METRO riders give new bus routes a try

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METRO riders are getting used to new routes after the transportation agency reconfigured its bus system for the first time since the early 1970s. (KTRK)

Monday marks the first real test of METRO's new bus routes. The implementation of the new bus routes, which were debuted over the weekend, is the first time METRO has reconfigured its bus system since the early 1970s.

Houston METRO operates more than 1,200 buses. The overhaul didn't add more buses, but revamped routes. The buses along those, METRO says, will run more frequently, some very 15 minutes, taking more direct routes to downtown, employment centers and light rail connections.

"It's great. It's a lot easier now. It takes you a lot closer. And they're coming a lot faster," said METRO rider Steven Lopez. He takes the 85 bus and said on Monday there was a noticeable difference in the timeliness of bus arrivals.

It comes at a time when ridership has dropped, even as Houston's population has increased. What METRO sees as a more efficient, user friendly way of getting from one point to another, it hopes will bring in more riders.

METRO is getting rid of some bus stops, including all of the stops along West Alabama, west of downtown.

"Our old map looked like a bowl of spaghetti. A lot of our routes are much straighter and simpler now, more like a grid system, " explained Barrett Ochoa, a METRO Field Customer Service Representative.

The transit agency has also revamped the METRO app to make it easier for riders to find the nearest bus and plan a trip. Another improvement is "next bus arrival texting." Riders can text their bus stop number to METRO to receive real time bus arrival time info.

METRO is offering free rides on all metro buses within the city limits until August 22.
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