This post originally appeared on Houston Public Media.
It’s just before 6 a.m. in downtown Houston. We’re at the corner of Franklin Street and Austin Street, on the first leg of our trip to the beach in Galveston. And we’re going to get there on public transit.
We’re with Raj Mankad, editor of Cite Magazine at the Rice Design Alliance. Also along for the ride is Cara Murray, a professor at the University of Houston-Downtown.
Murray lives without a car, and she used to take Greyhound to Galveston back when they offered service.
“So I’m kind of excited to go down and come back in the same day because there was never a bus that would be returning home. There was just one that would be going and then you’d have to stay overnight and come back the next day,” says Murray.
So if you want to take public transit to Galveston, here’s how you do it.
First, we get on Metro’s 246 park and ride bus that’s headed outbound on the Gulf Freeway. About 45 minutes later we arrive at the southern tip of Metro’s service area.
Mankad says that’s when it starts to get interesting.
“So we have two options. We can walk on this side of the freeway and then cross at the next street over, which is what Google said we should do,” says Mankad.
For the second leg of our trip, we need to get to a parking lot a little over a mile away at FM 528. We need to catch a bus that’s operated by Galveston County’s Connect Transit. It takes riders from the mainland to downtown Galveston.
If you don’t have any other option, Mankad says you have to walk.
There’s no sidewalk along the Interstate-45 feeder so we have to maneuver through a few parking lots. Then we’re forced to plow though some knee-high grass.
We then dash across two lanes of the feeder, cross under the freeway, and then dart across two other lanes. We make it to the bus just in time and climb on board with commuters headed down to the island.
Clearly, it’s a challenge. But sometime in the near future there may be an easier way to make that trip.
Transportation consultant Barry Goodman is advising the Galveston City Council on how to close the gap between the two systems.
Goodman admits there isn’t a huge demand for transit between Houston and Galveston, but for people who need it, it’s critical.
“People, for example, who don’t have a car and need to get to the Medical Center, people who want to connect in Houston and take a bus to some other place and don’t necessarily want to drive their car,” says Goodman.
Goodman is proposing two scenarios to Galveston officials.
They could run a bus three times a day between downtown Galveston and Metro’s Bay Area Park and Ride. A cheaper option is to extend the current Connect Transit route a short distance north to the Bay Area lot.
But what does Metro think? CEO Tom Lambert says their main focus right now is the launch of Houston’s new bus network, and that’s happening next month.
“Where Metro is today is making sure that Metro is providing essential transit services within the Metro service area,” says Lambert.
But Lambert says Metro is open to letting other providers use the Bay Area Park and Ride if they can work out schedules.
Meanwhile back in Galveston, we finally made it to the beach, moving Raj Mankad to wax poetic about our public transit journey.
“It’s not just about reaching (the) beach, right? There is a different way of living and a different pace,” says Mankad.
The Galveston City Council is expected to talk about its options for the bus route at an upcoming meeting.