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Wednesday, November 10, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 57

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Planes, trains and no automobiles

By By Jennifer Ihrig

Houston is now considering extending the I-10 HOV lane to four lanes. Many of us have driven on I-10 and found that it was congested.

Unless you plan to make your commute at midnight, the fact is that you will hit traffic on any highway at almost every hour of the day.

As I slow behind the stacked brake lights on the highway and read the "Under construction" signs for some hope of freedom, I can't help but wonder about Houston.

I can't help but be confounded. This construction intends to decrease traffic, yet its barriers and cones increase traffic. At the end of the five or 10 years of construction -- and of traffic -- what is left? The population increases and the highway now requires another expansion project.

The Houston transportation department is full of great ideas. It boldly hopes to have the most advanced highway system in the country. Transportation projects always end with another project, though.

While the department of transportation chases its tail, we sit in traffic. The process doesn't make sense. 

Why not build a train? A train would be a big investment, but the cost could never match the money we will spend extending the highways for the next 15 years.

The longer we wait to build a train, the longer the transportation department will waste money on highways. 

Houston needs a good investment. The highway construction projects are poor investments. I don't even want to call them investments.

Build a train and the returns will follow. Dallas has finished the first stage of a monorail project. The train currently runs in a straight line from north Dallas to south Dallas and back. The train fills half of the area of a five lane highway.

It is clean, fast, convenient and inexpensive. I don't think I could ever say the same for my Houston commutes. Day passes are $1. That's less than one gallon of gas in Houston.

Hmmm. Gas. I wouldn't be surprised if Houston businesses have a small problem with a monorail system. Houston is home to several oil branches, including Conoco, Exxon, Texaco, Chevron and Shell.

What if thousands of Houstonians ride the train? They won't buy as much gas.

What if people ride the train instead of the Metro buses? Well, the Metro buses will not need such a large supply of gas.

Surprise! If we invest in a train, the big men of Houston oil won't make nearly as much money off of gasoline. I guess while they make their money we'll just busy ourselves sitting in traffic.
 

Ihrig, a junior creative writing and sociology major,
can be reached at fatfenny@hotmail.com.
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