Skip to comments.Metro chairman seeks broad base of support
Posted on 04/11/2004 11:36:13 AM PDT by weegee
David Wolff, chairman and president of the commercial development firm Wolff Cos., recently took over as chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority's board of directors. Mayor Bill White tapped Wolff to oversee transit policy and the Metro Solutions expansion plan, which voters narrowly approved in November.
Wolff sat down recently in his Galleria-area office with transportation reporter Lucas Wall.
Question: Metro has a lot of opponents in the community -- 48 percent of voters cast their ballots against the expansion plan. What can you do to improve the agency's image and promote the benefits of mass transit?
Answer: It's unfortunate the referendum had to take place before the Main Street light rail commenced operating because people really had no idea what light rail was going to be like until they could see it with their own eyes. I think the margin of victory would have been greater if it had been a few months later, but they couldn't afford to wait.
Q: But with all the wrecks, the limited destinations and slow speed of the trains, do you not think the referendum might have failed if it were held today?
A: Absolutely we take the accidents seriously and are continuing to make efforts to reduce them, but generally people look at it and say, "My goodness, what this opens up for the city in terms of possibilities!" It changes our view of what the city can become. ... People's reactions, don't you think, have been on balance favorable? People who criticize us are just looking to say something negative.
Q: Safety is becoming a major concern on the first rail line, with 33 crashes so far. What else can be done to address the problem?
A: We need much better traffic-law enforcement. When was the last time you saw somebody getting a ticket for being the last car through a red light? People are making illegal left turns on Main Street and getting into accidents with the train. Why are they in the habit of making illegal turns? ... Running a rail line in a city that has never had a rail line before, in a heavily traveled corridor where people are not accustomed to following traffic laws, is not without its problems. But I'm hoping we can get a handle on it.
Q: Are you saying the cops aren't doing their job?
A: There needs to be a reassignment of personnel. I have no reason to believe police are slacking off. But I don't think HPD has a very active traffic enforcement division; I've been told that.
Q: What about your vision for Metro?
A: Metro has done many good things in the past. Part of my vision will be to communicate that to the community and build a broad base of support among many people. One issue lately has been the support of the congressional delegation for Metro. I want to earn the support of the entire delegation because you really can't create a regional transportation system, which depends a great deal on federal funding, without strong congressional support. We've got to earn that.
Q: What about U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay? He has been actively opposed to rail in Houston. What steps can you take to bring him around?
A: One thing we will do is assure him that he will know everything I know when I know it in terms of numbers, projections and the like. In the past, there's been -- rightly or wrongly -- a question as to whether or not Metro has been totally forthcoming with its information. ... He wanted there to be a referendum. Now that's been held, and he wrote me a cordial letter saying he is looking forward to working with me. I think Tom DeLay is "what you see is what you get."
Q: Do you ever ride the bus or train?
A: I've taken the train. I grew up taking transit in Philadelphia. Took the trolley and bus home from school every day, and I've spent a lot of time on transit systems around the country and around the world. I haven't really developed much familiarity with the bus system in Houston, but I intend to.
Q. Have you ever run into the train?
houston chronicle ^ | April 7, 2004, 12:08PM | LUCAS WALL
Walters said his family did not want to discuss their sentiments about the war or the political debate surrounding President Bush's failure to find weapons of mass destruction, one of the prime reasons cited for invading Iraq last year.
"Right now we strictly want to honor Leroy," he said.
This "Right now" is a distortion that implies the family does indeed blame President Bush when they absolutely do not.
There isn't a more critical issue on the horizon. I propose a series of editorials, editorial cartoons and Sounding Board columns leading up to the rail referendum, with this specific objective: Continuing our long standing efforts to make rail a permanent part of the transit mix here.
The timing, language and approach of the paper's editorials would, of course, be the decision of the Editorial Board. But I suggest that they could be built upon and informed by a news-feature package with an equally specific focus...
As always, a FReep mail will get you on or off this Houston and Texas topics ping list.
Can anyone post the link and current counter for the Wham-Bam-Tram?
I think it's just wonderful that Metro's solution is turn all traffic signals red 15 seconds before a train enters the intersection.
That will cause further congestion and traffic problems, something that Metro supposedly was addressing by building the toy train.
My suggestion to people who need to visit the Medical Center? Don't get sick in the first place.
generally people look at it and say, "My goodness, what this opens up for the city in terms of possibilities!"
This, all thanks to the Wham-Bam-Tram. Gee, the possibilities are endless.
It's long past time to admit that the Wham-Bam-Tram has been a dismal failure and dismantle it and start over. We certainly don't need to add to this boondoggle.
Here is the Wham-Bam-Tram Crash Clock, that tracks that time, at ActionAmerica.org.
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