This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

November 12, 2003

Voters Approve Light Rail in Houston; Seattle Project Breaks Ground

In the November 4th elections, voters in Houston narrowly approved a regional transit plan that will eventually bring 72 miles of new rail service to the city, while expanding bus service by 50 percent. The full plan will be completed in 2025 at a cost of $7.5 billion. However, voters only authorized the next phase of this plan, which will use $640 million in bonds to pay for 22 miles of light rail in central Houston. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, or METRO, plans to place the next phase of the plan before voters in 2009. Although only 51 percent of voters approved the plan, the narrow vote may reflect frustration with the city's first light-rail project: a 7.5-mile line in the heart of the city. That project broke ground in April 2001 and is expected to begin operating in January. For now, though, the main impact of the project has been the traffic delays caused by its construction. See the METRO press release and METRO's description of the long-term transit plan, or read a more accessible description of the near-term and long-term plans on the "Light Rail Now!" Web site.

Seattle, meanwhile, broke ground last week on its Central Link light-rail line, a 14-mile line running from the center of the city to near the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Sound Transit, which serves the three-county region around Puget Sound, expects the rail project to carry 42,500 riders each day by 2020. Sound Transit's first light rail project, a 1.6-mile line in downtown Tacoma, started operating in late August, and was exceeding all expectations for ridership by early September. See the press releases and a description of the Central Link project on the Sound Transit Web site.