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Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas
President & CEO
1900 Main Street
Westheimer Signature Bus Service
Westheimer Road corridor
Downtown Houston to West Oaks Mall
Westheimer Road is one of the busiest arterials in Houston with daily traffic volumes as high as 80,000 vehicles. The corridor is served by the frequent 82 Westheimer bus route, which is the backbone of METRO’s transit system in densely populated West Houston. In addition to being the highest ridership local route in METRO’s system today, the 82 Westheimer also directly connects several key activity centers (Downtown/Midtown, Greenway Plaza, Uptown/Galleria, and Westchase) and connects, through transfers, to the Energy Corridor and the Texas Medical Center (TMC).
While the corridor is heavily utilized with about 12,000 daily boardings, the 82 Westheimer faces several challenges, including: low travel speeds and long travel times due to the length of the corridor, many traffic signals, and persistent traffic congestion.
Service is further impacted by closely spaced bus stops that hinder service reliability and hamper ridership growth. The 82 Westheimer serves approximately 110 stops in each direction with stops placed an average of 0.17 miles apart, significantly lower than METRO’s target bus stop spacing of 0.25 mile.
As a result, bus bunching is a common occurrence along the corridor. A peak hour trip on the 82 Westheimer takes nearly two hours end-to-end, averaging less than 10 miles per hour (MPH), which is below the average of the local system (12 MPH). Further, METRO analysis has shown that a bus serving peak period trips on the 82 Westheimer spends nearly 40 percent of its scheduled running time stopped at red lights or dwelling at bus stops.
This indicates that significant average speed and reliability improvements to the 82 Westheimer can be achieved by addressing signal timing, transit priority, and boarding/alighting times; these issues will be addressed by the Signature Bus Service (SBS) proposed in this corridor. Enhancements to the speed and reliability of bus service along Westheimer Road will improve the daily trips of thousands of METRO customers between the activity centers and likely attract even higher ridership.
The Westheimer SBS project has two key project elements – a new, rapid service pattern that offers faster trips, making stops only at key destinations and transfer locations from Hayes Road to Edloe Street, and an express service pattern on IH 69/US 59 (Southwest Freeway) between Edloe Street and Downtown. The SBS will be an overlay on optimized local service (similar to the Bellaire Quickline) throughout the entire corridor and will also serve all local stops from Hayes Road to West Oaks Mall during its span of service. The addition of the rapid service will increase overall frequency of service along the busiest segments of the Westheimer corridor. Other strategies that will be utilized in this signature service include stop consolidation and operational improvements. Bus stops will be consolidated to approximately ¼ mile apart to improve speed and reliability of the service. Bus stops will also be moved to the far side of signalized intersections, where feasible, to improve average speed and enable the implementation of Traffic Signal Priority (TSP) at minor intersections. TSP will lengthen the green phase or shorten the red phase as a bus approaches, reducing delay for transit on Westheimer Road. The signature service will also create two-way all day HOV operations and avoid chronic bi-directional traffic congestion on the Southwest Freeway and Spur 527 between Edloe Street and Downtown. Subject to further research and design, other potential investments in the corridor will include transit priority lanes, such as business access/transit lanes.
Westheimer SBS also includes upgraded design elements for approximately 64 signature bus stops. A higher level of passenger amenities and passenger information will be provided at signature bus stops; branding and customer information will help existing and new customers navigate the transit system. New, 60-foot long, articulated buses for the rapid service will be specified with three doors rather than two and rebuilt stops will feature a raised curb (9 to 10 inches) to provide near-level boarding at all doors of the bus. Fare card readers will be installed to allow riders with smart cards and mobile tickets to board at the rear door(s) of the bus. At major stops, equipment to accept cash and read smart cards will be installed to provide an off-board fare collection option, thereby reducing dwell time. Combined, these strategies will greatly enhance the customer experience by significantly reducing the time that passengers spend boarding and alighting, while simultaneously improving average speed and reliability of the 82 Westheimer route. Back of curb improvements, and sidewalk and accessibility improvements included in the proposed bus stop reconstruction work will improve the pedestrian experience and ensure Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access to transit. Bicycle parking is a design element of the proposed signature bus stops and will be incorporated as appropriate.
