METRO referendum tough decision for voters

October 24, 2012 11:42:01 AM PDT
Election Day is just two weeks away, and money for METRO is one of the items that will be on your ballot. The proposal would provide METRO with more money, but it wouldn't go to light rail.

A decade after Houston's lone light rail line opened, new lines will finally open in another two years. Amanda Wolf says that's just not adequate.

"There is no reason why the fourth largest city in the nation should be so far behind New York, LA and Chicago when it comes to public transit. Embarrassing," Wolfe said.

She and other supporters of METRO have found themselves in the unusual position of opposing a METRO-based referendum on this November's ballot. Wolfe wants to defeat the referendum so all new tax moneys go to building more rail.

But METRO says approving the referendum will keep Houston and Harris County building roads while funding its bus service.

"This is not a rail plan. What this is, is a great transit plan because before we can take on the next step of rail, we've got to pay down debt," said METRO Chairman Gilbert Garcia.

If the referendum passes, for every dollar of tax money collected by METRO, a quarter will go surrounding communities to build roads. But critics point out it will have no money for light rail, a crucial component of mass transit.

"This effectively shuts down light rail, its expansion, even repair of our roads until 2025," said Wolfe.

Mayor Annise Parker that's that point of view is short-sighted.

"Their attitude is it's rail or nothing. I believe in a robust bus system and I believe in spending money on roads in city of Houston so all of us can get where we need to go better and faster," said Mayor Parker.

She says she's pro-rail, but also wants METRO money for roads projects. The final decision will be up to voters. And many of them say they don't want to have to choose.

"That's why it's a tough decision; we need both. That's why I haven't made up my mind yet," said METRO rider Rosie Adair.

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