Oh here it is right here.
We pull up to the Eastwood Transit Center for the last leg of the trip to catch the 25 bus. Before, this bus didn't come here, which is a major hub for people on the east side.
We had those connections, but we were never waiting more than a couple minutes. It was like bam, bam, bam. That was great.
Janis and I arrive at our final destination.
Looks like someone's not happy with the Metro.
On the bus sign, we found a note someone left for Metro. It says, "This is crazy."
With a change this big, you're never going to make everybody happy, that's the unfortunate reality of it. But we're definitely hearing that my bus comes more often, I don't have to look at the schedule anymore.
Can you call it a success yet?
No, I mean I think we really need a year, two years to really see how it changes.
Houston Metro is aiming to boost ridership by 20 percent over the next two years.
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