HOUSTON — A local activist has filed a complaint with the Federal Transit Administration, saying that a rapid bus line spearheaded by the Uptown management district in the tony Galleria area of the city will hurt the handicapped population because of a behind-closed-doors decision to move a transit stop away from where a bus stop has traditionally been.
“Who made the decision to move the Galleria transit station?” Paul Magaziner asked in the complaint. “Was it two, three, four people making this all important decision acting not in the best interest of handicapped riders in wheelchairs or senior citizens?”
Magaziner, through his organization Corridors United, claims that older and handicapped riders will be harmed by this move, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said to get to shopping and dining, riders would now have to cross two major streets at a distance of nearly three football fields.
“We’re asking for one thing,” he told The Texas Monitor. “Just move that station back to where it was originally planned. We just want it put back. We’re not asking the FTA or the city of Houston or Uptown or anyone to stop the project. We’re simply saying you have chosen the wrong spot to put the transit stations.”
Magaziner said he believes a second transit stop is misplaced because of its proximity to the Galleria shopping mall driveway.
“Why would you drop people off before a driveway?” he said.
The complaint to the FTA, formally called a Title VI complaint, was filed earlier this week.
Uptown leaders appeared nonplussed at Magaziner’s FTA complaint.
“The FTA has a process to respond to Title 6 inquiries,” Uptown Houston District President John Breeding said in an emailed statement. “We will respond to the FTA upon their request.”
Officials with Houston METRO, the region’s transit agency which is supplying the buses for the project, said they had no concerns.
“We fully expect it will meet all FTA and ADA requirements,” a METRO spokeswoman said via email.
Earlier this year, the agency signed off on using $11.5 million to purchase 14 buses for the project.
The project which will put dedicated bus lanes down the middle of Post Oak Boulevard — one of the wealthiest stretches of roads in the nation — has been controversial since the plan was first pitched in 2013.
Uptown is using around $190 million from taxes levied on local businesses and public transportation money to build the bus lanes and for improvements along the route. The organization also last year sought an additional $31 million for the project.
Many residents and business owners have said that they believe expanding Post Oak and carving out space for dedicated bus lanes will interfere with business by cutting into parking lots and keeping big-spending shoppers away from the neighborhood.
Leaders of the Uptown Authority have said from the beginning that the bus lanes would transform Post Oak Boulevard with mixed-use development and pedestrian improvements. They also said that the dedicated lanes for bus rapid transit will ease traffic burdens by luring drivers out of their cars, something that critics of the project are skeptical of.
The project has at least led to temporary traffic delays in the area, as utilities such as water and sewer lines were moved and the streets were widened.
Magaziner said he believed that Uptown changing the bus stops is an example of a powerful and well-connected management district making decisions behind closed doors and with little or no discussion from the public.
“There has not been one public meeting where someone who’s handicapped or a senior citizen or blind got to point out to Mr. Breeding or anybody else in authority in the city of Houston that, if you’re going to build this, the most important transit stop (should stay) where it’s historically been between Neiman’s and Dillards on Post Oak Boulevard,” Magaziner said.
Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-258-6119.