in Houston, Texas
Metro pondering change on downtown-to-airport bus; service averages 1.9 riders per departure
Friday, Oct 08, 2010, 01:06PM CST
By Steve Miller
Metro buses

An excellent update on the Metro Airport Direct bus to Bush Intercontinental Airport in today’s Houston Chronicle reveals the same thing a Channel 13 study did in February – the bus is still mostly empty.

The numbers for the two year-old route haven’t changed much since February, according to the Chron report:

“Airport Direct, launched in August 2008, costs Metro $1.9 million a year and yields about $452,000 in fare revenue, for a net cost of just under $1.5 million, according to figures provided by the transit agency. Fare for the service is $15 each way, or $10 with a Continental Airlines boarding pass or other proof of travel.

"The buses depart daily every half-hour from 815 Pierce to the airport's terminal C and back — a total of 60 daily, one-way trips. The first bus leaves downtown at 5:30 a.m. and the last leaves the airport at 8:40 p.m.

"In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, an average of 114 riders per day, or 1.9 per departure, used the service. The buses seat 52.”

In February, Metro's George Smalley defended the route to Channel’s 13’s Ted Oberg:

"Don't just play the 'gotcha' game when you think something is bad. This service is good for Houston in so many ways."

METRO says it's only a year and a half old and according to METRO math, the $59 subsidy on a $15 fare is pretty good.

"You've got to give it fair time to be a success," said Smalley. "This particular route has an operating ratio of 22% which is very healthy and in line with our other service."

New Metro CEO George Greanias is pondering reform:

"We think this is a service that is valuable. We just need to figure out a more cost-effective way to do it." ...

"We're trying to find a better balance, a better mix in terms of how we route the service and what we charge, to give us a good level of customer service but also control the cost of service," Greanias said.

Of course, all mass transit is subsidized to some extent. And the use of an express bus is an excellent idea and available in other cities. But to run the same large bus over and over and hope for different result doesn’t make sense.  It’s probably not what the Metro leadership had in mind when it began forming the current plan in 2004


Still, what a difference eight months and a change in leadership makes. Perhaps something more cost-efficient is in store. And there's always the number 102.


Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or

Photo of Metro buses by flickr user telwink, used via a Creative Commons license.

Airport Bus Services
Monday, 01/24/2011 - 04:31AM

its very good services for airport

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