Transit level of service will improve based on the additional frequency, higher average speed, and greater reliability that the Westheimer SBS project will deliver. This improved speed and reliability will allow for more viable travel times between major activity centers along Westheimer Road and improve overall system connectivity to major north-south corridors. The 19-mile Westheimer corridor passes through or near five of the region’s largest employment centers: Downtown, the Texas Medical Center (TMC), Greenway Plaza, Uptown, and Westchase. Fast and reliable access to activity and employment centers is vital for maintaining and increasing transit ridership in this corridor. The rapid service pattern will utilize a proposed two-way high-occupancy vehicle (HOV)/high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane facility along the Southwest Freeway to provide an express trip from Downtown/Midtown to Greenway Plaza, and then make stops only at major connection points from Greenway Plaza to Uptown and Westchase. This HOV connection will allow the 82 Westheimer route to bypass chronic, bi-directional traffic congestion and maintain speed and consistent headways. This service pattern is expected to cut transit travel time between Downtown and Greenway Plaza by half.
Another primary outcome of the Westheimer SBS project is that the overall customer experience and comfort will be improved through better service reliability and enhanced passenger amenities. Larger buses and shorter headways are expected to reduce overcrowding issues during peak hours and will better match customer demand and trip patterns. Signature bus stops will provide a safer, more comfortable experience for riders accessing the service. Shelters and amenities will be redesigned according to a consistent toolkit and design standard, including upgraded design elements. Branding and customer information will help existing and new customers navigate the transit system. Sidewalk, bicycle, and accessibility improvements will also be included to improve the pedestrian experience and ensure ADA access to transit. Providing a better experience while utilizing transit will not only benefit existing customers but could also potentially attract new users and increase ridership.
Finally, in a region that struggles with impacts of air quality and traffic congestion on quality of life, the Westheimer SBS will improve travel in one of the region’s busiest corridors. Improving the speed, reliability, and quality of transit connecting dense residential neighborhoods to major activity centers where Houstonians work, shop, and play will give more households the opportunity to choose the affordability of low-car and no-car lifestyles.
Less than $100 million
(Manage) Transit Priority Infrastructure
View Uploaded File: Funding Commitment Letter & Letters of Support 10.31.18.pdf
Categorical Exclusion (CE)
View Uploaded File: 1. Westheimer_Pre-Applicaition final - Interagency Consultation.docx
View Uploaded File: 1a Westheimer DEV TIMELINE.pdf
Throughout the planning phase of the project, coordination has occurred between the various partners involved in the Westheimer project. METRO conducted a Westheimer study, which incorporated service modeling, site assessments, and field testing. These findings then directly informed the Lower Westheimer (from Travis Street to Shepherd Drive) pre-engineering corridor study that was conducted by the City of Houston, where METRO was a key stakeholder. Recommendations of this corridor study have subsequently been incorporated into the design of a Westchase MD Capital Improvement Project (CIP) to improve the pedestrian realm along Westheimer Road, from Westerland Drive to Kirkwood Road, ensuring that stop locations and amenities in that segment of the corridor are ready for the future enhanced service. Westchase MD continues to coordinate with METRO as they advance through their design process. Enhanced bus service along the Westheimer Road corridor is also recommended in: METRO’s Transit System Reimagining, the Westchase Mobility Study, the Greater West Houston Mobility Study, and the Inner West Loop Mobility Study.
