Sunday, December 22, 2013

Moni Does The METRORail North Line Opening

North Line opening
I wasn't here in town when the METRORail starter Red Line rail line opened back in 2004, so I was determined to be part of the action that took place for the grand opening of the 5.3 mile North Line.

In addition to the free concert that was happening at Moody Park along with the snow area for the kids, rides were free all day on METRORail.  So my game plan was to catch the bus to the Downtown Transit Center station, then board the train from there. 

Photo: Elected officials have cut the ribbon, and will now board the Polar Express trainBut one complication for this big civic party was our Saturday weather.  We had a fast moving front coming through the area that was due to hit town right around the time that much of the grand opening festivities were planned to happen.  It was also projected to because it was moving at 50 mph create high winds, possible severe weather and drop a lot of heavy rain.

So I did spend a few hours watching the Doppler radar sweeps online,  Once the heavy rain passed through the area and didn't produce the predicted high winds, I bounced from the house on my missions to travel the new section of the North Line and also ride it from end to end

I got downtown about noon and started my rail riding mission from the Downtown Transit Center stop which is in front of METRO headquarters on the Red Line.  When we arrived at the UH Downtown stop that used to be the terminus for it, noted that they had people gathering in the covered plaza area.  There was a podium, camera and a microphone set up there for what I later discovered was the ribbon cutting ceremony along with METRO.employees, city and county officials and guests with passes getting off the train and heading to that event. 

Photo: A.B. Quintanilla y Los Kumbia King All Starz hit the stage. #METRONorthLineGrandOpeningThen as the train pulled out of the UH Downtown station we were on the new 5.3 mile section of the North Line that dives under I-10, then enters an elevated platform to take it over railroad tracks toward the elevated Burnet Transit Center /Casa de Amigos Station.   There are plans to build an intermodal train and bus station at that location that on hold for now, but what I did notice was there was another wrapped train there parked on one of the side tracks on that platform.   

I eventually passed by Moody Park, where the free concert featuring Selena's brother (yeah, that Selena) AB Quintanilla and his band were the headline performers was cranking up and the crowd was gathering for all the fun and festivities there.  .   

I started to get off and walk around it for a few moments but I decided to stay on the train because I was having  nice chat at the time with a retired METRO employee who worked in the training department and the last few years he worked for METRO was as part of its rail operations.

Photo: At the Northline Transit Center
We eventually ended up at its new terminus of the Northline TC/HCC Station.   Going to be interesting to see in the near future where and how they take this line up to IAH and I pondered that as I waited for the train operator to switch ends of the train and reverse direction for the trip from the north side of town to past Reliant Stadium and the southern terminus of the line at the Fannin South station.  

At this point a Latino family joined me who was doing the same thing I was.   We had interesting conversations during that 35 minute ride from there to Fannin South.  They noted along with their kids the line passed through downtown, the Museum District, Hermann Park/Houston Zoo, the Texas Medical Center and past Reliant Stadium and how much driving time, parking hassles and gas money it would save them to just take the train to those places. 

As we made it to Fannin South that trailing rainband I'd noted earlier in the morning finally made it to where I was located and a sudden blinding rainstorm dropped visibility to the point I couldn't even see Reliant Stadium.  By the time I started moving back north up the Red Line and hit the TMC Transit Center station it had cleared out as fast as it had moved in and ensured that when I got off the train I wouldn't need my umbrella.
I said goodbye to my traveling companions when I arrived at my Downtown Transit Center stop.  The new year for us in Houston will see even more expansion of our light rail from just one long 12.8 mile long line to a true system with multiple lines (the Green and Purple) in just a few months.  

And one of them, the Purple Line terminates just five blocks from my house.   Can't wait until it opens.


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