Good morning, my name is Ashley Johnson and I am the Director of Community Affairs with LINK Houston, an organization which advocates for equity in transportation so that all people can reach opportunity. LINK Houston is joined today by community residents, civic leaders and supportive interests from the Gulfton, Eastex-Jensen, Kashmere and Houston Gardens, and other neighborhoods to urge for prioritization of projects and service improvements in the METRONext Moving Forward plan that adhere to METRO’s public commitments to equity.

LINK Houston congratulates METRO’s leadership and staff on your many wins this year — the bond approval by voters on November 5, as well as the $30 million grant awarded by the Houston-Galveston Area Council to continue expanding your planned improvements around universal accessibility. These are signs of support that Houston is ready for better public transit. Additionally, LINK Houston is grateful for METRO’s efforts to incorporate our recommendations to improve the frequency, reliability, and accessibility of transit service in areas where people need affordable transportation options to reach their destinations.

The Houston Chronicle described METRONext as “a plan that can carry Harris County into the future and help alleviate transportation woes — especially for low-income residents who rely on public transit for daily necessities.”[1] It is this population in Houston – the 984,000 people identified in LINK Houston’s Equity in Transit: 2018 Report – who are among METRO’s ridership, ride local bus, and live in areas where the need for affordable transportation is high.

We are here with these neighbors not to request different things, but to show what those recommendations look like from the perspective of the real experiences of your customers. Prioritizing METRONext’s changes and improvements that focus on improving frequency, such as upgrading some of the 60-minute green routes to 30-minute blue routes; reliability, such as with the new BOOST network; and accessibility, beginning with areas where people have to wait the longest for service – all these examples will offer their biggest impacts to individuals and families in communities where the reliance on public transit is significant, plus further demonstrate METRO’s continued commitment to equity now.

We hope the accounts shared today help you all reflect on how Houston’s communities, existing METRO riders, and advocates alike are enthusiastic regarding your strides to be a model public transit provider that is imaginative, bold, and progressive. Thank you for your attention today and your continued engagement.

[1] Houston Chronicle Editorial Board. “Voters Backed METRO. Now the agency must get to work.” Houston Chronicle. 10 Nov. 2019. A37. Print.

Thank you.

LINK Houston – November 21, 2019