While there are several different pieces that form the larger project, this application is only requesting for funding for the SBS component of the Westheimer Road corridor. METRO has committed to funding many other key parts of this project. The service extension from West Oaks Mall to the Addicks Park & Ride will be a portion of the project that will be undertaken by METRO. Also, the bus stop optimization for the local service along Westheimer Road from Chimney Rock Road to Westerland Drive is currently under construction by METRO. This optimization will not only benefit the existing local service but will prepare key bus stops for the future Westheimer SBS. Simultaneously, the Westchase MD has committed to funding improvements in its CIP and is in the design phase for new bus shelters and streetscape enhancements on Westheimer Road from Westerland Drive to Kirkwood Road. The Upper Kirby MD is also constructing streetscape and sidewalk improvements on Westheimer Road from Shepherd Drive to Buffalo Speedway. These improvements will accomplish some of the back of curb improvements that will need to be made for the Westheimer SBS. Thus, while this application is addressing only the Westheimer SBS component, various partners are already engaging in completed other parts of the larger corridor project.
View Uploaded File: 1c Westheimer Project Dev Readiness_VISSIM Summary Memo.pdf
View Uploaded File: 1d Westheimer MAP.pdf
View Uploaded File: 1b Westheimer TDC BUDGET.xlsx
View Uploaded File: 1e Westheimer TDC Application.xlsx
View Uploaded File: 3 Westheimer BCA files.zip
View Uploaded File: BCA Placeholder - see #1 Safety Benefits for BCA information.xlsx
View Uploaded File:
See attached BCA in #1 Safety Benefits for methodology.
901 - 1000
The proposed project will improve highway level-of-service on the Southwest Freeway by adding an HOV lane in the off-peak direction between Edloe Street and Spur 527. While detailed traffic studies have not been conducted, the increase in capacity provided by the additional lane can be expected to reduce average delay for vehicles – especially high-occupancy vehicles and buses – in this chronically congested freeway segment. Ridership increases will also likely reduce vehicle trips on the highway.
The addition of the rapid service will increase the frequency of service at the busiest stops and along the busiest segments of the Westheimer corridor. The new service will increase service from between seven and 11 buses per hour in peak periods to 12 buses per hour. In the midday and weekend periods, these stops, and segments, will see service increase from six buses per hour to eight buses per hour. Overall daily span of service is also proposed to increase from about 20 hours to 22 hours.
The project is not expected to have an appreciable impact on pedestrian or bicycle level-of-service based on the methodology set forth in National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 616. However, sidewalk and accessibility improvements included in the proposed bus stop reconstruction work will improve the pedestrian experience and ensure Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access to transit. Bicycle parking is a design element of the proposed signature bus stops and will be incorporated as right-of-way allows.
In addition to the capacity benefits along the Southwest Freeway mentioned previously, microscopic traffic simulation conducted previously in the planning phase of this project indicated that the proposed transit signal priority (TSP) at minor intersections improved overall traffic level-of-service at those intersections by reducing delay for all vehicles on the Westheimer approaches.
As discussed, the proposed project is not expected to have an appreciable impact on Bike/Ped Level of Service (LOS), but sidewalk and bike parking improvements will improve conditions for people walking and biking to the bus stops. It will also ensure ADA accessibility for all METRO stops which will benefit transit users and others traveling the corridor.
Transit LOS will improve based on the additional frequency, higher average speed, and greater reliability the project will deliver. Larger buses and shorter headways are expected to reduce overcrowding issues during peak hours. Signature bus stops will provide a safer, more comfortable experience for riders accessing the service.
Partially Dedicated Lane
METRO Transit System Reimagining, Westchase Mobility Study, Greater Houston Mobility Study, and Inner West Loop Mobility Study
o https://www.ridemetro.org/Pages/Reimagining.aspx & o https://www.westchasedistrict.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Westchase-Mobility-ReportFinal-Report-Compressed.pdf & o http://www.h-gac.com/taq/sub_regional/gw_houston.aspx & o http://www.houstontx.gov/planning/transportation/CMP/IWL/InnerWestLoop.html
Houston-Galveston Area Council