Houston residents enjoyed free rides on Saturday, May 23, 2015 as part of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO’s) opening of the Green (East End) and Purple (Southeast) light rail lines. The two new lines are part of an approximately $1.22 Billion expansion of METRO’s existing light rail system which also includes a 5.3 mile extension to the Red (North) line that began service in December 2013. With the addition of the two new lines, Houston’s light rail transit system increases from 12.5 miles to 23 miles.
Since the opening of the Red Line extension, from the University of Houston Downtown to Northline Commons, its ridership has exceeded expectations and continues to grow. March light rail ridership was 12.5 percent higher than March 2014, while overall bus ridership dropped by 3 percent. Even accounting for bus lines the train replaced, rail is carrying more riders, and its expansion north has meant more people can make direct trips downtown and to the Texas Medical Center.
The Green Line currently runs from the east side of the downtown Theater District to the BBVA Compass Stadium with plans to open additional stops extending the line further to the east in 2016. The Purple Line runs from downtown to Texas Southern University and the University of Houston, which will give both universities' growing student populations access to downtown businesses and eateries. Together, the two new lines add connections from the theater and nightlife districts downtown to Discovery Green, the George R. Brown Convention Center, Toyota Center, Minute Maid Park, Dynamo Stadium, the East End, University of Houston, Texas Southern University, MacGregor Park and Palm Center. With the new lines providing more access and additional stops, METRO’s light rail ridership is expected to continue to grow.
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